Harsh Realities

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Season 3 - May 25-26, 2000
Spoilers:  New Ground
Size:  69kb
Written:  August 26,28-31, September 1-6,8,24,28-29, October 8,10, 2009  Revised for Consistency:  April 17, 2012
Summary:  Three members of SG-1 are taken captive while making first contact on a planet, and Daniel gets the worst of it before things are resolved.
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) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Irina, Ali, Navi, Claudia!

Harsh Realities
by Orrymain

“You look well, O'Neill,” Teal'c stated as he approached his commanding officer in the cafeteria early in the morning.

“I am, Teal'c, thanks for asking,” the colonel responded.  ~A little tired maybe, but refreshed; definitely refreshed.~

“I did not ask.  I only observed,” the Jaffa clarified.

“Whatever,” Jack replied with a shrug.  “I am ... well.”

SG-1 had been separated over the past week.  Sam had spent seven days in the Caribbean, a trip arranged and paid for by Jack and Daniel.  It was a thank you for her assistance during some very difficult months in 2000, months that included Jack being stranded on Edora and then going undercover and having to lie to his teammates; that is, all but Daniel.  Teal'c had spent a couple of days with Master Bra'tac on Chulak before returning to go on a mission with the newly restructured SG-3.  As for Jack and Daniel, they had worked on base, each attending to their own duties.

Reaching for his second blue Jell-O of the morning, Jack continued, “So how was the mis...”  He looked around and discovered he was alone.  ~I sure hope I wasn't imagining things.  Teal'c was here, wasn't he?~  He grimaced and started to put back the Jell-O.  ~Nah,~ he decided, retrieving his favorite SGC dessert and heading over to a table.

====

“What I want to know is how she even thinks of stuff like that,” Jack remarked with a wave of his right hand to his lover as they traversed the drab corridors of the Mountain.

“She's a scientist,” Daniel replied matter-of-factly, his head down as it often was as he walked, talked, and thought.

“Yeah, but a cold dialing program?” the colonel questioned, raising his eyebrow.  “Doesn't she have enough to do without devising programs that dial Gate addresses that didn't connect?”

“It's part of her job, Jack,” Daniel pointed out as the two men turned the corridor.

“She needs more to do,” Jack asserted.  “I'm thinkin' my reports.”

~He's incorrigible.~  Daniel shook his head and decided to turn the tables on his lover.  “Uh, what about you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah, tha...that hesitation when I asked General Hammond about going to P2X-416?”

“Daniel, there's no sign of a DHD.”

“I know that, but we've taken a naquadah reactor on numerous missions now, so why make a big deal out of it?” the archaeologist questioned.

After all, SG units had never had a problem thus far with using a naquadah reactor to power up the Gate, which then allowed them to dial home manually.

By this point, the intensity of the discussion between the two teammates had grown, so much so they were just about in their zone where no one else in the world existed.  As a result, passing personnel gave the two a wide berth, not wanting to be run into or caught up in the crossfire of what appeared to be a growing argument between the two men.  Although Jack and Daniel weren't angry at each other, others often couldn't distinguish between the couple’s friendly disagreements and real arguments.

“I wasn't making a big deal out of it,” Jack claimed.

“Yes, you were.”

“No, I wasn't,” the older man insisted.

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Yes!” Daniel reiterated more forcefully than before.

“No!”

“Jack, you could have just pointed out that there wasn't a DHD and suggested we take a reactor with us, instead of making it sound like we were going to ...”

“... be stranded, like on Heliwhopperless?”

“Heliopolis,” Daniel sighed, “and that was different.”

“Of course, it was -- not,” Jack responded, feeling victorious as the two men entered the gate room.  “Ready to go, Major?”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam answered as she closed the container holding the naquadah generator.  “I'll need some help carrying it.”

“I'll help you, Sam,” Daniel offered.  “Uh, Jack, when we get there, let me to talk to Nyan first.”

Moving closer, his grip on his P-90 tight, Jack responded, “Daniel, we're going to a planet for the first time.  We don't know what we'll find.”

“Yes, we do.  We'll find Nyan, and I just don't want you scaring him.”

“Scaring him?”

“Have you lost your hearing?” Daniel questioned, earning him a grimace from his verbal adversary.

“Cute,” Jack responded.  “Fine.  Take the lead, until the bad guys come.”

“Why do you always think the worst?  Can't we go someplace and not have the bad guys come?”

“Have we ever?”

As he thought, Daniel averted his eyes for a minute and then answered, “That's beside the point.”

“No, Daniel, it's not.  Any time we step through that Gate, we're putting our tails in danger.  Nyan may look harmless, but we have no way of knowing about his friends.  Be prepared,” Jack stated forcefully.

“Like a good little boy scout?” Daniel replied sarcastically.

**Just be careful, Danny; that's all I'm asking,** the colonel stated mentally.

**You, too,** the archaeologist replied.

“Problems, Colonel?” General Hammond asked from the control room, wondering why SG-1 had yet to embark on their mission.

“Not a one, Sir,” Jack answered as he looked upward.  Refocusing on his team, he ordered, “Let's go.”

Seeing the colonel's look, Sam and Teal'c approached.  Both had backed away during the little tete-a-tete.  They knew their teammates well enough to know the banter being bandied about wasn't really a fight.  It was just Jack and Daniel being Jack and Daniel.  Still, neither of them wanted to drawn into it, either.

====

As Jack roused from unconsciousness, his first instinct was to check on his team, at least the two teammates who were with him when they'd been trapped inside a force field not long after coming through the Stargate.

~That was one heck of a way to knock someone out -- a collapsing force field.  What will they think of next?~ the colonel jested sarcastically as he rubbed the base of his neck.

Fortunately, Daniel and Sam were coming to and seemed unharmed, except for the normal headache that usually accompanied this type of event.

Jack looked around, not seeing Teal'c anywhere in sight.  Before the rest of SG-1 had been captured, the Jaffa had been checking out the perimeter of their location.  The colonel had no clue where Teal'c was now, but he suspected his alien friend had retreated into the woodsy area for cover.

~He might be our only way out of here,~ Jack thought to himself as he observed that while the three members of SG-1 were still in the same clearing near the Stargate as before, that the area was now surrounded by people in some kind of uniform.  ~Probably military.~  He also caught sight of at least one shuttle craft.  ~Where there is one, there's probably another ... one.~

“Well this day is off to a great start,” Daniel stated sarcastically.

“Daniel, I don't get to say this very often, so I'm gonna say it,” Jack spoke, his voice strained and raspy from the grogginess he felt.

“I know,” Daniel replied dejectedly.  “You were right.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, *I* wanted to say that,” Jack snapped in frustration.

“Say what?”

“You know what!” the colonel complained.

“You mean ... ow!” Daniel responded to the zapping effect of the guard's weapon being shoved in the small of his back.

“Hey!” Jack shouted.

“Sit up and be silent!” the man ordered.

Jack grimaced as he felt a sharp jut against his back.  Obviously, this guard meant business.

~I just knew coming here was a mistake.  Carter never should have messed with the natural order of the Gate,~ the colonel bemoaned about the use of the cold dialing program.  ~What do we get when we come through?  Nothing but heartache and the pleasure of being put smack dab into these folks' civil war.~

The planetary war was between the Bedrosians and the Optricans, two peoples with very different beliefs about how their world began.  Where SG-1 was now, Bedrosia, inhabitants believed human life began right in Bedrosia, but their adversaries from a continent away believed that their world was populated by aliens who had brought people to the planet through a gateway.  They also believed that the gateway was buried, prohibiting anyone else from coming through.

