After the Calm

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C of the mental kind, Romance, Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  3 - after “Past and Present”
Spoilers:  Legacy
Size:  79kb
Written:  June 9, August 30, September 2-6,16,18-19, 2004
Summary:  Time has passed since Daniel's time in the padded cell in “Legacy,” but all is still not well.  The young man needs closure, and Jack aims to get it for him.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) I had a beta tell me this needs a little hanky warning!
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 is essentially a follow-up or epilogue to “Calming Influences” so reading it first is highly recommended.
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Kalimyre, Sue P., Kat, QuinGem, Suzanna, Sue B., Claudia, Drdjlover!

After the Calm
by Orrymain

With the sounds of opera filling his truck, Jack enjoyed a peaceful drive home from the SGC where he had worked late, catching up on paperwork at the insistence of his CO.  He made a quick stop at the store for beer and then went straight home, surprised to see Daniel's car parked in the driveway.

~My favorite kind of surprise.~

Daniel had planned on spending the night at his apartment, needing to catch up on his bills and give it the appearance of being occupied by a human and not just the occasional fly or spider that found its way inside.

As he headed for the kitchen, Jack saw Daniel wandering around the backyard.  He put the beer in the refrigerator and walked towards the patio door.  It was 9:30 p.m. so it was dark out.  Daniel hadn't turned on any lights except for a small lantern attached to the patio deck.

~Something's wrong.~

It was just a feeling at this point, but it was strong enough that Jack's internal Daniel alarm beeping inside of him.  As Jack opened the door, the alarm blared even louder.  Daniel was now seated on the deck steps, hunched forward with his head bowed.  He looked defeated.

~It's been a difficult few months for us, Danny, hasn't it?  Then again, when are our lives ever simple?~

“Hey,” Jack said as he sat down next to his lover, immediately putting his left arm around Daniel's waist and pulling him close.

“Hey, yourself,” came the soft reply, a small smile on Daniel's face as he spoke.

Jack leaned forward for a tender kiss that was way too short in his opinion, but the next thing he knew, Daniel's head was resting on his shoulder.

~Yep.  Something's wrong, but that's okay.  Lean on me.  That's why I'm here.~

Jack leaned his cheek against his lover's head, saying nothing for a few minutes.  He knew Daniel would get around to whatever was wrong eventually.  However, after five minutes, he decided maybe he'd give him a little nudge.  After all, Jack hadn't had dinner yet, and he was hungry.  He figured they'd work through Daniel's problem, get something to eat, and then have dessert, the latter being some intense fondling at the very least.

It wasn't that Jack was putting food over Daniel's problem; it's just he knew with every fiber of his being that the young man hadn't eaten, and sometimes, Jack had to prod him by insisting that he himself needed nourishment.

~You always forget to eat, Danny, and you've been a little under the weather this week.  Yes, I know.  I'm not supposed to have noticed that; yes, I know you sweet talked the nurse who was helping Fraiser with the exams the other day so that you'd avoid being grounded for this last mission; and yes, I realize you're finally feeling better which is all the more reason to make sure you take care of yourself.  So, My Love, your Silver Fox knows best, and you're going to eat.  We'll work through this problem, whatever it is, too.  In fact, time to see if you'll tell me without me pulling teeth.~

“Danny, what's wrong?”

“Jack, when we got back from PC2-883, what did we do?”

~A quiz?  Okay, I can do that.~  “We did the usual post stuff, medical exam, debrief ...”

“And ... do you remember what happened during the post-mission exam?”

“Happened?”

“Yeah.  Tell me.”

Jack thought it was a strange request, but he was sure Daniel had a reason for it, so he replayed their session in the infirmary.

//Flashback//
“No injuries?” Janet asked as SG-1 entered the general infirmary.

“Not a thing, Janet,” Sam responded.

“Good.  Okay, you know the routine.”

Her staff in place, SG-1 went to separate tables, a different nurse examining each of them.  On this day, Janet examined Daniel.

“Everything looks good, Daniel.”

“Thank you,” he responded, as he sat quietly.

Janet nodded and walked over to Jack, checking with the nurse that had checked the Air Force Colonel out.

“Well, SG-1 seems good to go, Colonel.”

“We always are, Doctor Fraiser.”  Jack hopped off the table.  “Are we free to go?”

“Of course.”

“Briefing is in twenty minutes.  Let's see if we can get it over and done with before lunch this time,” Jack said to his team as he and Daniel walked out the door, Teal'c close behind.

Within earshot, they could hear Sam ask, “Janet, are you okay?”

“I'm fine, Sam.”

“It's just you seem, well everything seems ...”

“Business as usual, Major.  Excuse me.”
//End of Flashback//

“That's about all there was.”

“Yeah.  Business as usual,” Daniel repeated Janet's words.

Jack sighed.  He knew now what this was about.

“She hasn't apologized yet, has she?”

“No.  She still thinks she was right.”

“She wasn't,” Jack stated with conviction.

“Sometimes we're wrong.”

“We weren't about this.”

“There's just been so much ... stuff lately.  Jack, I'm tired of ... of ... I'm just tired.”

Jack could feel his lover's tension ... and need.  He couldn't blame Daniel for being tired of how things were with Janet.  There had been so many nightmares lately, and not just those caused by the time he had spent in the padded cell.  Sha're had died recently, and Daniel had gotten involved with Ke'ra who turned out to be the Destroyer of Worlds.  Guilt had consumed him ... until Jack had found a way to get them back on track, never giving up on the man he loved.

Jack audibly sighed as he considered the recent months, and the situation with Janet.  There had been a lot of anger between the three of them over her decisions, but now, he knew it was time to try and come to terms with those emotions.

“Okay.  Maybe it's time to ... smoke the peace pipe.”

“Are you mad at me?” Daniel asked tentatively.

He knew how angry Jack was at Janet; he still felt angry and betrayed as well, but he also hated all the tension between them.  It had been months, and it was time to heal the wounds, or they might never recover.

“No, Angel, I'm not mad.  I knew the time would come where you would want this, but we can't just pretend it didn't happen.  She locked you away, Danny, and threw away the key.  She let that quack pump you full of drugs.  I won't ... I can't ... just let her off the hook.”

“But we can talk, right?”

“Yes, we can talk.”

Jack felt Daniel relax instantly.  It was that huge trust the younger man had in him.  Somehow, Daniel knew that Jack would fix it.  He always fixed things ... and in this moment, Jack knew that's what his lover was thinking.

~Okay, Love.  Time to put it to rest.  I'll take care of it.~

====

“Doc,” Jack called out as he entered the infirmary the next day.

There were a few of the medical staff around, but all were engrossed in their duties.  Janet was seated at a computer station, studying readouts of some test results on a patient.

“Something I can do for you, Colonel?”

“Dinner.”

“Excuse me?” the petite redheaded physician asked in a surprised tone.

Jack looked around, wanting to make sure they weren't being overheard.  He fidgeted slightly and put his hands in his pocket before focusing again on Janet.

“Doc, we have some things we need to talk about, and I don't think this is the place, so I'd like you to come to my house for dinner.”

“Your house?”

“That's what I said, so how about it?”

Janet turned back to her computer screen and clicked on her mouse, changing the image appearing on the screen.

“I have plans.”

“I didn't say when.  You name the night.”

“I don't think that would be a good idea, Colonel.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to study these test results.”

“Doc ...”

“Colonel, I'm busy,” she said, suddenly standing, grabbing a folder, and then walking away from Jack.

“Janet ...”

“Listen, Colonel, I have patients that need attention.  Thank you for the invitation to dinner, but I just don't have the time.  Now, please excuse me.”  Seeing Jack about to argue, she added, “Unless you want to explain to Airman Kinney's wife why her husband may never walk again.”

~Low blow, Doc.~

“I didn't think so.”

Janet turned and headed for another part of the infirmary.  Airman Kinney had been injured two days earlier on a mission.  Evaculating from what turned out to be a Goa'uld occupied planet, he'd been downed by a staff blast that caused severe damage to his back.  Jack had thought the Airman had turned the corner and would be okay.  Suddenly, he felt bad about having cornered Janet when a patient was in crisis.

As he started to leave, he passed by Doctor Warner.

“Hey, Doc, about Airman Kinney ...”

“He'll be fine, Jack.  The tests we did last night showed the damage wasn't as bad as we thought.”

“Really?” Jack asked in surprise.

“It's amazing.  We were worried there for a while, but Janet did some follow-up tests this morning.  It's looking great.”

“He hasn't ... relapsed?”

“Colonel, he's fine.  I just left him about ten minutes ago.  No need to worry.”

“Thanks.”

Warner continued on his way, and with every step, Jack's frustration grew.

“Sweet,” Jack said sarcastically as he left the area, his frustration erupting into a more hostile emotion.

