A Hundred Nightmares

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, H/C, Established Relationship, Missing Scene/Epilogue
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  3 - January 20 - April 28, 2000
Spoilers:  Need, A Hundred Days
Size:  144kb
Written:  April 8-17,26-29, 2012
Summary:  Daniel's world is nothing but a series of nightmares as he waits to learn if Jack is dead or alive on Edora.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) 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.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “The Pact,” “Tal Pat Ryn,” “Tears of a Valentine,” “Boys at Play”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Navi!

A Hundred Nightmares
by Orrymain

Meteors were darting towards the helpless planet.  People were running everywhere.  Time was short.  Daniel's heart was beating so fast he thought it might burst.  His pulse raced when he heard an explosion in the distance.  Instantly, debris filled the sky.

“*Jack!*”

“*Get out of here!* the colonel ordered, heard but not seen.

“*Hurry, Jack!*”

“Move it, Daniel!  Get through the Gate!”

Daniel didn't want to move.  He was frozen in his stance.  He'd be a statue until his lover showed up, but then the world went dark except for the sight of his life partner being hit by a meteor and blown into tiny particles.

--

“*Jaaaaack!*”

With a start, the anguished archaeologist, Daniel Jackson, sat up in his bed.  He panted, his breathing heavy and uneven.  He was sweating, his pulse throbbing at a rate that was dangerously high.  His nightmare hadn't been exactly the way events had gone down, but it had aptly depicted his feelings and fear.  He closed his eyes, letting the tears fall freely.

“Jack.”

This time, the name was spoken softly, with deep love and overwhelming need.  Daniel leaned back and slowly rested again on his pillow.  His heart was full of desperation and loss.  Why did everything good in his life have to end so miserably?

“Jack.”

Now the name was a whisper, a hope and prayer that somehow the real nightmare would end.  It had only been three days since the planet Edora had been struck by destructive meteors.  Many had made it through the Stargate, including Daniel who hadn't been with his lover at the time of the hits.  Unfortunately, Jack, and many Edorans who had chosen to remain on their home world, had not gone through the Stargate.

Since the disaster occurred, Stargate Command had not yet been able to get a signal from the Edoran Stargate.

With emotional and physical pain blooming in his soul, Daniel rolled over on his side and brought his pillow to his chest.  Squeezing it tightly, he cried into it until slumber finally overtook his shaking body.

====

Daniel entered the control room in a daze, the growth on his face indicating he hadn't shaved in a couple of days.  He wore his green BDUs, the jacket uncharacteristically taut and buttoned as if trying to keep the wearer safe and warm.

Aware of a new presence, Sam looked up from her spot in front of one of the computers.

“Daniel,” the blonde greeted with some concern.  ~Still here?  You need to keep it together, Daniel, or the colonel is going to kill me when he gets back.~

“Hi, Sam.”

“I thought you would have gone home by now.”

“Home?” Daniel questioned in surprise.  “Um, no.  I mean, uh, where else would I be right now?” the archaeologist asked, his stationary stance highlighted by the self-hug he was giving himself.

“It's almost nine,” Sam reminded with a glance to the clock on the wall.

Walking closer, Daniel looked around the room, noting it was barren of personnel save for the SG-1 teammates and admitted, “I feel so ... useless.”

Sam's gaze penetrated her friend's eyes and she could sense his nervousness and hopelessness.  Daniel was always so determined, even in the face of the bleakest darkness, but right now, there was an inner barrenness that was keeping him from being at his best.

“We'll get him home, Daniel,” Sam assured, silently adding, ~because if we don't, I'm not sure our team will stay together, and I need us to be a team.~

“Five days, Sam,” the male scientist lamented.  Needing to participate, he asked, “Anything I can do?”

“Get some sleep,” Sam urged, knowing that is what Jack would want.  ~He's counting on me to make sure Daniel doesn't self-destruct while he's gone.~

“When I sleep, I have nightmares,” Daniel confided in a small whisper, putting his trust in his friend, something he didn't do all that easily.  After a pause, he inquired, “Why isn't there a signal?”

“I don't know, Daniel.  The wormhole establishes, but we lose the MALP every time.  I'm not sure how much longer General Hammond is going to risk the MALPs.”

“The almighty dollar?” the archaeologist responded bitterly.

“We've lost four so far,” Sam pointed out.

“I don't care if we lose a dozen, Sam.  We have to find Jack,” Daniel insisted forcefully.

“I need to get back to work,” Sam stated with some reluctance, knowing Daniel was reaching out to her.  “Why don't you go home and get some rest.  You know he'd want that.”

Daniel's reply was a hesitant nod, after which he left the control room in what felt like a slow crawl.

====

Taking a long breath, Daniel stood on the porch of the intimate home he shared with Jack.  He had avoided going there for the last few days, but he needed to feed the fish.  Afraid that he would quickly become distracted by the aura of the home which radiated with Jack's essence, Daniel immediately tended to the swimmers, checking the aquarium and ensuring all was well.  Then, for several minutes, he simply stood and stared at the creatures as they went about their carefree lives.

Finally, Daniel turned around and walked slowly across the room.  He picked up a picture of Charlie, Jack's deceased son, that was on the buffet.

~Help your dad, Charlie, because right now I ... I can't.~

Putting the picture down, Daniel decided to tend to a few chores.  He needed to stay busy.  Doing nothing was driving him insane.

====

“Have you seen Garren?” an anxious Laira asked Jack as SG-1stood in her village.

Jack looked over at his teammates and inquired, “Daniel? Teal'c?  Garren come back with you?”

“He should be here, O'Neill,” Teal'c responded.

“The caves,” Daniel stated.  “We were talking about how previous generations survived.  They must have gone back there.”

“All right,” Jack acknowledged before ordering, “You three go.  Get these people out of here.  We'll find the kids and catch up.”

“Sir?” a concerned Sam questioned.

“Go!”

“No,” Daniel objected strongly.  “We'll go together , Jack.  We're supposed to stay together.”

“Help these people, Daniel.  That's what your good at.  I'm good at search and rescue.  I'll go with Laira.  We'll find Garren and be home in a jiffy,” the colonel stated as he and Laira began to walk away.

“Jack!”

“Daniel, go, and that's an order!”

“Not right.  No, Jack.  We promised.  Stay together.  Always.  Jack?  Don't you remember.  *Jack!*”

Daniel's eyelids snapped open.  His abdomen was heaving from the action that had gone on in his mind.  He swallowed, the effort difficult and almost causing him to vomit.  Daniel sat up, realizing he'd fallen asleep on the sofa in the living room.  He loved this sofa.  It was soft and comfortable, and he and his soulmate had cuddled, tickled, fondled, cried, laughed, and even made love on it many times.

~Didn't happen.~  That was the thought that went through Daniel's mind as he struggled to find some sort of calm.  He knew he was sweating again, and his head pounded from the nightmare.  Still, his unpleasant somber had conjured up a mix of the reality and a fantasy.  As he struggled for clarity, he realized his guilt had played a role.  ~Why did I follow his order?  Why did I let him go with Laira?  I should have gone with him.~

Daniel stood up and began to pace.  His momentum quickened with every few steps.  His mind was reeling, readying for an eruption of some sort.  Needing a release, he picked up a sofa pillow and began beating it against the sofa he loved so much.  Then, in his mind, he heard his lover telling him that it had to be the way it was.  Daniel had to help save the Edorans, to get them safely through the Stargate.

“But I need you, Jack,” Daniel cried as he sank to the carpeted floor and curled up into a ball.

====

Two days later, yet another attempt was being made by Stargate Command to reach Colonel O'Neill on Edora.  The Gate activated and the MALP was sent through.  General Hammond, the three Earth bound SG-1 members, Doctor Janet Fraiser who would be going off-world to administer aid, and a few personnel assigned to the control room were all present.

~Come on, work!~ Daniel urged as he waited impatiently.

“No signal from the radio transmitter, Sir,” the sergeant reported to the major general.

“If the Edoran Stargate were truly buried, how then was the wormhole established?” Teal'c inquired.

“The meteor hit while the wormhole was active,” Sam explained.

“So, so?” a somewhat nervous archaeologist prompted.

“So it's possible that the molten naquadah hardened just above the event horizon,” Sam theorized.

“Like an iris,” Daniel clarified.

“Yes,” Sam affirmed.

“Sergeant, shut it down,” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” the man acknowledged.

“That was our last shot, people and I'm calling this one,” Hammond announced. “As of right now, I'm officially declaring him missing in action.”

~What?~ Daniel reacted, stunned by the declaration.  ~No!~

“GeneralHammond, perhaps Edora could be reached by another means,” Teal'c suggested.

“That's right,” Daniel agreed desperately.  “The Tok'ra could send a ship.”

“Or the Tollan,” Sam offered.  ~There has to be another way.  We can't just give up.~

“Let me at least contact those of our allies that are capable of interstellar travel and see if they're willing to help,” Daniel requested.

“Very well, Doctor,” the base commander agreed.

Most of the personnel began to go about their business after Hammond left the control room.  Daniel, however, stood in place, his insides in a near panic, but his outer persona as calm as he could make it.

“Daniel?” Sam called out as she approached her friend.  “Try to find my father.  He'll help.”

“Will he?” Daniel asked in a doubtful tone.  “Jack doesn't think much of the Tok'ra.”

“But he likes my dad.”

“He likes you,” the archaeologist responded somewhat cryptically, after which he walked away rapidly.

“What was that?” Sam asked quietly, stunned by the interaction.

====

That afternoon, Daniel prepared and sent messages through the Stargate to several of Earth's most advanced allies.  Unfortunately, receiving definitive responses was going to take some time.  The Tok'ra were secretive and scattered. Finding the right representative who could actually assist with a problem was often difficult.  The Tollan were easily reachable, but everything had to go through their governmental leaders, and just like it tended to be on Earth, that took time.  The Asgard were new allies, but they were off fighting some unknown war and that meant they were not always available to reply promptly.

The archaeologist retreated to his office and tried to concentrate on work, but he couldn't focus.  No matter how hard he tried, his mind drifted to his lover.  Had Jack survived?  Was he safe?  When would they be reunited?

Worse than not having the answers for Daniel was his overwhelming feeling of helplessness.  The problem facing the facility was in the physical sciences.  It was Sam's expertise.  The archaeologist had been delving more into that area during his tenure at the Mountain, but he wasn't in her league when it came to the Stargate technology.  Thus, all he could do was make a few space calls to allies.  With that done, all he was able to do now was sit and wait.

Frustrated, Daniel left Cheyenne Mountain and drove deep into the woods of Pike's Peak.  He and his lover had some favorite spots, but today, he was just driving, trying to escape his despair.  The loneliness slit deeply into his soul.  He felt like he was bleeding, the life fleeing his body.  The further he drove, the more numb he became.

Hours later, his eyes weary and glazed, Daniel walked into his apartment, shut the door, and collapsed onto the bed.  His head smothered into the comforter, he nearly suffocated until a sudden cough caused him to reposition his head.  Still, Daniel didn't move much.  He wanted to sleep and be out of this world, at least for a while.

====

Daniel had entered the REM sleep stage without moving much, but now in this vivid state of recall, he began to thrash about.  Groans and moans escaped his mouth in low tonal qualities.  His vital signs intensified as he dreams turned into the nasty realm of the nightmare.  As he had done most every night since the disaster on Edora, he was dreaming about the last moments on Edora, a crucial time when Jack had stayed behind to help find Laira's son while the rest of the team had assisted with evacuating those citizens who wanted to escape the harmful meteor shower through the Stargate.

That nightmare, however, morphed into words that cut him to the quick, and now they replayed over and over in his restless sleep like an endless loop.  He had wanted to argue, but then he had offered only another solution, dim as it might be, to get help from planetary associates.

“I'm officially declaring him missing in action,” General Hammond advised SG-1.

“No, you can't, Sir,” Daniel called out in exasperation.

“I don't have a choice.”

“Yes, you do,” the archaeologist refuted.  “We're not just talking about no one, General.  We're talking about Jack.  He's ... he's saved the planet.  Shouldn't we save him?” Daniel implored, anxious and eager to convince the general.

“I'm officially declaring him missing in action,” Hammond reiterated.

“I won't let you.”

“We'll keep looking.”  Hammond sighed, “It doesn't mean we'll give up.”

“You gave up on him before, when we found the other Stargate.”

“You found us, Daniel.  You can do it again,” Sam interjected with a confident smile.

“I was lucky.  This ... this is your thing, Sam.  I can't do anything,” Daniel stated forlornly.

“You can help me.  Daniel, I can't see everything.  You have a way of thinking that I may never comprehend.”

“It's not my field.”

“*I'm officially declaring him missing in action.*”

“*Noooooo!*”

“...missing in action.”

“*Noooooo!*”

“...missing in action.”

“*Noooooo!*”

“...missing in action.”

“*Noooooo!*”

“...missing in action.”

Shouting “Noooooo” at the top of his lungs, Daniel gasped.  “Gawd,” he sighed in a near hysterical tone as he realized that he had moved so much on his bed that he had actually fallen onto the floor.  He let out noises that were nondescript, painful sounds that reflected his sadness and feelings of unworthiness.

“I can't help him.  This is different.  It's up to Sam.  I can't ... gawd, I can't do anything,” Daniel cried out in torment.

Nothing was going right.  Jack was now officially missing in action, and Earth's allies had yet to jump on the assist wagon.  They would have to find an alternative method to rescue SG-1's team leader, Colonel Jack O'Neill, a Special Forces expert with an abundance of experience in survival techniques.  Closer to home, Daniel would have to figure out a way to get through a day without the man who had shown him what romantic love was really all about.  Distressfully, the archaeologist knew of no such survival methods, except maybe for shutting down.

Pulling the comforter completely off the bed, Daniel rolled over and prayed for sleep that didn't end in a nightmare.

====

The next day, Sam entered the lab on Floor 18.  She saw her teammate and friend with his glasses off, sitting dejectedly while hovering over a very large tome.  He was rubbing his eyes.

“Daniel, are you okay?”

“My eyes are tired,” the archaeologist answered in a drone.  “Did you need something?”

“You,” Sam responded a bit cheerfully.  “I have an idea, and I need you to help me sell it to the general.”

“You know how we can rescue Jack?”

“I think so,” Sam affirmed.

