Guilt's Indiscretion

Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category:  Slash, Angst, H/C, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  2
Spoilers:  Stargate (movie), Children of the Gods (both minor)
Size:  44kb, short story
Written:  April 24-26, May 11, 2004  Revised for consistency:  January 19, 2007
Summary:  While Jack is out of town, Daniel goes on a mission that has disastrous results.
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 past fic(s), “Lazy Day”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Kalimyre, Jackette!

Guilt's Indiscretion
by Orrymain and Claudia

Jack stared out the narrow window of the airplane.  A quick glance at his watch told him that the countdown was down to one hour and twenty-five minutes, and then, finally, after almost four days apart, he'd be reunited with the man of his dreams.

The colonel smiled as he stared at the white clouds written on the sky.  He thought back to a recent downtime taken with his lover at the Minnesota cabin.  They'd spent time finding cloud shapes in the sky.  It had been a simple thing, but it had been the first Daniel had ever played the cloud shape game.

~Looks like a spark plug.  Ah, there's a mushroom.  Goofy, ole pal!~  Jack continued to give names to each cloud he saw.  He was feeling good, happy to be going home to his lover.  ~My lover.  I do like the sound of that.~

Life hadn't always been easy for the lovers of five months, but they always came out ahead, stronger than before.

~We just need to stick together, Danny.  We'll get through anything because, well, when we're together, we're ... unbeatable.  Yeah!  Together we're unbeatable!~

Attired in his dress blues, Jack was eagerly anticipating his homecoming.  He had discovered Daniel had a special affinity for Jack's full dress uniform, one that turned the normally reserved archaeologist into a human mold of Jell-O -- a very aggressive mold of Jell-O.  After this week, he figured they'd be lucky to reach the stairs after he walked in the door.

The Air Force colonel lost his smile for a moment.  He wasn't sure if Daniel would be at the house or not.  Jack was arriving home as a surprise about twelve hours earlier than expected.  It was possible his lover might be at the SGC or his apartment.

~Nope.  I'm going to stay positive.  He will be home.  He will be home.  He *will* be home.~

====

Thanking the airman for the ride, Jack headed for his front door, feeling chipper. Daniel's old jalopy was in the driveway, and that meant it was time for some loving!  A bit smugly, he primped himself as he stood on the porch, making sure his uniform was in perfect placement for his lover to do with as he wished.

A smile on his face, Jack walked in, chirping teasingly, “Honey, I'm home.”  He placed his keys in his pocket, surprised not to see or hear his lover.  In fact, the house was deathly quiet.  Looking around as he walked up the stairs, something that was part habit, part curiosity, he thought, ~Aw, getting some beauty sleep, eh, Dannyboy?~

Jack's smile was back on his face.  Daniel was in the blue sweatsuit Jack had purchased for him recently, and the young man's shaggy hair was shining from the rays of sunlight that were highlighting it through the window blinds.

Daniel was on his right side, and as Jack became aware of the particulars in the vista before him, the smile he had been wearing vanished.  Without even a cover over him, Daniel was curled up into a ball, almost in a fetal position.  Walking closer, he observed the small bandage on his forehead.  He also saw the bottle of pills on the nightstand.

Picking them up, Jack read the label, noting, ~Dated yesterday.  Happy pills from the Doc.  Okay, you weren't supposed to be doing anything more strenuous than cataloguing artifacts while I was gone.  And you hate pills, so why would the Doc prescribe these, and, more importantly, why would you willingly take them?  Something's definitely wrong here. ~

For a moment, Jack considered waking the young man, but something told him Daniel probably needed this rest.  Quietly, his eyes focused on Daniel, Jack changed out of his dress blues into his gray sweatsuit, the one Daniel loved so much.  Then he walked downstairs and made the first of two phone calls.

“Doc, it's Colonel O'Neill ... Yeah, trip was good.  Just got back.  I, uh, well ... what can I say, Doc.  It's instinctive.  Someone has to look out for Daniel.  I am his CO ... right, yeah.  Anyway, he's asleep, Doc, and I noticed a bandage and a bottle of pills, so, what happened?”

Jack listened as he leaned forward in his favorite chair in the living room.  The cordless phone was in his right hand while his left hand was rubbing against his forehead, occasionally running through his hair.

When Janet concluded her report, Jack sighed, “Okay, so physical injuries are minimal.  Thanks.”  The colonel then placed his second call.  “Carter, it's O'Neill.  What the heck happened out there?” he asked a bit gruffly.