~You lied to me, Doctor Fraiser.~  He continued walking.  ~Sorry, Danny, I tried.  I still can't believe she just lied like that.  That's never been Fraiser's style.  There has to be a reason for that, or maybe she just doesn't care.~

He was now furious with Janet Fraiser.  Jack didn't care so much about the Kinney lie, but her inability to admit that she had made a mistake and had only added to Daniel's hurt was in his mind almost as unforgivable as her original diagnosis.  He continued in the direction of his office, but his speed decreased the further he went until finally, he stopped.

~No way, Fraiser.  Lying isn't your style, so you're hiding your own demons, and more importantly to me, Danny needs you to apologize, and so help me, we are going to thrash this thing out until you do.  Nothing matters more than Danny.~

Changing his direction, he returned to the elevator and selected another floor.

====

“Carter,” Jack said as he entered his 2IC's lab, surprising her by closing the door.

“Uh, Sir?” she asked hesitantly.

“I need your help.”

“How?”

“You and the Doc are pretty good friends, right?”

“Yes, we are.  Why?” she asked nervously.

“That mess with the quack a while back ...”

“Doctor MacKenzie,” Sam clarified.

“Right.  You know how it's been since then.”

Sam sat back on the stool she was sitting on and released the pen she'd been holding.

“Yes, I know.  It's ... been a little tense.”

Jack snorted.  A 'little' tense was somewhat of an understatement.  “And I'd like to correct that,” he stated.

“Good.”

“But I need help,” Jack said again.

Sam bit her lip slightly, and let her eyes look away for a few seconds.

“Help ... Sir?”

“I asked Fraiser to come to the house for dinner.  It was like talking *to* an iceberg.  Carter, I can't resolve this if I can't get her to meet us half way.”  ~And meeting us half way is the least she can do.~

“And that's where I come in,” Sam said, her voice lowering in tone as she spoke.

“Exactly.  We're going to fake her out.”

“My house?”

Jack smiled and brought his hands together, rubbing them.

“I knew I could count on you.  Now, we don't want her to think we're in cahoots so ...”

“Of course not,” Sam said, wondering how she got herself into these messes.

“So,” Jack continued, ignoring her, “make it for a few days from now, and don't ask her today.  Make sure she doesn't bring Cassie with her.  We can't do this with Cass around.”

“I understand.”

“Carter, Daniel needs this resolved.  Do you understand that?”

There was so much unspoken in that line.  In a mere five or six seconds, Jack had cut through the jokes and the sarcasm and gone straight to the heart of the matter -- Daniel.  It was not only his weakness, but one of Sam's as well.  Besides, she agreed with Jack and Daniel and knew that part of Janet's current demeanor was nothing more than a defense mechanism.

“Yes, Colonel, I do.  I'll let you know when I get things arranged.”

“Thanks.”

====

The next day, Sam told Jack that Janet had agreed to come to dinner in a couple of days.  Choosing not to bring the subject up at the SGC, Jack waited until evening to tell Daniel about his plan.

“Jack, I don't like this.”

“I know, but I also don't know what else to do.  The Doc has her hard hat on, and the only way we're going to be able to knock it off is to start talking.  She turned me down.  Now, do you have a better idea?”

Daniel stood, leaning against the wall, his arms folded tightly across his chest.  They were at his apartment.  Jack was sitting on the arm of the sofa, the younger man across from him, near the door.

“No, but I don't like deceiving a friend.”

“And I don't like a friend sending you off to the looney bin, either.”

“Jack, she did what she ... gawd.”

Daniel's body when slack, and in a flash, Jack was there comfort him, preventing him from falling to the floor.  He held his lover securely, placing a kiss on his forehead.  He could feel Daniel's pain inside of him, and it hurt; it hurt bad.  Jack knew, though, that the only way it was going to get better was by allowing it to get worse first.

“Daniel, we can't get through this with you defending her when it's only half the story.  You're going to have to get it out, and so's the Doc, and if we're lucky, at the end of the night, we'll finally have that nightmare put behind us.”

The archaeologist let out a heavy sigh as he let his lover hold him, his arms slowly going around Jack's back.

Daniel needed this moment desperately.  Sometimes he wondered why he loved to be held so much by the older man.  It almost seemed crazy that physical contact with people was often alien to him, but with his lover, he craved it as much as he did air.

With Jack, he could let his body be free.  There were no barriers or hesitations; so now, Daniel buried his body into Jack's, loving the strength of Jack's hold on him.  He'd never fall, not with Jack there to brace him up.

He sighed again, his head securely on Jack's firm shoulder, his forehead just touching the side of Jack's neck.  With his eyes closed, Daniel was free of problems in this frozen moment in time.  All he felt was the love emanating from his soulmate.  Too soon, he opened his eyes and let reality back in.
 
“I guess you're right.”

“I am right.  It's not going to be easy, Danny, but if we're all honest with each other, it'll be okay.”

“Honest.”

Jack knew what Daniel was worried about.  The younger man had a lot of anger and resentment towards Janet, but it was against his nature to harbor such emotions for long.  It would be extremely difficult for someone so compassionate to let go with his true feelings, to lash out at someone he cared about.

“Danny, I'm sorry.  If I had been stronger ...”

“No,” Daniel said, pulling back.  “Jack, please, let's not go back to that.  You did all you knew to do.  So did Janet,” he said, wanting not to talk about Jack's involvement.

Jack caught the sudden shift, and for just a moment, decided to go along with his lover -- for now.

“Okay, I'll give you that much.  Fraiser did what she thought she had to do.  The problem, Danny, is she hasn't been honest about why.  She sent you off to that place and never looked back.  She needs to own up to that.”

“She ... the tests ...”

Daniel had moved across the room and was again self-hugging.  Jack hadn't want to him move that far away, but he recognized the tactic:  distancing, one of the younger's man's defense mechanisms.  Daniel was trying to withdraw, to rationalize, to just ... let it go, even though a part of him knew he couldn't.

“Daniel, if you believe that, what's the problem?”  Daniel closed his eyes and turned to look at Jack.  He shook his head with a vulnerability that tore through Jack's soul.  The older man went to his lover and cupped his face gently, letting his thumbs do a tender massage.  “The problem is that she was too quick to do what she did.  She gave up on you, someone who's supposed to be a friend, and she's never apologized.  Are there reasons for that?  Probably, but if we want to be friends and get this nightmare fully behind us, she's going to have to own up to the decisions she made and why she made them.”

Jack concluded his remarks with a soft kiss, and then rubbed Daniel's shoulders.  There was more to all this.  He was certain of it.  The Janet situation was one he had known they'd have to deal with since Daniel had first been released from the hospital, but Jack's insides were churning.  Now, he was certain as he looked into his lover's eyes, that there was more than just what Janet had done that needed resolution.

“Are you ...” Jack paused, getting his nerve up to ask the question.  He continued to rub his hands against his lover's upper arms, but then he pulled Daniel out of the self-hug and took his hands in his.  “Danny, are you still mad at me?”

Daniel answered the question with a long, deep kiss that sent Jack soaring.

“Does that answer your question?”

Jack wanted to 'yes', but he couldn't.  Instead, he answered, “It says you love me, that you've forgiven me, but not that you aren't still angry at me.”

Daniel threw his arms around Jack, pulling him close, trying desperately to make them one.  Jack held on tightly to the younger man, trying to reassure him.

“Danny, I'm not going anywhere, you know.  I understand.  I let them stick you in that place.  I left you there, even if I did come back, even if I was going to retire and take care of you forever, even ... all those 'evens', but the fact is, I gave up for a minute, and in that minute, you experienced a nightmare.  Be angry, Danny, if you feel it.  I'm not leaving you, not now, not ever.”

Jack rubbed Daniel's back gently.  He wasn't sure anymore who was comforting whom, or maybe it was just a mutual clinging to each other.

“You forgave me, Danny, before you got out your anger.  Carter stopped whatever you might have tossed my way when she told you I was going to retire.  You never let it out; you kept it all in.”

Jack felt his lover trembling.  This wasn't all about Janet.  He knew Daniel had held inside a multitude of anger about being locked up like some mad dog.

“Let it out.  I won't go anywhere.  We fight, Love.  You know we do, but we always get through it because we love each other.  Come on, Danny. Tell me off.”

“Can't.”

It was such a soft, vulnerable sound that had come from the younger man.  Jack closed his eyes.  Daniel was still afraid of losing the one thing he loved and needed most in the world -- Jack.  They'd gone through so many nightmares, but still, Daniel's past made him terrified of losing the present.

~Maybe I shouldn't push it.  I just don't know.  We argued a little when we got home, but not much.  He's angry with me.  I know he is.~

“I promise.  You couldn't get rid of me if you tried.”  Jack felt the head nuzzled into his shoulder shake, the trembling increase.  “Okay, Love.  We'll save it for later.  Let's get through that dinner with Janet in a couple of days, and then we'll finish this.”

Jack started to release his lover thinking they should perhaps prepare dinner since they hadn't eaten yet, but as he moved, he felt Daniel hold him back and then heard another tiny, “No.”

“Wanna go snuggle on the bed?”