“Tell me,” Daniel requested, his tone finally showing signs of interest and life.

“Okay, we're speculating that the problem is that Stargate is being blocked by the molten naquadah so it's not sending us a signal.”

“Right.”

“That means no one can go through because our bodies won't reintegrate.”

“Star Trek's lost pattern scenario,” Daniel equated, having watched much of the science fiction series with his lover.

“Exactly,” Sam spoke with a sparkle in her eyes.

“So what do we do?”

“Remember when Sokar tried used a particle beam to try to breach the Stargate?”

“It got very hot,” Daniel recalled vividly.  He blinked and added, “He got through, almost.”

“Yes, with subatomic particles,” Sam clarified.  “Well, why can't we do the same thing?” she asked brightly.

“Why can't we?” the archaeologist responded rhetorically.

“We can.  We can use the beam to melt the naquadah and create a small space of superheated gas.  When we open the Gate, it should expand and create a cavern.” Sam leaned forward excitedly.  “Daniel, all we need is a small pocket, enough to get one person through and ...”

“... and start digging.  Sam, we can dig out the Stargate and find Jack.”

Sam loved the smile on her friend's face, and she hated what she was about to say.

“There is a problem, though.”

~Of course, there is.~  Daniel's joy faded.  He into Sam's eyes and he knew.  Joy was now spiritlessness.  He didn't need to be an astrophysicist to know what the problem was.  “We don't have a ...”

Nodding, Sam picked up the revelation, saying, “... a particle beam generator.  I can build one, Daniel, but it will take time.”

“How long?” the resigned archaeologist inquired.  ~I need him home now, Sam.~

“A few months,” Sam answered softly and almost apologetically.

“Months,” the deflated man echoed, leaning back in his chair, his arms going across his chest as a self-hug formed.  “Months,” he said again.  ~How can I survive months without Jack?~

“But we can do it,” the major declared firmly.  “Come with me to talk to the general.”

“You don't need me, Sam.  General Hammond will do it,” Daniel replied, his inner fears and insecurities growing with every second.  ~The general respects you; he'll listen to you.~

“Daniel ...”

“I need to finish this,” Daniel advised, returning to his original position, looking down at the open book, although he had no clue what the subject of the tome even was at this point.

“Okay,” Sam acquiesced reluctantly.  She took a step back, not really wanting to leave her friend alone, but needing to get approval for her idea.  “I'll talk to you later.”

Daniel nodded and watched Sam leave his office.  For a few minutes, he sat there, feeling sorry for himself.  Then he realized that he needed to be more proactive and make sure the general did approve Sam's idea.  After all, it would mean pulling her out of rotation.  She'd have to devote all her time to the project.

Deciding he needed to support Sam, Daniel hurried towards Hammond's office.  He was climbing the metal stairs that led up to Hammond's office when the sound of the general's voice stopped him.

“I think we can safely assume Teal'c would volunteer, but ...” Hammond was saying.

“We don't have a particle beam generator, Sir.  We'd have to build one,” Sam told her commander.

Daniel stopped and quickly backed away, leaving the area.  He could tell the general would be in favor of the idea.  He was glad, except for one thing.  Once again, he felt useless.

“Teal'c would volunteer,” the general had stated.

~So would I,~ Daniel thought.  ~That's stupid, Jackson.  Teal'c's a Jaffa.  If he wanted to, he could do exactly what Bra'tac told me he could do that first time we met.  He could break me like a twig.~

The scientific solution to solving the problem of getting through the Stargate was Sam's field, and once the solution was put into action, it would be Teal'c's job to make it a success.  All Daniel could do was sit and watch.

====

That night, Daniel slept in the cot in his office.  He locked the doors, not wanting to be disturbed.  He also hoped the discomfort of the cot would prevent him from having more bad dreams.  Unhappily, it did not.  Only on this night, Daniel's nightmare twisted.  He was a little boy of eight at the New York Metropolitan Museum.  In front of him were his parents, working so hard on getting their display finished.

“No, Mom.  No, Dad.  Don't ... get out of there,” the cries from the little boy who was really a man pleaded.  Sadly, the accident repeated many times until Daniel awoke not just in a sweat, but with a chill.  “Now I've lost Jack, too.”

====

It was Friday, the beginning of a weekend in which Jack and Daniel would normally have enjoyed some time off.  Sam was well into her construction of the particle beam generator.  Like Daniel, she was usually working late, sometimes not leaving the Mountain at all before her next shift began.

Wanting to hear about her progress, Daniel headed for the lab where Sam was focused on her important task.

At the same time Daniel was walking the corridors of SGC's hallways, Janet, who was working her scheduled rotation, was on her way to check on the major.  Armed with a cup of coffee for Sam, she entered the lab where other technicians were performing calculations and assisting with the project.

After a brief conversation, the physician exited the lab, intending to return to the infirmary.  As she walked, she saw Daniel approaching.

“You're working late, too?”

“Might as well,” Daniel responded.  “How's Sam?”

“Tired.  She's been pulling these late nights all week.”

“She, uh, said it could take months to build the generator,” the archaeologist stated.

“She doesn't want him to wait that long,” Janet noted, essentially repeating what Sam had just told her.

“No, I ... I'm sure she doesn't.  She, uh, misses him.”

Daniel's words had simply been what had come to him.  He was a little surprised to be so on target.

“That's what she said,” Janet replied sympathetically.  “We all miss him, Daniel.”

“Maybe she misses him too much.”  Daniel nearly flinched.  He was stunned by his own comment.  ~What am I thinking?~

“She says it's not a problem.  You know how the colonel is about his team, and I'm sure you all feel the same way about him.  I know you do.”

Janet was drawing upon the past few years of observation, of watching Jack and Daniel go through cycles of bickering while also being extremely devoted friends.  She knew nothing about their love affair.  That's why she was concerned about Sam's emotional wellbeing, wondering if the major was feeling more than she should.

“I have to get back to the infirmary.  Keep the faith,” Janet urged, patting Daniel supportively on his arm before walking away.

Daniel stood there for a moment, collecting his thoughts.  He felt confused, but even so, he just didn't want to think about his emotions or mental failings.  All he wanted to do was find his soulmate as quickly as possible.  Finally, he drew himself out of his psychological wanderings and entered the lab.

“Hey,” the archaeologist greeted as he pulled up a chair and sat down next to his friend's work area.

“Daniel,” Sam acknowledged, her short hair disheveled as the only indication of her state of wellbeing.

“Making progress?”

“It's going to take time, but I'm trying to make it as little time as possible.”

“Sam, I want to help,” the archaeologist implored.  ~I need to do something productive.~

“Daniel ...”

“Look, I know this is your specialty, but I need to help with this.  I ... I need to help, Sam.  There has to be something I can do.”

Sam nodded while replying, “You can help me read some numbers.”

“That's a start,” Daniel agreed, settling in and glad to be able to do something constructive at last.

“Janet said you heard from the Tollan?”

“Yeah,” Daniel sighed.  “At least they got back to us.”

“No one else?”

Daniel shook his head, an indicator that neither the Asgard nor the Tok'ra had yet to reply to SGC's request for assistance.

With a regretful air about her, Sam suggested, “Let's get to work.”

====

Several days had passed when a slightly perturbed General Hammond went in search of the head of SGC's Archaeology Department.  The department actually covered much more than archaeology, including anthropology, linguistics, and ancient cultures.  Whatever the focus of the department was at any given time, it was Daniel's responsibility.  The problem was that over the past couple of days, the civilian had not responded to Hammond's calls for a meeting.

Tired of the sudden evasiveness, Hammond was now taking matters into his own hands.

Full of expectation, Hammond began to enter Daniel's office and called out, “Doctor Jackson, we ...”  At this point, the general noticed that Daniel was nowhere in sight.  In fact, even the scientist's desk was neat and uncluttered.  ~I know where he is.~

Hammond made his way to the lab being utilized to build the particle beam generator.  He immediately saw Sam and two other technicians.  Then he looked over in a corner and sure enough, there was Daniel, his nose in a book and computer data on the monitor.

“Doctor Jackson!”

Everyone in the room heard the call, including a concerned Sam.

“Sir, Daniel was just ...”

“I know what he's doing, Major.”  Hammond stared at Daniel and ordered, “My office -- now.”

With that, the general left the lab.

Daniel looked around and slowly put down the book he'd been reviewing and the notebook he'd been using for recording the computer data.  He stood and walked cautiously forward.

“Daniel ...” Sam began.

“I'll be back in a few minutes.”

====

“Sir, you wanted to see me,” Daniel called out quietly, hanging out at the doorway until Hammond waved him in.

“I've been wanting to see you for two days, Doctor Jackson.  You haven't been in your office,” Hammond pointed out in exasperation.

“I ... I've been helping Sam with particle beam generator.”

“Not exactly your bailiwick, is it, Son?”

“I have to do something,” Daniel replied as he stood in front of the general's desk.

“I need you to stand in with SG-11 for the next few weeks,” Hammond announced.

“Weeks?”

Hammond smiled slightly as he observed, “Colonel O'Neill was never big on reading my memos, but I thought you made up for it.”

“I've been helping Sam,” Daniel returned meekly.  ~I can't leave.~

“So you said.”  The general stood and walked around his desk to stand by his department head.  “SG-11 is down two members.”

“I'm sorry, General, but I'd prefer to continue my work on the project,” Daniel stated insistently.

“I know you're worried about Colonel O'Neill, but Major Carter and her team are fully qualified to build the generator.  I need you out in the field.”

“No, Sir, I ... I can't.”

“I'm not asking, Doctor Jackson.”

“Maybe not, but I've never been good at orders,” Daniel returned firmly, his eyes making direct contact with the general.  “Look, I know this type of science isn't my expertise, but I am learning, and I'm helping, and ... and I have to be a part of it, General, at least for now.  We have to get Jack back.”

Hammond let out an unhappy sigh, which Daniel took as his cue to return to work, work that had nothing to do with ancient cultures or archaeological finds on other planets.

====

More than two weeks had passed since Daniel's confrontation with Hammond and while Daniel had been able to help Sam for a while, the work had simply evolved to such a level of complexity that it no longer made sense for him to continue assisting in the lab.  As of today, he was back to focusing on his own department.

However, Daniel was tired and emotionally drained.  Anytime he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep, a nightmare would occur.  They didn't always make total sense, but each dealt with loss, either real or imagined.  As a result, he was desperately trying to avoid sleep.  It reminded him of his early days on SG-1 when sleep resulted in nightmares over the loss of Sha're.  She was dead now, never having been rescued.  His guilt over that stirred often inside of him.

Valentine's Day had fallen in this period, too.  It was one of the few times Daniel had left the base.  On that day, Daniel found something special his Love had been working on as a surprise for their romantic celebration.  The find warmed Daniel's heart and had prompted him to do something similar as a surprise of his own.  The melancholy lover vowed they would have a belated holiday once Jack was back on Earth.

Of course, that assumed Jack was still was alive, and no one on Earth knew that for sure.  This caused Daniel a lot of distress, which he also knew he needed to do a better job of hiding.  He had to believe his life partner would be returning, and as a result, he couldn't have the entire base gossiping about a romance that could have Jack court-martialed.

Normally, Sam would be helping to pull attention away from Daniel by staging emotional scenes about missing Jack in front of personnel, but she was way too involved in her work to do so with any regularity.  Still, when the opportunities did arise, she tried to put on a good show, letting her emotions out more atypically.  It wasn't all that hard since she was feeling a great deal of loss over her commanding officer's absence as well as having a lot of sympathy for Daniel's feelings of loss.

Daniel stood at the table on one side of his office where a box of artifacts had been delivered.  SG-6 had brought them back from their latest mission.  The archaeologist stared blankly at the items which normally would fascinate him, but somehow, today, they provoked very little emotion.  He reached inside the box and pulled out a circular object that was about two includes wide and four inches in diameter.  A small crater ran around the circumference.

~I know, Jack.  It's an ancient yo-yo.~

Sadness creeped eerily inside the archaeologist.  His mind told him that he needed to work and learn about this strange object, but his heart was sending signals that nothing mattered unless Jack was around to mock it.  Forcing himself, Daniel reviewed the artifacts.

====

“Danny, it's a leap year,” Jack called out from the edge of a cliff.  “Look at me.  I'm leeeeeeee...”

“Jack, stop!”

Looking over the cliff's edge, Daniel saw the crumpled body of his lover, limp and lifeless on the floor bottom.

--

“Jack, I don't think this is a good idea,” Daniel commented as the two men stood alongside a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

“It's the best idea,” Jack disagreed as he finished putting on his riding gloves.

Daniel thought his soulmate looked edible in his leather outfit.  He thought the two should be engaged in more intimate activities rather than being outside along some nameless hillside.

“Hey, Angel, watch this,” Jack requested as he took the seat and turned on the high-powered bike.  He drove around in a circle a few times and then, seeing something off in the distance, he laughed gaily and shouted, “Watch this, Dannyboy.”

“Jack ...”

It was too late.

“I'm leeeeeeaping for love!” Jack declared as he took the motorcycle up to full speed and attempted to jump a valley gorge.

“Nooooo!” Daniel called out, running his fastest to the edge of the tall mountaintop.

Looking down, all the archaeologist saw was the sprawled body of his partner beneath a mangled mound of metal.

--

“Happy Day That Isn't,” Jack chimed as he entered his lover's office, closing the door behind him.  He quickly secured the camera and drew his Heart into his arms, kissing him soundly.  “Love you.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel replied, his body's warmth skyrocketing and his mid-section on the verge of a rise.  ~Gawd, he makes me all gooey inside.~

“Missed you last night.”

“Work.  I had to finish going over SG-8's last mission report.”

“Something interesting?”

“Maybe, but right now, I'd rather do this.”

Daniel's lips pressed seductively against Jack's, and soon their tongues intermingled joyfully.  Hands were everywhere, roaming, touching, feeling, fondling, playing, squeezing, and caressing.  The sexual tension was palpable, and the need was strong.

“When's the briefing?” Daniel gasped.

“Five minutes,” Jack answered as his breathing deepened.

The kisses never stopped, and the hunger to join their bodies was growing with every second.

“Crap!  No time,” Daniel bemoaned, even as his hand reached inside Jack's pants to make a sensual connection.

“Leap of faith.”