“I wasn't there, Sir, but I did hear about it,” Sam responded dryly and formally.

Jack took a breath and apologized, “Carter, I didn't mean to bite your head off.  I just got home.  I haven't talked to Daniel yet, but when I got home, I ...”

The colonel paused, just realizing that maybe he needed a better cover story.  After all, his love affair with Daniel was a secret.  No one in the world knew, except for a couple of folks who lived outside of the Springs.

Unexpectedly, Sam interjected, “Sir, are you with Daniel?  I hope you don't mind, but I know he went to your place, and I didn't think you'd have a problem with that, so I didn't interfere with his decision.”  Inwardly, Sam prayed, ~Please don't ask questions, Colonel.  Just let the story slide.  I know that's why you're calling.~

Jack cocked his head a bit, deciding that he'd let his poor cover story pass.  He'd have to remember to be more careful in the future.  He surmised his lover had asked to be dropped off at the house.  It wasn't really that unusual; they were best friends to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world knew that they always took care of each other whenever the other was injured.  He decided to just forge ahead.  Sometimes explanations only fouled up communication, anyway, or so the man rationalized.

“He looks like he's gone through a nightmare,” Jack continued about his soulmate.  “I'm trying to find out what happened before I wake him up.  I talked to the Doc, but all she knew was that Daniel was lucky, had a couple of cuts and bruises and some abrasions to his abdomen; more painful than anything else.  So, what happened?”

“I don't really know much,” Sam admitted, raising her eyes to the heavens in gratitude for her CO's choice to move ahead in their conversation.  “Daniel hasn't wanted to talk about it, but from what I gather, Sir, Daniel is alive because Laura Templeton threw herself in front of him.  She took a staff blast.  Apparently, she lingered a while.  There wasn't a medical team on site, and they couldn't activate the Stargate for hours because of the proximity of the Jaffa.  I ... guess her death was pretty painful, Sir.”

“And slow?”

“That's what I understand.”

“Carter, Daniel wasn't scheduled to go off-world while I was gone,” Jack pointed out.

Sam sighed, “SG-7 came across a temple.  I don't know the details about that, but whatever it was fascinated Daniel.  He asked General Hammond if he could accompany them.”

“Great.”

The captain sighed, then spoke, “Sir, one more thing.”

“What?” Jack asked, wondering just how it could get any worse.

“You may not realize that Laura is ... was ... a civilian,” Sam revealed.

Jack sat up straight.  He had been concentrating so much on the details that he'd missed the obvious.  What was Laura Templeton doing going through the Stargate?  He closed his eyes, his mind filling in the answer to the question he was about to ask.

“What was she doing on SG-7?” the colonel inquired.

“Daniel asked to her to go.  There was something unique about the design to do with the Mayans, something that Laura apparently specialized in.  He thought she deserved to go, and would want to.  She did.  When they got there, they were just beginning to do their research when the Jaffa attacked,” Sam elaborated.

“Was anyone else hurt?”  Jack heard the pause, then pressed forward.  “Carter, what could be worse than Templeton dying?”

“Sir, Brian Eberly was taken hostage.  The Jaffa apparently knew who Daniel was.  They said they'd give up Eberly for Daniel.”

~Crap!~  Jack's heart was aching.  He knew what was coming, and he knew what the reality had done to his lover.  Already resigned that the answer wouldn't be good, he prompted, “And?”

Sam continued, “According to Colonel Ingram, Daniel was willing to go, but Ingram wouldn't let him.  The Jaffa tortured Eberly in front of Daniel and the other survivors.”

“How'd they get away?”

“I don't know.  Colonel, Daniel's been withdrawn since the incident occurred, and I haven't seen the official report.  I know there was a skirmish, and somehow Daniel and some others were finally able to get through the Gate, but I really don't know the details.”

“Do you know how he was hurt?” Jack asked.

“In the skirmish,” Sam answered.  “I think there was some hand-to-hand, Sir, by the Stargate as they tried to regain control of the area.  But again, Daniel hasn't discussed it with me, and I really don't have all the specifics.”

The blonde was certain she sounded like a broken record, but she really didn't know all the facts, just bits and pieces she had picked up.

Jack responded, “Fraiser released him, so ...”

Sam cut off her CO, saying, “Janet only let him go because, well, actually she didn't let him go.  He left on his own, just walked out on her.  Her choice was to let him, or restrain him, and she just didn't think that was smart.  I followed Daniel to make sure he ... well, I mean.”

