Hanging Around

Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category:  Slash, Angst, H/C, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  3
Spoilers:  Forever in a Day, Point of View, The Devil You Know, Foothold
Size:  108kb
Written:  March 17, April 17-20, 25, May 15, 2004  Revised for consistency:  January 26, 2007
Summary:  Daniel is a tad put out about having been left hanging around during the foothold crisis at the SGC!  Is that the real reason for his anger, or does the answer lie in Netu?
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), “Goofy and the Boys” and “Out of the Fire, Into Our Souls”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Kalimyre, Drdjlover, Jackette!

Hanging Around
by Orrymain and Claudia

~Okay, this is strange.  Huh?  Metal ... what's this metal thing?~

“DanielJackson you must be still.”

Daniel finally looked to his left where the voice was.  It was Teal'c standing on a ladder.  Daniel looked around and saw several SGC personnel hanging from the ceiling.  Looking up, he realized he, too, was hooked to the ceiling as if he were a light fixture.

~Isn't this exciting?  Jack?  Gawd, where's Jack?~

“Teal'c, where is Jack?”

“He is in a meeting with GeneralHammond.”

“Meeting?”  ~I'm hanging from the ceiling, and my lover is in a freakin' meeting?  Calm down, Jackson.  There must be more to this.~  “Teal'c, what happened?”

“It is, as you say, a long story.”

“Is Jack okay?  I mean, he's not hurt or anything?”

Daniel curbed his initial frustration.  If Jack wasn't there with him, there must be something wrong.  His concern increased as he awaited Teal'c's response.

“No, O'Neill is unharmed.  He is briefing GeneralHammond with the details of what transpired.”

“Okay.  But, uh, why am I ...” Daniel looked around again, “we up here?”

“Aliens attempted to take over the SGC, but their plan was thwarted.  It was a toehold situation.”

“Um, Teal'c, I think you mean a foothold.  It's called a foothold situation.”

“Indeed.”

Teal'c freed his friend, and they both climbed down the ladder.

“DoctorFraiser has requested all personnel report to the infirmary once freed from the device.”

“Okay.”

Daniel started to walk away, but when he got to the door, he turned around.  He just needed the answer to one more question.

“Teal'c, how long was I up there?”

“Approximately thirty-six hours.”

“And Jack?”

“He was freed from the device several hours ago.”

“He was?”

Teal'c nodded.  “Excuse me, DanielJackson, I must help the others out of the devices.”

Daniel nodded his understanding and headed for the infirmary, his brain processing the information he had just been given.

~Several hours?  He had better have a good reason for keeping me hanging around up there like some piece of mistletoe.  That's all I have to say ... for now.~

====

“Daniel, I was pressed for time.”

“And I was pressed into some ... some ... whatever it was looking like some mechanical bird with a huge beak.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, what did you expect me to do?  Excuse me, Major Davis, while I cut Daniel down.”

“Sure.  Why not?”

“Daniel, it would have alerted them.”

“Forget it, Jack.  We have a briefing to go to.”

Angry, hurt, and frustrated, Daniel turned, leaving his lover's office swiftly.  Jack gathered up his preliminary report and headed for the briefing room, his mind puzzling over his lover's harsh words.

~Sometimes that man is so frustrating.  Why is he angry at me?  So I went to my meeting with the General.  I needed to tell him what happened.  He wanted answers then, not now.  How was I supposed to explain to Hammond that I had to personally get Daniel out of that contraption before I could report to him?  C'mon, Danny, give me a break here.~

Jack smiled devilishly, suddenly thinking that their little fight wasn't without some good.  ~The make-up sex for this one should be out of this world!~

====

“I've ordered P3X-118 locked out of our dialing program,” Hammond stated.

Sam reported, “The human counterparts of those aliens woke up spontaneously.  We're assuming the signal stopped when they went through the Stargate.”

**And some of us woke up with nothing but questions, wondering where the person who CLAIMS to love us was.**

**Some of us knew their loved ones would be fine and had other obligations to attend to.**

**I'm happy to know my place in your life.**

**Stop it, Danny.  That's not fair, and you know it.**

**Just ... listen to the briefing, Colonel.**

Jack sighed as he tuned back in to Teal'c's words.

“Those who escaped still possess all the knowledge obtained from being linked to your minds.”

“That's creepy,” Jack added.

**Being in your mind is definitely creepy.  Lots of cobwebs, bad jokes, and photos of Mary Steenbergen.**

**Daniel, get your mind on the briefing.**

Hearing a pause in the conversation after the General announced they had changed all the SGC codes, Daniel seized his moment to get his mind on the meeting, per Jack's request.

“So, how did this happen exactly?  The aliens came through the Gate already impersonating SG-6?”

Janet answered, “We rushed them to the infirmary.  We don't remember anything after that.”

Major Paul Davis added, “General Hammond asked me to come here, but wouldn't say why.  Presumably their next step after the SGC was the Pentagon.”

“Well a high frequency blast from a harmonic generator every time a team returns should prevent it from happening again,” Sam informed those present.

**Have a good time with Sam while I was left ... hanging?**

**Daniel, we were busy saving the planet ... again.**

**Without me.**

Colonel Harry Maybourne entered the briefing to pass on some news.  “I thought you'd like to know the alien posing as Doctor Jackson expired.”

**Sweet.**

**Daniel, stop trying to be me.**

**Be you?  Believe me, O'Neill, that's the furthest thing from my mind.**

“What of the aliens that were not caught in the gate room
explosion?” Teal'c asked.

“We're guessing they were linked to their leader in some form or another when he self-destructed.”

**A leader.  One who takes care of his team and DOESN'T leave them hanging around, ESPECIALLY when they CLAIM to be in love with them.**

**Oh for crying out loud, Daniel.  Don't make a federal case out of this.**

**I'll make anything out of it that I want to, Jack.**

Sam asked, “What about the aliens that escaped through the Gate?”

Again, it was Maybourne who responded.  “I guess we'll never know. We'll have to hope the same thing happened to them.”

The General decided to bring the meeting to a close.  “We appreciate your help on this matter, Colonel Maybourne.”

“Credit Major Carter.  I do.  Well, I'm sure we'll see each other again.”

“That'd be nice, Harry.”

Jack's use of Maybourne's first name was unusual, and Maybourne looked surprised.  He nodded at Sam and then left.  Sam looked down at the table, then looked at Jack and grinned.

From the corner of his eye, Daniel saw the exchange, and as soon as the General dismissed them, he raced out of the room, heading for his office.  Jack was about to follow when the General called him back.  He sighed, and then frowned when he saw Major Davis walking in the same direction as Daniel.  Hoping that the General wouldn't keep him long, Jack gave Daniel a mental apology and hoped that in the meantime, his lover would come to his senses.

====

Daniel hastily packed up a few papers he planned to work on at home and then left his office, hoping he could make it out of the SGC before the General finished with Jack.

“Daniel.”

Hearing Paul's voice, Daniel stopped and waited for the Major to catch up with him.

“Hey, Paul.”

“Crazy day, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“How about grabbing a bite to eat with me before I head back to Washington?”

Daniel hesitated.  He didn't really want company, but he also wasn't ready to talk to Jack yet.  He also knew that if he went to Jack's house or to his apartment, Jack would find him.

“Okay.  Just a quick one on the condition that we don't talk about anything SGC related.  I've had my fill of the military for one day.”

“Deal.”  Paul grinned.

“Hold on.  I have to make a quick call.”

~Unlike SOME people, I won't let him worry unnecessarily.~

Daniel moved out of Paul's hearing range.  He dialed his lover's cell phone, knowing Jack wouldn't be able to answer at the moment.

“Jack, it's Daniel Jackson, Doctor Daniel Jackson.  Although I do have other obligations and am keeping Paul waiting by making this call, I didn't want you to worry.  I am not at HOME or your house.  I am enjoying dinner with Paul, and no, I'm not having a freakin' affair, just dinner.  See?  See how considerate I am?  Maybe you should take lessons.  Now, I have to go.  Goodnight.”

Daniel rejoined the Major and began to relax a little as the other man started to chat amiably about the latest scandals in Washington.

====

Jack put his cell phone away and began to pace up and down his office.

~Crap, Daniel, you can be so unreasonable at times.  I had no choice.  It's no reason to go off on some ... escapade disguised as dinner with friggin' Major Davis!~

A knock on his door interrupted Jack's pacing.  “WHAT?”

Sam poked her head in the door.  “Is everything all right, Sir?”

“Just peachy, Carter.”

She looked unconvinced, and Jack wondered if it was the look of murder on his face or the sound of violence in his tone that was the problem.  Finally, he sighed.

“Daniel's mad at me.”

“What for?”  She seemed genuinely surprised.  ~See Danny.  No one else thinks I was so wrong.~

“Because I didn't get him down from that contraption earlier.”

“Oh.  Well, it must be hard for him.  It wasn't our choice, but he was sort of left out of things this time.”

“It wasn't a piece of cake for us either, Carter, and it's not like we had a choice here, either.”

“Uh, no, I guess not.”

Sam decided to make a quick retreat.  She feared her CO was in for a long night, and she figured the farther away she was from the point of eruption, the better off she was.

“Good night, Sir,” she said, making a quick exit.

====
 
After dropping Paul off at the airport, Daniel drove aimlessly for a while, undecided as to where he wanted to go.  In the end, he returned to the Mountain.  Half an hour later, he was sitting, literally, on the top of the mountain where the SGC was built, looking out at the night sky and the twinkling lights of Colorado Springs.

“It hurts, Jack.”  He shook his head.  “I know you probably had no choice.  I know it's your job, but it freakin' hurts.”

He sighed.  Maybe he was wrong.  “Am I really just an unreasonable S.O.B.?”  ~Probably.~

Unwanted memories began to flood his mind -- the foster families that had ignored and abandoned him; his own grandfather who had refused to care for him, or let him be adopted; never, ever coming first in someone's priorities, always being pushed to the 'deal with later' pile of things to get to.

He remembered one time when he was eleven years old.  Daniel had been one of only six children from the school selected to exhibit their school science projects at a local fair.  It was considered a big deal, and the winner would get a book club subscription and some cash.  Daniel didn't care about the cash, but the book club subscription had sounded great to him.

All the kids were meeting at the school at 10 a.m. on Saturday to be bused over with their projects and any family members who wanted to attend.

Daniel's subject had been “Egyptian Pharaohs: Real or Myth?”  While his teacher had his doubts about Daniel's outline, it had been well thought out, a mixture of history and fiction in the educator's mind, and one worthy of being studied for the complexities the young boy had given it.

Young Daniel had been looking forward to the fair for two weeks.  His foster father had taken his “real” sons to a baseball game, but his foster mother had promised to take him to the school.

Daniel had waited patiently as the woman slept in late, gossiped with friends on the phone, and finally, just when she was about to take him, her “real” daughter walked in and asked, “Mom, will you take Sue and me to the movies?”

The woman had agreed.  She got everyone in the car and headed for the school.

“But Mom, the movie starts in ten minutes.  We'll be late if you drop him off first.”

So the mom had taken the girls to the movie, and by the time they got to the school, the bus had left.

Daniel had stood in silence at the empty parking lot as the foster mother talked with the last remaining teacher who was leaving to go home.