Nyan, the young scientist SG-1 had met upon first arriving on the planet, had actually been hoping to prove the Bedrosian Theory by unearthing a primitive settlement that had existed prior to the upheaval, a period of violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on Bedrosia roughly two-thousand years ago.

Just as SG-1 had been learning about the war, Teal'c, from his spot at the edge of the woods, had spotted three shuttle-type aircraft approaching.  Following Nyan's advice to flee, SG-1 had tried to evade the craft, only to be thwarted by a force field which ultimately had rendered the three teammates unconscious.

Jack tried to shake off the lingering remnants of unconsciousness and was hauled roughly to his knees by one of the guards.  The same rough handling was done to Daniel and Sam until the three were lined up in a row, each sitting on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs.  They'd already been stripped of their gear and even their hats while unconscious.

Two guards stood behind the captured team, each holding a metal-like spear.  No one was saying anything to them, though -- staring, yes, glaring, yes, but communicating, no.

Jack glanced over at Daniel, wondering if his lover would remember a very important battle tactic.  It was important and potentially their only means of escape.  He needed to be sure, though.  He attempted to use the couple's silent communication technique, but the younger man wasn't responding.  They were both still groggy, and Jack figured that probably had something to do with it not working at the moment.

~On to plan B,~ the colonel decided.  He looked around, preparing himself for the upcoming performance.  Harshly, he whined, “One of us should have found a way to get free of these doofuses.”  After a frustrating groan, he snapped, “Carter, I told you to run, but you sat there, playing with your toys.”

~Playing with my toys?~ Sam asked quizzically as she looked at her commanding officer in disbelief.  ~When you gave the order, I was trying to get the naquadah generator operational so we could dial the Stargate.~  Then she saw the cock of the colonel's neck, the widened eyes, and the strain showing in his face.  He was sending a message.  “It's not my fault they captured the entire team, Sir,” she argued, playing along.

“Daniel,” Jack called out, wanting to be heard and yet not wanting to sound like he wanted the captors to hear him.  “You're as slow as a snail.  You were out front, dragging us along again.”

The archaeologist stared at Jack and then at Sam, both of whom had facial expressions that expressed something other than was being spoken. He thought for a moment and then realized the hidden message.

“You're the leader, Colonel,” Daniel responded sarcastically.  “They'll probably shoot us because you didn't give the order fast enough,” he accused.

“Right,” Jack returned in mock frustration.  “It's my fault that we're *all* here.”

“I don't think fighting among ourselves is going to help,” Sam put forth, giving them a reason to end their bickering performance.

“You heard him, Sam,” Daniel refuted.  “It's his fault ... again.”

“What's with the 'again'?”

“You know what I mean,” the archaeologist claimed.

“I ... hey, back off,” Jack groused, moaning briefly as he was jabbed in his back as Daniel had been earlier.

“No more words,” came the harsh command from SG-1's captors.

At this point, Jack hoped to get some intel by attempting to get one of the Bedrosians to talk to him, but it quickly became apparent that SG-1's captors had no intention of saying anything.  It appeared as if they were waiting for someone else to arrive.

Finally, the door of what was actually the third shuttle opened, precipitating the exit of four people.  The first was a rigid looking man who Jack immediately sensed was in charge.  With him were another male and two women, one of whom was dressed in similar type of clothing as Nyan was wearing while the other was in the same type of uniform as the first man.  This woman and the other male approached SG-1 while the plainly dressed female went back inside the shuttle.  Jack surmised the woman might have a connection to Nyan and very possibly could have been his co-worker.

Much to their displeasure and pain, SG-1 could only grimace and grunt as the military woman took DNA samples from their necks.

“Which of you is Daniel?” the leader inquired, having been told about Daniel by Nyan's female associate.

“I'm in command.  Colonel Jack O'Neill here,” Jack spoke up quickly, trying to deflect all attention from his team.

“I am unfamiliar with that Optrican designation.”

“We're not Optrican,” Sam began.  “We're explorers from another planet.”

“We traveled through the Stargate,” Daniel elaborated.

With a quiet anger, the man in charge responded, “This type of psychological warfare, simulating the Optrican gateway fallacy to undermine our most basic beliefs, will not work.”

“Yeah, I know that could be hard to believe.  So, why don't you let us show you how the Stargate works and if you're still not convinced, we'll just take our stuff and go.  Fair enough?” Jack responded, knowing his idea was doomed to fail.

Looking at the guards, the military leader ordered, “Erect a quarantine field,” and then began to walk away.

“Hey!” Jack called out, only to be ignored.  A moment later, he sighed, “That went well.”

“His beliefs are being challenged,” Daniel replied.  “Nyan ...”

“Nyan ran with his tail between his legs,” Jack interrupted.  ~Just as well he’s not here, I might not be able to resist the urge to strangle him.  Why the heck didn't he warn us before we came through the Gate?~  With a sneer, he added, “He's not going to be any help.”

“So, what's the plan?” the archaeologist asked.

“The plan?” Jack echoed snarkily.

“I thought you always had a plan.”

“The plan, Daniel, is to not get killed,” Jack answered sternly.

“I'll go along with that,” the younger man agreed with a slight smile.

“Me, too,” Sam interjected.

====

“Get up!” one of the guards ordered a while later.

“Watch it!” Jack balked as another guard poked him again with the metal spear, resulting in a jolt going through his body.  ~Argh, friggin' metal rod.~

“Where are you taking us?” Sam questioned when the three teammates were standing, ready for whatever was to come next.

“Talkative bunch,” Jack stated sarcastically when no one answered his 2IC's query.

The three were taken to the larger of two temporary structures which had been erected in order to aid in the Bedrosians' investigation.  As they walked inside the building, they could see three metal cages lined up horizontally.

“Oh, I don't think I'm gonna like this,” the colonel groaned as he shook his head briefly.

“Inside,” the first guard ordered.

“Okay, okay,” Daniel acknowledged upon receiving yet another electric shock from the metal device the guard held.

The cages were just big enough so that when sitting inside of them, an individual had about four inches of space all around them.  This didn't give the team much leeway for movement once locked inside.  The cages were roughly a yard from one another, with Jack in the first one, Daniel in the middle, and Sam on the far end.

Jack stared at his cage with curiosity.  He hadn't touched the metal bars as he'd crawled inside.

~I have a bad feeling about this,~ the colonel thought.  Wanting to verify his hunch, he kicked the front of his cage with his foot and immediately reacted.  “Alright, that hurts.”

“Well, this day just keeps getting better and better,” Daniel replied, having witnessed Jack's actions.

“Yeah.”  Jack sighed, his eyes on the guards and other Bedrosians as they milled about, tending to their tasks within the tent.  “Why couldn't they have been just a little bit primitive?”

“Well, they're not,” Daniel responded a bit dryly.  “They're on par with us, except ...”

When Daniel paused and didn't continue, Sam prompted, “Daniel?”

“Weapons.  They have those Taser-like spears, but I haven't seen anything more advanced.”

“Let's just hope they don't figure out how to use the zats,” the colonel stated quietly.

“They aren't that complicated,” Daniel noted.  Seeing Jack's glare, he shrugged and offered, “I'm just saying.”

“I know what you're saying,” Jack sighed.  “Mister Positive.”

“Shouldn't that be Mister Negative?” Daniel questioned.  “I mean, uh, you're saying I'm being negative, so ...”

“Daniel!” Jack interrupted with a glare that clearing said 'let it go'.

“Unless they let us out at the same time, it's going to be hard to gain the upper hand,” Sam observed, trying to get her teammates to think about escape rather than how to verbally one-up each other.

“Ya think?” a frustrated Jack returned.  “Just keep alert.”  He smiled slightly and said, “Time.”