This time he felt the head nod, so the two adjourned to Daniel's bedroom.  They took off their shoes and got into the bed, the younger man moving to his usual position, his head over Jack's beating heart, his left leg securely between Jack's, and Jack's hands enveloping Daniel completely.

“Snuggling is good.”

“Very.  Don't let go, Jack.”

“I won't.  Promise.”

====

~Okay, think, O'Neill.~  Daniel had fallen asleep, and Jack knew he had a puzzle to figure out, the puzzle being how to get his lover to let out his anger without it being too traumatic.  ~Geez, Danny, after all we've been through, you still think a little yelling and screaming will send me packing?  Not gonna happen.~

He thought back over the events that had led up to Daniel's stay at the Air Force hospital, in the mental ward, in a white room with lots of protective padding, and he recalled all that had gone on when Daniel recovered from the effects of Ma'chello's Goa'uld-fighting invention.  Finally, he replayed the days afterwards -- the guilt, the healing, the finding their way back.

Daniel had comforted Jack who felt guilty about not protecting his lover.  He still felt guilty, but they had to move forward.  It was true Daniel had forgiven him, but still, that bit of hostility at being left behind needed to be expressed.

~Something harmless that won't threaten us in his eyes, but yet will let him get the emotion out.~  Jack reached back to adjust his pillow slightly, and then put his right hand under his head as he thought.  ~Got it!~ Jack grinned.

As Daniel rested, Jack planned the upcoming event carefully.  His lover would be waking soon, and by the time he did, Jack wanted to have the basics firmly outlined in his mind.

====

Not long thereafter, Daniel woke, and the two lovers enjoyed a nice dinner together.  Well, nice might be a generous word for it.  The younger man prepared a new dish, vegetable couscous, using a recipe he'd found on the Internet.

“Danny, that was ...”

“Don't say it, Jack.”  Daniel threw out the remainder of the food into the trash.  “It was horrible.”

“Ah,” Jack looked away, then tilted his head and scrunched his face as he said, “Well ... yeah, but you tried.”

“I failed ... miserably.”

“Are you sure about that recipe?” Jack asked.

“I ... got it off the Internet.”

“And ...”

Daniel sighed as he looked at the mess that had been intended to be dinner.  He hated to admit it, but he had to.  Hesitantly, he explained, “And I thought it needed some more ingredients, so I ... I added some broccoli.”

“What?  You added broccoli.  Somehow, Love, I don't think it helped.”

“Jack, I have a confession to make.”  Daniel pulled out the trash bag, tying the red strap securely.  “I lost it.”

“Lost what?”

“The recipe.  I found it on a website, knew I had the ingredients, and read the directions really quick.  I was going to print it out, but that was the night we had that big storm, and the power went out.  I couldn't remember what website I found it on, and the outage zapped my history file.  I ... guessed.  I'm not even sure I used any of the right ingredients.”

Daniel leaned back shyly against the kitchen counter.  Jack smiled and walked to him, taking him in his arms.

“Well, it makes us even.”

“Jack, you've never cooked anything this bad before.”

“You have a selective memory.”

“Do I?” Daniel's arms wrapped around his lover, his eyes searching Jack's.

“Oh, yeah.  Remember that Baked Alaska I attempted that ended up looking like it belonged in the Alaskan pipeline?”  Jack saw the beautiful smile on Daniel's face as the young man chuckled at the memory.  “Or my Froot Loops meat loaf, even if it was an accident.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel leaned his head against Jack's chest, shaking it, as the memory flooded back.

“Like I said, selective recall.”

“I'm sorry I ruined our dinner, though.  We were both pretty hungry, and that was ... bad.”

“We'll have pizza later,” Jack said, and then closed in on Daniel's lips for a kiss.

Both decided that was more fun than talking, so they deepened their kiss.  Daniel's arms went around Jack's neck, his fingers digging in slightly to Jack's skin.  Both moaned afterwards from the loss of their connection.

“One thing's for sure, Love.”

“What's that?”

“No way you can spoil dessert.”

Jack arched his eyebrows, a smirk on his face.

“You're so bad, O'Neill.”

“Oh, I will be.  So will you!”

“Jack!”

“Daniel!” Jack teased, then kissed his soulmate yet again.

“I'll be right back.  I want to get this trash out before tomorrow's pickup, then we can, uh, you know.”

Jack chuckled, and said, “Okay.  Trash first, you know second.”

Daniel walked out, taking the garbage bag with him, leaving Jack alone in the apartment.

~Sorry, Danny, but that dessert is going to have to wait just a little while.~

====

“Good evening, Doctor Jackson.”

“Hello, Mrs. Harper.  How are you tonight?”

On the way back to his apartment, Daniel had passed one of his neighbors, a widow in her fifties who lived down the hall.  She was a stylish dresser, and to Daniel, it looked as if she had been out on the town.

“I'm doing well, and yourself?”

“Just fine.”

Daniel was about to ask another question, but the neighbor beat him to it.

“And how's that handsome Colonel?”

“Ex...excuse me?”  Daniel suddenly felt nervous when he saw her smile. “You, ah, mean, Jack?”

“I saw his truck on my way up.  I was hoping to see him.”

“You ... you were?”

“My car is sputtering, and I was hoping he'd take a look.  He fixed it the last time, you know.”

“Yes, I remember.”

Several months earlier, returning from a shopping trip, the couple had just parked the truck when they saw Mrs. Harper looking perplexed.  Her car wouldn't start.  Always the Good Samaritan, Jack did a quick check and found a loose connection.  It was a common problem, but the widow had considered Jack a miracle man.

“I know I'm being forward, but if it's not too much trouble, and if he's going to be here, will you ask the Colonel to come by ... if he has time, that is?”

“Um, sure.”

“And tell him 'hello' for me.”

“I ... will.  You have a good evening, Mrs. Harper.”

“You, too, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel continued on to his apartment, muttering.  He'd taken on System Lords without flinching, but a widowed woman asking him about his lover scared the daylights out of him.  It was that stupid game of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” and that smile of hers was making him paranoid.  She was always asking about Jack.

~Maybe she's undercover.  Oh, gawd, Jackson.  Calm down.~

Daniel shook off his paranoia and entered his apartment.

====

“I'm looking forward to it, Sam,” Janet said over the phone.

“What about Cassie?”

“She's going to spend the night with a girlfriend of hers.  She says they have some project to work together on for school, but I think they just want to talk about boys.”

Sam laughed and said, “Well, I guess Hanka and Earth aren't all that different.”

“I guess not.”

“Janet, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Don't you think it's time to make amends with the Colonel and Daniel?”

“Sam, I don't want to talk about that.”

“But, Janet ...”

“Sam, I know you're on their side.  It's caused tension between us, but I thought we were doing okay now.”  Sam sighed, a sound detected by the SGC doctor over the phone.  “Listen, Sam, if you'd rather cancel dinner ...”

“No, Janet, I'm looking forward to it, too.”  ~I hate lying to her.  Well, I'm not really lying.  I am looking forward to it, but ...~

“Well, all right, then.  Sam, I'd better go.  I'll see you tomorrow at the Mountain.”

“Night, Janet.”

====

Daniel told Jack about his encounter with Mrs. Harper while they listened to music in the living room.

“Um, Jack ...”

Jack smiled, kissed his lover, and got up, extending his left hand to Daniel, who immediately took it.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

They stared into each other's eyes for several long minutes, unable to shift their focus.  It was as if both men were under a spell, and they weren't fighting it.  Slowly, their faces grew closer until they were joined in a tender kiss that begged for more.

“Jack, ah, maybe ... I mean ...”

Jack grinned, and then, hands joined, they headed for the bedroom.

~Crap!~  Jack suddenly remembered his plan.  Silently, he cursed.  ~Geez, maybe he's not that angry with me.  I mean, the man wants my body.~

Jack had a smug smile on his face as he debated the pros and cons of letting the plan wait until later.

“Jack, why are you looking like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like ... that!”

“Oh.  Because.”

“Oh,” Daniel responded.  ~Okay, I'm missing something.~

Daniel was about to get lost in thought, trying to decipher the current situation.  One second the two were acting like they were about to jump each other, and now, suddenly, there was this eerie pause as they each took off their shirts.  Jack had a strange look on his face for a man about to make passionate love.  Still, Daniel couldn't quite put his finger on why or how things had shifted.

With his head bowed as he stared at the last button of his shirt as he unfastened it, Daniel was taken by surprise when he felt the pillow hit him.

“Hey!”

“Hey what?” Jack asked, grabbing hold of another pillow and swatting his lover with it.

Daniel saw the mischievous expression on his partner's face.  He assumed the little boy in Jack had suddenly surfaced.

“Pillow fight?  You want to have a freakin' pillow fight?”  Jack grinned and swatted Daniel again.  “Okay, O'Neill, you asked for it.”

Daniel grabbed the pillow that lay at his feet, took aim, and made contact with Jack's abdomen.

The great Jack versus Daniel pillow fight was on!