“I'm sorry, they waited as long as they could.  They couldn't take Daniel's project without him.  But it's in the classroom.  I'll be glad to get it if you'd like to take Daniel over to the fairgrounds yourself.”

“I can't be bothered with that.  I have a hair appointment in twenty minutes.  Sorry, Daniel.  Get in the car.”

The young boy had been heartbroken.  He had worked long and hard on his project, but in the end, he had been pushed aside for baseball, movies, and finally, a shampoo and set.  Quietly, Daniel had gotten into the car and stared out the window, a lone tear falling undetected down his right eye.  Once again, he was last in line, the lowest of the all the priorities of those around him.

Since being with Jack, Daniel had begun to lose that “low priority” feeling, but now that it was back, it hurt even more.  He felt like he'd lost all his defenses against the feeling, and so he was angry as much at himself as he was at his partner.

“I should go and talk to him.”

Yet, Daniel couldn't bring himself to move.

~Gawd, you're pathetic, Jackson.  Sitting here feeling sorry for yourself.  At least go and do something useful.  Go get those translations done.  Show that you're actually good for something.~

====

Jack decided to go home, hoping Daniel was there.  As he walked through the parking lot, he saw his lover's car.

~I thought you left?~

He turned around, moving quickly for Daniel's office, but the young man wasn't there.  He searched everywhere he could think of, and then he thought maybe he'd passed Daniel, and yet, when he went back to the lot, Daniel's car was still there.

~Where could you ... oh ...~

Jack turned around and took one of the access shafts to the top.  He walked towards an area where he and his lover sometimes liked to slip away while working at the Mountain.

~Oh, Danny.~

Jack recognized the slump of Daniel's pose, and yet, he also saw the moonlight dancing off of his lover's hair.  He wanted to hold Daniel, to comfort him, but he really wasn't sure if his partner would let him.

“Daniel,” Jack called out.

“Go away, Jack.”

“And what would that do?”  There was no response.  “Danny, listen.  We were in a foothold situation.  I didn't have time to do much of anything.  Fraiser's alien kept popping in and out of that place every five minutes.”

“And how long did it take you to get down?”

Jack cringed.  Once he had figured out the release mechanism, it had taken just a minute.

“Daniel, the alien was still alive.  If I had disconnected that ... thing from you, it would have alerted them.”

“Did you think of that then?”

Daniel still hadn't turned around, and Jack hated that ... and the questions.  He had to be honest.

“No, but ...”

Finally, Daniel stood, cutting off his lover's response.

“I wasn't even in your thoughts, was I, Jack?”

“Yes, you were.  Geez, Danny, Carter was masquerading as you.”

“Yes, she was ... wasn't she?”

Jack's stomach suddenly tightened from the tension he was feeling.  He heard the accusation there.  He was going to have to tread lightly.

“In fact,” Daniel continued, “you had a chance to have us both, didn't you?  I mean, there was Sam, looking like me.  She ...”

“Okay, that's enough.  Don't go taking this into a Carter girlie thing.  You know how I feel about that.”

“Do I?  Sam wasn't hanging from the ceiling for two days.”

“Daniel, I didn't have a choice!”

“So I've heard.”

“You're being unreasonable.”

“Would you say that if you were hanging up there like a fly caught in a spiderweb?”

Jack drew another deep breath.  This wasn't going well.  He was afraid if this didn't end soon, it would build to something more serious.  His problem was that he didn't have good answers for his lover, and yet, he also knew he wasn't wrong.

~Maybe if I just change the subject.~

The older man moved forward, surprising Daniel by suddenly kissing him.  It was a long, demanding kiss.  He held Daniel close as his tongue entered the young man's mouth to explore.  When it was over, he was sure they could go home.

“Good night, Jack.”

Daniel sprinted away, going from a walk to a run before Jack could even call out.

“DANIEL!”

====

Daniel got into his car and just drove.  He cursed himself for being an idiot, for being unreasonable, and yet, he couldn't stop himself from feeling utterly betrayed.  He'd been woken up from that thing by Teal'c, Jack nowhere in sight and then had to hear about how Sam, Jack and Teal'c had saved the day.  He felt left out, excluded.  It had always been like that, and he was tired of it.

~This is different, though.  It's not the same.~

“It hurts, though," Daniel said softly as he kept his eyes focused on the road.

~I know Jack loves me.~

An annoying voice kept popping up in the back of his mind.  Did Jack love him enough?  Or would Daniel always have to worry about something, or someone, more important coming along?

Daniel had accepted at an early age that his grandfather loved him on some level, but that love had never been enough.

~I should tell Jack about Nick someday.~  Would he want to know though?  ~Maybe I'm too much trouble.  Jack would probably be better off without me.~

Daniel turned into a truck stop to get a cup of coffee.  He sat and stared blankly out of the window.  It was cold, but his mind wasn't registering it.

~Okay, I can work this out logically.  One, I know I'm blowing this out of proportion.~

“But you didn't even think about me, Jack.  You could have at least been there when Teal'c got me down.  I'm tired of being unimportant.  Is it so much to want to know that somebody in this world cares more about me than anything else?”

~I can't believe you kissed me to shut me up.  You don't seem to care how I feel.  Maybe that's the problem.  You're so anxious to show me that you're right, you don't stop and see that ... I have feelings, rational or not.  You left me there ... for Teal'c to ... handle.  Do my feelings mean anything to you, Jack?  Feelings aren't rational, you know.~

====

Jack hung up the phone and started pacing.  ~Danny, where are you?  This is friggin' ridiculous.  You are being completely illogical about all of this.~

Picking up a sofa cushion, he began squeezing it absentmindedly as he paced.  “Right.  That's it.  I've had enough.  I'm going to bed.  You can come talk to me when you get over yourself,” Jack said to his absent lover, slamming the pillow down onto the sofa.

It took Jack a long time to fall asleep, mainly because he kept listening for the sound of Daniel's car.  He was also getting angrier by the minute at Daniel's thoughtlessness.  He wasn't the only one who had gone through a nasty couple of days.

~Fine, Danny, go sulk.  Come talk to me when you grow up.~

When the alarm clock went off, Jack awoke still tired and irritated about the previous night's events.  He stretched out and felt the cold empty spot where his lover should have been.

“Geez, Danny, you are such a stubborn S.O.B. sometimes.”  Jack stomped into the bathroom. “And today I expect an apology from you.  For crying out loud, I was just doing my job.”

Jack arrived at the SGC and was mildly surprised to see that Daniel's car wasn't in its usual spot.  He'd half thought Daniel might have returned and spent the night working.

~Maybe I should have swung by the apartment?  No, I'm sick of apologizing.  It's his turn.~

Walking to his office Jack deliberately avoided Level 18 where Daniel's office was and waited for his lover to come to him.  By lunchtime, though, he'd had enough.  He stormed down to Daniel's office and was disconcerted to find the door locked.  He shrugged his shoulders.  They had a briefing in half an hour.  He'd see Daniel then.

====

“Is DanielJackson displeased, O'Neill?” Teal'c asked as they entered the briefing room.

“He's upset about being left hanging.”

Any further comments were cut off by the appearance of General Hammond with Robert Rothman by his side.  Jack's eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“Where's Daniel?”

“He's taken a leave of absence.  Doctor Rothman will replace him while he's gone.”

Jack didn't hear a word of anything that was said after that.  An icy feeling had suddenly appeared in the pit of his stomach.

~Gawd, Danny, what did I miss?  This is crazy.  What in Netu is going through that beautiful head of yours?~

====

“Answer your phone, dang it!”

Daniel's phone had rung all day.  Not even the answering machine had picked up.  Jack had wanted to go after him, but Hammond had kept him busy with things that couldn't wait, and now SG-1 had a mission in four hours.

~Daniel.~  Jack stared at the model plane on the shelf in his office.  ~I've missed something.~

The plane was a gift from Daniel on their first anniversary of being a couple.  It was a symbolic present, representing an actual plane Daniel had rented for the two of them to take a romantic weekend jaunt to Utah.

Jack paced the room, his step brisk.

~Think.  He's a smart man.  He knows I didn't have a choice.  Okay, so maybe I could have gone with Teal'c, could have figured out something to tell Hammond, but it would have stood out.  Hammond wanted detailed evaluations.  Okay.  Daniel has to know he's totally out of line. He has to.~

Picking up a yo-yo he kept on his desk, Jack began to bob it up and down absent-mindedly.

~He's not jealous of Carter.  That was a smoke screen.  Keep thinking, O'Neill.~

He walked to the photos of planes that adorned one of his office walls.

~Love flying.  Going solo.  It's such a feeling of freedom.  No one to worry about.  You just have to trust yourself.  Not even the instruments are as important as the pilot.  No one to answer to.  No one to worry ... Worry?  No one else's feelings ... Feelings?~

Jack's heart began to beat more rapidly.  He felt like maybe he was on to something.  He glanced at the clock.  In three hours and fifteen minutes, SG-1 was scheduled to go off-world.

~Well, SG-1 can't go anywhere without its archaeologist, and our archaeologist isn't here, so I guess I'd better go find him!~

Covertly, Jack fled the SGC.  It was twenty minutes to his lover's apartment.  He had plenty of time to get to the bottom of this, to test his theory ... he hoped.

====

Daniel dried the falling tears as he put his suitcases into his car.

~Gawd, I'm a grown man.  I'm not supposed to cry all the time.  No wonder everyone thinks I'm a ... I don't even want to think about it..~

He got into his car and drove away.

~I'm doing the right thing.  Listen to me.  I'm a whiny, selfish idiot.  Jack was just doing his job, and what am I doing?  Running.  Why?  Because he didn't put me ahead of everyone else.  Because he let Teal'c unhinge me from that thing.  Because ... because ...~

Daniel pulled off to the side of the road.  He had a few harsh truths to admit, and with tears rolling down his cheeks, driving wasn't such a smart thing.

~Okay, truth.  Truth ... because I expect him to make me feel special.  Because ... because that's the precedent he's set so I ... I expect it and when ... gawd, I'm a whiny brat.  Maybe ... maybe I'm not so special to him anymore.  Maybe he wants out.  I've always known he'd get tired of me.  Why should I be surprised?  Listen to me right now.  It's better this way, Jack.  You deserve better than me.  I'm sorry.  Gawd, I'm sorry.~

Daniel looked up and saw Jack's F-350 truck speeding by.

“Goodbye, Jack.”

====

Jack raced up to Daniel's apartment and began pounding on the door.  “Daniel!  Danny, please open up.  I'm not leaving until we talk.”

There was no response from inside the apartment, and Jack couldn't hear any movement coming from inside, either.  His concern overriding all else, he got out his key and walked inside.  He stopped short when he walked into the bedroom.  He knew that some of Daniel's clothes were missing.  He walked back into the living room, and that's when he saw it  -- the envelope, with his name on it.

With shaking hands, he opened the mellow green envelope and pulled out the single sheet of paper.  His heart sank as he saw tear stains marking the paper.  His breath hitching from emotion, Jack began to read the note.

“J.
 
I'm sorry to tell you like this, but I guess I really am a coward at heart.  You were right about yesterday.  I was being unreasonable.  I know that you had no choice, but neither do I.  I can't help the way I feel, and right now I feel like I'm just not important anymore.  I know I shouldn't, and that's why I need to get away.  You deserve so much better than me, J.  I seem to have all this emotional baggage that I can't escape from, and you shouldn't have to deal with it.