Daniel and Sam gave very small nods of their heads.  Jack's meaning was clear.  Their only real hope was their fourth teammate, the one they had to deny existed. It could very well be up to the phantom Jaffa to save their lives.

====

The three captured teammates hadn't spoken in a while.  They were each quiet as they tried to hear what the voices from outside the structure were saying.  There was occasional activity inside as well, but for the most part, they were being left alone, secured in the electrified cages.

“I just wish we knew more about these folks,” Jack bemoaned, looking around the area yet again.

“They're like us,” Daniel replied, getting a questioning look from Jack.  “Look, Nyan is an archaeologist, or something similar here.  That man in charge is obviously some military ...” he paused, getting a warning glare from his lover, “officer.  They disagree.  Sound familiar?”

“Snarky,” Jack mumbled.

“Daniel's right, Sir.  From what we've seen, there's not a lot of difference in how they approach situations like this,” Sam put forth.

Jack stared at his second-in-command and had to admit, albeit reluctantly, the truth of the words he'd just heard.

“So,” the colonel began.  “According to Nyan, the war is over their evolution.  If these beliefs are questioned, people in power might not be too happy.”

“They might try to cover it up,” Sam suggested.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  “We need more intel.”

“And how do we get that?” Daniel asked.

“We listen,” Jack answered.

“Right,” Daniel acknowledged dryly.  “To what?  We can't hear them, Jack.  We've been trying to do that for the last few hours.”

“How was the golfing?” Sam interjected, surprising both men.

“Uh, good, actually,” Daniel answered with a tiny smile.

“You should play, Carter,” Jack suggested.  “It's a good tension reliever.”

“I prefer a massage,” Sam responded.

“Those are good, too,” Jack agreed, thinking of the most recent massage Daniel had given him and how good it had felt.

The lighthearted conversation was interrupted by two guards entering the structure and approaching the cages.

“Dinnertime?  I'll take a steak, nice and juicy,” Jack requested, though his words went unanswered.

“Out,” a guard ordered once he'd opened Jack's cage.

“Jack?” Daniel called out.

“Three monkeys,” Jack responded as he crawled out and was taken from his teammates.

“Three monkeys?” Sam questioned.

“Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing,” Daniel translated for his cryptic lover.  “He's reminding us, me,” he sighed, “of protocol.” He looked away, saying, “Sometimes I don't think he trusts me.”

“Daniel, you *know* he does,” Sam returned forcefully, her intonation and facial expression indicating how crazy the archaeologist's comment had sounded.

“Maybe trust isn't the right word,” Daniel replied.  “I know the rules, Sam.  I know what I have to do.”

“You're not military, Daniel,” Sam stated.  “It's not easy to do what we might have to do here.  He's just reminding you how important it is to stay firm.  They can't sense any differences in our stories.”

Daniel nodded and looked away.  His thoughts now were with his lover.  He suspected their captors would be questioning Jack, trying to find a discrepancy between Jack's story and what the rest of the team were saying.

~What if they do more than ask questions?~ Daniel wondered as concern flowed through his body.  ~Jack won't tell them anything.  He'll play word games with them.  Just ... don't hurt him.  Please don't hurt him.~

“He'll be okay, Daniel,” Sam assured, her quiet voice thundering through the archaeologist's silent fears.  “You know the colonel.  He's been through this kind of thing before.”

Sam sighed in disappointment, realizing her supportive words hadn't helped her friend, not that she was surprised.  She was well aware of the relationship between Jack and Daniel.  Their bickering of just a minute before was now long forgotten, replaced by agonizing worry and fret.

====

In the second temporary structure constructed by the Bedrosians, Jack was forced into yet another cage towards the rear of the room.  The singular cage was identical to the ones in the other building.

After a few minutes, the Bedrosian in charge entered and stopped to examine SG-1's gear, which was strewn across a long table.  A minute later, he approached Jack and dismissed the guard.

“We should talk,” Jack began, tired of the quiet game that was being played.

“Yes,” the man agreed.  “Let us talk about your friend in the woods.”

“I have no friends, in the woods or otherwise.”

“We know your Optrican friend is out there,” the man stated sternly.

“You know this Optrican thing is getting a little old,” Jack responded.

“Your lies will not free you,” the commander replied, his eyes cold and unfeeling.

Jack recognized the look.  This man believed in one thing, and he wasn't going to take kindly to anyone who tried to challenge him.

“Look, Fred, it's ...” Jack began, not knowing his questioner's name.

“Fred?  Is that the name of the Optrican who fired at my shuttle?”

“Aren't you Fred?” the colonel asked mockingly.  “You look like a Fred to me; okay, maybe more like Adolph.”

“My name is Commander Rigar.  How did you get here?”

With a shake of his head, Jack answered, “Through the Stargate.  It's that round thing you Bedrosians claim doesn't exist, but does.”

“Lies!” Rigar shouted, applying the metal stick to the cage which caused Jack to cry out momentarily from the electrical shock to his system.  “How did you create your illusion?”

Still unsettled from the jolt, Jack groaned as he answered succinctly, “The wormhole.”

“What is a wormhole?” Rigar asked.  “What is it made of?”

“Giant worms; huge,” Jack answered.  “Slimy, too.  That's how we get from place to place.  We just slide over the worms.  Hey!  Do you guys have a lake around here for fishing?  These worms make for great bait!”

“Where are these worms?”

“In the water,” Jack responded.  “When you fire up the Stargate, this water like thing forms.”

“Water?”

“Well, it's blue, like water,” the colonel affirmed in a vague manner.  “It's great for writing your initials in, or for the worms to go swimming.”

“Is it water or not?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then what is it?” Rigar asked demandingly.  “How does it work?”

“Magic,” Jack answered while laughing in his head.

Inwardly, the colonel grinned, pleased to see how his answers were frustrating Rigar.

~Mission accomplished,~ Jack thought when Rigar turned around and stormed out in a huff.  “Can I place my dinner order now?” he shouted at the empty tent.

====

“Daniel,” Sam called out quietly when she heard people entering the prison tent, which was what the Bedrosians termed the temporary shelter they were in.

“Jack,” Daniel said simply, taking a deep breath of relief upon seeing his lover looking well.  ~Thank you,~ he expressed thoughtfully to whichever deity was looking out for them.

“Sir?” Sam asked when her commanding officer sat back down in his cage.

“We had a little chat,” Jack answered.  “We ... hey, what are you doing?” he called out, unhappy to see the guard opening Daniel's cage and motioning for the archaeologist to get out.

**Danny?**

Daniel looked back for a second before heading for the tent exit.

Jack took a breath, wondering, ~Did he hear me?  He didn't say anything.  I'm not sure what that look was, but I don't think it was a response.~  He looked to his right, deep in thought.  ~No, he didn't hear me.~

====

A few minutes after being placed in the single cage that had confined Jack during his questioning, Daniel saw the commander enter.  He hoped some straight conversation might get things back on track.

“You are the Daniel who has orchestrated this attempt to undermine my people,” Rigar accused.

“I didn't orchestrate anything,” Daniel denied.  “We only wanted to make contact and ...”

“More Optrican lies.  What did you hope to gain with this ridiculous trick?”

“First, we're not Optrican, and second, we hoped to become allies.”

If Rigar knew how to laugh, he would have at that moment.  Instead, his beady eyes just glared in disbelief.

“You're spies.”

“We're not spies,” Daniel insisted.  “We're peaceful explorers.  We travel through what you call your gateway.”

“There is no gateway.”

“We call it a Stargate,” Daniel corrected, hoping the compromise would move the discussion along.

“You claim your team came through this ... Stargate.”

“Yes.”

“Colonel O'Neill?”

“Yes,” Daniel affirmed.

“The woman?”

“Major Carter, yes.”