“Is that the best you can do?  Ha!” Jack jested, making another hit on Daniel's arm with his pillow.

“You're crazy, Jack,” Daniel said, making a solid connection with Jack's left thigh.

Jack's next move was to Daniel's right shoulder, and as the pillow impacted, he said, “I'm mad at you, Daniel.”

Daniel had already begun his next attack, his pillow glancing by Jack's left arm as he said asked, “Mad?  W...why?”

Daniel stood motionless, surprised by Jack's words.

“You're holding out on me!” Jack said as his pillow swiped Daniel's right side several times.

Jack didn't want Daniel to stop, so the only way to keep him fighting was to continue to pillow barrage until Daniel's competitive edge surfaced.

“I am ... NOT,” Daniel argued, finally moving again and making a more forceful attack with his pillow.

“Yes, you are.  Admit it, Daniel,” Jack's pillow made a light blow right at the top of Daniel's right shoulder.

Daniel stopped moving, his pillow in his hands, lying loosely in front of his body as he stood at the foot of the bed.

“What are you talking about, Jack?”

“The padded room; you're mad at me.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, just say it.”

“I ... I can't.”

“Chicken!” Jack said, taking a whack at Daniel's left hip.

“Jack!  This is serious.”

“Hey, I'm being serious.  This is definitely,” Jack laid a solid whack of the pillow against Daniel's shoulder, <Bwock!> “serious.” <Bwock!>

“Bwock?  Jack, you are not a chicken!”

“Thank you for noticing, Love, but while I'm not a chicken, right now, you're acting like one.”  <Bwock!>

“You're so dead, Jack,” Daniel threatened, placing a slew of pillow punches all over his lover's body in a quick succession.

<Bwooooock!>  “Say it, Danny.  Tell me.”

Daniel's breathing was heavier, but he didn't say anything.  Instead, he talked with his hands as he kept swinging the pillow, contacting with every part of Jack's body.

“You call those little swats 'hits'?  I thought I'd trained you better than that.”  Daniel swung harder as he flung the pillow at Jack.  “Show some gumption, Daniel.  I left you there.  I left you in a white cell with some quack.  Say it.  Tell me how that made you feel.”

“Leave me alone,” Daniel said, swinging the pillow so hard that as it connected against Jack's side the seam tore open slightly.

“Did that already, Daniel.  I left you in a room to be drugged with people who didn't care squat about you.  Didn't I, Danny?”

Daniel kept swinging the pillow, harder and harder, the stuffing falling all over the floor as the opening widened.

“I walked out, chit-chatted with Carter about how tough it was to be going crazy and know it.  Really bugged you, didn't it, Daniel?  We stood there.  *I* stood there and just watched you scamper around that room.  When you got scared, all I did was tell Carter to get the goons.  Made you angry, didn't it?  COME ON, DANIEL ... DIDN'T IT?”

“YES!  GAWD, YES!  HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?” Daniel asked, hitting Jack again with the pillow, so hard that the last of the stuffing fell out. When he spoke again, his voice was calmer and softer.  He knew the 'why' of what Jack had done, logically anyway.  Jack was a man used to fighting the tangible, and Daniel's assumed mental illness was intangible.  Jack hadn't known how to fight something he couldn't see.  Still, the young man asked the question, “Why?”

Jack moved to the bed and got another pillow and threw it to his lover.  Stunned, Daniel caught it, both hands holding the white object close to his chest.  Jack saw his soulmate softening.  He couldn't let Daniel lose the anger, not yet.  The older man knew he had been forgiven, but this wasn't about Daniel's compassion; it was about the raw emotion of being left behind.

“Show me what you've got, tough guy.  Hit me ... and tell me the truth.”  Daniel stood, staring at Jack.  Then the older man began a barrage with his pillow.  Daniel ducked at first.  “I left you.  Left you there to rot.  Went home and ate Froot Loops while you dined on medications.  I took a shower, went to the bathroom, while you had to be escorted and ...”

“YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO LEAVE ME!” Daniel swatted Jack with the pillow.  “I WOULDN'T HAVE LEFT YOU.  I WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE THAT TO YOU.  I WAS IN A ZOO, ON DISPLAY; MACKENZIE'S TOY FOR THE WEEK.”

“I left you,” Jack said more softly.

He'd achieved his goal, not that it was any real victory.  Seeing the anguish on Daniel's face made Jack cry inside.  That look, the sadness, the hurt, the pain:  it was there because of Jack.  Daniel couldn't hold back any longer, and no matter how much it caused Jack's heart to break, he had to make sure Daniel got it all out.

“I COUNTED ON YOU.  NO ONE ELSE,” Daniel shouted still swinging the pillow, but not noticing that Jack had stopped his attack.  “YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT ME.  YOU SAID YOU'D TAKE CARE OF ME, NEVER LEAVE ME.  YOU PROMISED, BUT YOU DID LEAVE ME, LEFT ME BEHIND JUST LIKE ... LIKE ...”

Daniel stopped, a look of horror on his face.  Jack smiled softly as he completed the sentence for the younger man.

“Just like your parents left you ... and that no-good grandfather ... and too many foster parents to be counted.  I left you, just like they did.”

With tears rolling down his face, Daniel collapsed to the floor.  Jack was kneeling down next to him instantly, his hands rubbing his lover's back. He repeated softly, “I left you.  You're right.  I promised you I'd never do that.  I swore no one would ever hurt you, but that's what I did.  I hurt you, and I left you behind, just like everyone else.”

Jack was dying inside.  The truth was too hard to think about most of the time.  He despised himself for not having followed his gut instinct, for caving in to the pressure when he had known better.  He kissed Daniel's forehead as he rocked him gently in his arms.  His chin resting against Daniel's head, he whispered again, “I left you behind.”

Daniel looked up into Jack's eyes.  He blinked several times, and then he smiled a very tiny smile.  Daniel wouldn't be waylaid by his pain.  His lover had let him down, but when Jack had realized the mistake, he had made up for it big time.  The younger man was determined to focus on that.  No one else had ever fought for him the way had Jack had; no one else had ever loved Daniel the way Jack did, and Daniel knew that.

“But you came back.”

“Yes, I came back.  I made a mistake, and I came back to fix it.”

“You did, Jack.  You fixed it.  Hold me.”

Jack tightened his hold, knowing Daniel needed reassurance.  The younger man was exhausted and was counting on Jack to take care of him.  It was the kind of comfort and request he could get from, and ask of, only one man -- his lover, his Jack.  The walls always came down with Jack, and right now, Daniel's walls were a shambles.

They stayed there for five minutes before they stood up, Daniel being concerned anytime Jack was on his knees for too long.  They had intended to recline on the bed, but had ended up just standing, their hands holding each other's.  Then, Jack took Daniel into his arms again.

“Danny, you were angry,” Jack finally said, needing to make sure had truly gotten exercised this part of the nightmare.  “It's only natural.  Say it.  Tell me again.”

“I ... I was mad at you, Jack, because you left me there, and ... and you're the one I never thought ... never ... I mean ...”

Jack's right hand reached up to caress the back of Daniel's head.  He placed a kiss on his lover's right cheek, and then he backed away just slightly so they could look at each other.

“Just say it.”

“You're ... I count on you, and this time, for a while, you let me down, and that hurt.  It hurt a lot, and I got angry.  For a little while, I was so angry, Jack.”

“It's okay, Danny.  You have a right to be upset with me.  I'm upset with me.”

“You came back, Jack.  You got me out of there.”

“A little later than I should have ...”

“But you did,” Daniel said, his voice a little stronger now.  He moved his hands to rub against Jack's chest in small up and down motions.  For a second, he closed his eyes and then leaned forward and kissed the bare chest in front of him.  “I'm not angry anymore.  Gawd, how'd you know I was?”

“Told you.  It's natural.  Danny, we argue about almost everything.  It's how we deal with things, but we get it out.  We always get it out.  The problem with what happened was that we never really argued.  I felt guilty.  You felt ...”

“Love, you were going to sacrifice your career and take care of me forever.  When Sam told me that, I just ... the anger left, Jack.  Or ... I ... I thought it had.”

“I think most of it did, but you still needed to say it, that you were wronged, and ... all that stuff.”

“Well, now I've said it, and ... it wasn't even about the anger,” Daniel said softly, suddenly looking downward, his head unknowingly leaning forward against Jack's chest.  “I ... Jack, I felt abandoned.  Gawd, I hate that.  I hate that feeling.”

“Danny, some day ... I don't know exactly when ... I ... I'm not sure what magic day will trigger it, but I'm making you a promise.”  Daniel looked up, gazing into his soulmate's eyes.  “The day is going to come when you'll know with every beat of your heart that I'm here for the count.  You can't get rid of me, not even when I'm being an idiot.  I love you, Angel, and that ... that little boy that's been so hurt and abused for years, that child inside of you, he's going to come out, Danny, and he's going to know it's safe.  I'm making you that promise.”

Daniel's misty eyes grew even mistier.  The tears that had stopped began again, and he leaned forward into Jack's warm and gentle hold.