Please know that you have given me more happiness than I ever thought was possible for me.  I love you so much, with all my heart and soul, and that's why I have to leave.  I have to set you free.

D.”

Numb with shock, anger and remorse, Jack sat staring the words.

~How did I miss this?  It was so friggin' obvious.  Gawd, Danny, I'm so sorry.~

====

Daniel sat numbly in the airport, looking mindlessly at the ticket he held in his hands.  Three hours.  He wondered if he'd really find peace in Egypt.  Maybe he should put himself under MacKenzie's care.  He was so tormented at the moment that he really didn't think that even the quack psychiatrist could mess him up any more than he already was.

~It is the right thing to do, Daniel.~  He crinkled the ticket as his fingers fidgeted with it.  ~Is this being strong, or is this being a coward?  Gawd, I don't know anymore.  I'm so tired of everything.  I just want Jack.  Gawd, I'm so pathetic and needy.  He's definitely better off without me.~

He wiped away the tears that had begun to trickle down his cheeks again.

~Pull yourself together, Jackson.  You can do this.  You know how to be alone.  It's the one thing you are really, really good at.~

====

Jack roamed the apartment aimlessly, just looking at Daniel's things.  He wasn't sure what to do, and couldn't think where Daniel might be.

~He could have gone anywhere.~

He raised his right hand to run his fingers through his hair when he saw a pad on the nightstand.  Quickly, he walked to it, seeing a slight impression on the pad.

~Yes.  Okay, please tell me what I need to know.~

He took a pencil and ran a piece of paper over the pad, rubbing it carefully.  ~Okay.  Good.  Just a little more.~

The imprint was coming through.  Jack smiled ... until he looked at his watch.  ~I can't make it.~  On a hopeful hunch, Jack called the airport, pressing the button for flight information.

~Yes!~

Jack ran down the stairs, not waiting for the elevator, got into his truck and sped off for Denver.  Daniel's flight had been delayed by forty-five minutes.  He could make it.  Of course, he wouldn't have time to park.  He would have to get a ticket, risk his truck being impounded.

“It's only a truck, Danny, but you, you're my life.”

Jack's decision was made, and less than an hour later, in what was amazing time, Jack entered the airport.  He prayed the police were looking elsewhere as he made his way for the Air France terminal.

====

“This is what you want, Jackson.  Be a man.  Let him go.  It's the right thing.  You know it is.  It's for Jack's own good.  You're no good for him.  Look at you -- shaking.  Even your hand is trembling holding this ticket.  But ...  you love him, and that's why this is hard.  The truth is you're scared stiff of this forever he keeps talking about, aren't you?  Run, Daniel.  It's what you're good at!  RUN!”

====

~Okay, O'Neill.  Just park it and run.  Where's my ID?  Yeah, I got it.  Preach National Security.  You're a big, bad scary colonel.  Use it!  This is the time to intimidate everyone if you have to.~

Pulling up to the terminal, Jack realized he had only fifteen minutes.  He stopped at the entrance, got out of his truck, locking it with his remote.  He flashed ID to the security personnel in the area, not really caring if they took his truck or not, and then he ran.

“Sorry.  So sorry.  Excuse me.  Move aside.”

He pushed and shoved his way as necessary as he moved towards the gate where Daniel would be.  The seconds were ticking by.  Jack's blood pressure was high, his heartbeat racing.  He had to think.  What if Daniel had already boarded?  How was he going to get on the plane?

~I don't care what I have to do.  You are NOT going to Egypt without me, Daniel!~

====

Daniel sighed.  It was now the final call for his flight, and he still couldn't make up his mind whether to go or stay.

~I'm so weak.  I can't do it.  I'm so tired of everything, of having to fight for every single good thing in my miserable life.~

He tore his plane ticket in half and made a beeline for the nearest coffee stand.

~Maybe I'll just stay here for the rest of my life.  I could do that.  Gawd, I am so pathetic.~

He stared into his cup of coffee, wishing it held the answers to his questions.

“Why am I so scared of believing in Jack's forever?”

~I'm not scared of it.  I want Jack's forever.  I'm ... I'm scared because I'm starting to believe in it, and I don't think I'll be able to handle it when it falls apart.  No one has ever wanted me like he does.  Sha're did, but she didn't have a choice, either.  I know you mean it when you talk about our forever, Jack, but I've never known a forever.  Forever was ... a week, a month, maybe three months if I was lucky.  Forever never even lasted a year before.~

Daniel began picking his styrofoam coffee cup apart, his fingers tearing away little pieces of his cup as his brain raced with his doubts and fears.

~I've always known that sometimes actions speak louder than words, and by leaving me hanging there, you were saying that the greater good comes before me.  I'm tired of coming second to the greater good. Like that kiss with the alternate Sam.  That hurt, Jack, and ... it still does.  I know why you did it, and I know you don't think it was wrong even though you apologized.  I'm not saying it was wrong, but I am saying I have ... feelings.  I want to be ... considered, thought about, and for once, I'd like to be first.~

“Is it so wrong to want to come first, Jack?” Daniel asked the shredded pieces of his coffee cup.  “Me?  Coming first?  I don't deserve it anyway.”  ~Gawd, I do need a shrink.~

====

Jack raced through the terminal, his heart sinking as he saw the closed doors of the gate.  Through the window, he could just see the plane being shoved back in preparation for taxiing to the runway.

~No!  This cannot be happening!  Daniel!~

Utter despair seized Jack for a moment, and then he pulled himself together.

~I am not letting you go, Danny.  I'll follow you.~

Making his way to the Air France ticket counter, Jack made some inquiries.  There was a plane he could catch in an hour.  The layover was shorter than Daniel's flight, so Jack would arrive in Egypt at virtually the same time as Daniel.

He was also grateful that as a matter of routine, he frequently carried his passport, and this was one of those times.  Having paid for the ticket, he looked at his watch, wincing when he saw the time.

~The General is going to kill me.~

Jack was supposed to be in a meeting in fifteen minutes, and of course, SG-1's mission was fast approaching.  Having left his cell phone in his truck, he walked over to the phone booths.

~Doesn't matter.  Without Danny, nothing matters.  Geez, I effectively told him that the job was more important than he was.  But I didn't mean it like that, Danny.  Part of you knows that.~

Jack slapped his forehead as he had an epiphany.

~It's that abandoned child thing again.  Adult Daniel is trying to protect Danny.  Geez, O'Neill, could you be any slower on the uptake?~

Jack lifted the receiver and placed his call.

“You're WHERE?”

“In Denver, Sir.  I'm sorry, General, but something ... urgent has come up.  I need some time off, General.”

“Jack, what on Earth could have happened between this morning and now, and why did you leave the base without notifying me?”

“As I said, Sir, it's an emergency ... a family emergency.”

“I didn't think you had any family still living, Colonel.”

Jack paused, considering his answer.  He decided to go with the truth.

“You're wrong, General.  I ... do have a family and ... right now that family needs me.  I have to go, Sir.  I'll let you know my plans as soon as I know.”

“Jack ...”
 
The Air Force colonel hung up the phone, wondering if he would be court-martialed the next time he walked into Cheyenne Mountain.

~I'd better get some clothes.  Better here than there.  There's some shops over there.~

Jack headed for one of the stores.  He planned on buying a small luggage bag and would fill it with supplies and whatever clothing he could find in the shops.

As he paid for his items, he saw a small Disney character figurine of Goofy.  It reminded him of the trip to Disneyland that he and Daniel had taken.  Indulging in sentimentality, he purchased the item.

Walking through the terminal, Jack saw a Godiva candy store.  He purchased a pound of Daniel's favorite chocolate truffles.  Further up, there was a Starbuck's stand.  Jack bought two pounds of Daniel's favorite Arabian Mocha mix.  A few more stores up, Jack spied a section that had those energy bars his lover enjoyed so much.  Jack grabbed a handful and purchased them.

He was sure he had purchased everything when a book caught his eye.  It was all about fish and aquarium designs.  There was another on mythology, and yet another on mysteries of ancient cultures.  ~Bound to be wrong, but oh well.~  Jack purchased all of them.

Tired of shopping, Jack decided to go back to the gate to wait for his plane, except just as he was leaving the shopping area, he saw two more things he had to get -- a stuffed monkey and a dozen roses.  He wasn't even sure he could take the flowers, but he didn't care.  He'd buy them, and worry about customs later.

Finally, Jack found a seat and began to wait for his flight to be called.

~Crap.  I have a headache.~

====

~So, Jackson.  Are you really going to sit here all day?  I mean, you tore up your ticket, so now what?  If I knew that, I'd be doing it.  I wonder what you're doing, Jack?~

Daniel sighed.  The coffee cup had been demolished, cut into shreds with his fingers, and now he was working on a bunch of napkins.

~You have a mission today.  You'll be going through the Stargate.  Robert is good.  He ...~  Daniel suddenly sat up straight.  ~Oh gawd, Robert will have to watch your six.  Robert.  He's ... gawd, he's geekier than I am.  I like Robert.  He's a good friend.  I respect him, but ... he ...~

Daniel shoved the shreds of foam and napkin towards the other side of the paper as he laid his elbows on the small square table and then lowered his head to rest on his hands.

~Let him go, Jackson.  Nothing will happen.  Robert won't have to ... oh gawd.  Stop thinking about it.  It's not like you're ... Rambo or anything.~

After five minutes, the young man decided he needed to walk around.  He stood, and ambled leisurely through the terminal, not really paying attention to much of anything.  He was grateful he had checked all of his luggage except for one small bag.  Of course, that meant his luggage was now headed for Egypt.

~Crap.  I have a headache.~

====

Jack wondered if he could be bothered picking up all his shopping bags just to go and get some aspirin.  ~Nope, it'll pass.  I'll wait and get something on the plane.  Geez, I miss you, Danny.~
 
He leaned back and closed his eyes.  ~You'd think I'd learn.  With Sara, the job always came first.  Saving the world in the name of democracy was always getting in the way of what she needed.  And I wasn't even saving the world then, despite what the USAF might like to believe.~

Jack began rubbing his temples, hoping that he could alleviate his headache a little.

~Only Danny can help with the pain in my heart.  What's the point in saving the world if I don't have him to share it with?  Geez, it didn't matter if the General wanted to see me.  I should have got you down earlier.  Knowing that Teal'c, Sam and I had already been free for a while, you must have felt abandoned.~

====
 
Daniel walked past one of the gift shops and saw a small dancing Ice Hockey bear.  Before he realized what he was doing, he had walked into the shop and purchased it.

~You're an idiot, Jackson.  What are you going to do with an Ice Hockey bear?~

“It's cute.”  ~Reminds me of Jack.~

He stuffed it in his bag and began making his way to the pharmacy that he could see at the other end of the terminal.  As he passed another shop, he saw a stuffed toy silver fox.  This time he hesitated before walking into the shop, but he couldn't stop himself.  He picked it up and stroked its fur lovingly.  He reached out to put it back and found he couldn't.