“The fourth member,” Rigar prompted, hoping to trap Daniel in his lie.

“No,” Daniel denied.  “There are only three of us.”

“There is a fourth,” Rigar maintained.

“No,” the archaeologist refuted, remaining calm and speaking with a steady voice.

Rigar stared at Daniel, unhappy with the answers the prisoners had given thus far.

“We'd like to be friends,” Daniel stated, being the eternal optimist.

“Tell me how you came here,” Rigar demanded.

Daniel sighed at the repetition, but repeated, “We came here through the Stargate.”

“How?”

“It's ... a little complicated,” Daniel began.  “Basically, the event horizon forms a wormhole ...”

“Giant worms?” Rigar asked in disbelief, remembering the information Jack had told him previously.  “They make this wormhole.”

~Gawd, Jack,~ Daniel mused inwardly, certain that his lover had told the commander some crazy story about how the Stargate works.  “Wormhole is just an expression.  It has nothing to do with worms.  It's a tunnel through space.”

“And how is this illusion of water created that I have heard described?” Rigar prompted.

“Well, you're right in that it is an illusion.  It's not actually water,” Daniel corrected.

“Then what is it?”

“An alien race, the Goa'uld, used the Stargate to transport humans from Earth to other planets, which is how your people came to be on Bedrosia.”

Angered by the response, Rigar placed the metal spear against the bar of the cage, causing sparks to fly and pain to thunder through the archaeologist's body.

“My people began on Bedrosia as did yours.  We were all created by Nefertum,” the man insisted.

“Nefertum, son of Sakhmet, blue lotus blossom: that's who you believe created you?” Daniel questioned, disbelief coloring his face.

“Yes.”

“Well, he must have been a Goa'uld,” Daniel reasoned as he looked up at his captor.

“A what?” the interrogator asked.

“An alien.  He must have transported your people through the Stargate ...”  Pain again roared through Daniel's body, causing him to let out a moan from Rigar's use of the spear-like weapon.  ~Why can't he see the truth?~

“Optrican fallacy,” Rigar spat.  He looked at the guards and ordered, “Return him to the prison tent.”

====

Jack and Sam hadn't spoken much during Daniel's absence.  Both agreed Sam would probably be pulled out next, so while she was going over what she might be asked and what her answers would be, the colonel was trying to think of a plan of escape.

Finally, Daniel was returned and, to Jack's relief, appeared to be okay physically.  As anticipated, Sam was removed and taken to the other tent, leaving the two men alone.

“Daniel?”

“I'm fine,” Daniel answered quickly; in fact, too quickly for Jack's liking.  Not wanting to discuss the painful jolts he'd received, the archaeologist decided to distract his inquisitive lover by filling him in on what he'd learned.  He concluded his comments by opining, “They are locked into their belief that Nefertum created them.  Jack, the military here will do anything necessary to keep the truth from coming out to the population.”

“Yeah, I figured that.”

“So, what's the plan?” Daniel asked.

“Will you stop asking me that?” Jack snarked.

“Nothing?” the younger man challenged.

Jack stared and then let out a frustrated chuckle as he acknowledged, “Not a friggin' clue.”

“Nyan must be out there somewhere.”

“Nyan ran as fast as his little feet could carry him,” Jack reminded.  “He's probably a hundred miles from here by now.”  He laughed smugly as he added, “What more can you expect from a sci...” he paused, seeing Daniel's eyes growing cold, “from a ... a ...”

“Never mind, Jack.”

The colonel stared at his archaeologist and saw through the warrior image being projected.  He wished he could hold his lover, caress his soft skin, and kiss his supple lips.  They could kid and tease about their golfing weekend and practice new ways of making romantic holes in one.  The reality at the moment, however, dictated that they remain reserved.

In fact, the colonel realized this was part of the reason the two were being a bit overly snarky with each other.  It was a protection to keep themselves from revealing their closeness.  It was so important not to show much caring between them.  If they did, it could be used against them.  They had to keep their cover going, particularly in situations like this.  Jack and Daniel were teammates and nothing more.

The couple remained silent, exchanging a few casual glances, but otherwise, not speaking much.  Jack was afraid to try their non-verbal communication, afraid it wouldn't work, as it hadn't earlier.  For some reason, he just had a funny feeling about using it, so he refrained, and either Daniel felt the same way or there truly was some kind of blockage, because Jack wasn't getting any messages from his soulmate, either.

====

When Sam was eventually returned to her cage after questioning, Jack whispered, “Any increase in numbers?”

“I counted ten,” the blonde responded.

“We just need a way out of these,” Jack again shoved his boot against the edge of the cage, grimacing at the ensuing jolting pain, “dang things.”

“We can't do much if they keep taking us out one at a time,” Sam put forth.

“We can if that one escapes,” Jack refuted.  “No guards.”

“Jack, if one of us gets free, I doubt they'll let us sit here unguarded,” Daniel replied logically.

“Stop being so negative.”

“I will, when you come up with a plan,” Daniel countered.

“So picky,” Jack whined, looking around the room for some solution, though not really expecting to find anything considering that he'd been looking around that room for hours, and that reminded him of something else.  “Hey, how many hours in a day on this crazy planet?”

“I'm not sure, Sir.”

At that point, the  three teammates returned to silent mode, each searching for an idea that could free them and each hoping, but not knowing if, Teal'c was still alive.

====

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed though in a hushed tone.

“I'm hungry,” the colonel responded in explanation of his grumbling stomach.  “No breakfast this morning.”

“You're normally a morning person, Sir,” Sam noted.  “Did you sleep in?”

“Not exactly,” Jack answered with a pleased smirk.

Sam suddenly had the feeling she shouldn't have asked her question.  A glance over at Daniel, looking very embarrassed, proved her point.

“Oh,” the major responded as she looked downward, the tips of her ears turning light red.  ~Insert foot into mouth, gee.~

====

“Shoulda let the dog out,” Jack sighed as the time seemed to pass in seconds that felt like hours.

“You don't have a dog,” Daniel replied.

“Used to; should have,” the colonel responded.  “I'll bet this planet doesn't have dogs, not with stuffed shirts like Rigar.”

“We have Senator Kinsey,” Sam countered.

“I'm thinkin' he's an alien,” Jack supposed, causing both Sam and Daniel to chuckle for a brief moment.

It was a lighthearted refrain meant to ease the frustration and tension of what was turning out to be a very long day.

====

Jack's head was down and his hands clasped together as he ran through various scenarios of escape.  Unfortunately, none of them was ending in a positive vein. Then he heard the sound of people entering the temporary shelter.  Something about their demeanor was disturbing.

“Problem?” Jack asked Rigar's female assistant.

For the colonel, things took a twisted turn when two guards used a shock from a spear to stun Daniel before opening his cage and pulling the archaeologist out.

~Okay, this isn't good,~ Jack determined, unable to conceal his concern.  “I'm going to kill that creep, Rigar.”

“Sir?”

~Crap!  Did I say that out loud?~  The colonel looked at Sam and clarified, “If the situation presents itself.”

“Of course,” Sam responded nervously.

====

Outside, Daniel was dragged over to a dead body lying at Rigar's feet.  It was clearly one of Rigar's men, but the archaeologist could only inwardly surmise that perhaps Teal'c had taken the man out.

“Explain,” Rigar demanded.  “Explain!” he repeated more forcefully.

“I can't.”

“There is a fourth.  He did this!”

“No there isn't.  I don't know how this man was killed,” Daniel answered, sticking to the story that SG-1 was a three-person team.

Grabbing Daniel, Rigar and one of the guards pulled the archaeologist several yards to where there was a large crater-like hole in the ground.  The guards threw the archaeologist to his knees.

