Flashback

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  7 - October 7, 2003
Spoilers:  Children of the Gods, Scorched Earth, Beast of Burden (all minor)
Size:  51kb
Written:  September 4-6, 8-10,12 2003  Revised:  September 13, 2003  Revised Again:  January 30, August 2, 22, 2005, March 1, September 10, October 2-5, 2006, February 27, 2007
Summary:  There's trouble in paradise when Jack and Daniel face off over events that happened off-world.  Is the wedding off?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Danny”
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Suzanna, Drdjlover, Mama Beast, Linda!

Flashback
by Orrymain

“Daniel, we tried.  We stayed there for five days, and SG-13 had already been there for six.  What more do you want?” Jack argued as he unlocked the door.

Daniel followed Jack into the house, unintentionally slamming the door shut behind him as he answered, “I don't know, but we shouldn't just have left them there.  We should have tried again, looked for more alternatives.”

“Daniel, it's an internal matter.  We can't go charging in everywhere like we're the galaxy's answer to what ails ya,” the older man spoke, tossing the mail onto the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen and dining nook area.

“Oh, please, Jack, don't trivialize this,” an angry Daniel responded.

“If I were doing that, I would have said we needed a Prime Directive.  We can't interfere all the time.  As it was, we stayed, we talked, we talked some more.  It was time to leave them be.”

“Leave them be?” the archaeologist questioned in disbelief.  “Jack, half that planet are nothing more than slaves, slaves who aren't treated any better than we treat ... mosquitoes,” he said just as Jack clapped his hands together, killing one of the flying pests and then rubbing his hands along the side of his pants afterwards.

“And that's why they're fighting back, but we can't ...” Jack sighed, trying to stop the argument before it got even more intense.  “Daniel, we armed Chaka, and the blood bath on that planet was nothing compared to what this could be.”

“We weren't wrong, Jack.  What happened to your compassion?” Daniel questioned as he stood rigidly near the sofa, his arms crossed in front of him.

“Compassion has nothing to do with it,” Jack argued.  “You're the one who's supposed to have all the scruples and morals.  What gives us the right to go some place and change the status quo after two weeks?”

“Scruples?  Morals?  Oh, please, Jack, don't try to use that on me.  The whole program uses words, big words, about ... peaceful exploration to define its purpose, and yet we see wrong and just turn around and walk away?”

“We didn't do that, Daniel.  Balinsky and you had eleven days to get the job done. It didn't work out,” the colonel said regrettably.  “Now, we move on.”

“You say 'eleven days' like it's an eternity.  We barely had time to touch the surface of their culture.  Balinsky's good, but he's never seen anything even close to this civilization before.  It'll take months to fully understand even the basics of that society.  Eleven days was nothing,” Daniel refuted.

“It was five times as long as we normally stay on any planet during a first contact situation.  SG-13 gave it their best shot, then called in for reinforcements, and Hammond sent us.  Two teams, putting forth their best efforts, while other scheduled missions were postponed or reassigned, based on your pleas to Hammond.  We came, we stayed, we talked ourselves blue in the face, and then we left.  We can only do so much,” the colonel declared sternly.

“You really don't have any compassion for those people, do you?  You don't care at all what happens to them.”

“Sure, I do, but I know when we've lost the war, and those people weren't listening, not to a single word,” Jack stated.  “Even if they did listen, we're spread too thin as it is, Daniel.  We don't have the financial support from the government or the manpower to do what would be needed to bring about the kind of change you're talking about.  The resources aren't there.  That's not my opinion, it's a fact.”

“Oh, so because you don't think it would be easy, we leave?”  Waving his arms about to emphasize his words, Daniel pointed out, “Those people you are talking about are abusing and murdering half their population.  They maim and murder without blinking.  That's okay?  Is that what you're saying?” he questioned harshly.

“Don't be ridiculous,” Jack responded, shaking his head.  ~This is getting insane.~

“So now I'm ridiculous?”

“Daniel, what I'm saying is that you know me better than that.  Now, I'm hungry. Let's order a pizza.”

“Do I, Jack?” Daniel spoke with a solemn tone as he stared into his lover's brown eyes.  “I thought I did, but listening to you now, I have to wonder.  We're talking about people's lives, and you're ... you're worrying about your stomach?  Terla and Ruk are probably dead by now.  Don't you care about that?”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Daniel.  There's nothing else we could have done.  It's over.  Let it go.  Forget the pizza; we'll have Froot Loops.”

“Froot Loops?” Daniel echoed quietly as he stared in amazement at this man he loved.  He couldn't be hearing what he thought he was.  They had befriended Terla and her son, tried to help them, but, in the end, they'd been caught and made a target because they were singled out for befriending SG-1.  ~He can't be this blind.~

Terla and Ruk had been brought before their master, who had, without a moment of hesitation, beaten the spirited young woman to unconsciousness in front of her ten-year-old son and the visitors from Earth.

The master's servants had started on Ruk next, slapping him, but when both Jack and Daniel interfered, the beating was stopped, “for the duration of your visit, and then punishment will continue.”

Daniel knew their punishment would be death by beating.