“What?  It's Leap Day, so let's take a leap of faith we won't be caught.  The briefing can wait,” Jack suggested while unzipping Daniel's green BDU pants.

“They'll come looking for us,” Daniel protested weakly.

“Leap of faith,” Jack repeated.

Unwilling and not wanting to fight, Daniel succumbed.  The couple's passion took them to the archaeologist's desk.  Daniel pushed backward, knocking most items to the barren floor.  Jack finished removing his uniform bottoms and then pulled Daniel's all the way down.  Their passion was so strong that they didn't worry about lube.  They wanted to feel each other in their totality, in the raw and gripping truth of their bodies.

Jack entered his Love with gentleness at first, but then the strength of his passion grew.  He pushed, pleasing himself and his soulmate.  He could tell Daniel was happy with the union.  He could hear his name from his partner's lips and see Daniel licking his lips, wanting, needing, loving.

“More!  Yes!” the cries increased from the younger man.

The colonel put all he had into giving Daniel all he wanted.  The banging of his length touched perfectly to set off the explosions of their deep love.  Just one more would do it, taking them to an orgasmic high that had never been reached inside Daniel's office before.

“Leap ... of ... faith,” Jack's raspy voice repeated.  “Just ...got...ta take a leeee...”

Jack collapsed onto his satisfied lover.  It was an incredible feeling.  Daniel knew he'd remember it always.

“Jack, so good,” Daniel praised in a happy tone.  “Jack?”

Daniel realized there was no movement.  He carefully righted himself while holding on to his partner, whose body felt so heavy.  Then  he realized the truth.

“Jack?”  The archaeologist screamed the name again.  “*Jack!*”

Jack was dead, his leap of faith causing him to have a heart attack just at the climatic conclusion of making love with Daniel.

--

Daniel was screaming Jack's name when he woke up in their king bed at the house they shared.  His body was soaked, and he was trembling.  His string of nightmares had been so real and so strong.  None of them were real.  Jack was not on Earth to see February 29th, a date that came around only once every four years.  In 2000, for Jack and Daniel, it truly was a day that wasn't.

The archaeologist drew up his knees and made himself as small as possible.  He continued to shake as he buried his head in his pillow.  His Jack, the other half of his soul, was gone.  He wondered if his nightmares were a sign that Jack was really dead and all the attention to the particle beam generator was for naught.

“Jack.  Jack.  Jack.”

The words were soft, nearly inaudible, and spoken in a voice that shook with fear and trepidation.

====

“Sam, do you have a minute?” Janet asked as she entered the lab.

“Um, yeah, sure,” the blonde responded, setting aside her papers for the moment.

Leaning in close to her friend at the worktable, the physician questioned, “Have you talked to Daniel lately?”

“When I can,” Sam answered, well aware she hadn't been able to keep tabs on her science twin as much as she would have liked.  “Janet, I'm pretty much spending all of my time working on building the generator.  Why?”

“Because I'm on the verge of reporting him to General Hammond as being unfit for duty,” Janet confided.

“Janet, you can't do that,” Sam responded with urgency.  ~It can't be that bad.~

“Go see him, Sam.  He needs rest and he needs to eat.  From what I'm seeing, he's not doing much of either.”

Sam sighed as she watched Janet leave the lab.  She had little doubt Janet had spoken the truth about Daniel, but building the generator was taking up most of her time.  She had to save the colonel.

====

That afternoon, Daniel was busy researching the similarities between two planets SG teams had recently visited.  Both had elements of the Osirian Civilization.  As he wrote down some notes about the reports he'd been reading, Sam entered his office.

“Hey, Daniel.”

“Hey, Sam,” Daniel replied without looking up.

“We're making progress.”

“Good,” Daniel returned automatically, still focused on his work.

“Hey, um, I need a break.  How about a cup of coffee?” the major suggested.

“Uh, thanks, but I'm ... I need to keep working on this,” the archaeologist stated, finally looking over at his teammate.

“Come on, Daniel,” Sam urged.  “We haven't really talked in days,” she sighed.  ~And I need to pull you away from that table.~

“You need to keep working on the generator,” Daniel argued, not wanting to more or talk at the moment.

“I am, every minute I can.  Daniel, I've been staying on the base until almost midnight and coming back by 0700.  I'm doing the best I can, but I need a few minutes away,” the woman pleaded.  ~Come on, Daniel, give me some slack.~

“I'm not blaming you, Sam.”

“You're doing something, Daniel.  I'm not sure what it is, but you're avoiding me,” Sam accused in a straightforward manner.

“I'm avoiding everyone,” Daniel admitted, standing and going to his worktable, ostensibly to retrieve a packet of photographs he'd been studying.
 
“Why?”

“That should be obvious,” the archaeologist responded curtly.

“Well, it's not.  Why are you upset with me?” a somewhat emotional Sam inquired.  “I don't understand, Daniel.”  Seeing Daniel shrug apathetically, she expounded, “You're acting like it, and it's not just the way you've stayed away, but I've felt it from the beginning.”

“It's not you, exactly,” Daniel mumbled.  He paused, letting seconds tick away in silence.  Then he closed his eyes for a second and sighed.  “I should have stayed on Edora, Sam.”

“What would that have accomplished?”

“I'd be with Jack.”

There was a deep truth and edge to the statement that tore through Sam's heart.

“He gave us an order.”

“And so did you,” the archaeologist rebutted.

“What?”

“You ordered me through the Gate, and I went.  I didn't even hesitate,” Daniel spoke quietly, his focus back on Edora, when two-thirds of the population were evacuating to Earth.  ~I remember exactly what she said,~ he thought, the scene replaying in his mind.

“You go through to let the Edorans know that everything's all right.  I'll be on your six,” Sam had ordered Daniel as she and Teal'c remained on the planet for just a bit longer.

“You were needed here, and we were right behind you,” Sam asserted defensively as she looked at her fellow scientist.

“I should have stayed.”

“Daniel, you followed orders.”

Angrily, Daniel turned to face Sam and spat, “Military orders that mean nothing to me.  What was I thinking to ... to leave him there, alone and ...”  His anger dissipated somewhat.  He folded his arms across his chest and, in a distant tone, remarked, “I should have done what I felt what was right, not follow orders, not from Jack, and not from you.”

“You're blaming me for Colonel O'Neill staying?” the incredulous military woman asked.  ~This was not my fault.~

“No, of course not.”

“Then ... you blame me for sending you back to the SGC, to help the Edorans?”

Daniel closed his eyes again.  He knew full well Sam had been right to make her request.  He was the negotiator, the diplomat, and the first contact.  He was the one who was best suited to speak with representatives from other cultures.  The Edorans were frightened, and he was the logical one to help them transition.  It was his job, and it was part of his function on SG-1 and as a human being.

“No,” Daniel sighed quietly.  “I just ... gawd, Sam, I feel so useless.  I can't do what you're doing, and I ... we don't even know if he's alive.”

“He's alive,” Sam opined.

“You don't know that.”

“And you don't know he's not,” Sam argued with force.  She walked over to stand next to Daniel, both of them now facing the table full of photos and other objects.  “Daniel, I know what you're feeling.”

“Do you?  My parents, my grandfather, Sha're, and now Jack.  Do you, Sam?”

Daniel's demeanor reminded Sam of some not-so-fun times when her friend had not been his best self.  She was concerned, but she also didn't have a lot of time to investigate the situation.  Her primary focus had to be on building the particle beam generator.  Still, Daniel's absence in her lab and lack of phone calls or emails to check on her progress over the past couple of weeks stood out.  She felt a responsibility, not just as Daniel's friend, but also to her commanding officer, to Jack O'Neill.

~If we find him alive and Daniel is sick, he'll never forgive me, and I will be stationed in Russia somewhere,~ the major told herself, well aware of Daniel's weight loss and disheveled appearance.  “Okay, just answer me this.  Have you been sleeping?”

Daniel let out a snicker, an almost nasty laugh, and answered, “I wish I wasn't.  I close my eyes and I see him die.  I can't stand it, Sam.  I think I'm losing my mind.”

Sam rubbed a couple of gentle circles on Daniel's back and confidently replied, “No, you're not losing your mind.  You're just ... grieving, but Daniel, you're grieving too soon.  He's alive, and we're going to find him just as soon as I get the generator built.”

“What's he doing?” Daniel questioned.  He saw the confused look on Sam's face and elaborated, “Sam, if he's alive on Edora, what is he doing?  How does he spend his days, and ... what is ... what about ... her?”

~I get it now,~ Sam sighed to herself.  ~He's scared, not just that the colonel is injured or dead, but about ...~

“Did you see how she looked at him all the time?” Daniel queried, unleashing a very personal fear that he rarely acknowledged, let alone shared with another human being, especially one not named Jack.

“What I saw, Daniel, was the way the colonel looked at you,” Sam soothed.  She smiled sweetly as she recalled, “The night of the fire rain?  Laira was really hitting on the colonel, but I saw his eyes, Daniel.  They were looking at you, not her.”  With a supportive gleam in her eye and strength in her voice, she concluded, “Laira can try all she wants, but she'll never get anywhere, not with the colonel.”

After a few seconds of looking at Sam's assured expression, Daniel looked down and admitted, “I hate being jealous.  I'm usually not.”

“I know, but I think it's just a cover because you're so worried about him.”  Sam paused and suggested, “Let's get some coffee.”

Daniel nodded, put his hands in his coat pockets, and followed Sam to the mess hall to spend just a few minutes together before she returned to the project.

====

Sam's visit had eased the minor tension between the two scientists, but it didn't have much of an affect on Daniel's attention to rest and nutrition.  The archaeologist wasn't leaving the base very much.  Whenever he attempted to go to the house or apartment for the night, he was sure to have nightmares.  Food was of disinterest to Daniel.  Except for a steady intake of coffee, he'd relied mostly on his private stash of goodies.  The problem was that he'd depleted most of it.  The archaeologist was already on the slender side, but his refusal to live a healthy lifestyle in Jack's absence was making him drastically thin.

“Doctor Jackson, you're due in the infirmary, now,” Janet ordered the archaeologist, interrupting his work.

“Later, Janet,” Daniel replied.

“Later is now,” Janet ordered.  With the lack of response, the physician ordered, “Doctor Jackson, if you are not in the infirmary in ten minutes, I will notify General Hammond and have an armed escort come and get you.”

Not waiting for a response, Janet left the man's office.

Daniel sighed.  He didn't want to leave right now.  He was working on a special project.  The truth was that he had thrown himself into research, trying to unearth some secret of the Stargate that could magically provide a way to find Jack.  It really didn't make any sense, but he couldn't concentrate well on his actual duties, and he had to try to do something to help his life partner.

However, not wanting to be reported or manhandled, Daniel headed for the infirmary.

====

After undergoing a physical exam, Janet summarized her findings as succinctly as she could.

“You're barely functioning, and you're worn out.  Go home, eat three meals a day, get some sleep, and come back in a few days.”

“Janet, I can't do that.”

“Daniel, if you don't go home and take care of yourself, I'm going to sedate you and feed you intravenously.  Is that what you want?”

“Just a while longer, Janet.  I think I'm on to something,” Daniel begged.  ~Okay, so I'm always thinking I'm on to something, but I can't leave.~

Feeling the need to be more formal, the serious expression on her face apparently not enough to get the man's attention, Janet informed, “Doctor Jackson, you're losing weight.  I'm taking you off active duty effective immediately.”

“Fine,” Daniel responded, leaving the medical area and retreating to his office.

====

For several days, Daniel ignored Janet's advice.  He didn't mind being off duty as it meant that he could focus on his work, even though his research wasn't getting him anywhere.  He had no real idea what he was trying to achieve and every couple of days he would change his methodology for finding this elusive solution to the tragedy unfolding in his mind.  In reality, his increasing lack of sleep and healthy foods was taking its toll.

Then Sam decided to check on her friend.  She knew he was still on base, even if Daniel had kept his presence quiet.  He'd basically stayed inside his office 24/7, and Janet had no reason to suspect that he had not left the Mountain as ordered.

~Maybe he finally went home,~ Sam thought as she entered the archaeologist's office and didn't see Daniel at his desk or standing anywhere in his office.  “Daniel?”  She moved around the office and called out again.  She was about to leave when a military boot caught her attention.  She hurried over to the other side of the desk.  “Daniel!”

On the floor, his body crumpled up like paper, was Daniel.  Sam tried to shake him into consciousness, but there wasn't any response.  Quickly, she phoned the infirmary.  In minutes, Daniel was taken by the medical team for treatment.

====

Daniel roused briefly at the end of Janet's latest examination.

“Janet?” the archaeologist asked uncertainly.  ~What is Janet doing standing over my bed?  Where's Jack?  He should be here.  He ...~

“I told you, Daniel,” Janet stated unhappily.  “Why you never listen to me, I don't know.”

~Oh, yeah.  Jack is ... he's gone.  He's left me alone.  Jack?~  In a frenzy of emotional distress, he attempted the couple's unique communication skills, but he knew it would be for nothing.  Jack was too far away, assuming he was even alive.  ~I need you, Jack.~

His blood seething from his internal upheaval, Daniel watched as the doctor checked the IVs that had been connected to his body.  Something about the infusion of medical product into his system calmed him.  As it did so, his concern turned to his lover, to the man who was his strength, and how Daniel needed that strength back.  Now fully awake, be wondered about the generator that could be the answer to bringing Jack home to him.

“Janet, how is Sam doing?”

“She's on schedule, Daniel,” Janet answered.  ~He is driving me beyond exasperation,  He's not going to follow orders,~ she determined, her decision made.  “I'm sorry about this, but I don't have a choice, ” the redhead expressed with some sadness as she pushed the plunger of a syringe in his IV line.

“What?”

Janet watched as her patient closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness.  Hearing the sound of steps, she turned and saw Sam approaching.

“Janet, how is he?”

“I'm going to keep him sedated for a few days, Sam.  He's too thin, and he's proven he's not going to follow doctor's orders,” the physician informed curtly, annoyed by the man sleeping in front of her.

“Will he be okay?”

“He will for be for the next three days,” Janet answered with a Draconian smile.

Sam looked at her sleeping friend and nodded before saying, “I'd better get back to my lab.  Three days?”

“At least.”