“Explain this.”

For a minute, Daniel simply stared at the DHD that lay at the bottom of the hole, but then he responded, “You really don't want to know.”

Daniel felt the heat of the metal spear against his hand, causing him to cry out from the pain.  When the spear was pulled back, he drew his hand close and curled up as much as possible.  He sat there, keeping his hands and feet tight.  It was a defensive posture from the wrath of the spears.

“What is this?” Rigar asked, pointing at the large object that was embedded in a partially excavated circle of dirt.

“It's more proof that the Optricans are right, and you're wrong,” Daniel answered, tired of trying not to upset them and still being jolted with the metal spears.

With a nod from Rigar, two guards took hold of Daniel while another one reapplied the spear, leaving it against his hand until the skin had burned.  The pain was bad, but Daniel withdrew somewhere deep inside of him and refused to show the depth of the hurt.  He just stared at Rigar in defiance.

“You *will* tell me what this device is,” Rigar insisted.

For fifteen minutes, Daniel became a pawn of three different metal spears.  It was blast after blast of pain, although no spear attached to his skin long enough to create a similar burn to that already on his right hand.  His mind deep within himself, he never cried out in agony.

“There is a fourth,” Rigar stated in a leading manner.  “Isn't there?”

“No,” Daniel answered in a strained voice, after which he received another jolt of pain.

“What is this device?”

“I don't know,” Daniel responded, cringing from the latest jab of the spear.  ~Actually, I do, but I'm not going to tell you.~

“Where is the fourth member of your team?” Rigar questioned.

“There isn't a fourth.”

After yet another touch of the spear against the prisoner's body, Rigar unrelentingly challenged, “Who is he?”

“There isn't a fourth,” Daniel repeated, swallowing hard but not reacting to the pain his body felt from the latest contact, one that lasted a little longer than the others.  ~And if you are so sure there is, why aren't you out there looking for him instead of torturing me?  Oh, wait, I know.  Torturing the geek is a game.  I remember it well from Earth.~

“Explain this device,” Rigar demanded as he pointed to the DHD device.

“I can't,” the archaeologist returned.  ~Okay, I can, but I don't want to, and I'm not sure I should.~

“You said I wouldn't like it, so you must know what it is.”

“No,” Daniel denied.

After each response, the spears connected with Daniel's body.  It was rapid fire.  Rigar's question, Daniel's answer, and then a jolt.  There wasn't a break or pause between the questions.

“Why did you say I wouldn't like it?” Rigar asked.

“Maybe because you haven't liked anything I've said so far,” the archaeologist answered, receiving jabs from three spears, each in at a separate spot on his body.

His ire at an all point high, Rigar's veins in his neck were bulging as he commanded, “Tell me what this device is.”

“A wormhole catcher,” Daniel answered, deciding to use some of his lover's mindset.  “I'd stay away from it.  It probably has hundreds of worms in it.”

A spear blasted against Daniel's neck, causing him to crumble to the ground.  It was too much, the toll of all the touches affecting him now.  Finally, he went so far inside of himself that he stopped answering questions.  He retreated to Oregon, just a day ago, when he and his soulmate didn't have a care in the world. In the heart of his soul, he was happy.  On the surface, he presented a blank canvas, saying nothing and reacting to nothing.

“Take him,” Rigar ordered, motioning for the men to take Daniel to the other structure, the one where each of the team had been questioned individually earlier in the day.  “There is a fourth,” the man insisted to anyone who was listening.

====

As Daniel sat in his cage, he felt cold and distant from his surroundings.  He'd just undergone torture, and the pain was still rolling through him.  Considering what he'd observed with the use of the metal spears thus far and some talk he'd heard from the guards, he surmised that they could be used repeatedly for the purposes of torture, keeping prisoners alive for years' worth of jolting hurt.

The archaeologist heard noise, but he didn't react to it.  Two cages were brought in and set up to his right.  He jumped when, seemingly just for fun, one of the guards let his spear touch Daniel's cage, resulting in yet another moment of pain. He lowered his head, wishing the nightmare would end and he'd wake up in his Love's arms.

====

“I'm sure he's okay, Sir,” Sam offered, seeing the distressed look on the colonel's face.

“It's been a half-hour, maybe more,” Jack returned, having a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach and his 'Danny Alarm' blaring through his head.  “They came in here with mission, Carter.  They wanted Daniel for something.”

“Maybe it's ... Nyan,” Sam suggested, knowing her CO would realize she really meant Teal'c.

“We would have heard something,” Jack refuted with a shake of his head.

At that point, the guards entered and approached the cages.

“Now what?” the colonel barked, though he didn't get a response.  “You goons aren't very helpful, you know that?”

Jack and Sam were led to the other tent and taken inside.  Both had to steel themselves against reacting when they saw Daniel sitting listlessly in one of the cages.

**Danny?** Jack questioned, not getting any sign that Daniel had heard his mental call.  ~What did they do to him?~

The teammates were forced into cages and their attention continued to be with Daniel.

Jack’s anger grew.  As a colonel, his job was to protect the civilian.  As himself, his need was to protect his lover.  He felt he had failed in both roles.

“Daniel, are you okay?” Sam asked.

The archaeologist turned his head to face Sam, but he didn't answer.  He simply stared, his face drawn and a little pale.

“Hey, Rigar?” an angry Jack called out.  “You know that 'we come in peace' business?  Bite me.”

Looking at Daniel, Rigar warned, “You have one last chance.”

“I don't know how that man was killed.  We are not Optrican spies,” Daniel intoned quietly.

Picking up a zat from the weapons table, Rigar fired, causing Sam to slump down in her cage and fall unconscious.  Fortunately, she wasn't touching the electrified bars of her cage.

~Crap,~ Jack sighed inwardly, knowing now that the Bedrosians had figured out how to use SG-1's weapons.

“Is there another one of your people out there?” the commander questioned the archaeologist.

“I don't know how that man was killed.  We are not Optrican ...” Daniel repeated, still devoid of any emotion in his voice.

What happened next horrified Daniel.  His nightmare took a hideous turn.  Rigar had fired the zat again, only this time he aimed at Jack.  Worse, when hit, the colonel fell back against the bars, which began to sizzle from the contact.  As he watched, Daniel's lover was being electrocuted.

“No, there is not another one of my team out there!  Turn it off!” Daniel demanded anxiously.

“What's he look like?” Rigar asked, still wanting information on the fourth team member he was certain existed.

Desperately, Daniel implored, “Turn it off!  You'll kill him!”

“No, *you* will kill him!”

Daniel stared at his enemy, full of hate for one of the few times in his life.  He didn't know what to do.  Actually, that wasn't true.  He knew he couldn't give up Teal'c's presence on the planet, even if it cost Jack his life.  All he could do was sit in his cage and listen to his lover being fried.  He wanted time to stop.  He wanted to disappear.  Daniel wished he'd never unlocked the mystery of the Stargate.

~The Stargate.~  Daniel felt a glimmer of hope.  It wasn't from his internal lamentations, but from the familiar sound of the Gate dialing.  Everyone could hear it, including Rigar.  ~Please stop,~ his mind implored with all of his will, taking a sigh of relief when the commander finally walked over to Jack's cage and caused the electrical charge to discontinue.

The archaeologist looked at his lover, waiting for a sign, any sign that Jack was still alive.  With Sam in between them, he couldn't tell if Jack was still breathing or not.

**Wake up, Jack.  Please wake up.**

====

“What happened?” Jack questioned when he came to a minute or so later.  “Carter?”

“I'm okay, Colonel,” Sam replied as she sat back up and rubbed the back of her neck.

“Daniel?”