~Well, Ice Hockey bear needs a friend.  He doesn't want to be alone.  It's not fun being alone.~

A wave of misery threatened to engulf him, and Daniel sped up his route to the pharmacy, deciding not to look at any of the other shops.  It was too, hard.  Everything seemed to remind him of Jack.  Then he spotted the book shop and couldn't resist going in.  Maybe he could find a good novel to lose himself in for a while.
 
Not in the mood for anything depressing, Daniel found himself drawn to the humor section.  Unfortunately, the first book he saw was a Simpsons comic book.  His hand trembled as he picked it up and flicked through the pages.  Like he had with the fox, he reached out to put it back and then found he couldn't let it go.  He abandoned the humor shelf and walked over to the fiction shelves.  He gazed at the titles and pulled a few out.  The third one he selected was about a pilot.  It joined the Simpsons book in his hand.

~Forget this, my headache is getting worse.~

Daniel gave up looking for something to escape into and paid for his purchases instead.  As he walked, Daniel looked at the floor in front of him, determined not to look at anything else around him.

~Okay, Daniel, head down, don't look at the shops.  Wherever you go you'll see something to remind you of Jack.  Just shows how pitiful and needy you are.  He is definitely better off without you.  Now, it's not far to the pharmacy, just keep walking.~

A minute later, Daniel was leaving the tiny drug store, congratulating himself on having made it this far without catching sight of anything that reminded him of Jack.  As soon as he thought it, though, he caught sight of tubes of lubricant.

~Crap.  Coffee, I need another coffee cup to shred.  That was safe.~

As he neared the same small coffee shop he had been in before, he decided he should try and eat something, but his slight hunger was stifled when he saw the breakfast foods.

“A box of Froot Loops, please.”

With his coffee and cereal, Daniel picked out a table, one close to the wall.  He sat there staring at the box of Froot Loops for several minutes.

~Am I making a mistake by staying?  Maybe he won't want me anymore, especially after that silly note I left for him.~

====

Jack decided he needed something to drink.  Next to one of the coffee shops, he caught sight of the pub.  ~Love modern airports.~  Picking up his bags, he went to the cavern-like area and ordered a beer.  He picked out a spot near a wall to commiserate in privately.

Looking up towards the counter, he saw that the pub also served food.  ~Maybe they have my loops.~

He went to the counter, but what he returned with were Belgian waffles, Daniel's favorite breakfast food.  He sat there, staring at it, feeling like if he ate it, it would be like destroying Daniel.

~Am I making a mistake?  Maybe he really doesn't want me anymore.  He could do better with someone younger than this battered old body of bones.~

====

Daniel held the unopened box of Froot Loops in his hand.  **I love you, Jack.**

Jack stared down at the uneaten waffles.  ** I love you, Danny.**

====

Daniel looked at the box of Froot Loops.  **I'm hearing Jack in Froot Loops now?**

Jack looked at the waffles in front of him.  **Danny?**

Daniel set the box of Froot Loops on the table in front of him and looked at it with great intensity, as if trying to out stare it.  **Okay, I'm going insane.  I love you, Jack.  I'm sorry I'm such a nutcase.  You really do deserve better than me ...**

**Danny?**

**Look, you're a box of breakfast cereal, and you're my hallucination, and I don't want you to talk, so cut it out!  Now, as I was saying, you deserve better, Jack.  I just have too much emotional baggage, so I hope you find someone.  Maybe you should consider Sam.  After all, you're together in virtually every universe.  Maybe you could find the alternate Sam.  Her Jack was dead.  You ... you could stay with her if you wanted.**

Daniel sighed.  **Gawd, I really am pathetic.  Now I'm talking to cereal.**

====

Jack stood up and looked around the pub.  There was no sign of his lover, but he had to be close.  He could still hear him, and the pain in Daniel's thoughts was breaking his heart.  He left the pub, finally noticing the coffee shop next door.  He allowed a slight smile to appear on his face.

~Of course, the coffee shop.~

He walked the few feet to the mini-restaurant door and looked through the window.  There sitting in a corner next to the wall, staring at a box of Froot Loops, was Daniel.

~Geez, we were sitting side by side and didn't know it.~

Jack realized Daniel's table and his had been in virtually the same spot, just separated by a wall.  He watched his sad-looking lover.  Daniel was hunched over as if trying to fold in on himself, much as Jack suspected Daniel had sat as a child trying to remain invisible in whatever nightmare foster home he'd been thrust into.

He felt a wave of anger at the world for being so cruel to such a gentle soul.  ~Oh, Danny.  I don't want Sam, I want you.~

**So, find Sam.  Or ... whoever will make you happy.  That's what I want, Jack -- for you to be happy.**

**Then you'd better come with me right now because the only way I'll be happy is if you are in my arms.**

**I told you to shut up.**

“No, you told the box of cereal to shut up.”

“Gawd, you're so frustrating.  Stop being ...”  Daniel suddenly sat up straight.  His heart started to pound, his pulse quickening.  He closed his eyes, and then very softly asked, “Jack?”

“The one and only.”

Daniel twisted his body around to look behind and to his left, and sure enough, there was Jack, holding some bags, flowers, and a small luggage satchel.

Jack smiled, then calmly walked over to the chair and sat down.  He handed the flowers to Daniel.

“These are for you.”

The young man just stared at the bouquet, confusion running rampant through his mind.

“They're beautiful.”

“So are you.  Now, listen to me.  You had a plane which you obviously didn't take, for reasons I ... don't know but am certainly thankful for.  I have a ticket for the next plane out because I was going to follow you.  Hammond is not happy with me, but I don't care.  I'm practically AWOL, but I told him I had a family emergency and that I'm not coming back until my family is whole again.  In case you have any doubts,” Jack leaned forward, “you are my family.  Now, I don't think this little shop is the place for our ... discussion, and we ARE going to have a discussion, Daniel, and then I'm going to ravish your beautiful body until you are totally senseless and can't even imagine why you'd even THINK about leaving me.  So ... the apartment or ... our home?”

Daniel knew Jack would cause a scene if he tried to leave, and he didn't want that.  The truth was a part of him was glad Jack was sitting in front of him, confidently “commanding” the situation.

~I want him.  Heaven help me.  I want him so bad.~

“Danny?”

Daniel looked around the terminal, bustling with people, even more than earlier.  He smelled the flowers and said softly, “Cabin.”

Jack nodded.  “Here or Minnesota?”

Without thinking, Daniel spurted out, “Minnesota.”

Jack grinned.  ~You SO don't want to leave me.  If you wanted a quick fix, you would have said our cabin here.  Oh, no.  You want me to fix this, and trust me, My Love, I'm going to.~  “Okay, let's go.  If the truck is still there, we'll drive.”

“If?”

“It's probably been impounded.  I left it at the entrance.  Flashed my military ID and ran in.”

“Rrrrran?”

“I was trying to catch you before the plane left, but it was just being pushed back when I got to the gate.”

“Oh.”

A smile graced Jack's face.  “You weren't on the plane.”

Daniel shook his head.  For a minute, he was going to say a tender, “I tore up my ticket,” but then he decided to go for the snarkier, “Obviously not, Jack.”

“Let's go find my truck, and then we're off for our cabin.”

“Your cabin,” Daniel said standing up.

“Our cabin,” Jack stated with a powerful determination as he, too, stood.  “Where's your luggage?”  Jack had noticed just one small bag and the shopping bags surrounding his lover, but nothing else even remotely deemed luggage.

“It's ... on the plane.”

“We'll stop by the baggage area and have them send it back.”

“No.  I'll ... I'll be catching up with it later,” Daniel tried to sound firm as they walked.

Looking straight ahead, Jack calmly responded.  “Danny, you and I both know that you aren't getting on a plane for Egypt anytime soon.  I'm going to fix this, whatever it is, because it's what we both want.  And don't try to lie to me.  You want me to fix it.”

**Gawd, yes.**

**And I will.**

Daniel sighed.  It had been an involuntary thought, but it was the truth.

~Please fix it, Jack.  Please fix it.  I feel so ... awful,~ the archaeologist bemoaned silently.

====

It took an hour to arrange for Daniel's luggage to be returned, and three hours for Jack to straighten out the mess with the truck.  He relied heavily on his colonel's wings to get him through and was immensely relieved when Hammond backed him up when called to verify Jack's creative story.

~I owe you one, General.~

Still, it had cost Jack a pretty penny in fines, and a long lecture from airport security, but he also knew that wouldn't be the worst of it.  When he got back, he knew Hammond would dress him down for at least an hour, maybe two.  ~And that, General, I am NOT looking forward to.~

“Danny, we'll get your car when we come back, okay?”  ~Sorry, Love, you want me figure this mess out, but I'm not quite ready to let you out of my sight.  We'll get the car later.~

“Sure.”  ~I don't care.  Nothing matter's right now.  I've made such a mess out of everything.~

Once the couple were finally on their way to Minnesota, they traveled in silence for two hours until Jack finally asked, “Do you want to drive straight through, or stop at a motel?”

“Drive.”

~Okay, that means you want this over fast, and you know we won't resolve anything at some motel.  In fact, it might only complicate it.  Admit it, Love.  You're glad I found you at the airport.~

Two more hours of silence, and Jack pulled into a truck stop to refuel the truck and clean the windshield.

~Blasted bugs.  Why don't you watch where you're going?~

“I'm gonna ...” Daniel pointed toward the restrooms, and Jack nodded in affirmation.

Lost in his thoughts, Daniel was surprised a minute later when Jack suddenly flung him around and kissed him.  It was a deep kiss.  “Just remember that.  Don't disappear on me, Danny.  I couldn't handle it.” Jack turned and headed back for the truck.

Daniel stood, folding his arms in front of him.  “Gawd, he knows me too well.  How'd he know I was even thinking about that option?  I'm so confused.”

Deciding not to try and hitch a ride with an outgoing trucker, Daniel attended to his call of nature and then walked slowly back to the truck.

Jack looked into his lover's eyes.  **I love you.  We'll get through this.  Trust me.**

Daniel looked down and then around at his surroundings.  “I do, Jack. You know that.  This isn't about trust.”

“Isn't it?”  Jack moved towards Daniel.  “You're afraid I'm going to run, that you'll get hurt.  I don't know the specifics of what's going on in your mind, but that's the main point, isn't it?  You don't trust me, Danny.”

“You're wrong.  I ... I don't trust myself.”  Daniel moved by Jack, their shoulders touching as he walked by, and got into the truck.

“I'll be right back,” Jack said with a sigh, as he headed to answer his own call of nature.

====
 
As the they got closer to the cabin, Jack could sense the tension rising in his lover.  His own nervousness was increasing as well, and he prayed that he wouldn't mess this up.

**You should've let me go, Jack.  I'm messing up your life, your career. You must be in so much trouble with General Hammond.  Can't you see how much better off you'd be without me around to screw things up?**

**That's so not true, Danny.**

Jack resisted the temptation to stop the truck and start their healing now.  He didn't want his lover to keep running along this mental path.

~The truck is not the place, O'Neill.  It'll be okay.~
 
He glanced at Daniel and cringed.  His lover looked like a lost little boy, alone, frightened, and sure that no one in the world cared about him.  Daniel's body was closed, his shoulders hunched, his hands clasped together in between his legs.  It was as if he was shutting out the world, including Jack.