“Okay.  I'll check in with you later,” Sam told the doctor before heading back to her lab.  ~Janet can be really scary sometimes.  No wonder the boys call her Little Napoleon.~

====

It was on the fourth day after Daniel's collapse that Janet awakened him.

“You're staying here one more night, Daniel,” Janet instructed.

“The generator?”

“I'm sure Sam would let us know if there were any problems,” Janet sighed.  ~He's not going to listen to me.  I know it.~

====

“Here's the deal,” Janet began, her tone stern and harsh.  “I want your word that you will eat regularly and get a full night's sleep from now on.  If you don't, Doctor Jackson, you'll be right back on this bed.”

“Okay, I ... I promise,” Daniel pledged as he looked over the doctor's shoulder and avoiding her sharp eyes.

“Daniel, I'm serious.  I'm not playing around with this.”

“I promise, Janet.”

Janet sighed in contemplation and then agreed, “Okay, I'll let you go, *but* you are to go home for the weekend.  Monday, you can come back, *and this time*, Daniel, I will check and make sure you are *not* on this base.  Do you get my message?”

“I'll go home, Janet.”

“And eat and sleep.”

“And ... eat and ... sleep,” Daniel hesitantly agreed.  ~Not if the nightmares come back, though.~

====

The weekend of Daniel's forced downtime included St. Patrick's Day, which was  difficult to endure because  it was one of Jack's favorite days of the year.  Jack was of Irish heritage, and he was darn proud of it.  Unless there was just no way possible to do it, March 17th was a fun day of celebration.

Still, with his significant other away, Daniel did his best to honor his Love's passion for the day.  He began the morning by selecting a green plaid shirt to wear to the annual parade downtown.  In the afternoon, he actually baked a chocolate cake and covered it with green icing.  He ate a few bites and stuck the rest in the freezer, deciding to pull it out and share it with Jack upon his return.

~I tried, Babe,~ Daniel thought that night as he looked up at the stars that night from his apartment balcony.

As he sure would happen, Daniel's dreams of an edible leprechaun named Jack that night quickly dissipated into a nightmare where the green mythological creature in the form of his lover found his pot of gold and was then swept up by the legendary banshee as the sounds of the death coach thundered.

====

On the day of the vernal equinox, Daniel returned to work at Cheyenne Mountain.  While it may have been the first day of spring, the weather didn't feel like it.  The temperature was still below freezing, in fact, when the archaeologist drove to work.

Daniel looked and felt better.  He checked in with Janet, who was pleased with what she saw.  Still, she gave him a warning to stay on the right track.

However, the scientist immediately returned to work on finding a way to get his lover home.  It was much like before.  He didn't know what he was looking for or how anything he might discover could help, but it made him feel like he was contributing somehow to the rescue.

====

The archaeologist was dazed, his mind a blur.  He was walking, something he'd been doing for three hours now.  It was the result of a direct order.  However, it wasn't the order itself that resulted in Daniel's current plight, but rather his actual barring from the base.

Unfavorably for Daniel, General Hammond had somehow gotten wind that his ancient cultures expert had stayed on base every night since his return to active duty, working non-stop in his secretive research.  The general was also aware that Daniel had been a forced patient at the infirmary earlier in the month.  Thus, against Daniel's objections, Hammond had ordered him off the base with strict orders to stay away for two days.

~Why?  What does that achieve?~ Daniel had asked himself as he drove down the winding road from the base.

The archaeologist had gone home, to the place that he shared with Jack.  He tried to rest, but he couldn't.  He needed air, so he reached for the jacket his lover had given him upon returning from Abydos.  The old brown coat kept Daniel warm and made him feel close to his soulmate.  With the apparel on, he'd left the house and began to walk, and walk, and walk.  His mind was quite active at first, the events on Edora taking center stage, but as time passed, Daniel simply put one foot in front of the other, his eyes focused on his feet as they moved forward.  It was a strange obsession, or perhaps it was more of a diversion.  He wasn't sure.  He only knew that his mind had essentially shut off.

At last, Daniel found himself home again.  He went inside and put on some coffee, wanting to warm up.  Even so, he just couldn't settle down.  Without his brew, he walked into the backyard.  He ambled over to a spot that was dead center of the lawn.  Sitting down, he stared at the house he loved so much.

It was almost eight in the evening, and the skies were darkening, though the clouds were still visible.  With the temperature in the low fifties, it was still nice outside for Colorado Springs.

Sitting Indian style on the grass, Daniel looked forward.  He felt so empty, but something began to stir within him.  He began thinking about the pact that he and Jack had.  No one else knew about it, but it basically was an agreement that neither could live without the other and should the worst happen, they would live on together in another realm.

~Why haven't I followed through?~ the anguished archaeologist questioned.  ~Because ... because I don't believe he's dead.~  Daniel continued to look straight ahead, his soul offering up what had to be the truth.  ~He is alive.  I've been moping around, scared, frightened, but ... but he is alive.  I would feel it if he were dead.  He's not dead.  Okay, so ... so ... so, okay, I'm not an astrophysicist, and I can't build a particle beam generator, but I can be here for Jack, and I can ... I can believe.~

Daniel slowly reclined until he was lying on his back and looking up at the stars.

~Jack loves the stars.  He won't admit it, but he sees the potential out there, for Earth to be a better place because of what we find.  He'll never say that.  He hides behind the military bravado and a rule book he doesn't even believe in.  He's so much better than the Air Force or any service.  He just refuses to see it ... yet.  I'm working on him, and he is getting better.~

Suddenly, the archaeologist blinked.  He realized that he was thinking about his lover in the presence tense.  His continued yet low key frustration at not being at the forefront of the particle beam generator project ebbed to extinction, and his feelings of despair shifted.  The pain was still great.  Jack could be injured or dealing with great difficulties on Edora.

~Or Laira,~ Daniel sighed internally.  ~Why can't I forget her?  She was a nice woman, intelligent and a leader of her people.  She just needs someone to keep her company.~  He didn't know whether to smile or frown because he was conflicted about the her.  ~Stop worrying about Shyla.  She's just ...~

With alarm, Daniel sat up and asked the wind, “What did I say? Shyla?  I called her Shyla.  Why?”

Feeling uncomfortable about his slip, the archaeologist resumed his previous position, putting his hands behind his head as a sort of pillow.

~Shyla was beautiful and I rescued her.  She wanted me to be her prince, and she ... gawd, the sarcophagus.  It messed me up so much.  I left my teammates to slave away in those mines, all while I enjoyed feasts in my honor.  I ... I almost killed him,~ Daniel bemoaned, his breathing hitching for just a moment.  ~Is that what Laira is?  Something about her bothered me from the start, and ...~

The archaeologist let out a big sigh.  He hated to judge people and the truth was that he gave almost everyone the benefit of the doubt.  It could be said that he liked just about everybody until they did some that went against his grain.  Yet, he'd had a distaste for Laira from the beginning.

~I'm just jealous, and I'm never jealous.  I *hate* being jealous.~

From the moment SG-1 had set foot on Edora, though, Laira had set her eyes on Jack O'Neill.  Though she was gracious and kind to the entire team, her focus had been clearly on the handsome colonel.  She'd been quick to take things to a personal level, inviting the team to watch the fire rain at a special spot.  In actuality, she had asked Jack to watch the fire rain.  He had agreed on behalf of the entire team and had done so in such a charming way that Laira had no way to exclude them.

~She doesn't know about us.  The fire rain set the stage for fireworks, only Laira doesn't have a clue what I'm referring to.  As concerned as we were about the meteors, Jack and I had a great time that night.  It was so romantic.~  Daniel sighed, ~We really shouldn't make love off-world, but it was ... fantastic.~

This is when Daniel's comparison of Laira to Shyla deepened.  He couldn't say for sure, but he feared for Jack in the same way that Jack had feared for him when he was under Shyla's spell.  Of course, there was not a sarcophagus in the mix this time, but still, being alone on a planet without imminent rescue could feel like the same thing.

It an unusual turn of events, the archaeologist both felt better and worse.  He was now certain his Love was alive, but was equally certain that Laira would be doing her best to make him hers.

“He's mine, Laira.  Stay away.”  Daniel closed his eyes as he lamented, ~I sound so ... so ...~  With a groan, he said rather loudly, “I *hate* being jealous.”

Soon, sleep overtook the man, even in the decreasing night temperatures.

====

“Jack!  We found you.  I know it took a while, but Sam had to build this ... well, she built a generator.  You can come home now!”

“Home?  Hey, I am home,” Jack boasted, slapping Daniel on the arm as if he were nothing but a friend.  “Carter!  Teal'c!  Good to see ya,” he called out, passing by the archaeologist and heading over to see his teammates.

“I'm sorry it took so long, Sir,” the apologetic major stated, though she was smiling from seeing her commanding officer again.

“Don't give it a thought,” Jack assured, dismissing her concern.

“You look well, O'Neill,” the Jaffa noted.

Looking down as if to review himself, Jack replied, “Thank you, Teal'c.  You don't look bad yourself.”  He smiled and cajoled, “Come on, Kids.  Get reacquainted with the family.”

“Family?” Daniel echoed.

“My wife -- Laira, and our son, Garren.  He's gonna be a great big brother for Junior.”  Jack chuckled as he faced Teal'c.  “Ah, that's my junior, not yours.”

“Excuse me?” Sam questioned.

“We're having a baby.”

Sam couldn't help herself and asked an even bolder, “Excuse me?”

Jack laughed, “Carter, get a life.  SG-1 is all yours now, for real.  I'm staying on Edora and raising a family with Laira.”

“Famiy with Laira.”

“... my junior, not yours.”

“... raising a family ...”

“... staying on Edora ...”

The words thundered throughout Daniel's mind, briefly pulling him out of his latest nightmare and into the chill of the forty-degree weather.

“No, he wouldn't do that,” Daniel told himself.  He rolled over onto his side, ignoring his cold and damp surroundings.  “... wouldn't ... no, he ... Jack ... he ... he would...”

====

Daniel's nightmares about Jack becoming involved with Laira continued throughout the night.  He tossed and turned, totally oblivious to the weather.  He was lost within his darkest fear, being abandoned and tossed aside for someone else.  The Jack of his nightmares was cavalier in his choice of Laira and staying on Edora.  There was little or no regard for how his one-time lover would feel.  Even when the rain began to fall over the suburban region of Colorado Springs where the house was located, Daniel still remained in his nasty dreams of loss.  It wasn't until lightning struck a little after nine in the morning that he awoke, soaked to the bone and shaking to his core.

Weakened, Daniel stood up and slowly walked toward the house, finally opening the patio door and leaving the rain and cold outside.  He moved cautiously to the stairs and began his way to the top, until he slipped and fell, rolling to the bottom and passing out.

====

The hard rapping against the front door finally made its way inside Daniel's unconscious mind.  Ever so slowly, reality emerged.  Fuzzy and confused, the archaeologist's eyelids finally opened.  The rapping was louder, an urgent beat to the knocking.

“Daniel!”

It was a woman, and her voice ringed with concern and alarm.

“Daniel!”

Inside, the voice began to get through.  It was familiar, and it could be trusted.  Somehow, Daniel knew this.  He moved his head and then attempted to lift himself off the floor.

“Come on, Daniel.  I know you're in there.  Daniel!”

“Sam?” Daniel called out.

“Daniel, open the door.”

Still weakened, the archaeologist finally stood, but just as fast, he almost fell again, stopping his fall by gripping the end of the buffet table.

“Daniel, are you okay?” Sam queried through the locked front door.

“Fine,” the somewhat dazed man replied.  “I'm ... fine.”  Focusing himself, Daniel walked to the door and unlocked it.  “Hi, Sam.”

“Gee, Daniel, you look horrible,” the major observed in surprise.

“I ... I feel ...”

Daniel began to sway a bit, and Sam had to grab onto him to keep him from falling.  Instinctively, she felt his forehead.

“Daniel, you're burning up.  I'm going to call Janet.”

“No!”

“Daniel, you're sick.”

“A...apartment.  Take me to my apartment.”

“Daniel, Janet won't ...”

“Sam, take me, or don't call her.”

Unhappy but yet understanding Daniel's concern about Janet or other SGC staff finding him at Jack's house when there was no logical reason for him to be there, Sam agreed and transported Daniel to his apartment.  She took his car, leaving hers in front of the home.

====

Once at his apartment, Sam assisted Daniel in changing into dry clothing.  It took all of his energy and upon getting into his bed, he immediately went to sleep.  Since Daniel's stay in the infirmary, the major had made it a point to ensure he was eating and sleeping to the best of her ability.  She sensed he'd been staying on base, but she wasn't sure, not until the general had informed her about her teammate being barred from the base for a couple of days. That is what had spurred on her visit to the suburban home.

Recently, the important thing had been making sure Daniel ate and slept enough so that he wasn't bleary eyed and rundown.  Sam's breaks from work on the particle beam generator had become more about checking up on Daniel than taking a few minutes for herself.  For the most part, she'd succeeded.  Her friend was eating and sleeping.  She just hadn't counted on him sleeping in the rain.

“Oh, Daniel,” Sam sighed, her hand caressing his very hot forehead.  “I'm going to get my car and talk to Janet.  It'll be okay.”

Sam had no clue if Daniel had heard her words, but she stood and leaned over him gently.  Carefully, she placed a sweet, chaste kiss on his forehead.

“We'll get him home, Daniel,” Sam assured before leaving the apartment and calling a cab to take her back to her CO's home.

====

“Jack?” Daniel called out as he emerged into the waking world.

“Not yet, Daniel,” Sam responded, smiling as she sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Sam, wha...what happened?”

“I don't know,” Sam answered.  “I got worried when I couldn't get you on the phone.  I came over here, and you weren't here, so I figured you were at the colonel's.”

“I ... I fell asleep ... outside.”

“Your clothes were drenched when you answered the door.”

“Janet?”

“She was here a bit earlier,” Sam explained.  “You have a temp of a-hundred-and-two.  You're grounded from SGC duty for a few days, again.”

“You shouldn't be here,” Daniel stated, starting to become upset that he was responsible for Sam being away from her duties.

“Daniel, it's okay,” Sam assured.  “My team is working on some modifications.  Besides, I'm headed back to the Mountain now.  I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She chuckled, “As least as okay as you can be with a fever like this.”

“I'm fine, Sam.”