~How could Jack be so unfeeling about this?~

The passionate archaeologist shook his head and reached into his pants pocket, taking out his keys to his 1999 Shelby-American, the car Jack had gotten for him last year.

Jack saw the move, and cringed, but was battling between anger, frustration and wanting to pick Daniel up and lock him in their room to prevent his impending exit.

“You going to run out, Daniel?  We disagree on planetary politics, and you leave *again*?”

“What do you want me to do, sit down and have a romantic dinner knowing Terla and Ruk are lying in some unmarked grave somewhere, being spit upon by the masters who gloat over their killings?” the younger man questioned as he fidgeted with his keys.

“Geez, Danny,” Jack said, twisting around to look out the patio as he ran his right hand through his hair.

“Ruining your appetite, Jack?” Daniel challenged angrily, prompting his lover's focus to jerk back from the window to him.  “Do you realize what they do to the murdered slaves on that planet?  They don't just bury them, they celebrate their deaths.”  Pointing downward with his hand, he elaborated, “They throw them in little graves, without covering them.  They leave them open for ... for whatever insect or beast or whatever is out there to do ... whatever they want with.

“And whenever a master walks by, they spit on it, on the remains as they rot.  They leave the graves open for days before closing them off.  I guess not having the same sense of smell as we do, they don't notice the rancid odor of the decay.  What do you want on your pizza, Jack?”

“Daniel, stop,” the older man requested, standing with both hands on his hips.  “You're being unreasonable.  Balinsky was satisfied,” he claimed, apparently thinking that would have an impact on his angry archaeologist.

“I'm *not* Balinsky, Jack, and don't stand there acting like you know it all, because you don't.  SG-13 never got close to the inhabitants of the planet; that's why they called us in.  Balinsky was an observer from a distance.  He never had a chance to get to know those people or understand their culture in the slightest.”  Full of negative emotion, Daniel jutted his hands forward, the palms facing each other, almost as if he could strangle his lover for being so rigid about the situation, as he spoke heatedly, “Gawd, you've turned your back on Terla and the others, and I just don't understand that.”

Jack responded, “I don't like what happens on that planet any more than you do, but we don't have the ability to change their fate either.”

“Why not?  We spend billions to go looking for 'big honkin' weapons', so why can't we invest some of that in trying to change their culture?”

“Listen to yourself, Daniel.  It's *their* culture.  *They* make the choices.  We can't decide who lives and dies,” Jack protested.

Daniel sneered, “And what about on P5S-381, Jack?  Isn't that exactly what you did?  You pitted one culture against another,and made a choice, a decision I might add that would have blown me to bits had it worked.  What's the difference ...  Colonel?”

Jack paled at the memory of what had happened a few years ago when he had to make the hardest decision of his life.  He had been forced to choose between the Enkarans, whom had only recently been transported to the planet via the Stargate, and the Gadmeer, an insect-like race looking for a new world.  They'd found the planet and had begun to terraform it be compatible to their race.

The colonel's solution had been to create a bomb that would destroy the Gadmeer before the terraforming killed the Enkarans.  Daniel, however, had gone in search of after another solution and had transported to the Gadmeer vessel.

His heart stopped, Jack had been faced with pressing a button that would destroy the alien ship and kill his soulmate at the same time.  Reluctantly, with encouragement from Sam and Teal'c that Daniel had made a choice and that he couldn't wait any longer if he wanted the bomb to be effective, Jack had pressed the button.  Fortunately, just in the nick of time, Daniel had, indeed, found a solution that allowed the Gadmeer to complete their terraforming of a new world and also relocate the Enkarans to their long lost home world.  The event had been very emotional and traumatic for both men.

“How could you bring that up, Daniel?  We dealt with that, years ago.  I thought you understood; I thought we both did,” Jack said solemnly.  ~I would have died, if you had died.  That was a nightmare I just want to forget.~

Undaunted by the sudden appearance of pain in his lover's eyes, Daniel replied, “Well, apparently not, Jack.  I'll never understand how you can disregard one life for another, especially when the ones being sacrificed are abused and innocent like Terla and Ruk.”

“Then I guess maybe we still have issues that need to be handled before ...” Jack began, unable, however, to finish his sentence.  ~How'd we get here?  What happened?~

Daniel's eyes grew wide, his voice was low when he responded, “I guess ... we do ... have ... issues.  Maybe we should ...”  The younger man couldn't finish his sentence either.  ~What just happened?~

Both men remained very still, neither saying a word.  Jack anxiously ran both hands over his head while Daniel stared down at the silver keys.

“Let's eat, Daniel,” Jack suggested, hoping a little time would calm the cyclone circling their home at the moment.  ~We'll just pretend we didn't say what we just said,~ walking two steps towards the dining nook.

“I'm ... not hungry,” Daniel said as he headed for the door.  ~I wish we hadn't said what we did, but we did.  Maybe it's for the best.~

“Daniel, where are you going?” a frustrated Jack called out.

The younger man never turned around.  He walked out the door and got into his Silver Fox, the car that reminded him so much of his lover.  He bowed his head briefly against the steering wheel, trying not to think about Jack, but it was hard not to while sitting inside the sporty vehicle that so symbolized his lover to him.