“Uh ...”  It took the archaeologist a minute to get his brain up to speed.  He was still a little in shock over what had occurred in the last hour or so.  “Hammond, uh, the SGC dialed the Gate.  The MALP was activated, but Rigar saw it.  He shot it.”

“Does Hammond know the situation?” Jack queried.

With a nod, Daniel answered, “I'm sure they saw me.  The MALP was pointed right at me.”  Rather matter-of-factly, he added, “Rigar threatened to kill us if there was any kind of rescue attempt.”

“So, nothing unusual,” Jack responded.

“No, no, just the same old stuff,” Daniel agreed, his wits coming up to speed the more he trusted his eyes, the more he realized his lover was alive.  “Jack, there's a DHD.”

“The big hole we saw on our way here?” Jack questioned.

“It looked intact, but I can't be sure,” Daniel elaborated.  “There ... was a dead soldier they found, too.”

“Someone's been busy then,” the colonel surmised, thinking about Teal'c.

That was all the time the team had for private conversation as Rigar and others returned to the structure.  After tossing back the radio and zat gun that had been taken from the table a few minutes earlier, Rigar turned to his guards.

“Call in a transport shuttle.  I want them moved to a more secure facility.  Put them away until it gets here.”

~Away?~ Jack echoed silently.  ~Wonder what that means.~

====

Roughly twenty minutes later, the three imprisoned teammates heard sounds of battle.

“What the heck is going on?” Jack asked.

“We're about to find out,” Daniel replied, seeing a disturbance at the entrance to the tent.

“Nyan,” Sam acknowledged when the Bedrosian scientist approached.

Hurriedly, Nyan unlocked Daniel's cage first and then proceeded to do the same for Sam and Jack, handing each of them weapons.

“Hit the side button to shoot long range,” Nyan instructed SG-1 about the spear weapons.

“Where's Teal'c?” Daniel questioned.

“He's outside.”

Now free, Jack ordered, “Daniel, dial us up.  We'll lay down cover.”

~I hope this works,~ the archaeologist wished as he paused a second to put on his glasses.  He then followed the others to the exit, waiting for them to get into position.  Once he saw they were set, he ran swiftly towards the DHD and slid into the open crater where the device had been buried.  Ducking to avoid being hit, he dialed Earth.  ~Come on, work,~ he urged inwardly, especially after there was a slight delay in the DHD's big, orange button activating.

Fortunately, the Stargate engaged.  Now it was just a question of the whether or not the iris would be open on the other side.  The answer was a definite 'no', unless Teal'c was able to send their code via the GDO.

Daniel waited anxiously until he finally heard the Jaffa's voice shout out, “Go!”

Quickly, the archaeologist ran for the Stargate and jumped through, falling as he landed on the ramp.

“Doctor Jackson?” General Hammond called out in alarm as an airman hurried to help Daniel up.

With a nod of gratitude for the assist, Daniel walked down the ramp and informed, “We're under fire.”  At the edge of the ramp, he stepped down and turned back around, his heart beating ever so fast while he waited for the rest of his team to return through the Gate.  ~Come on, Jack.~

Then Sam appeared and joined Daniel and General Hammond at the edge of the ramp.

“The medical team?” the major queried.

“On their way, Major,” Hammond answered.

Daniel and Sam waited fearfully, the teammates standing side-by-side with General Hammond nearby.  What seemed like hours was just another minute when all of a sudden, Jack and Teal'c came through, with Nyan in between them. The iris slid firmly in place as the Gate shut down.

“General Hammond, he's a friend,” Teal'c advised.

“Stand down!” the general ordered the SFs who were covering the Gate.

“A little help here,” Jack requested urgently as Nyan collapsed onto the cold ramp. He walked over to join Daniel and Sam as Janet and her team moved in to tend to Teal'c and Nyan.  “You okay?”

“Just fine, Sir,” Sam answered.

“I'm fine,” Daniel responded.

“Of course, you are,” Jack answered.  “Let's give them some room,” he suggested, wanting to spirit his soulmate away as quickly as possible.  ~I know which definition of 'fine' you're using, Danny.~

“Colonel,” Hammond called out.  “We'll debrief in thirty minutes.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

====

As it happened, the corridors of Stargate Command were very crowded at the moment, preventing Jack from talking privately with Daniel.  The team headed straight to the infirmary, where they underwent the standard post-mission examination.  As was so often the case, Daniel didn't complain about the burn on his hand, but one of the nurses had seen it and made sure it was thoroughly checked out.

By the time the exams were done and the three relatively uninjured teammates had showered and changed, it was time for the debriefing.

“So, I got to Teal'c, and here we are,” Jack concluded.

“We had to leave our gear and the naquadah reactor behind,” Sam reported.

“Do you believe that poses any concerns?” Hammond questioned the team.

“Not really, General,” Jack responded.  “They were on par with us.”

“There's no way of knowing if they know about naquadah,” Sam interjected.

“They don't want to know,” Daniel pointed out seriously.  “They just want to continue living their lies.  I think they'll just cover it up.”

“Daniel's probably right,” Sam concurred.  “They're still at war with the Optricans; I don't think they want to lose.”

“And Teal'c was separated from you the entire time?” Hammond queried as he sought to verify what had been earlier.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded.

“We didn't know he was injured until he came through the Gate,” Sam noted.

“I had a hunch when he was about to shoot me in the shuttle,” Jack mused with dry wit.

Sam smiled weakly and added, “For that matter, we didn't even know if Teal'c was alive until Nyan released us.”

“Doctor Fraiser has given me a preliminary report on Teal'c and our visitor,” Hammond advised SG-1.  “Teal'c is being monitored closely.  She's hopeful.  As for this Nyan, he should recover in a day or two.”

“Sir, about Nyan,” Daniel began, making a pitch for the Bedrosian to become a part of the Stargate Program.  “I believe he could be a valuable asset.”

Jack chimed in, “We wouldn't have been able to get away from there without his help, General.”  He sighed, almost hating to admit what he was about to say.  “He apparently saved Teal'c's life, and he pretty much did the same for us.”

“I'll take it up with Washington, but I'm fairly certain they'll go along with my recommendation to grant Nyan asylum on Earth and allow him to help you, Doctor Jackson, with your work.”

“Thank you, General.”

With the briefing over, Jack decided it was the perfect time to have a private chat with his lover, only Daniel had disappeared almost before the colonel had stood up.

~Okay, Danny.  I'll wait until tonight,~ Jack resolved.

====

It was less than an hour later when Jack entered Daniel's office.  He wasn't fooled by the archaeologist's calm demeanor or the fact that Daniel had his nose in a book.

“Daniel.”

“I haven't even started my report yet,” Daniel responded as he continued to read.

~Report?~ Jack questioned quietly.  “Hammond isn't expecting our reports for a couple of days.”  Not getting a response and noticing Daniel hadn't even looked up at him, Jack walked over to the edge of the desk and leaned downward, as if peering over the book Daniel was enthralled in reading.  “I have news.”

“What?” Daniel asked, finally looking up.

“The Air Force is taking responsibility for Nyan.”

“The Air Force?”

“Hammond made a few calls; he cut through the red tape,” Jack explained lightly. “It looks like you have yourself an assistant.”

“Uh, good,” Daniel said, closing his book.  “He'll need this.”

Jack was stunned when his soulmate walked out of his office without saying anything.  Looking around in surprise, he hurried after the younger man, catching up with him at the elevator.

“Where are we going?”

“*I'm* going to see Nyan.”

“Okay, well, I need to check on T,” Jack offered as he stepped into the elevator after Daniel.  When the doors closed, he looked at his lover with concern.  “Danny ...”

“Nyan will catch on quickly,” Daniel interrupted.