“Well, Janet said she'd check with you tonight.  I made you a big batch of chicken soup.  Eat up.  The colonel would want that.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

“He's coming home, Daniel.  We're getting there.”

“Thanks.”

Daniel watched Sam walk out of the bedroom and stared up at the ceiling.  His nightmares began to materialize without his mind.

“I hope he's coming home.”

====

Awakened by yet another nightmare, Daniel rose from his bed and headed for the kitchen of his apartment.  He put on some coffee and then headed for the small balcony.  It wasn't even 3 a.m. yet.  Opening the glass door, Daniel stepped down onto his balcony, his feet registering the cold from the light snow.  He saw his car in the parking lot below, white snow covering it and the others.  It looked to him like the snow had been falling for some time.

Grabbing his arms and letting out a shiver, the archaeologist returned inside.  He was wearing only a white T-shirt and his boxers.  Now chilled, he retrieved a robe, tying it closed to warm himself.  He also slid into his slippers to heat up his dampened feet.

Daniel waited for the coffee to be done before taking his full mug into the living room.  He sat down on the sofa and stared at the unread newspaper that he'd tossed onto the coffee table the night before.

“March 31st, so today is ... April Fool's Day.  Jack loves April Fool's,” the archaeologist lamented.

The scientist had gotten through his latest illness by being forced to stay in his apartment for several days.  SGC's Chief of Medicine was one formidable foe when it came to ensuring those in her charge followed her orders, especially this time around with Daniel.  Of course, Jack and Daniel were always her toughest challenges, but with Daniel barred from the base until his temperature and other symptoms were back to normal, he'd had no choice but to stay home and recuperate.  His one attempt at getting inside the base had failed miserably, thanks to a special team that literally blocked his path inside.

“ColonelO'Neill would not desire this, DanielJackson,” Teal'c had warned his teammate.

“Turn it around, Doc,” Lou Ferretti had instructed, nodding at the sleek sports car the archaeologist drove.

The petite physician had simply walked in front the others, holding out a syringe full of sedative.

Still feverish, Daniel had resigned himself to obeying the stockade and returned home.

The one good thing about Daniel having been a prisoner of his apartment was that it gave him time to really evaluate his realizations made that night on the lawn.  Though he was still struggling with his unusual internal bouts of jealousy over what Laira could be attempting, he was once again focused on his job while also being confident and supportive that Sam and her team would have success with the particle beam generator project.  He had also renewed his quest to contact allies for support, just in case.  Unfortunately, the Asgard's silence had continued and the Tok'ra were being elusive.  Other allies simply did not have the technology to assist considering how far away Edora was in relation to their planetary locations.  The only hope remained to be the Tollan, whose ship was progressing toward Edora on the off-chance that they would indeed be Jack's only rescue hope.

Honoring General Hammond's request, Daniel was home, at least for this one night.  He had promised to try to not live on base constantly, but he doubted he could really keep up with the general's wishes.

Daniel sipped his coffee and pretended to feel his soulmate's arms around him.  He was so cold inside.  He wanted to feel warm again, the way he did when in his Heart's embrace.  He closed his eyes, determined to imagine Jack's presence while refusing to fall asleep and have yet another nightmare.

====

Several hours later, the archaeologist was in the control room, awaiting the return of an SG team.  His visualization of Jack earlier that morning had been successful.  He'd made himself warm and avoided more nightmares.  However, in the process, he also had not gone back to sleep, so he was once again on the tired side of the fence.

“Sir, incoming message from the Tok'ra,” Sergeant Laura Bates announced as she read the computer sensors.

“Who is it?” Daniel inquired curiously, aware that there were not any scheduled meetings with the race.

“I'm not getting an ID.”

The message was coming through the Stargate and it turned out to be from Jacob Carter, Sam's father, whose life was saved when he agreed to a joining with a symbiote.  His cancer healed thanks to the merging, he was now one of the Tok'ra's oldest and most respected leaders.

“Jacob, this is Daniel Jackson.”

“Daniel, I got your message.”

“That was over two months ago, Jacob,” Daniel responded.  ~It took you guys long enough to return my plea for help.  I've defended you to Jack, but maybe I've been wrong.  Gawd, I've been wrong about a lot of things.~

“I know, but we've been rather busy,” Jacob reported, not letting much compassion show through.  “I just got back to Vorash an hour ago.”

“Jack is stranded on a planet called Edora.  Can you reach him?”

There was a sigh heard through the transmission.

“Jacob?”

“Daniel, I'm sorry, but our ships are needed elsewhere.”

“We're talking about Jack, Jacob,” Daniel replied with frustration.  “Without him, you'd be ...”

“Yes, Daniel, I know.  Selmak and I would both be dead, but we're not, and we're going to make sure that we don't waste any opportunity to defeat the Goa'uld.”

“Shut it down,” Daniel abruptly ordered the sergeant.

“Sir?”

“Close the connection.”

Once Bates had done as instructed, Daniel ordered, “Dial Vorash?”

“What?”

“I'll do it,” the frustrated scientist declared as he began to move closer to the controls.

“I'll do it, Doctor Jackson,” Bates stated hastily, beginning the dialing sequence.

Daniel nodded and headed for the embarkation room.  He stopped dead center in front of the ramp, waiting for the chevrons to encode and lock.

At the same time, General Hammond heard the klaxons blaring.  At first he assumed it was the SG team returning, but then he had a gut feeling that something was off.  Unable to quell his curiosity, he stood and headed for the control room.  Just as he entered, he saw the kawoosh.

“What's going on?”

“I'm not sure, General,” Bates answered.  ~Doctor Jackson sure looks ticked off, though.  I really don't want to be in the middle of this one.  I never should have agreed to take over this shift for Walter.  He can read his comics at bedtime.~

At that point, Hammond noticed Daniel walking up the ramp.

“What the ...”  The general leaned forward and called out over the loud speaker, “Doctor Jackson, what are you doing?”

Daniel turned and, looking upward somewhat, responded, “To find out if Jack is right about the Tok'ra.”

Right after making the cryptic remark, Daniel walked through the Gate, leaving Hammond with a mystery.

“He's gone to Vorash, General.  Jacob Carter initiated contact, and then Doctor Jackson shut down the Gate.”

After a brief nod of understanding, Hammond sighed in question, “Did he take anything with him?”

“No, Sir.”

“Let me know when we get the next communication from the Tok'ra,” Hammond ordered and then returned to his office.

====

On Vorash, Daniel headed purposefully toward the rings that went down to the underground base.  He nodded at the Tok'ra guards, who, judging from their inaction, were expecting him and took his place at the center of the rings.  A moment later, he was facing Jacob.

“Daniel, this was a bad idea.”

“We have to talk, Jacob, and I didn't want to do that over ... over the galactic airwaves,” Daniel responded.

The two began to walk to the conference room.

“Daniel, you know I would help Jack, if I could,” Jacob claimed.

“I know.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I need to know what is so important that you *can't* help Jack,” Daniel explained.  “I want to know what is more important to you than his life.”

Entering the conference room, Jacob answered, “Three million lives, Daniel.”

Daniel put his hands near the top of the uniquely pointed Tok'ra chairs and inquired, “What do you mean?”

“I can't explain.”

“Why not?”

“You know the Tok'ra ...”

“You mean you,” Daniel accused pointedly.

“Yes, me, and the others,” Jacob acknowledged.  “Daniel, if it were just me, I'd help, but it's not just me.  We're in the middle of an operation that in the short term can save a planet from Goa'uld tyranny and go a big way toward eradicating the Goa'uld in the long term.”

“And you can't spare a single ship?”

“I wish we could.  We've been planning this for months.  We're too close to our goals to alter them.  The timing has to be precise.”

“So, three million people,” a somewhat decremented Daniel contemplated.

“As soon as we're done with this mission, we can help,” Jacob declared.

Daniel nodded and turned, beginning a slow paced walk to the rings.  Jacob walked more quickly to catch up.

As Daniel entered the rings, he turned and stated, “I could never be a general.”

“Why's that?”

“I could never say that one life was less important than three million.  I may understand the concept, but not the emotion.”

With that, the rings activated, and Daniel returned to the Stargate, dialing it up and getting the okay to return.  Of course, General Hammond demanded to see the archaeologist immediately, reprimanding him for putting the base at risk, not just for going to Vorash without permission, but also for not taking an IDC so they could confirm his identity before returning.

Daniel accepted his verbal reprimand and returned to his office, hoping all the while that it wouldn't be too much longer before the particle beam generator was completed.

====

Sixteen days had passed since Daniel's conversation with Jacob, and in those days, the archaeologist had concentrated intensely on his work.  He'd also finally given in and gone on two missions, one single day assignment with SG-9 and the most recent one, a two-day mission with SG-11 that was still operating with two temporary replacements.

“Sam,” Daniel greeted upon entering the lab where the generator was being built.

“Daniel!” Sam responded brightly.  “How was PX4-411?”

“In need of an information directory,” the archaeologist teased, though not all that playfully.

“Bad?”

“It's chaos there.  I'm not sure what to make of the ruins.  They're inconsistent, but ...”  Daniel paused, looking over at the partially built generator.

“But you'd rather know how the particle beam generator is coming along?” Sam asked.

“Somethng like that.”

“Actually, it's going pretty good now.  If we don't have any more problems, it should be completed within 2 weeks.”

“Are you sure?”

“The bigger question is will it work,” Sam admitted.  “I haven't built one of these before.”

“It'll work,” Daniel asserted with a positive attitude.

Sam nodded and in a subdued tone muttered, “As long as we don't have any more hiccups.”

“Hiccups?”

“Well, while you were off-world, I had a little set back with the design, but I think a found a way around it.”

“I'd bet on it.”

Sam smiled at her friend, appreciating his support.

“Sam, let's get a cup of coffee.”

“Okay, but only for a few minutes,” the major insisted.  “I really want to get back to this.”

Daniel nodded and waited for Sam to stand.  He wanted her to keep working on the generator, too, but he also knew the importance of breaks.  He wasn't always the best at following his own opinion on the subject, but on this occasion, he'd make sure Sam did follow it.

====

It was Monday, the day after Easter.  As General Hammond had done a couple of times since the event on Edora, he'd ordered SG-1 to take the weekend off, barring them from Cheyenne Mountain for the full forty-eight hours.  Now they were all back to work, everyone except for Jack, of course.

As the six o'clock hour approached, Daniel was about to leave.  It wasn't that he had anywhere to go or anything to do, but it was more his internal promise to not live a totally depressed life while his lover was away.

~Okay, maybe saying I'm not depressed is too much, but I have to keep up appearances, or try anyway.~

Daniel had worked hard to turn around the stares that he'd collected during the first six weeks of his Love's absence.  His profound loss had overtaken his life, and it felt like most everyone had seen it.  He hoped that his determination and focus after he'd finally gotten a grip on the situation would convince others that whatever they were thinking about Daniel's possible romantic relationship to Jack was wrong.  While on breaks from her work, Sam had also managed to have a few visible weepy moments that stirred the gossip in her direction rather than on Daniel's.

As Daniel reached his office door, he almost ran into Sam, who was hastily coming to see him.

“Sorry,” the archaeologist said as he backed slightly.

“Daniel, it's almost done,” Sam stated excitedly, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“I know you're close.”

“No, I mean, it's ... done.  Well, I have one more quick test to run, but ...”

“It's done?” Daniel inquired skeptically.  ~This is not a dream right?~

“It's done,” Sam affirmed, smiling.  “Leaving?”

“Uh ...” Daniel was so lost in thought about his Love finally coming home that he almost forgot where he was.

“How about helping me run the final test?”

“I'm right behind you,” Daniel agreed, his heart beginning to break out of the dark shadow  it had been buried in for months.

====

The final test was a success, so three hours later, Sam initiated the particle beam generator.  The beam needed to be maintained as long as possible, and as soon as it shut off, the Stargate would need to be dialed again immediately.  Eventually, it was determined that the Stargate had not been destroyed and was indeed horizontal and buried.  Teal'c would step into the small pocket of air and have a short amount of time in which to dig his way out and up onto the surface of Edora.

Time passed, and Daniel's heart was beating fast in anticipation.  He tried to appear calm as he sat in front of a computer terminal in the control room.  It was hard not to act nervously, but he had to.  Just one more day of acting and then he would take his soulmate home.

Desperately needing an update, Daniel asked over the radio, “What's your progress, Teal'c?”

“It is most difficult, DanielJackson,” the Jaffa responded in the darkness of the tiny cavern he was currently in.

“The Gate will shut down automatically in sixty seconds.  At that point, we won't be able to open it again from this side.  The vortex would vaporize everything within the cavern,” Sam reminded Teal'c.

Speaking so that Teal'c could hear him over the radio, Hammond cautioned, “You'll have a maximum of fours hours of oxygen once we're cut off.  If you haven't reached the surface by that time ...”

“You may want to wish me rel'tor'key,” Teal'c completed for the general.

Completely understanding, Daniel responded, “Good luck, Teal'c.”  His heart beating faster than it had in months, he prayed, ~Get through, Teal'c.  Find Jack.~

====

Daniel was pacing in the control room, while Sam kept staring at the computers.  Sergeant Davis felt like he was in the middle somehow, but couldn't figure out a way to get out.  He'd been ordered not to leave the control room and to keep a constant watch in anticipation of a message from Teal'c.

Sam stood and walked over to Daniel, causing him to stop his movement.

“I guess I'm a little ... nervous,” the archaeologist confided.

“More likely excited.”

“Sam, once he gets through, how long do you think it will take him to dig out the Gate?”

“I don't know.  It could take a while.”

“We ... can open the Gate, though, once it's dug out.”

“Yes,” Sam confirmed.  “Once the naquadah barrier is removed, the event horizon can open.  We'll just climb up.  I think the hardest part will be dialing the Gate while it's lying flat, but we can do it.”

“But we can do it?” Daniel sought to verify.  Then he looked down and sighed.  “I'm sorry, Sam.  I know we covered all of this before Teal'c left, but I'm just ...”

“Nervous,” Sam surmised.

“Excited,” Daniel teased.  “It's almost four hours.”

“He's coming home,” Sam told her friend.

Daniel nodded and then returned to his pacing.  He knew he had a long time yet to wait because even at the end of the four hours, he wouldn't know if Teal'c had been successful or not.  The Gate would have to be dug out and activated before Teal'c could update Stargate Command on his situation.