~I can't believe I missed this.  Okay, stop it.  You can berate yourself for this later.  Right now, you have to work out how to fix it.~

====

The remainder of the trip was spent in silence until finally they arrived at the cabin.  Before Daniel could move, Jack reached over and grabbed hold of his hand, stating softly, “I love you, Danny.”

“I know, Jack.  I love you, too.”

The sad smile he gave the older man as he climbed out of the truck was heartbreaking.

~Crap.  I'm still missing something.~

Jack walked over and unlocked the cabin, never taking his eyes of his self-hugging lover who had gone over to the dock.

Daniel stood looking out across the lake.  ~The lake with no fish.~  He didn't know that he could do this.  He was beginning to curse himself for having ripped up that plane ticket.

“Danny?”

The young man felt his lover come up behind him, and when a pair of strong arms wound themselves around his waist, Daniel couldn't stop himself from leaning into the embrace.  Then he stiffened and pulled away.

~Gawd, you're a sorry bum, Jackson.  That's why he's better off without you -- you're so freakin' needy.~

“Okay, that's enough.  We are going to talk, and we're going to talk now.”

“Why, Jack?  Can't you see how pointless it is?  We don't need to talk.  There's nothing to talk about.  You were right.  I know you were right!  I know you had no choice, that you had to leave me hanging around with everyone else.  It was the right thing to do.  I was wrong to be upset and to ... to whine about it for so long.  Not only am I wrong, but now I've gotten you into trouble with the General.  You should have let me go, Jack.  Can't you see how much better off you'd be without me?”

“DON'T YOU GET IT, DANIEL!  I DON'T WANT TO BE WITHOUT YOU!  I LOVE YOU ... even if you do drive me crazy most of the time!”  Jack had a tiny smile on his face.

“I know,” Daniel said softly.  “But we don't always love what's best for us, Jack.  Sometimes the things we love will only hurt us.  I don't want to hurt you.  I can't let you continue to be hurt because of me.”

“What do you think you're doing now, you idiot?”

“But it will pass, Jack.  And this way I won't keep hurting you.”

Jack ran his fingers through his hair.  This was all starting to feel surreal.

~Okay, O'Neill, break it down.  Let's start with the leaving him hanging thing.  Work out how much of this is related to that.~

“Danny, I'm sorry I left it to Teal'c to get you down.  I should have been there.  I could have come up with something to tell Hammond.”

“No!  You're not listening.  You were right, okay.  I was being stupid, pathetic and needy.  You did the right thing.  Remember when you kissed the alternate Sam?  Well, that was the right thing, too.  You always do the right thing, Jack.  You have nothing to be sorry for.  I'm the one who needs to make the apologies, who constantly over reacts to everything.  You'd just leave eventually anyway, so I'm saving you the agony of doing it first.  I'm not good enough for you, and that's why you are going to be so much better off without me!”

Tears were running down Daniel's cheeks, and all Jack wanted to do was hold his soulmate and never let him go.  He noticed that Daniel was starting to shiver.

“You're cold, Danny.  Let's go inside.”

Reluctantly, Daniel nodded, and breathing a sigh of relief, Jack guided the young man inside.  As he started a fire, he watched Daniel scoot into the corner of the sofa, his knees drawn up to his chest, arms tightly clasped around them.

~I keep forgetting just how deep those scars go, Danny.  I should have known that you'd be taking the blame for all of this.~

Jack walked over to the sofa and sat down, his body turned towards his lover, his left leg resting on the sofa cushion.  He reached out with his right hand and ran the back of his hand along Daniel's right cheek.  Daniel looked over at him, feeling confused and scared.

“I'm not going anywhere, Danny, and you know that.  I see it in your eyes, but something has you spooked.  If you understand about the foothold situation, then whatever this is, goes deeper, a lot deeper.  You acknowledge that I love you, that you love me, so ... call me dense, but I don't understand the problem.”

“Neither do I.”

Jack smiled at the soft admission.  ~Now we're getting somewhere.~

He moved his hand to Daniel's knees, finding one of Daniel's hands.  He saw Daniel start to retract his arms, to shift his position, but Jack took hold of his lover's right hand before Daniel could move.

~Not really resisting here, Danny.  That's a plus.~

“Jack, please don't.”

“Why?”

“Be...because I ... I'll just keep hurting you.”

“Why?”

“Because I'm ...” Daniel closed his eyes, wishing he could shut out the world.

“You're what?” Jack asked, still holding Daniel's hand, squeezing it in support.

Daniel opened his eyes and looked at Jack.  “I have too much baggage, Jack, things I can't let go of.  I've tried, but they just ... take over sometimes.”

“Like when you woke up in the room, hanging from the ceiling, and I wasn't there?”

Daniel nodded.  “But I understand, Jack.  I really do.”

~No, you don't, or we wouldn't be here.~  Jack hated talking.  He considered words to be Daniel's specialty, and yet, here he was, once again, having to talk about ... feelings.  ~I'm so not good at this.~

They sat for a while, neither man speaking, but Jack maintained his hold on Daniel's hand, hoping it would communicate that Jack was staying, no matter what.

After an hour, Jack leaned forward and kissed Daniel's hand.  He faced Daniel and then moved towards him, brushing their lips together.

~You aren't arguing with me.  What the heck is the problem?~  “I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too,” but again, it was a soft voice with a sad expression on the face of the man speaking the words.

“You have to tell me what you're thinking.”

“I did.”

“No, you told me some story about why you think I'd be better off without you, when you know full well I wouldn't be.  This isn't about me, Danny.  It's about you.”

Daniel startled.  He pulled back and pushed Jack away as he stood and walked to the farthest corner of the small cabin's living room.

~Well, that touched a nerve.~  “You just proved my case.  This is about you, so don't tell me you're leaving me for me, because that's a load of B.S.”

Daniel was suddenly visibly angry, his face tightening.  “I'm being honest.”

“WITH WHO?  NOT WITH ME, that's for sure.”

Daniel's breathing was deepening.  He wanted to throw something, but that wasn't his style.  ~But I do.  I want to break something.~

“Danny, will you talk to me?  Tell me what's going on.”

“I ALREADY DID!  LOOK AT US.  WE'RE FIGHTING, AND IT'S ALL MY FAULT.  YOU ARE SO BETTER OFF WITHOUT ME, AND IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT NOW, YOU SOON WILL."

“I was right.  You don't trust me.”

The sad tone of Jack's voice and the crushed look on his face nearly broke Daniel's heart.

“See.  I'm doing it again.  I hurt you.  I always do.  I'm never understanding enough.  I ignore your needs.”

“Danny, you are the most understanding person I know.”

“WELL, I'M FREAKIN' TIRED OF BEING UNDERSTANDING!”

Daniel looked so surprised at what he'd just said that had the situation been less serious, Jack would have laughed.

~Okay, I think we might have just got a lot closer to the core of the matter.~

Still, Jack had no idea what Daniel wanted him to do.

~Okay, he understands, but he really doesn't, or we wouldn't  be having this conversation.  It just doesn't make sense.~  Sometimes he really wished Daniel wasn't such a mass of contradictions.

“What do you want from me?” Jack asked.

“Nothing.”

“We both know that's not true or we wouldn't be here.  You would have left and flown off to Egypt.”

“I didn't get on the plane to Egypt because I'm weak, Jack.  And I'm standing here because I'm too inadequate not to need you.  These aren't your problems Jack, so just leave me alone.”

“They are my problems.  What affects you affects me because I love you.”

“Stop it.  Just stop loving me.  It should be easy, Jack.”

“It's not.  Couldn't if I wanted to, and I don't want to.”

“You will.”  The words were spoken so softly that Jack almost missed them.

“And we're back to the trust issue again.  Geez, Daniel, give me a break here.  Tell me what I need to do to snap you out of this.”

“I DON'T KNOW, JACK.  I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MY SCREWED UP PSYCHE NEEDS, AND I'M TIRED OF TRYING TO WORK IT OUT!”

Daniel eyed the door.  He was exhausted, mentally and physically, of everything.  He just wanted his brain to shut off.  He really wished he'd gotten on that plane to Egypt, but since he hadn't, maybe he could lose himself in the Minnesota woods for a couple of days.

“Daniel, why can't you just be reasonable?”  Jack saw Daniel flinch, and he cringed.  ~Oops, that was definitely the wrong thing to say.~

“I don't know, Jack.  And now we're back to the beginning.  I'm not reasonable.  I try, and I try, and I never seem to manage it.  And I'm really tired of talking about this so I'm going for a walk.”

For one of the few times in their relationship, Jack let Daniel walk out the door.

~He can't go far, and I need to think this out.~

Jack sat on the couch, losing himself in the silence.  He talked out loud, softly.  “Okay.  The hanging thing is just a catalyst of whatever this is.  It reminded him of something.  What did he say?  Inadequate?  Pathethic?  Needy?  NEEDY?”

Jack stood, walking to the window.  “He needs me to show him he's number one.  That's how I fit into this.  Does that make sense?”

He sighed and began to pace the room.  ~He's always understanding.  He's tired of doing that, of being reasonable.  He understands the logic, but it's the emotion.  Danny needs something illogical to be happy.~

Jack laughed, a short, raspy release.  “He wants some sign that he means more than ... a briefing.”

Jack continued his pacing. ~Okay, I can do that.  But there is more.  He knows all of this.  There is something more bothering him.~  “I'm gonna need some help here, Danny.  I don't know what's really going on.  I know a symptom and how to handle it, but I don't know the root cause.  You're going to have to help me.”

Jack headed for the door, pausing for a moment.  “The question is ... how do I get you to be honest with yourself, because that's the problem.  You're not lying to me, Danny.  You're lying to yourself.”

Going outside, Jack went in search of his lover.

====

Daniel walked deep in the woods, not paying attention to his direction.  ~If I'm lucky, I'll really get lost.~  He kept his hands in the pockets of his black pants, his head looking downwards most of the time.

His brain worked overtime trying to justify his words and actions to his lover.  He was so occupied he didn't realize how dark it was becoming.

~What is your problem, Jackson?  You love the man.  You're so freakin' in love with him that you can't see straight.  He's everything, and more. He'd make you totally, deliriously happy if you could just get over yourself, and you know it.~

Daniel's mental lecture had him tripping over brush and stones on the ground, but he just kept on getting up and walking.  He heard the lake to his right and moved in that direction, still rambling on about his situation.

~You always wanted someone who would believe in you, and you got it.  You got Jack.  He's told you several times that even when he doesn't always understand, he still believes.  He said that ... in Netu.  Oh gawd.  In Netu.  The blood of Sokar.  Jack dealt with Charlie.  Second again.~

“OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, YOU STUPID, SELF-ABSORBED IDIOT!  JEALOUS OF HIS DEAD SON?  GET ... OVER ... YOURSELF” Daniel screamed at the top of his lungs.  He looked down, saw a stone, picked it up, and threw it with all of his might.

“What is my problem?”

Daniel continued on.  ~What did you think about in Netu?  Jack.  Gawd.  I think about Jack all the time.  He's ... my life.  He loves me.  Why am I sending him away?  Netu.  The Blood of Sokar.  Sam hallucinated about Jacob and her mother, Jack about Charlie, and I ... Jack.~

“Gawd, I love him.  I'm just ... I ... he means so much.  Nothing lasts.  I ... I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed ...”  ~Pain.~

Daniel's world went dark.