“I understand.  Thanks, Carter.”

“I'm sure he'll be fine, Colonel,” Sam reassured as best she could.

“Yeah, fine.  Goodnight,” Jack said a bit abruptly, knowing he'd need to apologize for that later.  He hung up the phone, letting it dangle in front of his chin for a moment.  ~Danny, you're on a huge guilt trip.  I'd bet the house on that.~  He groaned, then asserted, ~Forgive me, Love, but I can't let you take the blame for choices we all make.~

Replacing the phone in its cradle, Jack headed back upstairs.  He slipped off his shoes and lay on the bed, spooning in behind Daniel.

Jack ran his right hand up and down his lover's arm as he whispered, “Danny.  Wake up, Love.”  As he waited, he thought, ~I know if it were me, I'd need you, so call me arrogant, but right now, I think you need me more than you need sleep.~

“Wake up, Love,” Jack encouraged and then placed a tender kiss on the side of Daniel's neck and heard the soft moan of the young man as he began to wake.

The first thing Daniel became aware of as his mind returned to consciousness was the physical pain that he was in.  Then the events of the last two days came back in a rush.  He couldn't stop himself from letting out a small sob as he tried to curl himself into a tighter ball, willing himself to sink back into the blissful ignorance of unconsciousness.

Then he registered the voice that was calling to him.  ~Jack.  No.  Can't be.  He's not supposed to be back yet.~
 
Jack continued to stroke Daniel's head and arm as the young man woke.  The mewl of distress Daniel made as he awoke and remembered what he'd gone through was like a knife, cutting and twisting away in Jack's abdomen.

Daniel took note of the hand stroking him, the warm body behind him, the soft kisses being placed on the back of his neck.

“Jack?” the stunned archaeologist asked.  He was terrified of turning over, breaking the spell, part of him was sure this was a dream, and he didn't want to spoil it.  He couldn't help himself, though, and turned over to look at his lover.  Chocolate brown eyes full of love, concern and sympathy gazed back at him. “You know?” he inquired with a voice that was full of pain.

“Yeah, I know,” Jack answered, his voice was soft and gentle, full of love and compassion.  He saw the moisture in Daniel's eyes, the agony in his soul.  “Come here,” he requested as he lay back, bringing the younger man with him so that they were lying in their usual position.

“Gawd, I need this,” Daniel admitted with an all-too-weak voice as he moved to rest atop his lover.  “No,” he said softly, moving up the sweatshirt.

Jack smiled.  He knew the need to feel skin was sometimes overwhelming, and he knew the comfort and security Daniel always got from listening to his heartbeat.  It had always made him feel special to think Daniel relied on that so much.

“Here,” Jack said, helping his lover to pull the gray sweatshirt off.  Jack tossed it to the floor and smiled as Daniel seemed to contentedly move into place.

Daniel felt a soothing calm come over him as he nestled his head against the forest of chest hairs and listened to the heartbeat that always gave him courage and made him feel safe.  For a moment, he rubbed the base of his foot against Jack's leg and then settled it in between.

“Yes,” Daniel affirmed with a sigh.  “Need this.”

“It's all yours, Love.  Just yours.”

For a long time they lay in silence, Jack running his left hand up and down Daniel's back as they drew comfort from each other.

“Jack, I don't think I can do this anymore,” Daniel spoke softly.

Jack continued to stroke his lover as he processed this last comment.  He wasn't sure if Daniel was referring to the Stargate project or life in general.

“Okay.”  It was all he could say.  Jack would do everything in his power to ensure that Daniel received whatever he wanted or needed.

Daniel looked up to gaze into Jack's eyes.  He could see that Jack meant it.  Leaning up he planted a gentle kiss on the older man's lips.  It wasn't enough, and they kissed again, Daniel's kisses growing more desperate, more urgent as he gave in to the emotions rolling through him.  Daniel's hands began to roam Jack's body more as he moved over the older man.

“Use me, Danny.  Lose yourself in us for a while.  Come on, Love,” Jack pleaded.  Daniel leaned down and kissed Jack hard, taking control.  “That's it.  We're forever, and we're the reality.  I love you so friggin' much.”

Quickly, Daniel pulled off his sweatshirt, tossing it to the ground.  He didn't see that it landed right on top of Jack's gray one as if it belonged there. Daniel placed kiss after kiss on Jack's torso as he worked his way down his lover's body.  He continued, until he had removed Jack's bottoms, including his lover's boxers.