“Promise?”

“Big time promise; tell me one more time, Danny.  Don't leave anything out.”

Daniel pulled back to look at Jack.  He said firmly, “You left me there, and I didn't like it.  It was like you betrayed me.  I've had so many defenses, Jack, but you've ... I don't have them all like I used to because of you.  Gawd, I trust you, and when you turned and walked away, I thought I'd die.  I wanted to die.  I ... for a minute, Jack, I hated you for being like everyone else after saying you aren't, after ... after me believing you weren't.”  Daniel moved his right hand to caress his lover's left cheek.  “I hated you ... for just a minute.”

“And now?”

“Now?  Gawd, Jack, if you don't hurry up and make love to me, I might just kill you.”

Jack laughed as he led them back to the bed.  Daniel lay on his back as Jack began to bestow a trail of kisses from his neck downward.  Daniel moaned in both pleasure and anticipation.

“Uh, Jack?”

“Yes, Love.”

“You owe me three pillows.”

Jack looked up with a look of 'you've got to be kidding' on his face.  Then he smirked, “Bill me.”

“No ... now; I'll take cash.”

“Busy,” Jack said as he made his way to Daniel's pectoral muscles, his tongue licking and flicking.

“Now, Jack.  I liked those pillows.  They're expensive.”

“Daniel,” Jack said, looking up, “sometimes you can be aggravating.”

“But you love me,” Daniel said brazenly.

In fact, it was so brazen that it filled Jack with joy.

~That's it, Love.  Believe it.~  “I only have ten dollars.”

“I'll take it in trade.”

“Trade?”

“I get to have my way with you.”

“Danny, you can have your way with me for nothing.  I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too, Jack.  Did I say thank you?”

“You're about to.”

“Oh, then ... get to it, O'Neill.”

The two kissed tenderly, letting their tongues linger over their lips and then exploring deeply inside the other's mouth.  Their passion built quickly until it flamed, sparking a long night of lovemaking that made both extremely happy.

====

“I hate it when he does this!” Daniel exclaimed in a huff, having woken up to an empty bed.  Sighing, he got up and put on his navy blue robe.  “He's feeling guilty.  I know it.  Stubborn Colonel.”

Daniel walked to his living room and, sure enough, found his lover just where he thought he would -- outside on the balcony, leaning against the patio door, legs outstretched in front of him, his head tilted upwards looking up at the stars, looking very, very lost in Daniel's opinion.

~You saved me, and in the process gave yourself a big guilt trip, didn't you, O'Neill?  Gawd, I love you.~

Daniel smiled.  He gave himself a moment to soak in the feeling of being incredibly loved by the man on the balcony, but then he moved forward.  It was his turn to reassure his lover.

The archaeologist moved onto the balcony.  He lowered himself onto Jack's lap, facing him, trying not to place his total weight on Jack's legs.  He leaned forward and kissed his soulmate.

“You're feeling guilty, Jack, and I don't want that.”

“I left you, Danny.  I'm glad you've forgiven me, but I'm not sure I can forgive myself.”

“Yes, you can,” Daniel said leaning forward into another kiss.  “Jack, we trust each other.  We're not perfect, though.  We make mistakes, both of us.  Everyone around you was telling you I was sick, and by the time, they took me out of the SGC, I think I was beginning to believe it, too.”

“Daniel ...”

“Na-uh,” Daniel said, shaking his head, and putting two fingers over Jack's mouth.  “No guilt, Jack.  We went through this.  You came back.  Focus on that.  Better yet, focus on us, that we survived ... again.”

“I love you, Danny, so friggin' much.  It kills me to know what I did.”

“And I love you.  Jack, I love you so much for ... for caring so much.”  Daniel ran his fingers through Jack's mussed hair.  “No more guilt.  Just love.  Love me, Jack.”

Gazing into Daniel's eyes, Jack saw the pain was gone; at least, the pain he had caused.  Daniel wasn't just trying to make him feel better; rather, he had truly let go of whatever anger he had repressed about Jack.  The love was so powerful that Jack thought he might just become overwhelmed by it.  Daniel's touches were soft and tender, warm and safe.  He'd forgiven Jack a long time ago, and now, he'd moved forward.  Jack knew he had to as well.

“Geez, Danny, what you do to me,” Jack said, following his lover's lead.

The next thing he knew, they were making love on the balcony.  It wasn't the smartest thing for the two to do, but it felt wonderful, and soon, Daniel had erased the guilt from Jack's mind, filling it only with love, desire, and need.
 
====

~Go in positive, O'Neill.  Use your charm.  Remember.  It's for Danny.  He'll be happier if you can get Fraiser to agree.~

“Hey, Doc,” Jack said with a smile, his voice chipper as he entered her office.

Janet registered the apparently happy smile and the Irish twinkle of the eyes, but it had been a while since the Colonel had sent anything close to that sent in her direction.

“How can I help you, Colonel?” she asked, not letting even an inch of her guard down.

“Dinner.”

“Colonel, we've been through that.”

“Come on, Janet.  Meet me half way.”

Janet stood and moved to a shelf where several books were.  She pulled one out and began to leaf through the pages.

“Doc?”

“I'm busy, Colonel.”

Jack sighed and started to leave, but then he closed the door, letting it bang loudly.  Janet jumped.

~Okay, Fraiser, you want to do this the hard way that's fine by me.~

“Listen to me, Doctor Fraiser.  You want to hate me for the rest of your life?  Fine, do it, but what about Daniel?  Does he deserve the cold treatment because of ...” Jack stopped.  He wanted to say 'your mistake', but he also knew this wasn't the time to get into a debate on the specifics of what happened.  He took a breath, and tried to sound less forceful.  “Doc, this is killing Daniel.  With a handful of exceptions, it's been awfully cold in here.”  He saw Janet squirm a little.  “All this business as usual stuff, the formality, he needs it to be over.”

“And you're the expert on what Doctor Jackson needs?”

For a split second, Jack considered giving the doctor the shock of her Little Napoleonic life, but again, he stopped himself.  He certainly wasn't willing to trust Janet with that type of information at the moment, and he had to stay focused on his lover, on his needs.  Jack walked up to Janet, stopping just a foot away from her, their difference in height illuminated by the light that cast a shadow of their frames on the wall.

“Daniel is my best friend.  We've talked about things.  I thought you cared about him.”

“I ... I do, Colonel.  That's not the issue,” Janet said returning to her desk.

She tossed the book she'd been holding onto the desk and stared blankly at some papers that were next to it.

“Doc, all I'm asking, is that you meet with us.  Let's talk about it; see if maybe we can find a common ground.  For Daniel; he's the victim in all this, you know.  He's the one that got hurt.  Not you.  Not me.  Daniel.  And I'm telling you now, that he needs to put this behind him for good, and he can't do that if every day he comes here and has to face a chill.”

Janet reacted quickly to Jack, twisting her body around to face him.  She was about to argue, but stopped when she spotted something out of the corner of her eye.  On one of the shelves behind Jack was a photo.  It was SG-1 along with General Hammond and herself at a barbecue the year before.  It reminded her that they were family ... or they had been; and she couldn't ignore the fact that all this was beginning to affect Cassie who was missing her two favorite 'uncles'.

“Doc, please.  I'm not saying it will be easy, but can't we try?  For Daniel?”

Janet looked at Jack and back at the photo, focusing on the then-shaggy-haired scientist.  He'd lost a lot in his life, and Janet couldn't bear the thought of adding to his grief, not even a little.  She wasn't sure they could resolve anything, and she wasn't at a point where she could even admit her mistakes, but if they could come to an agreement to let things go, that would be progress.  She'd try that.

“All right, Colonel.  When?”

Jack looked down, a bit guilty.  They had a busy schedule over the next two weeks.  The only free night for everyone was the next night, the night Janet and Sam had planned their dinner.

“Tomorrow night.  It's our only free night for a while.  I mean, I've checked the schedules, and for all of us, it's ... the only time.”  ~Crap, O'Neill.  You fumbled.~

“I have plans with Sam tomorrow.”

“I'm sure she won't mind.  She should be there, too,” Jack offered, hoping his smooth delivery would cover the deception.

“Fine.  I'll see if she agrees.”

“Okay.  Thanks.”

Jack moved to the door, and with his hand on the knob looked back and said again, “Thanks, Doc.  This is important ... for Daniel.”

====

“Car...”

Jack entered Sam's lab, but before he could even get her name out, she raised a hand into the air, trying to silence him.  She stood near a blackboard, holding the phone to her ear.

“No, Janet, I don't mind.  I, uh, think it's probably a good idea ... Me?  Uh ...”  Sam saw Jack nod and motion, indicating Sam should be in attendance and the dinner should still happen at her house.  “Yeah, Janet, I'm okay with that.  We'll still have dinner at my house.  I'll talk to the Colonel ... Okay, see you later.”

“I tried to get here before she called,” Jack said when Sam hung up, “but I got stopped three times on my way here.”