“DANIEL!” Jack shouted from the front door.  ~I should stop him.  Why am I always stopping him?  It takes two to tango ... and to fight.~

Ignoring the yell, Daniel started the engine, put the car in gear, and began to back out of the driveway, intending to go to his apartment.

“Fine, go ahead.  Have a good night, Daniel.  I'm *not* coming after you,” Jack spat as Daniel disappeared into the street.  Then, to nothing but the wind, he lied, “No skin off my nose.”

Two “woofs” pulled Jack's attention from the fleeing silver car.

~Crap,~ Jack lamented as he walked into the living room, stopping by the sofa and smiling sadly as he saw his and Daniel's two beautiful beagles, Bijou and Katie, sitting at the patio door, frowns on their faces.  “Geez, what a heel, O'Neill,” he said aloud, laughing sarcastically at his silly rhyme.

The still-angry man let the dogs in and kneeled down to say a proper hello, except instead of the usual deluge of kisses, he noticed the girls gave him just a couple licks and ran to the front door, where they immediately began barking.

“I am *not* going after him.  Forget it.  He's being overly sensitive, and I'm hungry,” Jack told the canines as he sat on the arm of his favorite chair.  He added with a sigh, “I thought he forgave me for that Gadmeer mess.  I would have died if he had.”

Jack stood up and ordered a pizza, ignoring the silent treatment he was receiving from the two dogs who continued to sit restlessly by the front door.

====

Daniel leaned back in the seat of his car, gazing upward at his apartment balcony.

~It's so lonely here,~ the archaeologist thought.  ~It's all I have.~  Without realizing it, his right hand began to caress the passenger seat.  After a minute or so, he looked at his hand and drew it into a fist.  “They have rights.  How can we ignore that?  How can we turn our backs on people who ... who need us?”

Full of despair, Daniel opened the door and got out of the Silver Fox.  He paused as his hands ran along the sleek build of the vehicle.

~It's a sexy car, just like ... just ...~

Daniel shook his head, triggered the vehicle's alarm, and headed inside his apartment building.

====

“Extra cheese -- you two should like this,” Jack said as he took a whiff of the pizza.  “Here, you can ... oh, come on.  You love pizza.”

Bijou and her pup continued to stare at Jack.  They were following him everywhere, but not with enthusiastic eyes and wagging tails; rather, their frowning faces seemed to be glaring at him.

“Fine.  I'm going up on the roof.  You'll be sorry!  I'm not saving you any,” the colonel groused as he left the beagles and headed for the roof deck.

====

Daniel sat on the cold concrete of the apartment balcony, his back against the glass patio window.  His knees were drawn to his chest, his hands sitting on top of his knees.  He fluctuated back and forth from staring at his chilled hands to leaning his head back against the glass and staring upwards at the stars filling the night sky.

The sad and confused man hadn't changed clothes and was still in the maroon short sleeve cotton tee-shirt and pepperstone blue jeans that he had worn home from the SGC.  The air was nippy, and his skin was breaking out in goose bumps, but still he sat in silence, agonizing over the distant policies of another planet, a now-dead mother and son, and his failure to affect a change that would have saved their lives.

====

Jack sat on one of the white deck chairs he kept on the roof deck.  The box of pizza sat on the other chair, Daniel's chair, unopened.  He had changed into the gray sweatshirt Daniel loved so much, and the matching sweatpants.

Moving forward and taking the lens off the telescope, the amateur astronomer tried to get interested in seeing some distant stars and uninhabited worlds, but all Jack could see were planets where maybe some life existed.  Actually, the more he looked through the lens, the more he could only see the majestic blue eyes of his lover, imploring him to act and interfere in a society's much-different culture.

Frustrated, Jack recapped the lens and sat back in the chair.  He looked over at the box of pizza and opened it.

~Didn't I say I was hungry?~ the colonel asked himself as he shut the lid of the box quickly.  The pizza had cooled long ago, and Jack's appetite had grown cold along with the food.  ~It must have been in one of Carter's alternate realities because I'm definitely not hungry.~

Full of melancholy, Jack reached into the single pocket of the sweatpants and pulled out his wallet.  Behind pictures of Charlie and the beagles, he kept a special item he desperately wanted to wear publicly one day.  He sighed and put the gold band on his finger, needing to feel something of Daniel on him.

“Why, Danny?  Why can't you see that we can't solve all the problems in the universe?  And why didn't you forgive me?”

====

A call from nature had been the only thing that had gotten Daniel up since his arrival at the apartment.  He had considered lying down on the bed in the bedroom, but as he had stared at the large frame, he knew he'd feel too empty there alone, so he had returned to his spot on the hard concrete balcony.

It was getting cooler, and the archaeologist occasionally rubbed his arms to try and warm them.  Still, he was so lost in the thoughts of Terla and Ruk, and of Jack, that he didn't go inside or even change into warmer clothes.

As he reflected upon recent events, Daniel reached into his wallet and carefully pulled out the small item he kept hidden there.  He held the golden circle in his hand for a moment, pondering all the love and meaning it held.  Then, he put the ring on his finger, his eyes never losing site of the wedding ring he treasured in his heart.