~Hang on, Jackson.  You've waited months.  Now it's just ... hours.~

====

Suddenly, the computer sounded, the simple noise erupting like a blast of dynamite.  Moments later, a recognizable voice came through the open Stargate.

“Stargate Command, this is Teal'c.”

Daniel was afraid to speak, uncertain his voice would actually work.  He looked at Sam, who smiled and sat down at the station she'd been using all day.

“Teal'c, this is Carter.  It's good to hear your voice.”

“As it is yours, MajorCarter,” came the reply from Edora.

“Teal'c, the colonel?”

“He is alive and well,” Teal'c reported.

“Is he with you?” Sam asked, anxious to hear Jack's voice.

“He is not.  He is in the village.”

“With Laira,” Daniel heard himself saying, stunning himself as much as the others present in the control room.

“Teal'c, what's the status of the Gate?” Sam inquired.

“It is undamaged.  The Edorans assisted in uncovering the naquadah barrier.”

“Okay, Teal'c.  Stand by.  We'll close the connection and dial Edora in ten minutes. We'll start sending personnel through to right the Gate.”

Teal'c acknowledged the order and cut the transmission.

“Sergeant, get the general,” Sam ordered.  She looked up at Daniel and smiled.  “He's alive.”

Daniel nodded, still afraid to speak and self-hugging as tight as he ever had, but then he found his voice and said, “We have to go through first.”

“No, Son,” Hammond interjected as he entered the area.  “I want the Gate up and working before I send the rest of my best team through.”

“Sir,” Daniel objected.

“And I need you to prepare the Edorans.  They can return with you.”

“It won't take long, Daniel,” Sam contended.

~I hope I can wait,~ Daniel deliberated silently as his blood flowed with hope and fear both.

====

Righting the Gate was the top priority for Stargate Command as the day progressed.  Finally, the job was done.  The Edorans who had been staying in Cheyenne Mountain were eager to return to their families and homes, and Daniel and Sam were just as eager to go through and meet up with Jack and Teal'c.

“Sergeant,” Hammond commanded with a code.

“It's a good day, Doc,” Major Lou Ferretti told Daniel.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed.

“Major, have your team stay back with the Edorans for a couple of minutes.  Let us make sure everything is clear,” Sam ordered the SG-2 team leader, who nodded his understanding.

“SG-1,” Hammond called out when the wormhole was established.  “Bring him home.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam called out in response.  “You ready?”

“Ready,” Daniel answered, following his teammate up the ramp and into the wormhole.

A minute later, the teammates stood on Edora for the first time in one hundred days.

“Teal'c, nice job,” Sam praised.

“Thank you, MajorCarter,” the Jaffa acknowledged, bowing his head as was his habit.

“Um, where ...” Daniel began, his eyes darting all around the area that had several Edorans who had remained on the planet and SG personnel who had assisted in raising the Gate back to a vertical position standing about.

“O'Neill is in the village.”

====

Standing outside, alone, Jack saw his three teammates approaching the village.  His heart stirred at the sight of his lover, but at the same time, the reality of the last three-plus months suddenly stung like a nasty wasp bite.

“Sir, it's good to see you,” Sam said as she reached Jack's location.

“Hi, Jack,” Daniel greeted tentatively.  **Jack?**

Jack blinked at the silent communication.  He heard it, but he began to be consumed with emotions he couldn't deal with, especially not on a foreign planet and in front of SG teams.

“Uh, the Edorans who went through when the meteors hit are coming through the Stargate now,” Daniel advised, even as the first group arrived, passing by SG-1 and meeting up with the villagers.

~Gawd, he's ... he's blank,~ Daniel appraised.  He continued to observe his lover while Sam began to explain everything that had happened.  **Jack?**

“You're probably curious how we activated the Stargate,” Sam began.  “Well ...”

Jack stood opposite his second in command, giving him the view of the reuniting Edorans.  He heard Sam talking, though all he really heard was incessant prattling.  None of it was sinking in.

“So when the third MALP sent back just a few seconds of telemetry,” Sam twisted around slightly as Jack began to go around her, “we knew the Gate was horizon...” She turned around, surprised that Jack was not just ignoring her, but walking away, “...tal.”

~He's ... scared,~ Daniel evaluated, noting Jack's lack of response to his nonverbal greetings and his demeanor with the team.

Looking at Daniel, Sam asked, “Is he all right?”

Daniel actually turned the other way, not wanting to watch Jack with Laira.

“He's fine,” the archaeologist answered quickly.  “I just don't think he was expecting to go home again,” he elaborated.  ~He gave up.  I saw it in his eyes, and he ... he's involved with her.  How much?  How ... how far has it gone?~

Daniel continued to look away from Jack.  He just could not watch the farewell scene playing out between his soulmate and Laira.

Sam tried not to watch, but found herself glancing back and wondering about the relationship.  She was surprised because she knew very well how much Jack and Daniel loved each other, not that she understood it.

~Did he cheat on Daniel?~ the major pondered, stunned that Jack hadn't even looked happy to see the archaeologist.  ~He barely said hello.~

In what felt like an eternity to the rest of SG-1, Jack walked away from Laira and over to his team, though he didn't stop.  Instead, he kept on heading in the direction of the Stargate.

Teal'c followed without much thought, but Daniel and Sam remained semi-frozen in their spots, sharing a look at each other and then back at the Edoran woman who now held her hands to her stomach.

“What do you think that means?” Sam asked her friend.

“Indigestion,” Daniel snarked before he began the trek to the Gate.

Sam made a face as she considered Daniel's explanation and then repeated, “Indigestion?  I hope it's a very bad case of gas.”  Suddenly, she frowned.  ~Samantha Carter, what are you thinking?~  She answered herself a split second later.  ~You know perfectly well what you're thinking.  He wouldn't do that to Daniel, but I'd bet my Major Matt Mason doll that she sure as heck tried to get him to.~

“MajorCarter,” Teal'c called out, concerned about her having remained behind.

“Coming,” Sam answered, jogging to join her team, now complete for the first time in one hundred days.

====

“Jack, it's good to have you back,” a cheerful General Hammond greeted from the bottom of the ramp in the Gate room.

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack responded, devoid of emotion and with a humorless expression.

Hammond instantly became concerned and responded by looking at his Chief of Medicine and saying a simple but expectant, “Doctor?”

Standing to Hammond's right, Janet nodded and ordered, “Colonel, you're all mine.”

“Sure,” Jack acknowledged, accepting his fate of a complete examination that was bound to last for hours.

The rest of SG-1 remained behind as Jack trailed the petite physician obediently.

“Is he all right?”

“Well, Sir ...”

“He's fine, General,” Daniel answered brusquely, interrupting Sam's response.

“I think Colonel O'Neill could use time to readjust to his return,” Hammond spoke in a low tone.  “Pending Doctor Fraiser's report, he'll be on light duty for the time being.”  He looked at Sam and noted, “Major, you're due for some downtime.  Let me know your plans.  We'll postpone the debriefing about Colonel O'Neill's experience on Edora to a later time.”

“Yes, General,” Sam returned.  “Thank you, Sir.”

At that point, Sam and Teal'c left the area for their routine exams before going about their business.  Then Daniel finished walking off the ramp and faced the major general.

“Sir,” the archaeologist began.

“Request for two days downtime granted,” Hammond interjected, giving Daniel a nod and then walking out of the Gate room.

“Thank you,” Daniel called out just in time for the general to hear him as he rounded the corner.

====

Sometime later, Daniel entered the infirmary.  He looked around, spotting his soulmate sitting on an examination table.  No one else was in sight.  The archaeologist approached quietly, noting Jack avoided eye contact with him.

“Hey,” Daniel greeted, scooting up onto the examination table next to his lover.

“Daniel ...”

“Is Janet done?”

“She has a never ending supply of needles,” Jack whined, although the line was cool and distant and without any emphasis.

“I'm going to find Janet and then we go home.”

“We?”

“We,” Daniel stated having an odd sense of role reversal.  He was about to hop down when Janet entered.  “Janet, can he go home now?”

“He's in remarkably good health, all things considered.  I've spoken with General Hammond, and you'll be on light duty for a while, Colonel,” Janet informed the SG-1 team leader.

“Anything you say, Doctor.”

~Doctor?~ Daniel echoed.  ~Not ... Doc?~ he questioned curiously as he got off the table.  “Thanks, Janet.  Jack, let's go.”

“Sure,” the colonel whispered.

====

The forty minute drive home was done in silence.  Daniel didn't want to start anything while they were in the car, and he figured Jack needed time to adjust.  He also knew it would take more than one night for his Love to return to him fully.  He couldn't help but recall his own flights of escape in the past and how long it had taken him to resume some semblance of normal.  In fact, the Shyla episode was the perfect analogy.  Though he'd been addicted to the sarcophagus, his view on reality had been altered.  He'd frightened Sam and had actually tried to kill Jack, the man he loved.  Yet, Jack was there, patiently waiting for Daniel to refocus and regain his true essence in his time.  Daniel would do the same in this current time of crisis.

~It's my turn now,~ Daniel resolved as he drove.  ~He's feeling guilty about something, probably Laira, but it's more than that.  I told Sam he wasn't expecting to come home.  Crap, he gave up.  He gave up on ... everything.~

The drive continued in open silence, but also in loud minds.  Daniel couldn't stop speculating on how far Jack's relationship with Laira had gone, but he was more concerned with his Love's soul.  He'd noticed the absence of heart and emotion upon their reunion.  That disturbed him greatly.

Jack was numb, depressed, nervous, and guilty, all at the same time.  He didn't miss Edora or Laira, but he wondered what Daniel had been up to over the last few months.

~He looks healthy, rested.  Maybe Carter's been keeping him company.  That's probably a good thing,~ the colonel opined.

Jack couldn't think about much more than those thoughts.  His mind was scattered and uncertain.  He felt like he was in a dream, only he wasn't certain if the dream was real or just some type of nightmare.  If it weren't for the thumping of his heart, he would have sworn he was a zombie, a member of the living dead.

Daniel pulled his classy sports car into the driveway and turned off the engine.  He turned his head and looked at the man sitting next to him.

Jack didn't make a move.  He stared straight ahead at the garage and said nothing.

“Let's go inside,” Daniel urged, opening his car door.  He walked around and opened the passenger door since Jack hadn't yet done so.  “Come on, Jack.”

The colonel exited the vehicle and began the walk to the porch.  He looked at the front of the house as if he'd never seen before.  Stepping onto the porch, he waited for Daniel to unlock the door.  Then he followed the archaeologist inside.  He stopped in the entranceway and looked around.

“Home, sweet home,” Jack spoke in an undertone.  He walked inside and saw a picture of his deceased son, Charlie.  He picked it up, his gaze intense.  Then he put it down.  With both men now in the living room, the colonel suddenly turned and asked, “Are you staying?”

“Dumb question,” Daniel responded.  He saw the lack of life in his partner and noted that Jack's brown eyes were dull and dark.  He walked forward until he was deep within his partner's personal space.  Then, doing something that had often been difficult for him because of his own past, he declared, “I love you, Jack.  I've missed you so much, and I need you.”

For a brief moment, there was a flicker of light in Jack's eyes, but it dimmed before catching fire.

Daniel embraced the older man, holding him close as he probed, “What happened on Edora?”

Jack pulled back and walked over to the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room.  It wasn't just the question that caused the reaction, but his guilt.

~What am I supposed to say?  What does he want to hear?~  Not looking at the other man, Jack answered the question in a near drone.  “I didn't even know the Stargate was gone for days.  The meteors caused a lot of fires,,” he explained.  “I tried to dig, but it was useless.  Laira ...” he paused, feeling guilty for even saying her name, “... she gave me a place to stay.  I tried to help the Edorans rebuild their village.”  He decided just to say it and get it over and done with.  “She liked me, clinging to me.  She wanted to have a baby with me.”

Jack was sure that would send Daniel packing, but it didn't.  Instead, the younger man again approached his Love, taking him into his arms.

“It must have been a nightmare,” Daniel responded, knowing he'd had a nightmare for every day Jack had been gone.

Stunned, Jack stammered, “You aren't leaving me?”

Daniel backed only inches to gaze into Jack's eyes as he replied, “Jack, we're forever, remember?  No, I'm not leaving you.  I could never do that.”  He smiled, silently backing his words with a deep, devoted gaze, but what Daniel saw in return was uncertainty.  “It's going to be okay,” he promised, sensing his lover's insecurity.

With gentle movements, Daniel guided his Love to the sofa.  They sat down, slowly reconnecting.  It wasn't a fast connection.  Jack was so full of doubt, and Daniel knew Jack needed time to readjust and start the healing process.  He would be as patient with Jack as Jack had been with him in the past.

====

The hour was very late, and as the evening had progressed, the lovers had clung to each other more and more.  Jack's heart was beginning to beat as it had prior to having been stranded on Edora.  He felt the man who owned his soul loving him, in spite of what he'd been told earlier.  Touches led to kisses, slow, sweet, and tender.  There was nothing overly aggressive.  The two men were rediscovering the simple joy of feeling the other's skin on theirs and enjoying that gentle feeling of resting their heads against the other's shoulder.  Their hands joined, fingers interlaced for a long time until it had become more comfortable to caress in other areas.  The tactile sensation of touching with their hands and lips was a sensual experience that led to concupiscence that had only one place to go.

Daniel was nuzzling into Jack's neck, enjoying the feeling of strength he'd missed so much over the last few months.  That's when he heard something else he'd missed, more than he could ever say.

“Danny?”

Jack was the only one who ever called Daniel by the nickname of Danny.  It was something the archaeologist had fought against initially, but Jack was insistent.  He knew who Daniel was inside and how the world had affected the man in negative ways.  Over time, the use of Danny was the same as an endearment, and it connected Daniel to Jack in a very special way.  Now, Daniel was hearing his name spoken with softness and, more importantly, with love.

Daniel looked up and saw light and brightness in Jack's chocolate brown eyes.  He saw an expression that showed signs of life instead of solemnness and sadness.  It wasn't a complete return, not yet, but it was evidence that Jack was on his way back, that their touching and ambrosial kisses had resulted in the belief that Jack and Daniel were a couple that would not be destroyed by a hundred days apart, or a female interloper.