“That's okay, Sir.  Are you sure about this?”

“I'm sure that Daniel needs some peace, and the only way he's going to get it is if we all put our cards on the table.  Tell you what, I'll bring pizza so you don't have to cook.”

“It could get messy, Sir.”

Jack did a mock flinching motion as he said, “Pizza isn't good if it's not messy.”  He saw Sam sigh, biting her lip.  He knew what she meant, and it had nothing to do with food.  “Carter, I'll help you clean the blood off the furniture if it comes to that, but if we're lucky, maybe by tomorrow night ...”

Just then the klaxons went off.

“I wonder what that is.  No one's due back.”

The two went to check on the cause of the unexpected off-world activation, letting their conversation end.  Both knew the dinner could blow up in their faces, but both hoped that the opposite would happen -- that the dinner would push all the ill winds behind them.

Ten minutes later, Jack was pleased that the unexpected blaring of the klaxons was just a team returning early due to a change in weather that hadn't been anticipated.  The day continued on normally, and that night, he'd give Daniel the good news.

~Anything for you, Danny, to keep your conscience clear.  I'd swallow my pride and beg for you if it meant peace of mind for you.~

====

The couple was on schedule for their dinner date at Sam's house.  They were walking from the living room to the entranceway of Jack's house, about to leave.  As Jack reached for the door, he felt Daniel suddenly tug him away, pushing him up against the door.  The next thing he felt was Daniel, pressed against his body, and he moaned from the huge kiss his lover had just given him.

“Wow, Danny.  What was that for?”

“For making this happen.  Jack, no matter how things end up tonight, thank you, especially for talking Janet into it.  I didn't want to ambush her.”

“I know.  I love you, Angel.”

Daniel cupped his lover's face and kissed him again.

“I count on that.  You have no idea how much I rely on ... on you loving me.”

“We're forever, Danny; you can bank on that.  Someday, years from now, you and I will be at our cabin in Minnesota, both old and grayer than this silver hair of mine, and you'll know I was telling the truth.”

“Years from now,” Daniel echoed with a smile.  “I love you, Jack.”

One more kiss, and then the lovers headed for the pizza parlor to pick up the pizzas.

====

Twenty minutes into the dinner at Sam's, the pizza was scattered onto various plates.  It had been nibbled at, but mostly, it was doing nothing but getting cold.

~Maybe I should take up kel-no-reem, too.~

Jack had considered asking the Jaffa if he wanted to attend tonight's dinner, but Teal'c hadn't been a big part of what Jack thought of as “a huge honkin' nightmare,” and the only reason Sam was part of it was because she was the one who had invited Janet to dinner.

The Colonel also knew that if he and Daniel worked things out with the doctor, than Sam would, too.  They had, in fact, already begun trying to repair their damaged friendship.  Plus, Teal'c hadn't been a big part of any of the events that had led up to Daniel's confinement or his release, and he was afraid Janet might feel pressured and bolt if too many people were around.

Still, Jack debated, but in the course of the day, Teal'c had stated he was going off-world for a few hours to visit with his wife and son, and then would be spending the rest of the night kel-no-reeming.  Jack then decided to mention the evening to Teal'c without the invitation, and he was a little pleased when Teal'c had said, “DoctorFraiser is a formidable woman.  Your task will not be easy, O'Neill.  I am glad I will be on Chulak doing ... other things.”

~Time to get this show on the road.~

“Okay,” Jack said, closing the lid over the box.  “Why don't we get down to the reason we're here and save the pizza for later?”

“The reason we're here,” Janet repeated, “and what exactly would that be?”

“You know that, Doc, or you wouldn't be here.”

“Do I?”

Jack stood up and paced around Sam's living room.  He looked over at Daniel who was seated on the sofa, his head bowed down.

“I'll start.”

Daniel looked up, unsure what Jack was about to say.

“Jack, maybe this was a bad idea.”

“No, Daniel, it wasn't.  Doc, I made a big mistake a while back.  I let you and MacKenzie talk me into believing Daniel was a nut case.  In spite of what I felt in here,” Jack tapped on his chest over his heart, “and that was that there was no way he was ... nuts.”

“Colonel, everything we knew ...”

“Was crap.  You didn't know anything.”

“The tests showed ...”

“Screw the tests.  What previous tests had been run on countless volunteers that had gone through the Gate?  This was a unique situation, and you should have treated it that way.  So we had headaches,” Jack said off-handedly.  “We've *always* had headaches.  Don't you think that if the symptoms were caused by Gate travel that more than one person would have been affected?  Carter tried to tell you that, but you dismissed her, explained her words away without even giving them due consideration.  Didn't you think it odd that only Daniel was suffering?  Why didn't you ask yourself that question?  Why didn't you do more tests?  Why assume that the answer was to lock him away in a padded cell?”

Janet stood, taking on a defensive posture as she spoke, “I'm a physician, Colonel.  I make decisions based on tests.”

“Janet,” Jack said forcefully.  “You used headaches as a basis for those decisions.  Headaches.”

“Not headaches, Colonel, migraines.  Daniel had migraines.”

“He's ALWAYS had migraines.  Geez, Doc, there are millions of people out there suffering from migraines, and none of them have even heard of the Stargate!”

Daniel watched the volleying going back and forth.  He wanted to speak up, but he felt lost, almost as if he was back in that room again.  In a way, he felt like a little boy, the little boy who hadn't a voice in what happened to him after his parent's death.  No one cared what he had thought or felt back then, and while that wasn't the truth here, he couldn't help but feel powerless.  Jack was fighting his battle for him, and Janet wasn't even looking at him.  It was as if Daniel wasn't even in the room.  He felt so small as he listened.

“The tests were solid.  There was a history based on Gate travel.”

“That's garbage!  Since when?  Show us this history, Doctor Fraiser.  Show us this database of information to support this ... theory, and I use the word lightly.  What medical study of any consequence is done over just two years?  That's not long enough to have a *history* like you're talking about.  It takes *years*!  Come on, Doc.  When did you look at that?  When did you *even* think about that?  You're just making excuses.  Be honest.  When did you actually do this research?”

“When the need arose.”

“You mean when Daniel started feeling the effects of that ... invention.”

“That was when the need arose.”

“You didn't give him a chance!”

“I had facts, and Doctor MacKenzie felt it was schizophrenia.”

“AND WHAT DOES THAT QUACK HAVE TO DO WITH ANY OF THIS?  MacKenzie doesn't feel anything.  He's a self-obsessed moron.  You know that, and I know that.  He doesn't care squat about Daniel, and he knows him even less.  Geez, that's the point.  What happened to your loyalty to this team, Doctor?”

“Loyalty.  Okay, that's it.  I said I'd discuss this, but,” Janet moved towards her coat that was placed over a chair, “I will not have my motivations questioned.”

“Motivation?” Daniel asked softly.  He looked over at Janet.  “Your motivation, Janet, was to look good in front of MacKenzie.”

“Daniel ...”

“NO!” He said, standing up.  He paced for a moment, shaking his head, and then he buried himself in a corner, his arms folded as tightly as he could around himself.  In fact, he had such a tight grip that his skin was turning red from the firmness of the hold.  “You weren't thinking about me, Janet.  You didn't know what was wrong, and instead of trying to find out, you let that ... that ...”

“Quack,” Jack said on behalf of his lover.

“You let him tell you what to do and think.  MacKenzie's always resented the fact that he wasn't put in charge of the infirmary.  He had arguments with Doctor Warner about it before you were brought in, and I'd bet money you've argued with him, too.”

Janet looked over at Sam, wondering if her friend had broken a confidence.  Sam met the gaze without wavering.

“Whatever has gone on between Doctor MacKenzie and myself has nothing to do with my decision ...”

“Doesn't it?”  Daniel stared at Janet.  “Janet, can you honestly stand there and tell me that if that quack hadn't been there, that you would have ... that ...”

“... that you would have shipped Daniel off to the looney bin so fast?” Jack completed the question for his lover.

“Yeah, that,” Daniel said.

“Daniel had been having delusions.  Paranoid delusions.  They were auditory and visual.  Coupled with the migraines, it was the only logical conclusion.”

“AFTER A FREAKIN' DAY?  ONE DAY, AND YOU GIVE UP?” Daniel challenged.

“Daniel, your dopamine levels were up.  It was a classic case.”

“IN ONE DAY?”

“Doctor MacKenzie felt ...”

“DOCTOR MACKENZIE IS NOT THE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE SGC, JANET,” Daniel shouted, moving forward towards the doctor, and then pointing at her, adding, “YOU ARE!”  Daniel paused.  Breathing a bit more heavily, he blinked, and then crossed his arms again.  More softly, he spoke, “Or at least, you're supposed to be.”

“I won't stand here and ...”

“And listen to the truth?” Jack accused.  It seemed to be his day for filling in the blanks.  He spoke harshly, his words sharp and tone accusatory.  “Come on, Doctor Fraiser.  Be honest, if not with us, with yourself.”