====

Jack returned to the cabin, hoping that Daniel would be there.  He'd searched all the paths around the cabin, but had found no trace of his partner.  ~Please be there, Danny.~

He glanced up at the rapidly darkening sky and quickened his steps.  Even though Daniel had been to the cabin quite a few times now, he still didn't know the woods very well.  He was trying not to think of the possibility that Daniel might have headed straight for the road and hitched a ride out of town.

“Danny?”

Jack looked around the interior of the cabin and was disappointed to find it still lacked an archaeologist.  He checked the bathroom and the bedroom, not really surprised to find no trace of Daniel.

“Geez, Daniel.  You are such a stubborn, pig headed, annoying, irritating ... how can you not see how much I need you?  That's why we made that pact.  I can't live without you, just like you can't live without me.  I ...”

Jack ran his hand through his hair and walked over to a storage chest he kept full of emergency equipment.  He picked up a lantern and headed back out.  While it was too early to call in a rescue team, Jack would keep looking for Daniel himself.

“Please let me find him,” he prayed.  ~You can't live without me, Danny.  Is that what's suddenly freaking you out?  But you already knew that.  It's why we made the pact.~

====

Daniel struggled to consciousness to find he was cold, had a splitting headache, and now sported a very sore right ankle.  Slowly he pushed himself so that he was sitting upright.  Even though there was very little light from the moon, there was enough for him to see that he'd fallen off a low ledge and had probably cracked his head on a rock or tree as he fell.  He supposed he should be grateful that he wasn't more badly hurt.

~Then again, maybe it would have been the best solution.  Jack would be free.  And I have really got to stop feeling sorry for myself.~

Daniel managed to stand, but realizing he couldn't put any weight on his right leg, he sat back down and leaned back against a tree.

“And once again the pathetic geek needs Jack to come rescue him.” Daniel closed his eyes and rested his head on his bent knees.  ~Don't bother this time, Jack.  It's not worth it.~

Daniel groaned, thoroughly irritated with himself.  “Gawd, could I feel any more sorry for myself?”

Gritting his teeth against the pain, he dragged himself upright and hobbled forward a few steps.  Then he laughed.

~I'm completely lost.  I have no idea where I am.~

He sighed and began to hobble towards the sound of the lake.  ~If I make it to the lake, I can just follow that.  Big lake, but eventually I'll make it back to the cabin.  Of course, if Jack's got any sense, he won't be there.~

Slowly, Daniel made his way to the lake.  He finally reached it and sat down.  Lying back down, he closed his eyes, promising himself that he'd rest for five minutes and then start walking again.  A couple of minutes later, he'd fallen asleep.

====

Jack retraced his steps back to the cabin which was still missing its archaeologist.  ~Okay, think this through.  Daniel's a smart guy, quite likely to get lost in the woods, but once lost, what would he do?  He'd head for the lake.~

Feeling more optimistic, Jack moved to the edge of the lake and trailed along the edge of it.  He'd been walking for about five minutes when he heard it -- Daniel in the throes of a nightmare.  He broke into a run, the heartbreaking cries of his lover tearing at his heart.

“Jack ... I'm sorry ... please don't leave me ... No! ... Sorry ... so sorry ... I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry.”

“Daniel!”

Jack ran to his lover and pulled him into his arms, tears flowing down his cheeks.  He held the beloved body tightly to his chest as he thanked the powers watching over them for the safe return of his linguist.  He quickly saw that Daniel was still in the middle of his nightmare, however, repeating “I'm sorry” over and over in a panicked, emotionally charged voice.

He kissed the side of Daniel's neck as he gently rubbed his lover's back.

“Shhh, Danny.  I'm here.  Nothing to be sorry for.  Wake up, Angel.  It's okay.”

“J'ck?”  Daniel woke slowly and felt Jack's strong arms around him.  ~How'd that happen?~

“Right here, Danny.  I love you so much.”

Daniel felt totally defeated.  He relaxed into Jack's hold, unable to fight his need for his soulmate any longer.

Jack felt the surrender and held the young man even tighter than before.

“What happened, Angel?”

“Fell.  Hit my head.  Hurt my ankle.  The usual.  Clumsy geek.”

“Aw, Danny.  Stop that.  It's dark out, and you barely know the woods here.”

“Which is why I should have been paying attention, but I was wasn't.”

“You were a little distracted, huh?”  Jack felt Daniel's nod against his shoulder.  “It's okay.  Happens to the best of us.”

“Not the best ... just the clumsiest.”

“No, you're not.  Let's get to the cabin so I can properly check you out.”

Jack helped Daniel up, supporting him as they stood and then walked back to the cabin.  They didn't say much on the way back, Jack concentrating on the path under the black sky.

Once inside, Jack took Daniel into the bedroom.  “Here, let's get these clothes off.”

“I can do it myself,” Daniel swatted his lover away.

“Danny, please.  Let me help you, at least until we know you're okay.”

Daniel relented with a sigh.  Jack gave him a soft smile as he carefully unbuttoned his lover's shirt, sliding it gently off the young man.  He tossed it against the wall.

“Lots of mud.  Good thing you like the dirt so much.”

Jack was hoping for a smile, but received nothing but a stare.  He undid the button and unzipped Daniel's jeans, gliding them down the young man carefully.  Any other time, he would have detoured for a little “snack,” but it was obvious Daniel wasn't thinking that direction at all, judging from the limpness of the body part in question.

“Step out, Love.”

Daniel did as requested, and now dressed only in his boxers, let Jack help him to lay down on the bed.

“I'm fine,” Daniel insisted.

“Right.”  Jack began a close exam of his lover's body.  “I don't see any cuts or bruises, not even a bump on your head.”

“Head is too thick and stupid to be hurt.”

“Daniel, stop that.”

Jack checked Daniel's ankle, too, deciding it was probably just sprained, if that.  “You were lucky, Love.”

“If you say so,” Daniel said, avoiding Jack's eyes.

“Does your head hurt?”

“No.  Nothing hurts,” Daniel answered, sighing at the same time.  “I want to take a shower.”

“Can you stand?”

“Jack, I walked back ... miles.  I can stand in the shower.”

“Okay,” Jack said, helping Daniel up.

“Alone, Jack.”

“I wasn't planning on taking advantage of you.”

~Gawd, I'm not even happy when I get what I want.~

Daniel disappeared into the bathroom.  There was only one word to describe him -- miserable.

When he walked out of the bathroom, he saw his pajamas laid out on the bed, a hot cup of coffee on the nightstand, a turkey sandwich along with a few potato chips and a candy bar on a tray.  The tray was also accented with some wildflowers.

Daniel sighed as he sat down on the bed.  He picked up the flowers and smelled them.

~Even though he already gave me flowers, he went out in the middle of the night, into the woods, and picked me wildflowers?  Gawd, I'm horrible.~

There was a note next to the coffee.

“D.

I'm just outside the door.  I don't want you to feel pressured tonight, and I don't want you doing anything you don't want to.  Please eat, and get some sleep.  If you need me, just shout.

I love you, Angel.

J.”

Daniel felt even more miserable.  Jack was being so considerate.  He felt like a heel.  Jack hadn't done a thing wrong.  This was all Daniel, and they both knew it.

~Why are you still here?  Why can't I run you off?~

Daniel suddenly stood up.  “Run you off?  Why?  Why do I want that when I know perfectly well I don't want that?”

He sat down again and ate the sandwich.  It was the least he could do.  When he finished it, and his coffee, he changed into the pajamas and lay down in the bed, but instead or rest, he began to toss and turn.

~Bed's too big and ... empty.~

He sat up, leaning against the headboard.  ~What was I thinking about before I did the clumsy bit?  It was important.  Netu.  Jack.  Why didn't I think about my parents, like Sam did?  I'm so confused.~

After an hour of figuring out absolutely nothing, Daniel came to what he called an Earth-shattering decision.  “I'm cold.”

He got up, took a breath, and walked to the door.  For a moment, he just leaned his head against it.

~Odd, this feels so ... comforting.  Jack, I love you.  I need you.  I can't figure out what's wrong with me, and I feel like ... like such a whiny crybaby.  Help me.~

With a sigh, Daniel opened the door.  He started a little when he saw Jack standing there, smiling.

“What took you so long?”

Daniel blinked.  Two seconds later, he was in his lover's arms, the throes of passion about to overtake them.

“I love you, Jack.”

Daniel kissed the older man aggressively and, Jack noticed, with some desperation.  He would have been happy if he thought the desperation came from Daniel missing him, but he knew it was more than that.

~Geez, Danny, what you do to me.~

Jack joined Daniel in the urgent need to get their clothes off of each other.  Daniel had on his pajamas, but Jack was still dressed in his civvies.

They groaned when they finally rid themselves of their Daniel's pajama top and Jack's tan shirt and their chests rubbed together.  They never stopped kissing, their mouths moving vigorously as their kisses deepened, only stopping to grab a breath of air before diving back in for more.

**Love you, Danny.**

Daniel was nuzzling his nose in Jack's chest hair and then moved down further to unzip his jeans.  As soon as he pulled them off he swallowed Jack to the root.  He wasn't interested in teasing.  He wanted to get to the main event, and quickly.

“Danny ... yes ... love you ... geeeeez.”  In a flash, though, Jack put his own desires to the background.  What counted now was what Daniel wanted and needed, not Jack's pleasure.

~This isn't what he needs.~  Jack realized  Daniel needed to feel loved and special, which meant Jack should be doing all the work.  ~I'll do this type of work any day.~

He pulled Daniel up for another long deep kiss, loving the taste of himself in Daniel's mouth.  Before Daniel could resume his previous activity, Jack attached himself to Daniel's left nipple laving and loving the bud tenderly.

“Jack ... My Jack ... Love you ... so much ... gawd.”

Jack moved over to lavish the same attention on Daniel's other side at the same time pulling down the pajama bottoms, assisting his lover in stepping out them, and then guided Daniel over to the bed.

As soon as he felt the bed behind him, Daniel lay down holding out his arms for Jack.  There kiss continued, and Daniel was about to roll on top of Jack.

“Danny, please, let me?”

Daniel nodded, and Jack gave him a loving smile that took his breath away.  Gently, Jack reached out and caressed Daniel's cheek.

“You're my life, Danny.  I love you.”

Before Daniel had a chance to respond, Jack swooped down and swallowed him whole.  He worked his way up and down Daniel's length determined to show the young man just how much he meant to him.  Jack reached back and gently worked one finger into Daniel, swiping it over his prostate.

Daniel was so primed, he didn't need much.  Just the thought of Jack had him on edge.  The combination of Jack's finger stroking his prostate and Jack sucking on him resulted in a quick release.  Daniel shouted out his love.  “JACK ... LOVE ... YOU ... GAWD ... YES ... LOVE ... SILVER FOX.”

In a rush, Daniel came, and Jack savored the taste, not letting any escape.  He'd never get enough of this gentle soul entrusted to his care. With tenderness, he licked Daniel clean and moved up to kiss the satiated young man.

As he looked down at Daniel, his eyes closed, the first look of peace on his face since this whole mess started, Jack felt anew the wonder that he alone could bring Daniel to this state.  As he watched, the blue eyes opened.