Jack nodded, realizing he wasn't going to get anywhere close to Daniel's psyche until that evening.  It was a little frustrating, but he didn't see any way around it at the moment.

====

“Well, Teal'c, all I can say is that Junior is a resilient little guy,” Janet announced happily.

“Who is Junior?” Nyan inquired curiously.

“That is the name Colonel O'Neill has given my symbiote.”

Right about then, Jack and Daniel, who had met up with Sam in the corridor and were just behind her, entered the infirmary.

“So how are you feeling?” Sam asked politely.

“Greatly improved, Major Carter.  Thank you,” Teal'c responded.

Looking at Nyan, Jack advised, “Here's some good news. The Air Force has agreed to get you refugee status, which means you can stay here on Earth, with us, if you'd like.”

“What would I do here?”

“Well, I think we've got a little job for you Nyan, if you're interested,” Daniel began.  “I have a backlog of ancient artifacts gathered from previous missions and I could really use a research assistant.  It would also be a great way to learn about the history of your ancestors.”

“But for now, you both need to rest,” Janet told her two patients.

“And we'll leave you to it,” Jack stated, turning and walking to the elevator with Daniel, though the walk was silent.

At the elevator, Sam caught up with the couple and commented, “Nyan will be a great addition to your staff, Daniel.  Teal'c told me that Nyan believes that any scientific advance, whether it's what you personally believe or what someone else believes, is still an advance.  In fact, he says Nyan reminds him of you.”

“I'll be back,” Jack intoned, acting as if he were going to turn around and renege on the deal with Nyan.

“Sir?” a confused major questioned, looking at her CO who had walked several feet away.

“One Daniel is more than plenty,” the colonel teased as he turned and faced the his teammates.

Daniel rolled his eyes and entered the elevator, the doors having just opened.  As for Sam, she just shook her head, waved to Daniel in the elevator, and continued down the corridor towards her next destination.

Jack sprinted forward to catch up with Daniel before the doors closed, managing to just get inside, and said, “You do know I was kidding.”

“Yes, I know.”

There was silence, even as the elevator slowed and stopped on a level between the infirmary and Daniel's office on Level 18.

“Okay, well, we should be out of here in an hour and ...”

“Actually, Jack, I have some things to do tonight,” Daniel interrupted.  “I'll see you tomorrow,” he concluded, nodding at the Marine who boarded the elevator and then quickly exiting just as the doors closed, thus preventing his lover from following him or knowing where he was going.

~Yep, we have things to do,~ Jack muttered to himself.  ~And we aren't doing them apart.~

====

That night, Jack used his key to enter Daniel's apartment.  He carried with him two large pizzas, a six-pack of beer, and a bag of assorted snacks.  Placing his items on the counter, he looked around for his lover.  He was confused when he couldn't find him, especially since Daniel's old car was clearly in the parking lot.

For a while, the colonel relaxed on the sofa, thinking Daniel had gone out for a walk.  He ate some pizza and drank a beer.  When an hour had passed, though, his patience for just waiting around had run out.  He left the apartment and went outside to see if he can find his wayward partner in life.

Just as he was about to give up, Jack spotted his prey.  He shook his head, admonishing himself for not thinking of checking this location sooner.

~I should have known,~ the colonel sighed, crossing the street and entering the establishment.  He approached his lover's table and sat down.  “Drowning your sorrows?”

Putting down his coffee mug, Daniel answered, “For the record, I knew you came in.”

“Considering I walked right by the window, I'd hope so,” Jack responded.  “Have you eaten?”

“Arabian Mocha,” Daniel answered, giving his Love a small smile as he held up his mug which contained his favorite Starbuck's blend.

“How's the hand?”

As a reflex, Daniel looked at the top of his right hand and replied, “It's fine.  Janet put something on it.”

“No bandage?”

“She's the doctor.”

“Not likely I'd forget that,” Jack mused.  “If I try to forget, she pulls out one those long needles.”

The two men laughed, though it was a quiet, more subdued release.

Daniel stared at the window blankly and spoke quietly, saying, “We've been through worse.”

“Have we?” Jack asked pointedly.  “Danny, there's something you haven't told me.  I don't know what it is, but I have my suspicions.”

The younger man stared into the rich brown eyes of his soulmate and knew he was wrong to think he could keep anything from him.

“I know you,” Jack continued.  “You didn't lie, but you didn't tell the whole story in the briefing, or to Carter and me when we were ... there,” he added, purposely being vague since a young woman had just sat down at the table next to their's.  More brightly, he suggested, “Come on.  There's pizza and beer at the apartment.”

“Pizza and beer,” Daniel mused.  “Your favorite meal.”

“Second favorite,” Jack agreed with a bit of a seductive leer, happy when his response gained a faint shy smile from the man who owned his heart.

====

The walk back to Daniel's apartment was quiet.  It was pretty late in the evening now, and there weren't a lot of people out.  In Jack's view, Daniel wasn't really out, either.  His head was bowed as he walked, his essence hidden deep inside.  He could have just as easily have been walking by himself from his demeanor.

Jack knew the mission had been difficult for Daniel.  His lover needed some reassurance that all was well, and he needed to talk about what was stirring inside.

~Talk?  I've never urged anyone to talk so much in my life,~ Jack mused inwardly.  Only Daniel could get him to act in ways that was contrary to his normal public stance.  ~Crazy geek, but what's a guy to do when he's in love?~

Deciding to take an unusual risk, the colonel reached over and took his archaeologist's hand, squeezing it gently in a sign of his affection.

“Jack?”

“Two blocks,” Jack responded.  “Let's live a little.”

Though concerned for his Love's military welfare, the younger man gave in, despite feeling selfish for doing so.  He needed the contact, to feel wanted and cared for; and he needed the reminder that the two had survived their ordeal on Bedrosia.

As the couple turned a corner onto the main road where Daniel's apartment was located, the action picked up.  With a sigh, Jack reluctantly released his soulmate's hand.  There were others walking the street, and they just couldn't chance continuing the physical connection in public.

Daniel understood and his hand found a home inside his pants pocket.  It wasn't as warm or nurturing.  It just existed.

Still quiet, the couple entered the building and took the elevator up to Daniel's floor.  When the door opened, they saw a familiar face.

“Hello, Mrs. Harper,” Daniel greeted Barbara Harper, the fifty-something woman who lived a few doors down from him.

“Daniel, hello.  Colonel O'Neill, it's always a pleasure,” the refined widow greeted.

“You stole my line,” Jack teased with a warm smile.

Holding the door open, Daniel remarked, “Is everything okay?  I mean, uh, it's late.”

“Thank you for your concern, but a friend is picking me up,” Mrs. Harper advised.  “You look pale, Daniel.”

“I'm fine.”

“Not enough sun,” Jack tried to explain.

“You take care of him now,” Mrs. Harper instructed Jack as she pressed the lobby button in the elevator.  “Goodbye, boys.”

“Have a good evening, Ma'am,” Jack replied, watching as the doors closed.  As the couple walked to Daniel's door, the colonel opined, “Sometimes I think she knows.”

“She knows we're best friends,” Daniel responded as he unlocked the door.

Jack followed his Heart inside, locking the door behind him since Daniel had kept on walking.

~He never locks his door,~ Jack lamented.  When he caught up with the other man, Daniel was peeking inside the pizza boxes to see what variety had been purchased.  “Meet with your approval?”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Daniel acknowledged, though he simply closed the boxes instead of taking out a slice to eat.

The archaeologist walked over to the bookshelves and stared at the numerous tomes in his collection.  He was looking, but he wasn't really aware of which books he was staring at.

Jack's arms wrapped around Daniel's waist, pulling the younger man close to his body.

“Danny, talk to me.”