“Colonel, your intimidation tactics might work on new recruits, but they won't work on me.”

“Why not?  Yours worked on me.  You sat there at the table with files and test results and looked me in the eye.  You bullied everyone, including me, into believing that your decision was based on fact, and it wasn't.  You took the easy way out, Janet.  You threw Daniel away, and couldn't be bothered to follow up your own findings.  It was easier to agree with an idiot like MacKenzie.”

Janet started to put on her jacket, having had enough of what she was feeling was a roast, with her as the main course, but it was then that Daniel finally let loose on the emotions he'd been holding back.  He saw her slip on the jacket, ready to run.  The problem was, when Janet had sent him away, he had no way to run.  He'd been stuck, confined in a prison.  Daniel's anger took root.  He moved between her and the door, and stared down on the diminutive doctor.

“No, Janet.  You can't run away from this.  I had nowhere to run when you put me in that room, nowhere to hide.  I had nothing, and if it takes us all night, you're not leaving until you understand what you did to me.  It may sound harsh, but in the end, it was you.  The General, Jack, Sam ... they all responded to what you said.  You had the last say, Janet.  You controlled what happened, not MacKenzie.  *YOU!* And you know what?  Everyone else has apologized, whether they had reason to or not!  Even MacKenzie had the courtesy to at least pretend he had made a bad decision and say he was sorry.  Of course, I think the General forced him to, but he did it.  Why haven't you?  I don't understand that, so,” Daniel finally took a deep breath, “you're going to at least listen.”

Daniel paused, but didn't step back.  He towered over his friend, and right now, to her, he looked as intimidating as a Goa'uld.  His arms were folded tightly across his chest as he looked down at her.

“Let me ask you this, Janet.  What if it had been Sam, Jack, or Teal'c? What if it had been one of them suffering from these ... delusions? Would you have been so quick to put it down to a mental illness?  I don't think so.  If it had been Jack, you and General Hammond would have moved Heaven and Earth to find out the real problem.  Anything MacKenzie said wouldn't have even been a footnote.  You wouldn't have believed it, not for a second.  If it had been Teal'c, you would have looked further.  Maybe it was an alien disease, or maybe something had happened on the planet that we didn't know.  Wow.  What a concept.  An alien disease or ... invention.”

Daniel looked at Jack and took a breath.  He didn't like feeling such anger, but it was like Janet putting on her coat had been a trigger.  She had turned the switch to 'on' by being so swift in her attempts to dismiss Daniel ... yet again.

“If it had been Sam, and she had the same symptoms I had; if she had shouted from the rafters that she knew what was happening, you would have listened to her.  Logical, scientific Sam.  You would have acted differently, Janet, and you know why?  Because she's not like me. She's not flaky on a good day.  She doesn't get overly emotional about things.  SHE'S NOT ME!” he shouted, years of having to prove himself spilling out from his soul.  “You would have spent days, weeks, even months getting to the truth.  You wouldn't have given up after an hour.  Did you even spend that long looking for the cause?  How much of your time was I worth, Janet?  One hour?  Two?   Oh yes.  I remember.  One day.  You gave me ONE, WHOLE, FREAKIN' DAY!”

Daniel shook his head and turned around.  He walked several feet away, stopping near a wall.  He faced Janet again.

“Janet, please.  Listen to us.  Listen to *me* and ... listen to them, too,” Daniel pointed to Jack and Sam.

Her eyes misty, Sam reached out and touched Janet's arm, prompting Janet to turn to face her.

“Janet, they're only saying the truth, and we all know it.  You made a mistake.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to admit that, because ... well, I'm not very good at it, either.  The truth is that we can't change what happened to Daniel.”  She looked at Daniel and smiled sadly.  Her words were directed at Janet, but she wanted Daniel to see her eyes, to feel the truth.  “As much as I know we'd all like to change what happened, we can't.”

“What's your point, Sam?”

Sam returned her focus to the doctor.

“My point is that ...” she backed away, taking a moment to look at each of her friends, and then she smiled as she continued, “We're a family.  SG-1 is a family.  Sometimes that's good; sometimes maybe not so good, but it's how it is, and like it or not, Janet, you're part of SG-1's extended family.”

“And that means facing up to mistakes,” Jack said.

“Give me a break, Colonel.”

“Doc, I'm giving you the same break I gave myself -- none.  Daniel is my ... best friend.  I should have been there for him.  Had I had a little more courage, I wouldn't have let you move him out of the SGC.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel.  It's the truth.  I was a gutless coward.”  **For reasons we both know I can't go into now, but I was, Danny.**  Jack looked back at Janet.  “Doc, I knew better.  I'm not a doctor, but I know this man, and I knew he wasn't any crazier than you or me, and you know something else?  You knew that, too.”

Jack's look was intense.  Janet stared at him for a few moments, then looked away.  She took off her coat and went to a dining room chair and pulled it out to sit down.

“There was nothing physically wrong with Daniel,” she said, her defenses crumbling, but still unable to do what was necessary, for herself or for Daniel.

“Janet,” Daniel moved forward a bit, “we're space travelers.  In the last two years, we've come across a lot of new things.  Jack was artificially aged with nanites, Sam's had a symbiote inside her, Teal'c almost turned into a ... bug.”

“Big, big bug,” Jack said with a small smile.

“With all of that, with all the strange, unusual things that have occurred, you didn't think it was possible that there was something else going on besides me ... going nuts?”

“Doctor MacKenzie said ...”

“DOCTOR MACKENZIE!” Jack shouted again, waving his hands in front of him.  “For crying out loud, Janet, the man wants your job, and you friggin' know it.  You caved.”

Janet said nothing, sitting unusually quietly in contrast to her normal, spirited behavior.

“Janet,” Sam walked to the table and pulled out a chair to sit down,  across from her friend.  “You wouldn't listen to any of us.  Look, I know how it is to feel like your job is threatened, or to wonder whether or not others believe you deserve to be where you are.”

“Sam, I have no doubts about who I am or what I'm capable of.”

“I didn't say you did, but your ex-husband questioned it.”

“What does he have to do with this?”

“Doc, it's human nature.  I don't know anything about your ex, but we've all gone through times when we wonder if we've got the respect we deserve.”

“You were wrong, Janet,” Daniel said softly, having not moved from his spot.  “You gave up on me.  I ... I thought you'd try ... harder.”

“Daniel, I did try,” Janet said, getting up and walking to face her friend.  “I swear I tried, but there was nothing wrong with you.”

“No, there wasn't.”

Daniel's blue eyes pierced Janet's.  Three simple words of truth cut into her heart.

“Oh, Daniel.  I thought ... everything Doctor MacKenzie said made sense, but ...”

“But you knew he was wrong.  Janet, if it had been Jack or Sam, would you have been so quick to lock them away in some white cell?”

“I ...” Janet shook her head incredulously.  “Daniel ...”

“Think about it, Janet.  Gawd,” Daniel shook his head at the truth he was about to speak, “no one ever believes me.  You let MacKenzie convince you because it was me.”  Daniel continued to shake his head and moved back a step or two.  “Because it was me,” he reiterated.

Jack moved to stand between his lover and Janet.  He faced the younger man.

“If we don't, it's because we're stupid, or maybe, it's because we're just scared.  You're better than we are, Daniel, in a lot of ways.”

**Jack, don't go there.**

“I'm saying the truth.  You care about people, have a compassion that makes you unique.  Sometimes, that puts you out on a ledge.”  Jack shook his head slightly.  “I'm sorry, Daniel.  When we don't have facts to help us, some of us,” he looked at Sam, motioning to her and himself, “military types have a hard time believing in ...”

“Fairytales,” Daniel smiled, making a reference back to an old fight on a planet they had visited the year before.

“Yeah, except your fairytales usually end up being reality.  I'm sorry.”

“So that makes me a candidate for the insane asylum when some alien invention makes me act a little ...”

“Crazy?” Jack said, a small smile on his face.

“Daniel, I am sorry,” Janet said, slapping her hands against the sides of her body as she turned.  She sighed deeply.  “All I could see on paper were the headaches, which you've always had, and the dopamine levels.  Everything else matched up with what Doctor MacKenzie said.  He'd been,” Janet crossed her arms and looked down, shaking her head.  “Oh, gawd, I really am sorry.”

Reality was finally hitting home for Janet Fraiser.  She turned and looked at Jack and Daniel.

“For the last few months, I mean, before the incident, Doctor MacKenzie has been pushing to find ... something, anything to ...”

“Close down the program?  What's his problem, Janet?”

“I think you hit it on the head earlier, Col...Jack.”

“He wants your job, and he resents the fact that he didn't get it in the first place,” Jack replied.

“Psychiatry is his specialty, but yes, he wanted the CMO position even before I came onboard.  He argued with Skeet about it,” Janet said, using Warner's sporty nickname, “but that didn't get him anywhere.  Skeet knew when he was brought in that he'd be the number two.  They just hadn't decided yet on who they wanted as the CMO.”