“I don't understand, Jack.  Why don't you care?” Daniel asked the night winds as they chilled his goose bumped skin.

====

~Enough of this.~  Jack climbed down the ladder with the still uneaten pizza.  “Last chance.  You girls want this?” he asked Bijou and Katie, both of whom sat expressionless in front of their doghouse.

Normally, they'd be at Jack's feet, clamoring for attention, demanding a morsel of the pizza, but not tonight, not with one member of the family noticeably missing.

“I'm not going after him, not this time,” Jack told the girls, fooling himself into believing the statement.  Their 'kids' were staring him down, their faces with frowns and not their usual smiles.  “Oh, for crying out loud,” he yelled as he walked over to the trash can and threw the pizza into the garbage.

Jack stomped back into the house and plopped into his armchair.  He felt strange, like he was being watched.  Eventually, his eyes went over to the fish.

“Stop staring at me; he doesn't want to be around me,” Jack barked at three of the fish that seemed to be looking at him through the large aquarium glass.  ~Who are trying to convince, O'Neill -- the fish or yourself?~

In their seven-year history, Jack had always gone after Daniel.  Sometimes, in the beginning, it was to make him deal with some disaster on a planet and sometimes it was to help him deal with the massive amount of 'crap' that the universe had unleashed on him.

Daniel had learned to rely only on himself after his parents had been tragically killed in a museum accident.  His grandfather had refused to allow him to be adopted, while at the same time ignoring him, abandoning the young boy to a fate possibly worse than that of an orphan.  Daniel had spent years being shuffled from foster home to foster home, trying to fit in, but with his intelligence and sensitivity, he never did.

The genius' self-hugs had become his only nurturing, and the older he got, the more the adult Daniel had shielded the orphaned and abandoned child from ever being hurt again.

When Jack had found Daniel in the halls of the SGC after the second mission to Abydos, a pattern had been set.  Daniel had become the lost soul, and Jack his lighthouse, always beaming his light brightly for Daniel to use to find his way home, to Jack.

Jack didn't mind the pattern.  Somehow, he understood that little boy who was scared, just as he understood the adult who needed to protect the child.

The colonel had his own self-defense mechanism, only his retreat was in sarcasm and attitude, and, unlike Daniel, he had a family that had given him plenty of love as he had grown up in Chicago, not to mention the wonderful summers and frequent trips to Minnesota.  Jack didn't feel the need to hug himself because he had a mother and father who had hugged him often.

During their romance, Jack had learned that Daniel needed reassurance that Jack wouldn't tire of him and abandon him, just like his grandfather had, and just like the many sets of foster families he had allowed himself to get attached to had.

In the early years, Daniel had sometimes been hesitant or maybe even afraid to admit what his own needs or wants or secret fantasies had been.  When they had fought early on, he had always been sure it was the end of their love affair.  He had packed his bags more than once, assuming they were through.  The archaeologist just hadn't been able to imagine a happily-ever-after ending.

The younger man had run home to the apartment a few times, sure Jack hadn't wanted him anymore.  It had taken Jack years to get through to Daniel that he loved him more than life, and nothing but nothing would separate them.

Jack would not abandon Daniel, and in the last couple of years, Daniel had finally grown to believe it.  He hadn't been afraid or shy anymore about telling Jack what he needed from him, and they had built a happy life together.  In fact, it was Daniel who had proposed marriage, and that in itself showed just how much Daniel had learned to believe in their love.

~It's been a long time since you've run away, Danny,~ Jack thought as he remembered their life together.  “Why now?” he asked curiously, desperate to know why, after all this time, the younger man had walked out the door without even a glance over his shoulder.

~That hurt, Love,~ Jack admitted, thinking about how Daniel had brought up the Enkarans and Gadmeer during their argument.  ~It was over and done with.  We discussed that; heck, we argued over it, but then ...~  He smiled, recalling how they eventually made up.  He was sure Daniel understood, or they would have broken up back then.  Bringing it up now made no sense.  “Why, Danny?” he asked aloud.

There was an answer.  Jack was sure of it.  As a lighthouse turned on its beams to shine at night, his mind began to work the puzzle that was his soulmate.  He got up, ostensibly to get a beer, and saw Bijou and Katie sitting quietly in front of the patio door.  He opened it and let them in.  Not surprisingly, they ran straight to the entranceway, then turned to face Jack and sat down.

Jack couldn't help it.  He laughed.  No one would believe this, no one, that is, except for Daniel.  He walked over to the door and picked up his keys that sat on the entranceway table.

“Woof!”

“Woof!”

Two tails began to wag excitedly, the smiles reappearing on the beagle's faces.

“Okay, you win.  I'll ... bring him home.  You two behave.  Guard the house.  Call me if anyone tries to break in,” Jack laughed as he leaned over and petted each dog before going out the door.

====

As if frozen in time, even as midnight approached and the air grew more frigid by the minute, Daniel remained seated on the balcony.  The winds had increased, tossing the archaeologist's hair with each breath of the breeze.  He was cold as ice.  His knees were still up to his torso, his hands clenched together, and his head bowed from defeat and loss.