Standing, Daniel responded with a simple word of his own, “Bed,” as he took his soulmate's hand and let him up the stairs to the master bedroom where they made love, further reassuring each other of their unbroken bond.

====

The next morning was somewhat quiet as the lovers arose, showered, dressed, and enjoyed their first meal together in way too long.  Beneath the quiet, though, was a storm, and both knew they were going to have to deal with it.  Their lovemaking proved they would survive it, that they were forever, but to thrive and move forward, they had to deal with the immediate past.  The truth of Edora had to be spoken, just like the truth of Daniel's pain on Earth had to be said.

Like two boxers entering the ring that was the living room, Jack and Daniel walked unintentionally to opposing spots.  Daniel was by the aquarium, while Jack was in front of his favorite chair.  The younger man crossed his arms.  He wasn't self-hugging, but he was bracing for anything that might be said.  Jack's hands were in his jeans' pockets.  He felt like he was on the hot seat; in fact, he was certain of it.  The fact that he felt a tremendous amount of guilt had him getting defensive even before a word had been spoken.

Someone had to make the first move and begin the bout.  Ultimately, it was Daniel who couldn't stand the silence and began the conflict that seemed destined to happen.

“You gave up on us, Jack, on me.  How could you do that?”

Jack shook his head as he answered, “I don't know.  Danny, it feels like a lifetime ago.”

“Tell me,” Daniel demanded, needing to know everything that had happened on the planet.

“We stayed in the caves for a while.”

“Because of the fires,” Daniel surmised.

“Yeah.  The day we went back to Laira's, her friend was there with some others.”

“What friend?”

“Haynan.”

Daniel thought back and recalled, “He was the one who thought we wanted their land.”

“He's the one,” Jack confirmed.  “He told me the Stargate wasn't there anymore.  I ran, Daniel, and he was right.  All I saw was gravel, debris, and rocks, lots of rocks.”

“Jack, if the Stargate had been destroyed, you would have signs.  You had to know it was buried.”

“That's what I thought at first, so I started digging.  I dug as much as I could.”

“Excuse me?  What does that mean, as much as you could?” Daniel challenged, having the horrible feeling that Jack's attempt at digging out the Gate didn't last long.

“I was on my own, Daniel.  All I had was one lousy shovel.”

“Why didn't you use it?”

“I did!” Jack shouted.

“Okay, why don't we do this,” Daniel began.  “Why don't you just tell me everything that happened.  You talk, I'll listen.”

The older man knew he was going to have tell Daniel his story sooner or later, but he was dreading it anyway.

“You went to the Stargate,” Daniel prodded.

“I felt lost and desperate.  I didn't know what to think, Daniel.  Then Laira showed up, realizing she wasn't going to see her people again, the ones that had gone through the Gate,” Jack stated.  “I stayed for a while, but she went back to the house.  All I could think about was you.  I dug until it was dinnertime, and I couldn't see anymore.”  He looked away, not able to look at the other man as he admitted, “When I couldn't see my nose on my face anymore, I went back to the house.  I wasn't very popular.  Haynan and his group were blaming me for their situation.  I spoke my piece and was on my way out when Laira stood up for me.”

“That was nice of her,” Daniel interjected sarcastically.  He sighed, “Sorry.  Go on.”

Jack nodded and continued, “She told me I was welcome there, so I stayed.”  He paused, looking for another reaction, but Daniel simply stood by the fish tank, staring and listening.  “I wanted to keep digging.  That night, I found a cozy spot on the floor.  When I woke up the next morning, Laira was there.”

~Right.  Why shouldn't she be?~ Daniel snarked, though this time he made sure he kept his reaction private.

At the same time, Jack sighed.  He hated talking, especially when he had to be detailed, but his guilt was consuming him.  He had to tell Daniel everything, no matter how small or unimportant it might seem.  If he didn't, the result could be a lack of trust and without trust, their relationship would fail.

“She was in a nightgown.  She'd brought me a shirt of her husband's to wear,” Jack revealed as he reflected more on that morning.

//Flashback//
“I thought you might like a clean work shirt,” Laira explained.  “My husband never wore it.  I made it for him just before he died.”

“There's a chance the Stargate is just buried,” Jack stated, ignoring the shirt.

“We have to rebuild before the harvest and there are very few of us now,” the woman replied.

“What are you saying?”

“I know you want to get home, Jack, but we need shelter and food to survive.  You need that, too.”
//End of Flashback//

“She wanted me to help them rebuild, and I felt obligated, so I helped as much as I could, and then before supper, I'd try to dig up the Gate, if it was there.”  With an emotional start, Jack pleaded his case.  “I tried, Danny, but I was on my own, and I didn't know if the Stargate was there or not.  Laira kept talking about mourning.  That got me thinking about Charlie.  I never told her about him.  I never told her anything important.”  He laughed as he revealed, “She never wanted to know anyway.”

“She wanted you,” Daniel interjected, unable to remain quiet.

“I guess,” Jack conceded.  “It just became routine.  I assisted the survivors in rebuilding the village, and Haynan's home, and then we worked on the harvest.  One day I took off my uniform and put on her husband's clothes.  I think she liked that.  She kept touching me, talking to me about home, only home was supposed to be her house.  She wanted me to forget, and I guess maybe I wanted to forget, too.”

Daniel felt himself tensing.  He didn't like what he was hearing, but he needed to know everything before the issue could truly be resolved.

“I guess I was becoming part of their world, her world,” Jack professed with regret.  “Before Teal'c got through, Haynan invited us, me to dinner.  I guess he was out of fruit baskets.”

The joke went nowhere as Daniel's blue eyes simply spoke of anticipation for what would be said next.

“It was a party night.  I drank a lot.  I liked drinking.  It helped me to forget, only it was probably not a good idea.  Laira had been hinting that she wanted more from our relationship.  I knew it, but I played dumb.  I'm good at that, but ...”  It was the moment of truth, the time to come clean.  “I kissed her, Danny.  She wanted it, and I just wanted to forget.  That night, after dinner, she told me she wanted a baby, my baby.  I kissed her again.  I kissed her a couple of times, but it wasn't right.  I swear to you that nothing happened, except for kissing.  I swear.”

//Flashback//
“Do you remember when I told you there was something you could do for me?” Laira asked, getting a nod from Jack in reply.  “I want you to give me a child.”

“A child,” Jack repeated.  ~She's out of her mind.  I don't want kids.  One was ... Charlie ... I can't.~

“I wanted to be patient.  I wanted to wait until you had let go of the life you left behind, until you knew that you belonged with us.  Tonight, there is something in your eyes.”

~It's called the start of a hangover,~ Jack avouched, knowing full well he had drunk so much in an effort to forget where he was.  Still he answered with respect.  “Laira, you should know a part of me is never going to let go of what I left behind.”

“It's not the part I want,” Laira responded.

Jack kissed the Edoran woman, not once, but a few times, even as they ended up on the bed, but then he stopped.

“Laira, this isn't the time.”

“This is your home now, Jack.”

“No.”

“You can never go back to where you were,” Laira insisted.

“I need some sleep,” Jack told the determined female, trying to evade the real issue and just wanting to go bed.  ~Alone.~  He stood up.  “I'm sorry.”
//End of Flashback//

“I left her alone.  The next morning, she acted like I hadn't turned her down.  I just played along.  I guess I didn't really know what I was going to do.”  Jack's eyes were downward as the intensity of his guilt surfaced.  “Later, she brought out my stuff, said I didn't need it anymore.  I told her she could get rid of it.”

Daniel was having a very hard time listening to the admission, but he knew if he interrupted, he'd explode.  Jack had been on the verge of having an affair with Laira, and that hurt, not because of the affair itself, but rather, because it meant he had indeed given up hope of returning to Earth.

“A few hours she finally told me the truth.  She'd heard something over the radio.  I don't know what, but I hightailed it to the Stargate, and you know the rest.”

“Not everything,” Daniel refuted.  “That was quite a scene when we were leaving. What exactly did you say to her when you left?”

Jack sighed and recalled the goodbye scene that had taken place in front of his teammates.

//Flashback//
“You must be very happy to be going home,” Laira told Jack, ignoring the growing number of Edorans around the two.

“No, I'm not,” Jack lied.  ~Happy is too calm of a word.  I'm ecstatic, except I'm not sure Danny is going to understand.  Crap, I'm not sure I do.~

“You don't have to.”

~For better or worse, I do.  Okay, let me throw you a bone,~ Jack decided, not wanting to create a fuss.  “Come with me.”

“I belong here.”

~One more lie for the road,~ the colonel determined, feeling pathetic and worthless as he stood so near to Daniel.  “I'll come back, soon.  We still have that treaty to talk about.”

“Of course,” Laira acknowledged.  “Our two worlds are going to be friends.”

Jack embraced the woman, feeling bad for his own deceits, lies of omission, and regret over the sadness in his heart, not for her, but for his failure in letting her dream.

“Closer friends.  Fair day and be well,” Laira wished in a mixture of sadness and regret that she didn't have a chance to become pregnant.
//End of Flashback//

“And then I walked away.”

“Is there anything else?” Daniel questioned.

“What do you want, blood?”

“I want the truth, all of it.”

As requested, Jack filled in more of the blanks, telling Daniel about more nights on Edora.  He admitted to how close Laira attempted to be, how she liked to touch him at every opportunity, grabbing hold of his arm or taking his hand.  He talked about the many conversations they'd had about her husband and how Jack was of the same mold, tall, strong, and independent.  Jack told his lover how Laira seemed determined to turn him into a recreation of her husband, not just giving him the man's clothes, but making the dead man's favorite meals and trying to convince Jack how good the food was.  The colonel left nothing out of his confession, including the party game that had occurred at Haynan's when Jack had been blindfolded and picked the woman out, a supposed sign from the ancestors that they were meant to be together.

“I found her on purpose.  It wasn't hard to do.  You don't have to wear perfume to have a scent,” Jack admitted.  “I knew where I was every step.  I just played along.”

“It sounds like you played along a lot, Jack.”

“I guess,” the colonel mumbled.  ~Crap, he's right.  What happened to me on that miserable planet?~

“I don't understand,” Daniel conceded as his anger began to appear openly.

“Let it go, Daniel,” Jack spoke in a low tone.  ~Geez, I don't want to think about this.~

“You're kidding me, right?  You think it's okay, that you can just waltz back into my life without at least explaining yourself?” the embittered scientist asked angrily.

“Daniel, I told you ...” Jack refuted, becoming defensive yet again.

“No, I listened, and now you listen, and then you answer with the truth,  not what you want me to hear to make everything rosier for you.  I want the truth, Jack,” the archaeologist demanded.  “Why did you give up on us?”

“I didn't.”

“Yes, you did.  What were you thinking?” Daniel asked as the loudness of his voice increased.

“What did you want me to do, spend every second there, digging until my hands were blistered?”

“I would have,” Daniel replied, his arms crossing over his chest.

“Yes, I know you're better than me.”

“Cut the crap, Jack.  You haven't answered me.”

“What was the question?” Jack snarked, angry at himself, though his sharpness was verbally aimed at the other man.

“You're so full of it,” Daniel charged.  “How many times do I have to ask you this?  Why didn't you keep digging?  Why did you give up?”

“I was alone.  They weren't going to help me, and I didn't know if the Stargate was there or not!”

“Okay, fine, but didn't you even think about a ship?  Gawd, Jack, we have ... we have allies with ships that can reach Edora.  It was just a matter of time.  Ships, Jack.”

“Ships?” the colonel reiterated dubiously.  ~Ships?~

Daniel's eyes grew in surprise.  He couldn't believe that his lover had not once considered the possibility that Earth's allies would be asked to help.

“I didn't think about ships,” Jack groaned.  ~For crying out loud, how did I not think of something so simple?  No wonder he's so angry.  I don't deserve him.  I never have.~

“Well, you should have.  The Tollan had one in route until we contacted them after Teal'c got through.”

“The Tollan?  Wow, wouldn't have guessed.”

“Focus,” Daniel snapped.  ~Why is he making this harder than it needs to be?  The sooner we get through this, the sooner we get on with our lives.  You're not dumb, Jack, so stop acting like you are.  Gawd, I hate that dumb act.~

“I'm too tired to focus.”

“Why did you give up?  Gawd, why can't you answer that?” Daniel pleaded, his face reddening from his upset.

“It was a little shovel,” Jack barbed sarcastically.

“Don't do that, Jack.  It's not you,” Daniel argued.  “You ... you never leave anyone behind.  Why would you think we'd leave you behind?  Explain that to me, Jack.  Convince me why you'd think for even a second that Sam or General  Hammond or ... or me ... why would we leave you there?”

“I didn't think.”

“I don't buy that.”

“It's the truth.  Geez, Daniel, you know thinking is not my thing,” Jack rebutted.

“You're Special Ops, Jack.  You survive.  Don't treat me like some buffoon cadet you think can't tie his shoelaces.”

“You're not wearing shoelaces,” Jack quipped as he saw the loafers on the other man's feet.

“*Stop it!*” Daniel shouted as his hands raised up and down in frustration.

“Maybe I wanted to stay there,” Jack returned with an equal amount of anger.  “Laira sure wanted me.”

“Oh, now that ... that's a good one, Jack.  Do you think I'm going to believe that?” Daniel walked closer to the colonel, his eyes never losing contact with Jack's.  “Is there something you want to tell me?”

“Like?”

“Oh, I don't know.  You don't love me, maybe?”  Daniel pursed his lips and made a face as he briefly looked off to the side.  “Or maybe when we made love after that meteor shower on Edora that was just a ... a fling, and last night was ... my imagination.  You were, uh, thinking about Laira the whole time.  Is that what you want to tell me?  Is that what you want me to believe?”

“No, of course not,” Jack responded tersely.

“Then what?  Stop playing games, Jack, and tell me the truth.”

“You and your truth,” Jack barked, turning around and staring at the patio door.

“Oh, so now you're going to stand there, your back to me like it's a ... a barricade between us?” Daniel argued.

The argument only worsened.  Daniel kept demanding answers from Jack, who only did his best to evade the issue.  Key to the point, though, neither man walked out.  There were pauses in their fighting, but the sharp words, accusations, and denials continued throughout the day.  It was definitely their worst argument in the history of their relationship, and maybe even their longest. Sadly, they weren't making any progress on finding a happy middle.