“Jack.”  Daniel's voice was hesitant.  “Please ... I need you ... inside me.”

Daniel was improving about asking for his wants and needs, but he still had a long way to go.  Yet, Jack's heart melted seeing the tremendous need within the man he loved, and he was grateful Daniel spoke the words.

Jack smiled, and wasting no time, he leaned over to the nightstand and burrowed around in the drawer for the lube they kept there.  After giving Daniel another kiss, tongues dueling with each other, the older man kissed his way down Daniel's body, his tongue sometimes flicking in teasing touches, his teeth sometimes nipping in teasing bites.

Gently he prepared his lover doing his best to ignore Daniel's urging to “Freakin' hurry up and get in there, Jack.”

“Now, Jack.  Please, now.”

Jack grinned and pulling his fingers from the squirming, wriggling body, slid slowly in.  They both moaned at the sensation.  Slowly, Jack began to move, but then sped up sensing from Daniel's expression and tone that he wanted their union to be hard and fast.  Soon he was pounding a barrage of hits into the younger man, his length making continuous contact with Daniel's prostate.

“Love ... you ...Angel.”

The tender nickname moved Daniel.  Jack always gave him so much.  He always put Daniel first, even if Daniel was whining.  ~Angel.  Gawd, he believes it.  I don't deserve him.~  “Jack ... sorry ... please ... forgive me.”

“Never ... letting you ... go ... My Angel ... not ... ever.”

One final thrust sent them both over the edge, and they clung to each other as they rode out the breathtaking orgasms.  Jack wasn't surprised to see the tears now flowing freely down Daniel's cheeks.  Pulling gently out of his lover, he brought Daniel across to lie on his chest, his arms firmly holding the young man as he lay sobbing his heart out on his Jack pillow.

“Let it all out, Danny.  I love you.  Not going anywhere.  Never.  Love you so much.  You're my Space Monkey.  My Angel.  Can't live without you.  I won't live without you.”

“I don't know what's wrong with me.  Every time I think I have it figured out, I ... start feeling sorry for myself.  Gawd, Jack.  You should let me go.”

“No, not gonna happen.”

“I hate me right now.  I feel like ... like ...”

Jack smirked, “... like Carter during that time of the month?”

“Oh gawd.  Am I being that bad?  I am.  Jack ... I ... I know what's wrong with me now.  I understand now.”

“Okay.  Tell me.”  Jack held his breath.  He was sure this would be emotionally difficult to get through, but he knew they would.

“I ... I think I'm pregnant!”

Both men broke into laughter.  It was a much needed break in their roller coaster couple of days.

“You goofball,” Jack said amid the hysterics, flipping them around so that Daniel was again on his back.  As he gazed into the eyes he adored, he saw Daniel's sweet smile.  “What would I do without you?”  He shook his head.  “I wouldn't do anything, Danny, because I'd be nothing.”

Jack placed the palm of his right hand against Daniel's cheek.  “You are my beautiful, shining, falling star, and I know you're hurting and confused, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Love, and we're going to find it together.”

“Promise?”

“Oh yeah.  But we'll worry about it tomorrow.  Right now, we have other things to concentrate on.”

“We do?” Daniel asked softly.

“Yes, like this,” Jack kissed Daniel's forehead.  He moved down and kissed each eyelid.  “And this,” he kissed Daniel's nose, and then each cheek.

Daniel's hands ran through Jack's graying hair.  Looking into his partner's chocolate brown eyes, he saw the love and understanding.  It made him feel even worse for being so demanding and childish.  Tears began to leak out.

“Ah, Danny.  I need to do this,” Jack said as he kissed the tears away.  He kept kissing his lover, all over his face and neck, and sometimes his chest.  With his hands, he caressed the young man's cheeks, rubbed softly against his neck, and continued to whisper the words that spoke of his love and desire for Daniel.

Daniel writhed under the intense application of Jack's emotion.  Each touch and brushing of their lips was tender and caring.  Jack wasn't asking for anything, nor did he demand a thing.  He was giving -- giving all of his love to Daniel.

“Jack?”

“Hmm?”

“Let's go for a walk.”

“It's dark out, Danny.”

“Yeah, but you know this place backwards and forwards.  I need ... I need the air, Jack.  Please.”

“What about your ankle?”

“It doesn't hurt.  Besides, you'll help me.”

“Always.  It's cold out.”

“You'll keep me warm.”

Jack grinned.  This was more like it.  “Come on.  Do you want to take a shower first?”

Daniel shook his head.  They went to the bathroom and did a quick clean up job, then each put on a pair of sweats they kept at the cabin.  Jack was happy Daniel's ankle wasn't injured badly.  His lover wasn't favoring it much at all.

“We'd better put on our jackets.”

Daniel put his on, but before he could zip it up, Jack took hold of his hands.  He kissed him tenderly, and then Jack zipped up the jacket for the younger man.  Jack nodded, and the two walked out the door.

Jack took hold of Daniel's right hand as they walked.  Every few seconds he squeezed it or caressed it with his thumb.  After a couple of minutes, he pulled Daniel closer to him, moving his arm around Daniel's waist.  Jack felt good when he felt Daniel's hand rubbing gently against his lower back, and then settle into place around his waist.

Words were minimal as they walked.  They were just being together.  They didn't go far, just down the main path behind the cabin that ventured along the edge of the lake.  Though dark, the moonlight bounced off the lake, and Jack had a couple of night lanterns he kept near the dock that he had lit.

Daniel sighed.  It was a big release, so noticeable that Jack stopped their forward motion.  He turned Daniel to face him.  “You want to talk?”

Daniel nodded.  “Jack, it's so close.  I think I understand why I'm ... gawd, trying to mess things up, but then it slips away.  I lose sight of it and get lost in ... this self-pity I seem to be wallowing in.  Why can't I figure it out?”

Jack held both of his lover's hands.  “Maybe you have.  Maybe you're just afraid, Danny.”

“Afraid?  Of what?”

“I don't know ... exactly, but I don't think it was anything to do with the foothold situation.”

“It wasn't, not really.  That much I've finally accepted.  It ... Jack, it has something to do with Netu.”

Daniel looked down, a sudden look of remorse and regret on his face.  There was pain there, and Jack wished he could wash it all away.  He leaned his forehead against Daniel's.  He heard the sigh as they connected.

~Take what you need, Danny.  All I have is yours.~

Daniel soaked in his lover's strength and absorbed every morsel of love that he could.  Finally, he looked up.

“In Netu, you were my dream.  You, Jack.  Not my parents.  You.”

Jack stared at Daniel in surprise.  They hadn't really talked about their dreams in Netu.  Actually, they had, but thinking back on it, Jack realized that Daniel hadn't ever told Jack exactly what his dream had been.

//Flashback//
“Thought I'd find you here.”

Jack entered Daniel's office and closed the door, making sure it was locked.  After turning off the security camera, he walked over to his lover and took the young man into his arms, relishing the feel of Daniel's body against his own.

“Love you.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

They stood like that for a couple of minutes just drawing strength from their togetherness.

“Much as I don't want to move, we are due at the debriefing in a couple of minutes.  Hammond wants to do it before Jacob heads back to the Tok'ra.”

Still, Jack didn't move much.  Finally, drawing back a little, they kissed, a deep hungry kiss that threatened to become more.  Jack sighed.

“We'd better go before we get sidetracked, and Hammond sends out a search party.”

They walked to the briefing and soon were lost in the details of reporting what had transpired and discussing possible implications for the SGC if the Blood of Sokar were used again.

As he sat near the head of the long table in the briefing, Jack listened to Sam retell the dream she'd had on Netu and how the image of her father had wanted the address of Earth and the iris codes.  He saw Jacob reach out and squeeze her hand reassuringly.

Jack was next.  He told Hammond about his dream of Charlie and how Charlie had wanted to know the address of the Asgard home world, or failing that, the address of the planet where Jack had the Ancient's knowledge downloaded into his brain.

“Doctor Jackson?”  General Hammond looked at the young man sympathetically.

“They wanted to know the location of the Harsesis child, the name of the place where Amaunet sent him.”

“How did you manage to get the communication device, Daniel?” Sam asked curiously.

Daniel shrugged.  “I hit one of the Jaffa.  He knocked me over, and as I fell, I grabbed the device.”

~Geez, Danny.  You have no idea how incredible you are, do you?~ Jack gazed admiringly at his lover.

“It saved our lives,” Jacob acknowledged.

“Okay people, take forty-eight hours downtime,” Hammond said with a smile as he dismissed them.

Ten minutes later, Jack and Daniel were on their way home.
 
No sooner had they got in the front door when Daniel launched himself at Jack, kissing him brazenly.  Jack was just as anxious, the close call they'd had fueling his need to touch and feel every inch of Daniel, to reassure himself that his precious lover was safe and back in his arms where he belonged.  They didn't even make it to the bedroom before their need took over, and they ended up making ardent love on the floor of the entranceway.
 
As they recovered, Jack stroked Daniel's back.  “Just remember, Love.  That so-called dream wasn't real.  Whatever your parents seemed to offer ...”
 
His words were cut off by Daniel's mouth closing over his own.  “I know, Jack.  It's okay.  I'm okay.”
//End of Flashback//
 
Jack began cursing himself.  ~You're a blasted idiot, O'Neill.  You should know by now that you never, ever assume anything with Daniel.~

“Me?”

Daniel nodded.  “It was after Sha're died, when you came to my office, and I was going through those things that Kasuf sent.  Remember?”

Jack put his right hand at the side of Daniel's neck, massaging very gently as he answered.  “Yeah.  It wasn't easy on you to go through those things.”

“We talked about the boy.  You didn't believe me.”

There was no point in lying.  Jack did have his doubts.  He wondered if the ribbon device had somehow implanted the thought in Daniel as some kind of ruse.  “But I always believe in you, Danny.”

“I know.  That's what you said then, too, but then you wanted to know the name of the planet.”

“Kheb.”

Daniel smiled, almost breathing from relief, as if maybe he was back on Netu again.  “Yes, Kheb.  You said you couldn't remember.  You tried to get me to tell you.”

“But you didn't.”

“I knew it wasn't you.”

“Because I wouldn't forget Kheb, not for real.”

“Only when you're teasing me.”

Jack's thumb moved with smooth precision along Daniel's jaw line as they stood.  “I don't really get this Harsesis wonder kid, but I do get you.  I wouldn't joke about that, not seriously.  You know that, don't you?”

Daniel nodded slightly.  “Jack.  My dream was about you.  You dreamed about Charlie, and I dreamt about you.”

“Danny ...” Jack really didn't know what to say, so he was glad when Daniel cut off his sentence.

“No, I don't want you to feel ... bad.  I just ... Jack, why didn't I dream about my parents?”

“I don't know.”

Daniel turned away, moving to the edge of the slope overlooking the lake.  Jack moved behind him, putting his arms around Daniel's waist.  He sighed, saying nothing at the moment.

“Jack, I ... I'm beginning to believe you.”

“That's good.  Believe me about what?”

“Us.”

“Danny, is that what this is about?”

Jack's voice had raised slightly.  It was a cross between finally understanding and being shocked.  He felt Daniel tense a bit.