The air was full of silence, except for the slight sound of Jack's hands gently rubbing against Daniel's abdomen.

“You did good on Bedrosia,” Jack continued.  “I know it was hard, but we held the line, and we protected Teal'c. That saved us.”  There was still no verbal response.  For that matter, Daniel hadn't responded much to the physical contact, either.  Jack decided he had to get right to the heart of the matter, or at least to what he suspected.  “Angel, what happened out there?”

“You heard what I said in the briefing.”

“Good stuff, for Hammond.  I want to know what you *didn't* say.”

Daniel scooted out of Jack's hold and returned to the counter, saying, “We should heat this up.”

“Danny, what happened?” Jack asked again, watching as Daniel turned on the oven to re-heat the pizzas.

“Did you bring beer?”

“What happened?” the colonel repeated with a very deliberate tone.

“What do you think happened?” Daniel returned angrily.  “Rigar asked a lot of questions.  I couldn't answer them.”

“If you had any marks on your beautiful body beside your hand, Fraiser never would have let you go.”

Jack’s tone conveyed his puzzlement at the lack of evidence Janet’s medical exam had produced.

“Their weapons don't leave marks,” Daniel explained softly, lowering his head.  He added weakly, “Unless left on the skin for several seconds.”

Jack's fears had been confirmed.  His lover had been tortured, but with no physical marks except for one burn, a burn covered up by ointment and creams so that you couldn't even tell it was there unless you took a close up look.

With a heavy heart, Jack replied, “They tortured you.”

“I was interrogated, Jack.  Look, this isn't anything new.”

“It is,” Jack refuted, entering the kitchen and approaching the younger man.  “You didn't have options.  Daniel, that was about the worst scenario we've encountered.  We couldn't give Teal'c up, or they would have gone after him.  So, we held the line.  You couldn't confirm that Teal'c had probably killed one of their men.  You didn't have a choice.”

“No, I didn't,” Daniel responded, his eyes cold and face suddenly going blank.

~Okay, I'm not getting the complete story here.~  Jack couldn't figure out what the problem was.  He had been certain that what had occurred during Daniel's questioning was the cause for his lover's withdrawal.  ~He looked so vacant when we saw him after they found the DHD.~  He reached out and caressed his lover's cheek as his eyes searched for the truth he couldn't seem to discover.  “Tell me.”

“I couldn't tell them about Teal'c, no matter what, not even when ...”

Suddenly, the light dawned for the colonel.  Yes, the torture had taken a toll, and before Daniel could recover from the hellish experience, he'd been faced with the same decision again, only this time, it wasn't himself at risk, it was Jack.

“Danny, you did what you had to do, and I'm here.  We're both here.”

“He said I was the one killing you,” Daniel stated, his eyes focused on nothing but the space in front of him.  “The line was in my head.  I'd said it a hundred times already.  'I don't know how that man was killed.  We are not Optrican spies',” he concluded, quoting his line in a droning tone.

“Things happen, Danny.  We always make it through, just like we did this time,” Jack replied in a quiet voice.

“What would you have done?”

“What?”

“What if ... never mind,” Daniel stated, going by Jack and heading for the refrigerator.  “Do you want a beer?”

Jack nodded and replied, “Yeah, thanks.”  A moment later, he answered the archaeologist's prior question.  “Daniel, I don't know.”  He saw his life partner's stare.  “I love you.  You know that.  We were in a no-win situation.  If we told them Teal'c was out there ...”  He stared into his Love's eyes and faced a harsh truth.  “I would have said something,” he admitted.  “I'm not sure what, but something.”

“I couldn't think of anything,” Daniel lamented.  “My mind was screaming.  You were dying, and my mind ... I, I ....”

“Hey, Danny,” Jack interrupted, rushing to the other man and taking him into his arms.  “Listen to me, you're not a soldier like I am.  You shouldn't even have to make those choices.”

“I'm a member of SG-1, Jack.  I *have* to make those choices,” Daniel retaliated.

Jack looked into Daniel's eyes and shook his head while responding, “That's not how it's supposed to go, but okay, it did.  You did the right thing, and we caught a break.  Every day we're out there planet hopping is a risk.  The only way to avoid these situations is to seal the Gate.”

“We can't do that,” Daniel returned with a bit of urgency.

“We got through it,” Jack reiterated.  “Sometimes, that's all we can do.”

“Jack ...”

Daniel paused until his lover prompted him with,“ What?”

“I'm ... I think I would have ... another few seconds ...”

The archaeologist was silenced by a tender kiss that was followed by another, even sweeter connection of their lips.

“'What if's' never get us anywhere,” Jack whispered against Daniel's lips, their foreheads touching.  “You asked what I would have done.  The answer is that I would have done anything I had to in order to save your life.  It works in reverse.  You would have thought of something.  There's not a doubt in my mind.”

“But ...”

“Danny, the Stargate interrupted everything.  Why waste a gift from the Fates?”

“It's so easy for you,” Daniel opined enviously, his blue eyes soft and showing his vulnerability.

“Not easy, but you roll with the punches.  You didn't have to make that final decision, and the truth is that if you had, you would have thought of something to throw a wrench into Rigar's madness.  No one thinks faster on their feet than you,” Jack asserted.  “You're one snarky geek.”

“Gawd,” Daniel responded, a frustrated gasp and a slight chuckle emerging.

“That's better.”

“I was scared,” Daniel admitted.

“That's okay,” Jack acknowledged.  “I wasn't that sure of things myself, but ...”

“... you rolled with the punches,” Daniel completed.

“Like a rowboat on the lake.”

“That makes no sense, Jack,” the younger man chastised.

“It's been a long day, two days actually,” the colonel corrected.  “Who knew days on Bedrosia were even longer than the ones on Abydos.”

Daniel chuckled, “Not by much, Babe.”

“Two hours is two hours,” Jack countered, referring to the increased number of hours on Bedrosia.  He grimaced as he added, “Especially when we spent most of those thirty-eight hours in tiny cages.  It's bad on the knees.”

“Oh,” Daniel replied with a hint of sadness.

“Why the 'oh'?”

“Well, if you're that tired, I mean, uh, I sort of, well, had plans, for you and your ... knees.”

“Plans?”

Daniel nodded and added, “But you're hungry anyway.”

“Never *that* hungry,” Jack corrected, walking over and turning off the oven.  “Pizza can wait.”

“So can the beer,” Daniel agreed, putting the can of brew on the counter.

“Actually, Love, I have a use for this.”

With bright, enraptured eyes, Daniel grinned as the lovers kissed and headed for the bedroom.  It had been a long day, or two, depending on what planet you lived on, and emotionally, it had been a struggle.  While his mind still needed to come to terms with all that happened, he knew Jack was right.  Somehow, he would have saved his lover.

~I'd have to,~ Daniel thought.  ~He's all I have.  He's my life.  I would have done something,~ he determined as the couple entered the bedroom.

“I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too, Babe, so freakin' much.”

**Uh, Danny?** Jack called out, wanting to make sure their special connection was still working.

Daniel blinked and responded, **What?**

Jack grinned, answering, “Just checking.”

The lovers laughed as they fell down onto the bed, the two erasing the unpleasantness of Bedrosia from their minds and allowing kisses, touches, and sweet murmuring to complete their night together.

Jack feared there would be a nightmare or two before the sun rose again, but when that new day came, he'd be there, providing assurance to his soulmate that their nation of two was intact.  It was a nation that no one could damage, not even a stubborn, closed-minded Bedrosian who had threatened to end it with an electrifying death.

As the kisses and touches intensified, Jack knew that no one could truly threaten what he shared with Daniel for it was the ultimate in love and devotion, a feeling most wanted and he was lucky enough to have.
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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