Daniel didn't understand why he was there, imitating a statue on the cold balcony.  Why had he and Jack argued?  Why was this planet's situation so important to Daniel?  Why was he suddenly questioning Jack's humanity?  Why had he run away from his home, from Jack?

~Why am I here alone?  Why am I here at all?  Why aren't I ... home?~

Jack's words, “I'm not coming after you,” echoed in Daniel's brain, replaying over and over again.  He was angry at himself for expecting his husband-to-be to come to the apartment, for wanting him to come.  He was angrier still that he wanted to go home and yet sat motionless on the hard concrete.

~I shouldn't be here.  This is ... it's wrong.~

As he sat under the darkened sky, Daniel realized he had to go home and that he had to find a way to understand why Terla and Ruk meant so much so him.  How could these aliens be so important that they could, at least on the surface, drive such a wedge between he and his lover?

If only he could find the courage to stand up, this second, and go home, then, maybe, Daniel could find the answers he needed, together, with Jack.  He and Jack were unbeatable when they were one.

~One.  A couple.  Two lives intertwined.  He's me, and I'm him.  Happy.  We're ... we ... were happy.  Together.  We have to figure this out,~ Daniel thought, his mind jumbled with thoughts about his relationship with the older man and their impending marriage.

Daniel twisted the wedding band on his finger, longing to make sense out of the last few hours.  He hated to admit it, but he desperately needed Jack to come save him, just one more time, though he didn't know why.

“Gawd, Jack, please come,” Daniel whispered, hating himself at the same time for needing it to happen.  ~Why can't I get up?  Why can't I go to him?  Why?~

Daniel bowed his forehead against the hands that now sat on his knees, a tear escaping from his eye.  He felt so lost, and he truly didn't know why.

====

Jack used his key to walk inside the dark apartment.  He immediately felt the brisk air and knew where his partner was.  Slowly, he made his way to the living room.  He paused, seeing the lonely archaeologist sitting against the patio door.

~Danny,~ the colonel inwardly sighed as he put his keys in his pocket.  After a moment, he ambled leisurely to the balcony, stepping down onto it and walking forward to its edge.  He put his hands on the railing and looked out over the growing town.  “Nice night.”

“I guess so,” Daniel responded, his head still bowed, sure he had fallen asleep and was dreaming Jack's comforting voice.

“Daniel,” Jack said softly as he turned to face him, leaning back against the railing for a moment.

Daniel's head raised, and he blinked a few times as he convinced himself he wasn't dreaming.

“Jack?”

With a small smile on his face, the older man walked to where Daniel sat and extended his left hand.  Daniel looked up and stared at Jack's hand, slowly reaching out with his left hand to meet it.  Jack took hold, and for a moment, the balcony intensified with the electricity between the two men.  They stared as their hands remained joined.  It wasn't cold anymore, not when they were united as they were now.  Gently, Jack pulled his Heart up to him, still not letting go of their joined hands.

Jack continued to smile as Daniel stared, his mouth open just slightly.  Brown eyes met blue at the strange coincidence that both had put on their wedding rings, even though they'd each come close to saying the romance was over just hours earlier.

Finally, Jack released Daniel's hand, choosing to put his arms around the archaeologist and pulling him as close as he could.  He breathed in his lover's scent, letting it fill him with goodness.  Daniel's arms slowly went up to Jack's back as he rested his chin against Jack's shoulder.

“You're freezing, Danny.”

“I thought you weren't coming,” Daniel replied, not caring about the temperature.

“The girls gave me the cold shoulder.  It was come and get you or have them haunt me,” Jack jested.

“Oh.”

Jack sighed, knowing his attempt at humor had gotten him nowhere, and stated softly, “Danny, I love you.  You know that.  We just forgot to leave it at the office, that's all.”

“I thought we ... I thought we weren't going to argue like that anymore.  I didn't mean it, Jack, about the Enkaran planet.  I ... just ... I ...”

Jack pulled back to look Daniel in the eyes, bringing his left hand to caress his lover's cheek.  He could see where the tears had fallen earlier, the track still wet from the emotion.  He moved gently to the moisture and kissed the tear track of Daniel's cheek and then slowly moved to Daniel's lips and placed a small tentative kiss there before pulling back to look again into his lover's eyes.

“We'll probably always argue,” the colonel admitted.  “We're different, Danny.  We both know that.  We're human.  We ... forgot, that's all.”

“Are you sure?” the younger man asked vulnerably.

“Yeah, I'm sure,” Jack spoke confidently.

Daniel leaned back into Jack and rested his head on his shoulder, sighing as he looked out at the night sky.  It felt so good to be held, but he still needed the answers as to why this day had happened.  He also realized that he had struck out unjustly at his soulmate.  The pain of that was swelling inside of him, even as Jack's love was calming him.

“Jack, about the Gadmeer, I do understand.  I just ... Gawd, I hate to admit it, but I wanted you to hurt, to feel what I was feeling for those people.  I'm sorry, Jack.  I'm so sorry,” Daniel intoned with a cracked voice.

“Shhh,” Jack whispered into his regretful lover's ear.  “I know, Danny.  I would have died, if you had.  You know that.”

“I do, Jack.  I know.  I'm so sorry.”

“It's okay, Angel,” Jack reassured.