“So the quack is a jealous wacko?” Jack asked, a smirk on his face.

“I don't know that I'd go that far,” Janet replied, “but he feels he was unduly overlooked, and believes I don't have the background in psychiatry and behavioral development that he does, which I don't, but Doctor MacKenzie believes that that kind of background is vital for the CMO of the SGC.”

“So, what you're saying is that you let him intimidate you into locking me up?” Daniel asked pointedly.

Janet took a breath, and then answered, “I guess we all have moments we regret.  Daniel, he told me if I didn't back him up that he'd go to Hammond and make the case that I didn't belong in charge.  He ... he was going to make certain accusations.”

“What accusations?” Jack asked.

“It's not important.”

“I think it is,” Sam moved forward.  “Let me guess, Janet.  We're family, and he was going to use that against you, wasn't he?”

“Oh, I get it,” Jack said.  “The fact that we're closer than we should be, according to the rule book.”

“The rule book stinks,” Daniel said.  **In more ways than one, Jack.**

“You're right, Daniel,” Jack said, responding to both comments at once.

Taking an even bigger breath, Janet said, “He was going to say I couldn't make the tough call, that I let my friendship with Daniel interfere with doing what was right.”

“Janet, no one intimidates you.  Why'd you let him?  Why'd you give up on me?  Would you really have stood there and let Sam be hauled off in a straight jacket?” Daniel asked.

A tear escaped from Janet's eye.  She spoke as softly as they'd ever heard her, “I don't know, Daniel.  I don't know.”

“You were wrong, Janet.”

Daniel needed to hear Janet say the words.  It was just like when he and Jack had the pillow fight.  Jack had known that it was important for Daniel to express his anger verbally, to say them, no matter how hard.  It had been cleansing for the couple.  Now, to really close the door on all that happened, the archaeologist needed to hear Janet admit her mistake.  They couldn't go back; Sam was right about that, but they could move forward, having acknowledged the wrongs.

Janet closed her eyes, nodding her head.  She wiped away a tear.

“I felt cornered.  It took me a long time to get my life in order, to have the courage to divorce my husband.  He didn't think a woman's place was outside the home.  He never even thought I'd succeed as a doctor, told me I was crazy, that I should stick with nursing; and when I told him I wanted to join the Air Force, he said a lot of things that while I knew they were wrong, I couldn't forget.  I finally got out of that mess, made my way in the Air Force, and worked very hard to prove myself, to earn my promotion to Major, and eventually to get this position at the SGC.  I guess I ... I let a momentary twinge of insecurity and doubt effect my judgment.”  She looked at Daniel, into his eyes.  ~Oh, Daniel.  You need to hear the words, but do you know how hard it is for me to say them?~

“Janet, that's understandable,” Sam said.

“But it was a costly choice, Doc,” Jack stated strongly.

Janet turned her gaze back to Daniel just in time to see his shoulders slump in defeat.

“It's okay, Janet.  Um, Jack, I think ...”

“No!”  Jack looked at Janet.  “I've considered you a friend, family, but you made a mistake, Janet, and if you can't own up to it ...”

“Jack, it's time to go,” Daniel said.  He was tired.  They had made some progress, but Janet wasn't going to give him what he needed, and he was emotionally drained from living through the nightmare yet again.  He moved to Sam and said, “Thank you and ... I'm sorry,” and then he headed for the door.

“Daniel,” Janet called out.  He turned and looked at her.  “I made a mistake.  I was wrong, Daniel, very wrong, and I'm so sorry.  I wish I could undo it, but I can't.  I'm so sorry.”

Daniel nodded and slowly walked towards the petite doctor.  He felt a relief that he couldn't describe.  He closed his eyes for a brief moment and felt a wave wash through him.  It was a like a miracle, a calm that had just cleansed him of a haunting memory.

“Thank you, Janet,” he said, as they hugged for a minute.

Daniel wasn't good at physical contact with anyone but Jack, but it felt right to use the hug as a healing device, a signal that they could finally emerge from the nightmare.

“We all made mistakes, Doc, me, included.”

“And me,” Sam agreed with her CO.

“Not me,” Daniel teased.

“Oh ... Mister Perfect,” Jack smirked.

He could see into Daniel's eyes, the cerulean blue mirrors to Daniel's soul, and in them, he saw clarity and peace.  It filled Jack's own soul with peace as well.

“Actually, at the time, it was more like ...”

“Daniel, I'm hungry.  How about pizza?”

“I'm hungry, too,” Sam said, putting her arm around Janet for a quick hug.

“Yeah, me, too,” Janet admitted.

“We should have gotten extra cheese,” Daniel said as they moved back to the coffee table where their plates were, along with the pizza box.

“Want some wine for that whine?” Sam teased.

“Actually ... yes!”

Opting not to reheat the pizza, they munched away on their individual slices, enjoying some wine along with it.  An hour later, they were all relaxed, calm, having a good time.

“This was nice,” Daniel said.

“Very,” Janet reached over and touched the top of Daniel's hand.  “I am sorry, and I swear, Daniel, it won't happen again.”

“I know, Janet.  Thank you.”

“Thanks, Doc, for meeting me half way,” Jack added.

“You're a stubborn man, Colonel.  Besides, this way Sam didn't have to lie to me.”  They all looked at each other, surprised at her words.  “Oh, come on.  I wasn't born yesterday.  I saw through Sam's sudden invitation.  She's been upset with me, too.  And, Cassie's been upset because she knew something was going on.  Things just weren't the same.”

“But we're good to go now,” Sam said.

“Good to go,” Janet said.

“Speaking of going, big day tomorrow.  P3-something or other,” Jack said.

Daniel rolled his eyes as he stood up.

“Yeah, I guess we should go.”

With more hugs, Jack and Daniel said their good-byes and headed home.

====

“Are you okay?” Jack asked his lover when they walked inside the house.  “You were quiet the entire drive home.”

“Jack, I never knew Janet had that kind of pressure on her.  Did you?”

“No.”  He snorted, “I never even knew she was married before.”

“I didn't either.  Jack, we should have known that.  There are people we work with, who we see every day, and ... and care about, Jack, and yet, we know so little about them.”

“They're our friends.  What more is there to know?” Jack asked as he moved to Daniel and took him into his arms.  “Danny, what we do is dangerous, and by our nature, we tend to keep to ourselves.  I don't see that changing.  It's a choice we've made because ... it's just a choice we've made.  The only thing we can count on with the people we work with is they are loyal and honest.  We have to be able to rely on them, trust them to cover our six.  The Doc flunked in this particular case.  I don't think she will again.”

“She won't.”

“And we know that because we know her, right?”

“You mean because we know her heart?”

“Yeah.  I'll be honest, Danny.  I don't know squat about Fraiser's history outside of the SGC.  We have get-togethers and parties where we talk about work or hobbies, but I don't know what's led up to her being the person she is now, and since I don't know that, I have to be able to trust her heart.”

“I trust your heart, Jack.”

“Angel, I love you.  I wish ...”

Daniel put his hand over Jack's mouth, then gently moved it aside and kissed his soulmate.

“Jack, it's done now.  I feel so calm about it all now.  It's over.”

Jack smiled.  His lover was making such progress.

“Actually, Love,” Jack slapped Daniel on the rear end, “it hasn't even begun.”

“Oh, yeah.  I was wrong.”

“I'll mark it on the calendar,” Jack whispered before he devoured his lover.

They never made it upstairs, falling instead to the carpet, making love near the stairs.

====

It was one week later, and Jack was asleep.  Daniel had stayed the night at the apartment, something Jack hated, but it happened from time to time when Daniel had research to do after hours.

“What the ...” Jack darted up, ready to battle the intruder that had woken him from his fitful sleep.

“Gotcha!” Daniel said, making another swipe with the pillow he'd covertly removed from the bed.

“You little ...”

“Not little,” Daniel said, the pillow connecting for a hit at Jack's waist.

“Oh, Dannyboy, you're playing with fire.”

“Where's the flame?  I don't see any fire.”

Jack took a whack with his own pillow, making contact with Daniel's shoulder.  It caused the younger man to turn slightly to his right, and that's when Jack pounced.  He grabbed his lover and threw him on the bed and straddled him.

“Here's the fire,” Jack said, kissing him soundly.

“Mmm ... gawd, that fire.”

“Yeah, that fire.  Danny.  It's ... I don't even know what time it is.”

“I missed you.  I couldn't sleep,” Daniel said, running his hands along the side of Jack's head.  “The fire is raging, Jack.”

“Danny, Love,” Jack said, as he began to unbuckle Daniel's belt, “there is just one thing.”

“What's that?”

“You owe me two pillows.”

Daniel laughed, as did Jack, and then they let their burning passion take over.

The crisis was finally over.  Ma'chello's invention was on the closed side of the ledger at last, and now, a tranquil calm had returned.  Although, at the moment, as the two joined their bodies together, things were anything but ... calm, which was exactly how Jack and Daniel liked it!

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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