Within seconds, Daniel had discarded what remained of his own clothing.  He gave Jack another hard demanding kiss while he reached under the pillow with his right hand for the lube.  This wasn't about lovemaking, it was about fulfilling basic needs, and while he caressed Jack's shaft with his left hand, his concentration was on preparing his lover.  As soon as he was sure Jack was open, he slid into his lover's welcoming embrace.

There was no teasing, no game playing as they sometimes did.  The fusion of their bodies was needed in a straight, demanding way.

“That's it, Babe.  Everything I have is yours.  I'm giving.  I want you to take.  Take it all,” Jack requested from the depths of his soul.

Daniel needed this, and Jack was a willing participant.  He'd had times when all he needed was to feel Daniel, to hold him, to feel his own length hitting its target inside the younger man.  This time, it was Daniel in need as he searched for sanity and peace from the nightmare of the last mission.

Hearing his lover's words, Daniel began moving inside the older man, making sure that he hit Jack's prostate with every thrust.

“Don't ... come ... Jack ... need ... inside ... me,” Daniel instructed as he pounded away inside his lover until, with a cry of release, he reached his climax.  Barely giving himself time to recover, he withdrew and rolled over onto his back.  “Now, Jack.  Need you ...” he begged.  He saw his lover reach for the lube and stopped him by saying, “No, please, Jack, no.  I need this.  Hard and fast, please.”

Reluctantly, Jack nodded, and with minimal preparation, entered his soulmate.  Aware of the pleading look in his lover's eyes, Jack started to thrust.

“More,” Daniel panted.

Jack knew what Daniel was going through.  The young man needed the barrage he was enduring.  He needed to be taken to another place, and fast.  He wanted to feel something other than the blood and fading life he had witnessed hours ago.

Obeying the demand, Jack increased the speed of his movements.  He didn't worry about satisfying himself, having a more important goal -- giving Daniel what Daniel needed.

“Har...harder,” Daniel insisted.

Jack looked at the pleading in Daniel's eyes.  He knew his lover needed this.  He worked himself inside his partner as much as he could, becoming the powerful jackhammer Daniel needed.

“Love ... Danny,” the older man gasped as he worked.

Jack's shaft was hitting Daniel's prostate with every movement he made, and finally Jack saw some peace return to Daniel's eyes, as he reached the end.

“Jaaaack.”

The sound of his name coming from his lover's lips was enough to send Jack over the edge, and, with a last grunt and cry, he exploded inside the younger man.

“Thank you,” Daniel said as Jack fell onto his chest.  He wrapped his arms around his lover.  He was looking off into nothingness, trying to stay in this moment, to keep the feeling of Jack inside him, the 'now'.  He didn't want to slip back into the past.  ~Yes -- need ... good.~

Jack was exhausted, his quest to give Daniel what he needed having drained him for the moment.  He lay quietly atop his lover for quite a while, enjoying Daniel's hold on him, the warmth of his lover's hands against his sweating back.

--

“I don't think I can do this anymore,” Daniel repeated his words from earlier.

“Okay, Love.  What do you want to do?” Jack questioned.

“I ... I don't know ... exactly.”

Jack looked up at his lover.  The young man's face was wet, his hair damp from their lovemaking.  Daniel's cerulean blue eyes were dim, not their usual bright, soulful blue.  There was pain there ... and guilt.

“We'll do whatever you want.  We're a team, you know.”

“What if ... what if I wanted to disappear somewhere where I never had to see another ... staff weapon ... or DHD ... or ... or maybe somewhere so remote I ... I couldn't ever ... ev...er see another ... brown-eyed blonde with curls and ... and ...”

“Danny.”  Jack moved off his lover, moving to the side a bit.  He placed his hand on Daniel's cheek.  “We'll do whatever you want, go wherever you want ... but running away from what happened won't give you peace, and I think you know that.”

“You weren't there.”

“No, but I've been there before.  I know what that's like,” Jack stated empathetically.

“It's ... different,” Daniel argued.

“How?”

“Because ... 'cause ... we're different.”

Jack refuted, “You don't think I've felt what you are right now?  That I don't understand the blame you are indulging in?”

“Indulging?”

“Okay, bad choice of words,” the colonel admitted.