Jack soothed Daniel for a couple of minutes as they stood holding each other, fighting their way back to their center, divesting themselves of old wounds and ever present differences.

“Why, Jack?  Why didn't you care about the slaves?” Daniel asked.  Pleadingly, he requested, “Tell me you cared.”

Daniel was sure that caring was the core of the issue tearing him apart.  The reality of how the situation ended was tragic, and he needed to know that the man who was his soul cared about the fate of the people just as he did.  His plea to Jack for an explanation had sounded almost desperate, the need to understand consuming him.

“I do care, Danny, but I ...” Jack paused, then continued, “It sounds cold, but I guess I can turn it off easier than you.  We weren't getting anywhere with those people.  We could stay there for months and probably still not get anywhere. They're barbarians.  Someday, they'll have a civil war, and hopefully things will change, but it will be in their time and no one else's.”

“But there has be something, Jack.  How can we just leave them?  Terla and Ruk -- you know they're dead?”

“Daniel, you carry the burdens of the universe on your shoulders,” the older lover replied.  “You have so much passion and caring in your heart and soul that sometimes it works against you.  Yes, I know they're dead, and so are many of the others we met in that disgusting place.  What are we supposed to do -- arm them, teach them to fight, stop fighting the Goa'uld and concentrate on saving them while we get overrun?” he questioned rationally.  “We only have so much manpower.  We have limits, Daniel, whether we like it or not.”

Daniel spoke softly, “But they're dead, Jack, and we just ... walked away, and that's supposed to be okay?  Let's come home, eat pizza, make love, and ... and forget.  Is that what we're supposed to do?”

“Pizza and making love?  Works for me!”  Immediately, he felt his lover tense.  ~Okay, humor's out, for now.~  He kissed Daniel's neck, and squeezed him against his body briefly.  Taking a deep breath, he fought to forge on with the words, something that had always been so difficult for him.  “Danny, I'll get Hammond to set up a rotation.  We'll send teams through periodically to check up and see if anything's changed on the planet.  We'll keep trying to get the Roayians to see the light.  It's ... it's the best I can do, Danny.”

Daniel backed away slightly to look at Jack.  He found Jack's left arm and tugged it away from his back to hold it in his hand.  Everything inside told him Jack was serious, that he meant every word.  Still, he had to know one thing.  He just couldn't let it go.

“Tell me you care.  I need to hear the words,” the younger man stated.

Jack finally realized with that question that it wasn't just the fate of the enslaved Roayians that bothered Daniel, but that he hadn't shown compassion for the deaths of Terla and Ruk.  Sometimes, he was a little too good at hiding his feelings.

~You usually see right through me, Danny,~ Jack thought about the facades he usually built up as a protection.

This time, though, Daniel was so wrapped up in the sad fate of these people that his Jack-radar was a little off.  He couldn't sense the truth that was buried inside his lover's heart.

Then, too, Jack knew there was even more to it than even Daniel was admitting to yet.  He pulled away and went inside, taking a seat on the couch.  He leaned forward, placing his hands on his knees.  As he had done earlier in the evening, he twisted his wedding band with his fingers.

Self-hugging, Daniel stood a few feet away, watching and waiting for a response.

“Yes, I care about those people, all of them, but there are limits to what we can do, and like it or not, Daniel, I'm trained to recognize those limits,” Jack began, hating that he was about to give a lecture.  ~I hate words.~  “If we had stayed there, the only thing we would have done was cause more people to die sooner.  The leaders looked at us as if we were challenging their life and they knew it.  It was a game.  I know that's difficult for you to understand because it's not who you are.  You don't play games, not like that.

“Danny, the best we can do is try to keep contact, try to hope that maybe leadership will change, let them know how we feel, what we have to offer if things do change, but I wouldn't hold your breath.  I've seen those types before, and they are ugly, spiteful, hateful beings who don't know anything about compassion, on any level.

“I ... care a lot, Daniel, and I'd hoped you knew that by now, but if I let myself think about what happened to Ruk because he befriended us, I'll go crazy.  I can't think about it.  I'm sorry.”

Jack stood up and walked towards the kitchen.  He stretched his hands out, pressing them against the counter.  He closed his eyes briefly as he took a deep breath, trying to control the lump that was forming in his throat.

“So, I'll talk to Hammond.  SG-13 probably wouldn't do much good, but maybe one of the negotiating teams can go back and see if we missed something; but SG-1 can't go back there, Danny.”  Jack paused, then dramatically added, “*I* can't go back there.”  He turned around to face Daniel, rigidly leaning his back against the countertop, adding with a touch of trepidation in his voice, “It's the best I can offer.  Is that good enough?”

Daniel blinked, then walked back to the balcony, his arms still folded in front of him.  He looked up at the stars, marveling at their majesty.

Jack followed his lover and stood behind him, wanting to touch, but afraid it was too soon after his ~long-winded speech.  I hate words.~

As the lovers looked up together at the sky, a falling star went shooting by.  They both turned and looked into each other's eyes, small smiles of recollection on their faces as they thought about their very first night together on their faces.

Daniel looked down and then back up to the stars and said, “I'm ... cold, Jack.”