“I'm sorry,” Jack said as he snaked his hands under Daniel's sweatshirt to caress the young man's abdomen, and after a minute, he felt his lover relax again.  “Okay.  Tell me what that means, as best you can.”  This time, Jack's voice and tone was soft, tender, and understanding.

“I ... Jack, I keep waiting for something to go wrong, but it doesn't.  I mean ... we fight and have our differences.  I run.  You get jealous, but at the end of most days, we're together.”

“And that's how it's always going to be.  You and me.  Forever.”

“Jack, I have ... issues.”

“I know.  So do I.”

“But mine are ... mine make me ... I mean I ... gawd.”

Jack turned Daniel back around.  They needed to be facing each other, to let their souls talk through their eyes.

“Daniel, I was lucky.  I had very loving parents and grandparents that showed me more love than any child could ever dream up.  I grew up in one home full of people who cared about each other.  Family picnics, baseball games, hockey games, the zoo, Disneyland.  It was a good childhood.  My issues aren't about that.”

“But mine are.”

“And you have to realize, Love, that it's going to take time to overwrite all that tragedy.  And Danny?  We have time.  We have all the time in the world.”

“But it's not fair.  I ... I don't mean to, but I need ... I, uh, am demanding ... I ... I want you to ...” Daniel shook his head.  He just couldn't say this.  It was way too hard.  He still felt like he was some screaming child wanting to be the favorite.  He wished he didn't.  “Let's go back.  I want to go back now.”

Daniel moved swiftly away from Jack, self-hugging as he walked.

Jack sighed.  ~It's going to be okay.  I think I finally get it.  No more hanging around, logical or not, not for you, not until you know deep inside that you are the most kind, special, compassionate person in the universe, and that nothing matters unless you're in my life.~

Jack followed his soulmate back to the cabin, determined to work through this quickly.

Daniel stood in front of the fireplace, his arms wrapped tightly around himself.  He really hated himself at the moment.  He wished his heart would just listen to his head.

~I don't want to be like this.  It's not fair to Jack.~

As Jack entered the cabin, he saw Daniel practically vibrating with tension.  He walked up behind the younger man and pulled him back so that Daniel was leaning against him.  He slid his hands under Daniel's sweatshirt and began caressing his lover's abdomen again.

~No self-hugging in this household, Danny.  Hugging you is my job.~

Jack let Daniel get use to the feeling of being held.  He wanted them to get through this tonight, but they had hours of night left.

“Danny?” he asked softly.  “How did you feel when Teal'c got you down from that alien device?”

Daniel froze.  He didn't want to say it.  He knew he shouldn't have felt that way.  There wasn't any reason for it.  He tried to break away from Jack's hold, but the older man just held on and kept up his soothing caresses.

“Tell me.”

“Confused.”

“And?”

Jack saw the single tear begin making its way down Daniel's cheek.  He kissed it away gently.  “Tell me, Angel.  How did you feel?”  ~Come on, Danny.  Let it out.  You've needed to say it for a long time.”

“A...abandoned.”

Jack turned Daniel around and wiped away the tears that were now steadily falling.

“You left me, Jack.  I know it's not rational or reasonable, that I'm just being stupid and childish, but you just left me there.  You left me ... hanging around some cold lifeless room.  You ... left me.”

As he spoke those last three words, Daniel broke down and began sobbing.  At the same time, Jack pulled his soulmate close and held him, rubbing soothing circles on Daniel's back, cursing the world and the Fates in general for being so unfair to such an innocent soul who never did anything to deserve the trials life had thrown at him.

“I love you, and I'm sorry I left you like that.  I shouldn't have.”

“Not your fault.  It's me.  Being irrational.  I understand.”

“You are not being stupid, Daniel.  Your mind understands, but that little boy inside you doesn't.  All he knows is that the person he trusts most in the world wasn't there when he needed him to be.”

“You couldn't; you had to see the General.”

“Danny, nothing, no one is more important to me than you.  I should've told Hammond to wait.  Danny, look at me.”

Jack used his hand to raise his lover's chin until the younger man was looking him in the eye.

“I promise you, Danny, that if I had thought this all out then, if I'd only  considered how it might look to you, and if I could have imagined how you'd feel, I wouldn't have left you there.  Geez, Danny, I'd resign before I caused you anymore pain.”

“Does ... Would ... Never mind.”  Daniel buried his face in Jack's shirt.

“Danny?  No holding out.  Not now.”
 
“If ... EventhoughkissingthealternateSamwastherightthingtodo, wouldyoustillhavedoneitifI'daskedyounotto?”

The words came out in a rush, like one gigantic word.  In fact, Jack had to think a minute to process the word into a proper sentence.  The older man smiled and shook his head.  With absolute conviction, he answered his frightened lover.

“No, I wouldn't have, and  I mean it.  Nothing and no one is more important to me than you.”

Jack stroked the soft brown hair of his lover.  He sighed a breath of regret.  ~I'm sorry.  I forgot that just because something is the right thing, it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.~

And that's when Jack realized what the remaining piece of the puzzle was.  Daniel was feeling guilty -- guilty about having feelings.  His brain told him he should be logical, but his heart was feeling the pain, rational or not.

Jack led Daniel to the sofa.  “Let's sit down.”

They sat, facing each other, holding hands.  “Danny, feelings are important, even when they don't make sense.  We can't help how we feel.”

“But it's wrong.  You didn't have a choice.”

“Daniel.  Stop being logical for a minute.  It's okay to feel.  Feelings are ... what give us life.  Sometimes they're happy and funny, and sometimes they're sad and completely lacking humor.  Look, maybe you're right.  Maybe I couldn't have found a way to be there when Teal'c cut you down, but that doesn't mean you don't have a right to feel like I should have been.  It's okay to acknowledge the feeling.  But once you do that, you have to let it go.”

Daniel said nothing, staring at their joined hands.  Jack's thumb was rubbing against Daniel's hand.  Daniel squeezed Jack's hand for a second.

“You mean I can be angry at you, but then I need to forget about it?”

“Not exactly.  Angel, what you feel in your heart is valid.  You've been hurt -- a lot.  What you need to do is stop blaming yourself for being human.”

“But how can I accept that I ... I wanted you to dream about ... I mean, he's your son.”

Jack decided it was a good time for a kiss, a quick affirmation that they were one, and would continue to work through this night.

“Danny, I'm jealous of anyone who gets two minutes of your time.  You know that, right?”

“He's your son.”  Daniel stared at the floor, guilt consuming him.

“Yes, and I have a lot of guilt about what happened to Charlie, and that's exactly what that drink plays into -- guilt.  Think about it.  Carter felt guilty about Jacob and how she handled things growing up.  I felt guilty about Charlie's death.  And ...”

“I felt guilty because I cheated on Sha're.”

“Are you sure that's it?”

“No.  I'm an awful person, Jack.”

The words were whispered and full of guilt.  Jack suspected he knew the cause, but he also knew that Daniel had to be the one to say it.

“Danny, you are not an awful person.  You are the kindest, most compassionate, most loving person I've ever known.”  Jack kissed his lover gently.  “Tell me.”

“I can't.”

“You can, Angel.  You're the strongest person I know.”

“You'll hate me.”

“Like that could ever happen.”  Daniel nodded.  “Come on.  You know there is nothing you can say that will ever make me go away.”

“Part of me was glad when she died.  That it was finally over.  I was relieved that I didn't have to hurt her by choosing to stay with you.  And ...” Daniel stopped and stared at their joined hands again.

“Danny?”

“I ... I don't want to lose you.”

“Why would you lose me?”

“The boy.  I made Sha're a promise, Jack.  How can I keep it, and you?”

“I don't understand.”

“The boy.”  It was almost a whisper.

“What about him?”

“You don't even believe he exists.”

Jack was at a key moment.  Either he made a conscious effort to believe the Harsesis exists, or he continued to think Amaunet had warped his lover's brain.  He had to be sure, and then looking at his lover, he was.  He should have known all along.  Daniel was always right.

“Yes, Danny.  I do believe.  I believe he's out there because you believe he's there.  That's all the proof I need.”

Daniel looked into Jack's eyes and saw the sincerity.  It surprised him, but still, that didn't change anything.  “I made her a promise.”

Suddenly, Jack knew what Daniel hadn't been able to say.  “Danny, if we find the boy, and you want to bring him home, then we will.”

“But he's not my son.”

“He should have been.”

“But he's not.  He's ... Apophis'.  Jack, we'd be ... I mean I'd ...”

“You were right the first time.  Look, would it be an adjustment?  Yes.  Would it be my first choice on what to do with the boy?  Probably not, but Danny, if that's what you want, then we'll handle it.  I'm not going anywhere.”

“But ... it wouldn't be fair.  I can't ask you ...”

“Danny, you're not asking.  I'm asking you.  Please, Angel, let me share this with you.”

Daniel looked into Jack's eyes and saw the truth reflected there.  Jack meant every single word.  He flung his arms around his soulmate and kissed him, deeply, passionately and hungrily.

“Love ...  <kiss> ...  you ... <kiss> ... so ... <kiss> ... freakin' ... <kiss> ... much.”

“Daniel, we are forever.  Whatever happens, trust that, because it's real.”

“It's scary, but ... I am beginning to believe.  It's just that I'm also afraid it'll disappear, that you'll get tired of holding my hand through some ... stupid crisis, like whining about being left hanging around.”

Jack shook his head.  “No, Love.  You hold my hand just as much, like when I get ridiculously jealous or run off at the mouth.  You put up with my craziness.”

“I guess ... maybe it is a little bit of a two-way street.”

“Partnership.  You and I are partners in every way.  The good and the bad, Danny, no matter what, we stay together, because if we do, we'll always be unbeatable.”

Daniel smiled.  “I'm sorry I got angry and that I ran.”

“It's okay.  I'm sorry I left you hanging up there and that I had Teal'c go alone to get you down.  I should have been there.”

“And I'm sorry I tried to run away.”

“And I'm not sorry you didn't.  Hey!”

“What?”  Daniel saw Jack's eyes start to smile.  “I bought you something.  Actually, a lot of somethings.”

“You did?”

“Yeah.  Come here.”

Jack grabbed his bags and took out all the items he'd purchased at the airport, lining them up on the table near the kitchen.

Daniel laughed, and that made Jack smile again.  “Be right back, Jack.”

In another minute, Daniel returned with his bags, and pulled out his Jack presents.

Jack laughed.  “I love them.  They're adorable, Danny.”

“I had to get them, and these things.”

Jack turned Daniel to face him, cupping his face for a moment, and then moving his hands down to Daniel's waist, pulling him close.

“Don't you see, Love?  Both of us could never escape the other, even if we wanted to, which we don't.  We spent a crazy amount of money at the airport buying nothing for ourselves and ... silly things for each other.  If that's not love, I don't know what is.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Angel.”

Jack and Daniel spent another two days at the cabin before returning to Colorado Springs to face the music from General Hammond, but before they left Minnesota, they placed their gifts all around the cabin.  The stuffed animals, the figurines, the books, everything found a home.

“Anytime you doubt us, Love, just think of Ice Hockey Bear sitting here with his own Space Monkey.  Nothing will ever part them, or us.”

“I'll always remember, Jack.”

Jack squeezed Daniel's hand.  “Let's go, Space Monkey.””

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Feedback Welcome - click here to email the author


Web Site Counter
Online Personal Ad