Daniel slid off the bed, searching for his clothes.  Jack followed and did the same, until finally both were dressed.

“It was my fault, Jack.  Laura was only on that planet because I wanted her there, and Brian ...” Daniel winced at the memory.  “Brian was tortured because freakin' Colonel Ingram wouldn't let me take his place.  It should have been me, Jack.  It was supposed to be me.”

Daniel walked out of the bedroom and climbed up to the roof deck.  He gazed up at the night sky wondering which of the stars out there was the one that his colleagues had died on.  He drew his knees up and rested his head on them.  A moment later, he felt Jack slide down to sit beside him, their shoulders touching.
 
~How do you always know, Jack, when I need space, and when I need to be hugged?~

Jack looked at the back of Daniel's head, resisting the urge to run his fingers through the shaggy brown hair.

“How would it be better if it had been you, Danny?  For a start, it was Templeton's decision to go through the Stargate.  She didn't have to go. From what I heard, she wanted to go, was eager for the new experience.  It was a potential change for her career.  She may not have sought it, but once it was offered, she embraced it.  You didn't hold a gun to her head.  You gave her a chance, a chance she accepted.  Her choice, Love.”

Jack paused.  He knew it was easier to say his words of comfort than to actually believe them.

“Danny, it was also her choice to throw herself in front of that staff blast.  Gawd, I thank her for that, for saving your life.  I will never be able to repay her ... in this or any life.  That choice she made, to jump in front of the staff blast, is something you've done on more than one occasion yourself.  And do you really think that Eberly would have wanted you tortured to death in his place?  Ingram did the right thing.  You don't give up one for one.  It's not smart.”

~I can't handle this.~  Daniel raised his head and looked at the night sky again.  He felt so lost.  “The Jaffa wanted me, Jack.  They wouldn't have started torturing me immediately.  There would have been time for a rescue mission.”

Jack challenged, “And if more lives had been lost trying to rescue you, how would you feel then?”

Daniel's tone grew harsher as he responded, “So tell me, Jack, since you're the expert, how should I feel?”

“I'm not the expert, Danny.  I'm just trying to let you know that I do understand guilt.  I also know that running away is not the answer.  Crap, Daniel, you're the one who taught me that.”

“Why is it running away?  Why are you so sure that that's what I'm trying to do?” Daniel questioned.  ~You don't understand.~

With confidence, Jack answered, “Because despite all the bad days, despite the risks and the losses, you enjoy what we do.  But more than that, you believe in it.  You, more than anyone else at the SGC, know how important our work is.”

“I'm tired, Jack.  It's too much.”

“This is just the wrong time to make decisions like this.  Let's take some time off, and then see how you feel.  If you really want to quit, we will.”

“You don't have to leave just because I do, Jack.”

Jack smiled softly and stated, “I go where you go, Danny, and there is no way I'm going through that Stargate without you.  I'm not going anywhere without you.  I love you.”

Daniel gave his lover a small smile and replied, “I love you, too, Jack.”

It was the one truth Daniel could handle at the moment, and it was the one truth that was keeping him from going insane.

====

Several hours later, the lovers were at the Colorado cabin.  They had finished an early morning breakfast, and Jack was doing the dishes.  Daniel had gone outside for a walk, wanting some time alone to think through the disaster that he'd gone through and its repercussions.

When Jack was done, he walked over to the dock by the lake were Daniel was now standing, arms folded, head bowed.  He wrapped his arms around his lover, kissed the top of Daniel's right shoulder, and gently squeezed him closer.

“Danny, did that hurt?” Jack asked, having not thought about his actions ahead of time.

“No, you never hurt me.”

Jack knew Daniel was focused on the events on the planet.  He also didn't like the next thing he needed to mention, to make sure Daniel was thinking about it, but it was too important not to bring up.  A bit hesitantly, he brought up the subject of Daniel's wife.

“Danny, what about Sha're?”

Daniel tensed in Jack's hold and asked, “What ... what about her?”

The older man answered, “If we leave, no one will be looking for her the way we are.  You know that.  Any chance she has ...”

Daniel pulled out of Jack's hold, turning to face Jack, but backing away towards the lake.

“Danny, be careful.  You're close to the end of the dock,” Jack warned.

“More guilt, Jack?  Stay in because of guilt about Sha're or leave because of guilt about Laura and Brian?  Guilt everywhere?” Daniel questioned.