Jack's smile grew upon hearing the comment, and he quickly replied, “I think I may have a way to ... fix that.”

“I was hoping you would.”

Before Jack could wrap his hands around Daniel, the younger man turned and practically leaped into his arms, kissing him with love and desire.

“Love those falling stars,” Jack said with a grin.

“Me, too,” Daniel agreed as he kissed Jack again.  It felt so good.  ~Need him.~

“You really are cold, Danny.”

“You'll warm me up,” Daniel replied as he started to lead Jack into the bedroom.

Suddenly, Jack stopped their movement, a worried expression on his face.

“What's wrong?” the younger man inquired.

“I left the girls in the house.  Besides, they were upset,” Jack explained.

“Our girls.”  Daniel laughed as he cozied back up to Jack.  “We argued in front of them.  We said we'd never do that.”

“Danny, they turned down pizza -- extra cheese, even,” the colonel revealed.

Smiling, the archaeologist replied, “They're so tuned into us.”

“A lot of dogs are like that, sensing it when people are upset.  They saw we were acting differently, heard the tone of our voices.  Our beagles are very smart, too; they know when something's not right between us.”

“They don't like it anymore than we do,” Daniel remarked.

Confidently, Jack responded, “We'll make it up to them, and we won't do it again.”

“I hope not.  I ... don't want to argue like that anymore myself,” Daniel stated, his voice quivering ever-so-slightly as he looked downward for a moment.

“I'm sorry, Danny.”

“No, this one ... this one was my fault, Jack.  I just ... got too close ... again.  I'm not sure why I reacted the way I did, or why I've behaved so ... like some whiny child.”  Daniel smiled as he continued, “My Love, you have the biggest heart.  It was just so hard to see that level of misery in that place.”  He paused, laying his head on Jack's shoulder to help shield the emotion of his thoughts.  “They're dead because of us, Jack.  I know you care.  I couldn't love you so freakin' much if you didn't.”

“I know, Angel.  I know.”

Both men held each other, reassuring and comforting, each drying the others tears they had tried so hard not to shed for a world they couldn't change, at least not yet.  Then, Daniel grew more silent and inward.

“Hey,” Jack called out quietly.  “What are you thinking?”

It was time to face the issue behind the issue, the one that complicated an already complicated situation.

Daniel gazed into the chocolate brown eyes that he loved so, and asked, “Why did I run, Jack?  I ... ran, walked out of our house, away from you and our life together.  I shouldn't have, not after all these years, after all we've been through.”

“It wasn't you, Danny,” Jack said as he raised his left hand to caress his lover's cheek.  “It was that little boy inside you, the one who's afraid of being abandoned again.  Do you remember that time, a few years ago, we talked about your name?”

“After the Keeper,” Daniel quietly acknowledged, referring to the leader of P7J-989 who had imprisoned SG-1, forcing both Jack and Daniel to relive tragic moments, which for Daniel was the deaths of his parents.

“There's a part of you that tries to protect that child from being hurt, tries to shield you from feeling that lonely pain all over again, so I think maybe that little piece of you made a last ditch effort to keep little Danny safe, not believing that we're forever, but we are, Danny.  I'm not leaving you, not ever, so that abandoned little boy is just going to have to learn how to be happy.  I'm giving his protector his walking papers because protecting you is my job now.”

“It's high maintenance,” Daniel lightly teased, his smile still a bit more sad at the haunted memories than happy in the moment.

“I can handle it,” Jack maintained.  “Besides, in your heart and soul, the biggest part of you knew I'd come, that I could never let you walk away from us without a fight.”  He snorted, “That little disagreement we had today was nothing.  It would take a helluva lot more than that to blast me away from you.  In fact, it's friggin' impossible.  I'm glued to you for eternity, Love.”

“But you said you weren't coming after me,” Daniel reminded.  “Did you know you ... well, Jack, did you know then that you would come after me?”

Jack laughed softly as his hands ran up Daniel's arm, to his neck, and then his cheek.

“Me?  Mister Tough-as-Nails-Colonel-Pain-in-the-Mikta Jack O'Neill? I was so tough, Danny, that I never ate a bite of that pizza, not a one,” Jack began.  “I sat up on the roof and needed to feel close to you, so I put on the ring because it felt like you were there then.  All the while, I'm ranting at the girls that I wasn't going after you.  I even yelled at the fish.”

“Jack!”

Chuckling, the older man stated, “Yeah, I knew I'd come because I will never let you go, Danny; never.  So what's your excuse?”

“Excuse?”

“Ring,” Jack explained, nodding at Daniel's wedding band.

“Same thing.  Putting it on made me feel ... bonded, closer.  I wanted you to understand, Jack, to feel what I was feeling, too.  It sounds stupid in retrospect.  I want you to know, though, that I would have gone home, because you are my home, and I love you.  Funny, though, that we both did that, put on our rings.”

“It's because we both know that this argument was just that, an argument, not the first one, and certainly not our last.  We love each other and this,” Jack took Daniel's hand and traced the ring with his fingers, “reminds us of that.  It goes on forever, just like we do.  The circle of our love, right?”