“Can we stop this?” Jack asked, weary of the fight.

“Yes, once you admit the truth.”

“Daniel, I've tried to say everything I can think of, including wanting to be with that possessive, manipulative excuse for a woman!” Jack shouted, initially unaware that his tone and verbiage confirmed his lover's suspicions.  Then his own words echoed within him.  “Crap,” he sighed.

Daniel walked closer, a small smile on his face as he replied, “We've gone through this, haven't we?”

“How'd you know?”

“I'm smart,” Daniel quipped, only the tiniest of a smile on his face.  “Why didn't you dig?”

The truth was finally out, now only needing to be confirmed.

“I did try at first and then I thought maybe it was your chance.”  Jack walked past his Heart, raising his right hand to rub against the back of his head.  “You're perfect, Danny; at least, you are to me.”  He turned around and confessed, “I figured you'd be upset for a while, but then you'd move on.  It was your chance.  Sha're's gone, and I'd be out of the picture.  You could finally find someone who was worthy of you.”

“I'm not perfect, Jack.  You know that.  It's ... okay, look, I'm ... I guess I'm glad you think that, but it's not the truth.  I'm just a human being, like you.”  Daniel walked towards the other man slowly.  “This is the age thing again with the gray hair as you call it and the,” he pointed downward, “the banged up knees.  Right?”

“I always knew you were smart,” Jack replied with a slight cough of uneasiness.

“Well, I'm the younger geek who hates orders and is overly sensitive about my past.  I'm hardly a prize, Jack.”

“You are to me.”

“And you are to me,” Daniel quickly responded.  “For the millionth time, I don't want anyone else in my life, not romantically.  We've talked about Sha're, and you know the truth about my feelings for her.  I loved her, but it's not the same as I what I feel for you.”

“Laira made it so easy, Danny.  She was in such a hurry for me to forget my life here that I thought maybe you were moving that quick, too.”

“Yeah, right,” Daniel snickered.  “I was in such a hurry that Janet intentionally sedated me for three days and ...”

“What?” Jack interjected, alarm evident in his demeanor.  “What are you talking about?” the silver-gray haired man asked in earnest, once again feeling his private Danny alarm going off in the pit of his stomach.

“Oh, not just that.  I had an intimate one on one with the rain and put myself out of commission, and I can't forget those times when General Hammond actually barred me from the Mountain, and I do mean barred, Jack.”

“What are you talking about?” the colonel asked yet again.

“I didn't eat, and I didn't sleep, and I ... gawd, I got so, so mad at Sam,” Daniel stammered as he recalled the anxiousness and helplessness that he'd felt while Jack was on Edora.

“Why?”

“Because she was the one doing everything to rescue you.  I felt ... useless.  I kept ...” Daniel looked around, his arms protecting him from his own feelings, “... I kept trying to find some silly solution by researching the Stargate.  I don't know what I was doing, Jack.  I was out of my mind.  Ask General Hammond,” he challenged.

“Danny ...”

“Shut up, Jack, and listen.  I was a freakin' mess.  I couldn't think, and I wasn't taking care of myself.  I lost weight, and I didn't care.  All I did was drink coffee and hide in my office, acting like I was doing something I wasn't.  Actually, Sam let me help for a while, but I'm an archaeologist, not an astrophysicist.  I know ... I know pieces of what she does, but I can't build a particle beam generator.”

“That's the thing Carter rigged to get Teal'c through the Gate.”

“More or less,” Daniel affirmed with a nod.  “Don't you get it, Jack?  I wasn't moving on anywhere except towards making myself a basket case.  There's no one else for me except for this strikingly handsome man with a gorgeous head of silver-gray hair that turns me into a tingling fool, and old, wobbly knees that make me all wobbly inside.”

“Sounds like an old gray mare,” Jack teased, the first truly light moment in hours.  He sighed, “I'm sorry.  I wasn't thinking.  I don't know why I let myself believe what I did.  I'd say it was being alone, except I've been alone before.”

“Jack, a few weeks ago, I made a realization.  It's why I'm not all thin and bones now.  First, I felt you.  I mean, I knew you were alive and that it was only a matter of time before you came home.  Uh, I have to admit that Sam sort of ... well, she played Mother Hen, like you normally do.”

“Good for Carter,” Jack sang in praise, a smile on his face.

“So, anyway, I also made a connection, and I'm not totally sure how you're going to feel about it.”

“Tell me.”

“Laira,” Daniel stated simply.

“Okay, what?”

“She's your Shyla.”

“Oh, puleeze,” Jack rebuked, going with his gut response.  “Shyla was a witch.  She manipulated you with ... geez, you're right.”

With a smile and feeling more like himself than he had in months, Jack confidently closed the remaining gap between he and his soulmate.  He reached out and took his love's hands in his, bringing them to his lips for a few quick kisses.  Then he put his arms around Daniel's waist, and he felt Daniel's hands against his back.  Slowly, their heads leaned forward, touching.  Normally, it was something they did when on missions and time was working against them, but right now, it was just a symbol of their unison.  

His forehead still touching Daniel's, Jack whispered, “I love you, Angel.”

His eyes moist, Daniel returned, “I love you, Jack, so much.  I missed you ... so much.”

Their lips touched until Jack's and Daniel's kisses became bolder and more involved.  Soon, they made their way to the bedroom and, unlike the night before, made love passionately, their aggression and need for each other more heightened and animalistic.

====

“I kept having nightmares,” Daniel told his lover in the aftermath of their lovemaking that had lasted well into the wee hours of the next morning.

“I'm sorry, Angel.”

“They were ... bad, really, really bad,” the younger man admitted.

The couple were in bed, completely naked.  Daniel's body was somewhat atop Jack's, one leg hooked inbetween his lover's.  Jack's arms embraced his Love, caressing Daniel's back without pause as he placed occasional kisses atop his head.

“I should have kept on digging.”

“No,” Daniel responded.  “I mean, yes, you should have, but not because of me and my ... incessant nightmares.  You should have done it for yourself.”

“Danny, tell me everything.  I want to know what you were doing every day,” Jack requested.

“It wasn't exciting.”

“I need to know.  Please.”

“Um, okay, well ...”

For hours, the lovers talked, sharing the bare truths of their souls, the positive and the negative of their experiences without the other while on completely different planets.  There were no coverups or omissions.  By the end of this very long reveal, they were one again, knowing the whole of their actions and inactions.

====

~He looks so peaceful,~ Daniel observed, a contented expression on his face.

It was early in the afternoon, and Jack had fallen asleep on the sofa.  He was wearing an old gray sweatshirt and dark khaki pants.  He was barefoot, his feet raised up on the far end of the couch.  On his chest was the March 2000 issue of the National Geographic that had been delivered during his absence.  He'd been reading a photographer's journal with accompanying pictures about animals and bugs.  On the side table was a half-empty bottle of beer, two empty Big Hunk candy bar wrappers, and a bowl with just a few more bits of Froot Loops inside.

The archaeologist stood, his hands in his pockets and his head cocked just slightly to the left as he gazed at his lover, and smiled.  This was a day he'd looked forward to for such a long time.  Jack was on his way back, to him, fully and completely.  They'd share everything about their time apart.  They'd made love to reconnect, argued to clear the air and get to the real truth, and then made love again to reunify their bodies and recommit to the fact that as a couple they were indeed forever.

All of a sudden, Jack's eyelids fluttered open.  He saw his Love and smiled.

“Hey, Babe.”

“I'm lonesome,” Jack whined, smiling more when Daniel walked over and joined him.  He chuckled slightly when his magazine fell onto the floor after he'd shifted his position slightly, but otherwise, he ignored it.  “Have I told you in the last hour how much I love you?”

“You were sleeping.”

“Last two hours then?”

“Yes, but there's no such thing as too much.”

“I love you,” Jack declared from the depths of his soul.

“I love you, too.”

====

After cuddling for a while, Jack recalled that he'd missed an important date.  Actually, it was the end of a bet.  For years, the lovers had been competing against each other over who could make the most from the stock market.  They would both pick stocks to invest in and then make some kind of bet between them.  The last bet that had begun earlier in the year had an end date of the third of April which, of course, had occurred when Jack had been on Edora.  Wanting to bring normalcy back to his life, the colonel decided they should see who won this latest round.

Motioning for Daniel to get up, Jack stood and stretched while saying, “Okay, Dannyboy, time to find out who won our bet.”

Confused at first, Daniel queried warily, “Bet?”

“You lost, and you know it.”

The younger man grinned as he realized what was being brought up.  He was quite confident he'd won.  Standing up, he smirked his certainty with bright eyes.

“Don't give me that look,” Jack rebuked, shaking his head.  “I won.”

“I don't think so, Fly Boy.”

The normal banter was warming both men's hearts.  They so wanted to forget about the past hundred days and the nightmares both had gone through.

With some vulnerability, Jack suggested, “Let's go check it out.”

“Jack, we don't have to do this now,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“Danny, I want my life back, and that life is with you, just in case you weren't sure,” Jack declared, taking his lover into his arms.  “I'm not saying it'll happen overnight, but it's the little things that bring us back to normal.”

“So wise, Colonel,” Daniel replied softly just before the two kissed.

The remainder of the day and a good part of the evening was spent on the bet and its outcome.  The lovers were actually able to cajole each other into having fun.  In fact, neither even thought about the recent past as they focused on the bet and making sure the loser made good on paying up appropriately.  Their playful attitudes went a long way toward repairing the cost of having been apart for over three months.

====

Later in the night after the fun of their stock market challenge ebbed, the lovers were enjoying their first sojourn on the roof deck since Jack's return.  This was a special place for both of them, and as they sat side by side, arms touching, enjoying a bottle of wine and some snacks, both were relishing this evening together.  The weather was cooperating with clear skies showing the stars shining brightly above and the temperature in the low to mid-fifties.

“Oh, hey, I want to give you something,” Daniel announced at one point.

“A kiss will do,” Jack responded.

“Oh, well, you can have one of those, too,” the younger man permitted, leaning in for a kiss.

“Just one?”

“Well, maybe two,” Daniel kissed his Love, “or three,” he said before sharing yet another kiss with Jack.

“Thank you,” Jack returned with a happy smirk.  He watched as Daniel reached over into a pouch he'd brought up with him and pulled out a file.  “What's that?”

“Happy Valentine's Day,” Daniel spoke tenderly, handing the file over to Jack.

Curious, Jack opened the file and saw the colorful printout, a certificate titled, “Lover's Hall of Fame Award.”

Jack's smile was his biggest yet since being home, and his heart pounded with joy as he read the proclamation that was signed by his lover as the president of the LHOF Colorado Springs Chapter.

“You found it,” Jack deduced silently, referring to his own Valentine's surprise that he'd called “Certificate of Love For My Danny.”

“I found it,” Daniel affirmed.  “It was perfect, Jack.  Thank you.”

“Thank you, Mister President.”

The lovers kissed as the clock ticked on.

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“Are we going back to Edora to finish the treaty?” Daniel inquired a bit vulnerably.

“Daniel, I have no plans to ever set foot on that planet again.”

“What about the treaty?”

“Let SG-9 handle it.”

Daniel nestled into his Love, happy.  He didn't want to go back to Edora any more than Jack did.  He wasn't jealous any longer, but he wasn't feeling very gracious towards Laira, either.  He didn't like to think negatively about Shyla and preferred to explain away her actions, but he couldn't avoid the obvious maneuvers she'd made to try to get him to stay with her, anymore than he could avoid seeing what Laira had tried to do with Jack.

“She tried to wipe out your memories of Earth,” Daniel spoke softly, adding, “Of me.”

“She couldn't do it,” Jack reminded.  “I let her get away with things because of what we talked about.  That's my fault, but I didn't need my gear or uniform to love you.  Angel, she had no control over my mind or what I thought about, even when I kissed her.”

“She tried.”

“She failed,” Jack emphasized strongly.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Kisses ensued with lots of tender touching.  More time passed and then the lovers ended up lying down on the deck, Daniel in Jack's strong yet tender embrace as they looked up at the stars.  So much was spoken, not in words, but in touches and gazes of brown and blue eyes.  That was one of the couple's strengths, the ability to communicate without speech.

Jack rolled over slightly, caressed his partner's cheek, and spoke, “Happy Valentine's Day, Angel.”  The two kissed.  “Happy St. Patty's Day, too,” he added before kissing him again.  “Can't forget April Fool's,” he noted whimsically.

“You forgot Leap Day,” Daniel replied, his hands around Jack's neck, playing wistfully with the tiny strands of silver-gray hair that he loved so much and wanting to forever forget the horrible nightmares he'd had on February 29th.

“Can't forget that,” Jack agreed.  “Happy Leap Day, My Beautiful Falling Star.”

The kisses intensified, causing Daniel to moan in a mix of excitement and contentment.

“More holidays,” the archaeologist demanded.

“Happy Washington's Birthday,” Jack accommodated, sealing the wish with kisses along his Love's cheek and neck.

“Don't forget Lincoln.”

“Happy Lincoln's Birthday,” the older man wished, adding more kisses and touches that went further down his life partner's body.

“Both,” Daniel gasped.

“Yeah, for those who think they don't deserve their individual days,” Jack began a bit snarkily, “Happy Presidents Day.”  He groaned, “I'm out of holidays.”

“Spr...ing,” Daniel gasped.

“Thank you, Mama Nature,” Jack quipped.  “Happy Vernal Equinox,” he added, his hands causing Daniel's body to quiver in delight and anticipation.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Screw the holidays.”

Jack laughed, feeling the life coming back into his soul.  His Danny was the most verbal and direct during their lovemaking than at any other time.  More tentative in everyday situations when it came to personal relationships and in their own conversations, when it came time to make time sexually, Daniel was often loud, demanding, and to the point.

“I love you.”

“Show me, and I mean *now*!”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged as he set about to obey the direct order.

Jack and Daniel had endured over a hundred days and nights of difficulty, each fueled by individual fears and anxiety.  Now, though, they were together, their minds, hearts, souls, and bodies united in eternal love.  While both knew it would still take Jack time to readjust to being home, they'd overcome their biggest hurdles and were ready to embrace whatever was to come next, beginning with a return to duty the next day.  Right now, though, they had other things on their minds, and it promised to be a wild, mind-blowing time.

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