“No,” Jack responded, staying calm.  He hated what his lover was going through, but whatever the future brought, he wanted to make sure that his soulmate had no regrets.  “I just want to make sure you're considering everything.  You've said that finding Sha're is one of the main reasons you're in the program.  It's what got you on the team, remember?”

“So ... I can't be on the team if I'm not looking for my ... for ... oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed in a near gasp while he took a couple more steps backwards in frustration.

“Daniel, I didn't say that,” the older man insisted, reaching out with his right hand.  “I told you.  I'll support you whatever you want to do, but I want your decision to be well thought out.”

“You don't think I'm smart enough to make my own decision?  That I wouldn't have already thought about her?  I'm a freakin' genius, as you keep reminding me,” Daniel spoke, his voice having risen as had his impatience with himself.

Jack knew Daniel wasn't angry at him, but he was growing concerned with Daniel's proximity to the end of the dock.

“Danny, let's go back inside.”

Shaking his head and staring downward, the archaeologist intoned, “I like it out here.”

Concerned about his lover and hoping to lure him away from the edge of the dock, Jack suggested, “Okay, how about over there on the grass?”

“I like it here, right here,” Daniel insisted, standing in place like an immovable truck.

“Fine.  Just come here,” the colonel requested, gesturing for the other man to move forward.

“I don't want to move.  I'm quite happy where I am,” Daniel spoke.  ~Gawd, I'm such a baby sometimes.~

“You're not at all happy, Danny,” Jack responded with sadness.

Daniel's despair at his childlike behavior shifted quickly to anger, and he accused, “Low blow, Jack.”

Taking a step forward, Jack begged, “Daniel, will you please ...”

Seeing the movement, Daniel immediately took three steps backwards, only he had run out of dock.

“DANIEL!” Jack shouted as his lover fell back into the lake.

Without hesitating, Jack dove in after his lover, concerned that Daniel might have hit his head on the end of the dock or maybe the small row boat that was just below it.

Unfortunately, Jack's fears were proven correct.  He caught Daniel's lax form as it sank to the bottom of the lake and swam strongly for shore. Fortunately, Daniel was still breathing on his own.  He leaned over his lover, gently trying to coax him back to consciousness.

“Danny.  Come on, Love, wake up for me.  Please, Love,” Jack pleaded.  “I need you.”  Jack cursed himself for his stupidity.  He was usually so good at knowing what Daniel needed, yet over this he seemed to be making one wrong move after another.  ~Maybe my own experiences are clouding my judgment.~

“J'ck?”  The name had formed on his lips before Daniel even remembered what had happened.  ~Oh, gawd.  I fell off the end of the dock.  I am such a screw up.~  Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and immediately felt a new wave of guilt wash over him at the sight of the worried brown eyes gazing at him.  “Sorry, Jack.”

“It wasn't your fault, Danny.  I shouldn't have pushed you,” Jack offered, taking the full blame for the accident.

“You didn't,” Daniel spoke, adding, “I fell all on my own.”

Daniel gave his lover a tiny smile, deliberately misunderstanding Jack's words in the hope of alleviating some of the tension between them.  It seemed to work as Jack gave him an exasperated smile in return.

“You know what I mean.”

Daniel nodded and requested, “Please, Jack, let's forget about it.  I'm fine, and neither of us need to bring anymore guilt into this than there already is. I can't cope with any more.”

His lover seemed so fragile, so Jack scooped him into his arms and spoke, “You scared me again.”

“I do that a lot, don't I?”

“It's okay, except it's not okay,” Jack tried to laugh his words.  “Okay, let's get you up to the cabin and into some warm dry clothes.”

====

Half an hour later, wearing warm dry clothes, Daniel was sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace, sipping a cup of coffee.

Jack added some more wood to the fire, then sat down beside the younger man and apologized, “I'm sorry I brought up Sha're, Danny.  It wasn't fair.”

Daniel shrugged, admitting, “Everything you said was true.  I was only given a spot on SG-1 because of her.”

“That's not true.”

“Yes, it is Jack.  You said it yourself, and maybe that's the problem,” Daniel wondered.  “I'm not enough of a soldier to go through the Gate.  Anyone else wouldn't have needed Laura to throw herself in front of a staff blast for them.”

As Daniel turned his gaze from the fire to look at him, Jack rationalized, “In that case, I shouldn't be going through the Gate, either.  After all, I needed you to throw yourself in front of that staff blast for me on Abydos.”