“It goes on forever, just like we do,” Daniel repeated with a smile that lit up Jack's heart.  The soulmates kissed, Jack's strong arms scooping Daniel up as close to him as he could get.  The young lover moaned from pleasure, his arms going around Jack's neck, his fingers stroking the ends of his gray hairs.  “Hmmm.  We have a ... wedding to plan, don't we?”

It was a statement with just a tinge of a question to it.  Daniel's heart stopped briefly waiting for Jack's affirmation, the one he needed to know they'd always be together.

“You got that right; and a honeymoon, too,” Jack said happily.

Daniel giggled, “Never been on a honeymoon.”

“No?” Jack asked, surprised.  “You and Sha're didn't take off to some sand dune somewhere?”

“No, just had that big, big, big party,” Daniel chuckled lightly.

“Well, be warned, Doctor Jackson, we're going on the honeymoon of honeymoons.”

“I can't wait,” Daniel replied, his eyes shining with delight.

Jack suggested, “Let's go show the girls everything is okay, and then we can get to that warming up business.”

“I'd like that ... a lot,” Daniel agreed, kissing his lover again.  The two headed for the door but before they got there, he remembered something important.  “Jack, our rings.”

“Leave them on.”

“We got away with that once.  Don't you think we're pushing our luck?” Daniel inquired, concerned about the potential of being caught wearing them.

“To be honest, Danny, I don't care who sees,” Jack acknowledged honestly.  “Let's go home.”

====

“Woof!  Woof!  Woof!  Woof!”

“I told you I'd bring him home,” Jack laughed as Bijou and Katie gave sloppy kiss after kiss to Daniel.

“Sorry, Girls,” the archaeologist spoke.  “I'm back, and I promise, I won't go away like that again.”

“Woof!” Bijou responded, staring at Jack with questioning black eyes.

“Yes, I'm glad he's back, too.  C'mere, Angel.  They want proof.”  Jack pulled Daniel into his arms and kissed him passionately in front of their two watchful dogs.  Then he looked down at the two smiling beagles and laughed, “See, everything's okay now.”

“Woof!  Woof!” the two dogs responded as they went over to the patio door, a request to go outside now that their family was reunited.

“You should have seen them, Danny; they wouldn't even talk to me.”

“Oh, so you came after me to ... save face with the children?” Daniel teased.

Jack locked the door after letting the happy beagles outside for the night, and laughed, “I came after you for this.”

“JACK!” Daniel protested after his lover picked him up, threw him over his shoulder,  and started up the stairs.  “JACK, what the heck are you doing?”

“Me caveman, you conquest.”

“Jack, that's bad.”

“You ain't seen bad yet, Dannyboy, but you're about to,” Jack snarked, spanking his lover lightly on his butt.

“Jack!”

Reaching the bedroom, Jack carefully placed Daniel onto the bed and then climbed on top of him as he spoke, “I love you, Danny.  How about we get an early start on that honeymoon?”

“Sometimes, you're a genius, Jack O'Neill,” Daniel replied with a joyful smile.  “I love you, Jack.  Thank you, for ...”

“... coming after you?”

“Yes, but mostly for getting rid of that abandoned child,” the younger man stated.  “I think he's finally gone, Jack.  It's taken a long time, hasn't it?  I'm surprised you didn't just give up.”

“I could never give up on you, or us.  I have nothing but time where you are concerned.”

His hands warming his soulmate's body, Daniel confessed, “I ... would have come back, Jack.  I promise you I would have.”

“I know, Love.”

“Niagara Falls?” Daniel suggested, moving on to the discussion of where to go on their honeymoon.

Jack laughed, “A little too cliché, don't ya think?”

After another kiss, Daniel suggested, “Mexico City?”

“Too hot!” Jack whined.

“Hmmm ... <kiss> ... then I guess the Caribbean ... <moan> ... is out, too?”

“I'll go anywhere you want to go, Daniel.  Anywhere,” Jack announced, overcome by the 'everything' that was his lover.

“Well, it should be somewhere we both want to ... <kiss> ... go, someplace exotic or romantic, or maybe ... <moan> ... educational ...”

“Educational?” Jack questioned.  “No way.  Try again.  We're not going anywhere where your brain is thinking more than your ...”

“Jack!” Daniel chastised.  “Well, there are museums and historical places even in romantic places.  We could even go laugh at the pyramids ... <kiss> ... or maybe I'll let you fish.”

“Not fishing on our honeymoon.”

“Europe, someplace like France ... <kiss> ... or Ireland, or ... <laugh> ... Japan.  I'd love to see you try to talk with all the Japanese citizens ... <kiss> ... or, oh I know, we could go to Russia.”

“Daniel, bite your tongue,” Jack responded, not wanting anything to do with that last suggestion.  “On second thought, I'll do that.”

“Jack?”

“What?” the older man asked.

“You're talking too much!” Daniel admonished.

“Me?”

Jack groaned loudly as Daniel laughed, and then they fused their bodies together into one as they made love, treasuring each other like never before.  Daniel was no longer the lost soul, having finally found his way home to the shore in the man who had been his lighthouse for years.  Now, at last, they were together, in their own safe harbor.

Moving forward in their love once again, the soulmates and husbands-to-be would figure out where to go on their honeymoon later.

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