~No.~  Daniel fidgeted with his coffee mug, holding it with both hands.  “That ... that was different.”

Jack just quirked his eyebrow in disbelief.

Daniel sighed, “Jack, you're military.  You know what the risks are.”

“And so did Laura Templeton, Daniel.  And Brian Eberly.  Listen, quitting won't honor their memories.  In fact, it demeans their deaths.”

“What?”  Daniel looked at Jack in a sickened shock.  He couldn't believe the words he was hearing.  Leaning forward to put his now-empty mug on the table, he asked more completely, “What are you talking about?”

Firmly, Jack elucidated, “Danny, they died for you, and for what?  So you could leave the program?  Do you think either of them want you crying over them, totally changing your life to the point that the people truly responsible for their deaths get away with it?  Daniel, if we leave the SGC, those lives become meaningless.  They would have given their lives for nothing, and the Goa'uld win because even if they didn't kill you, they got you out of their hair.”

Daniel looked at Jack with an anguish he couldn't bear.

Jack drew his lover close to him and suggested, “Daniel, if you want to honor those two brave people, than you'll do it by not letting the Goa'uld win.  You keep on living your life, and every time we step through the Stargate, you'll know it's a victory, not just for us, but for Templeton and Eberly.”

“She wouldn't have gone if I hadn't asked her.”

“Maybe not on this mission.  Let's check it out,” Jack put forth, leaning forward.

“What?”

“Daniel, most of the civilians on base that I know are envious of you.  If they aren't on a team, they want to be.  What makes you so sure Templeton never requested an assignment?”

“You think she did?” Daniel inquired, not having giving that notion any thought at all.

Jack cocked his head slightly and shrugged as he responded, “I don't know, but if she was as good at her job as you say, I'm guessing yes, so let's make a phone call.  Who was her direct supervisor?”

Daniel thought for a moment.  It was his department, but it was broken up into sections with eight supervisors at the moment who reported directly to Daniel.

“Um, Kyle Roberts,” the archaeologist spoke.

“Okay.”  Jack stood and placed a call.  It took a few minutes to track down the man in question, but they finally did.  “Roberts, Colonel Jack O'Neill.”

“Yes, Sir.  I ... I know who you are.  How can I help you, Colonel?” Roberts question.

Commandinly, Jack stated, “Tell me what you know about Laura Templeton.”

“Laura?”

“Yes.  I want to know the kind of person she was, how she went about her job, and whatever else you can think of,” Jack requested, still in command tone.

Daniel watched as Jack listened.  Occasionally, he responded to something Kyle had said, and he tossed in a few questions.

“Thank you, Roberts.  I want you to type up everything you just told me.  Don't leave anything out, and then I want you to deliver it to Doctor Jackson's desk as soon as possible.  Is that understood?” Jack queried.

“Yes, Colonel.”

Jack hung up and walked back to his lover.

“Jack, why did you tell Kyle to type up what he said?  I mean, you're going to tell me, aren't you?” Daniel questioned.

Nodding, Jack responded, “Yes, but I want you to hear it from him, just in case you think I'm embellishing to make you feel better.”

“Like you'd do that?”  Daniel smiled.  Both knew Jack would do whatever it took to make him feel better, so he wasn't that surprised now that he thought about it.  “So, what did Kyle say?”

Jack couldn't help grinning at his lover, at the same time wondering why it had taken him so long to think of this.

“He said that Templeton had submitted over five requests for an assignment with an SG team.”  Jack's smile broadened at the look of amazement on Daniel's face.  “He told me that every single civilian in his section wants to go through the Gate.”  He took hold of his soulmate's hand and expressed, “Roberts also said that even since Laura Templeton's death, he's had five more requests from people, two of them new.  They all know the risks, Danny, and they think it's worth it.”

“Oh,” Daniel reacted in a near-speechless manner.

Jack caressed Daniel's face as he added, “Roberts also said one more thing.  He said that it was the dream of every civilian in his section, and most other sections, to go on an assignment with you, Danny.”

“Me?”  Daniel squeaked in disbelief.  He certainly knew why Jack wanted Kyle to type this up now.  If it hadn't been for that, he would have been certain that Jack was indeed embellishing the conversation he'd had with the civilian supervisor.  ~He must have misunderstood.~

~It doesn't surprise me, Love,~ Jack thought as he nodded his confirmation.  He looked into Daniel's astonished eyes and smiled.  “According to Roberts, his section had a kind of wake for Templeton yesterday.  One of the things that gave everyone comfort was that she would have died happy.  You're their hero, their mentor, Danny.”

Jack gently wiped away the tears that were trickling down Daniel's cheeks.  His lover was shaking his head in disbelief.

“Why, Jack?  Why would they think that?  I'm nothing special,” the younger man remarked in pained ignorance of his own self-worth.

“You're the only one who thinks that,” Jack refuted.  When Daniel looked at him questioningly, he amended his words slightly.  “Okay, apart from the odd Marine who wouldn't know a Goa'uld until it killed them, everyone at the SGC knows how special you are.  Not only did you open the Stargate,” Jack placed a finger on Daniel's lips to prevent the objection that he knew was coming, “and despite what you think, Carter and her team would not have worked it out eventually.  Crap, Danny, they had it for two friggin' years and couldn't get it to work.  Everyone knows that, and they know that you got it to work in two weeks.  They also know that you were the one who figured out just what the Stargate was capable of, that it didn't just go to Abydos.  Geez, you're even the one who figured out that ... stellar drift business while Carter stood there cartouche-gazing.”

“It ...” Daniel began, wanting to dispute it all, but cut off by his lover.

Jack saw Daniel's surprise at his words, but continued, “And everyone knows that you have saved the life of this planet and everyone on it.  According to Roberts, every civilian at the SGC would be proud to make the sacrifice Laura Templeton did.”

Daniel was shaking his head.  He just couldn't believe the words he was hearing, that he was held in such high regard by his colleagues.  As he began to sob out his grief, Jack enclosed him in the protective circle of his arms and ran his fingers up and down Daniel's back.

“From the sounds of it, Danny, even if Templeton had known what would happen when she stepped through that Stargate, she would still have chosen to go.”  Jack paused for a minute to give Daniel a chance to let it sink in.  Then he added, “You have good people working for you, Love.  They respect you.  They want to see some of what you've seen.  You've done good, Danny.”

His whole body shaking at his pain, Daniel confided, “Jack, it just ... hurts.”

“I know,” Jack acknowledged quietly.  “It's never easy to lose someone under your command, but you have to move forward, Danny.  You have to resolve to make sure that the lives lost never lose their meaning.”

“How do you do it, Jack?”

“I try to make it count.  Never give up.  Keep looking for ... 'or's'.

Daniel sniffled, but then pushed back, stating, “Alternatives.  Is that why you're always insisting there's another way?”

Jack nodded as he affirmed, “I owe it to those who have lost their lives saving mine.  It's the least I can do to make sure they aren't forgotten.”

“Because ... you never forget.”

“I can give you a list, Danny, right now.  A long list of names, some friends or colleagues ... others just faces -- soldiers or civilians I never really knew, but who died so I could live and complete the mission.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Daniel spoke, having finally reached some kind of peace with the events that had taken place.  He leaned back into his lover's embrace.  “Let's go to bed.  I'm tired.  I think I could sleep for a month.”

Jack led his lover to the bedroom where they got into bed, even though it was still early evening.  After a kiss, Daniel settled into a peaceful sleep, Jack's arms securing him to the older man.

Jack still didn't know all the details about the mission, or even how exactly Daniel had been hurt, but he figured Daniel would tell him tomorrow, or maybe the next day.  As he caressed his soulmate, Jack knew that, on this occasion, it wasn't the specifics that was important, but the value of human life, and the courage to sacrifice for another. Even more importantly, it was the ability to accept the gift of sacrifice, something more difficult than many people realize.

“You're a good man, Daniel.  So many people love and respect you.  I hope someday you know that it's for real.”  Jack kissed the top of his lover's shaggy hair.  “It'll take time, but you'll be okay.”

“Promise?” Daniel asked.

Surprised, Jack chuckled, “I thought you were asleep.”

Softly, the younger man answered, “I was, but I heard you talking to me.”

“I'm sorry.”

“I'm not.  Jack?”

“Yes, I promise, Danny.  It will get better,” Jack pledged.

Daniel shifted slightly, his head nuzzling a bit higher up on Jack's chest.  He leaned up and kissed the bottom of Jack's chin and sighed contently.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

As he listened to Daniel's breathing even out, Jack thanked the Fates and Laura Templeton for the safe return of the man in his arms.  He knew that the brave young woman had saved more than Daniel's life when she threw herself in front of that staff weapon blast.  She'd saved Jack's life, too.

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