Illusion

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  6 - May 22-30, June 10, 2003
Spoilers:  Smoke and Mirrors, Foothold
Size:  78kb
Written:  April 14-16,28-29, May 1-4, 2008
Summary:  When Jack is accused of murder, Daniel and SG-1 vow to exonerate him.
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), “Brain Drain”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Keri, Carol, Linda, Melissa!

Illusion
by Orrymain

“Daniel, we have the holiday weekend off,” Jack groused late Thursday night as the couple discussed their plans.  “That's *four* whole days.”

“I know.  Look, you go to the cabin in the morning, relax, and I'll meet you there Saturday, Sunday at the latest,” Daniel suggested.

“Daniel ...”

“Jack, I have a few notes I want to make on my thesis while they're fresh in my mind, and I really need to follow up with my staff about the importance of standing their ground with their colonels, majors, and/or whatevers,” Daniel quipped with a chuckle.

“Whatevers,” Jack only half-laughed in reply.

“We don't want another situation like what just happened with the Geranians, Jack, and it's not just the military that's responsible.  As much as I'd like to put it off on them, my staff needs to be more assertive, too.”

“You mean they need to be pains in the mik'tas like you,” Jack asked pointedly.

“Something like that,” Daniel agreed.  Placing his hand on his lover's chest, he leaned forward and gave his Heart a kiss.  “Go.  Fish.  Relax.  I'll be there as soon as I can, okay?”

“Don't get sidetracked.”

“I won't.”

“I love you,” Jack sighed.

“I love you, too.”

====

Tuesday morning, Daniel woke up from a nap that he was taking in his office.  To his disappointment, things hadn't gone exactly as he'd planned, which wasn't all that unusual.  On Friday, he'd managed to work on his thesis as intended, but one note had led to another, and he'd ended up working most of the day on it.  By the time he'd gotten to the Mountain, not all of the personnel he'd wanted to speak to were present, so he decided that he'd return on Saturday and follow up with those he'd hadn't seen the day before.

The archaeologist felt it was vital that he reiterate with his staff as strongly as possible the need for them to speak up and to report any difficulties they might be having with military personnel who regularly ignored their advice.  It was too important to put off to the following week, in his opinion.

However, as was often the case, just when Daniel was about to leave the SGC, a crisis had occurred off-world with SG-7.  With the holiday, the base was already shorthanded, and while Daniel didn't need to travel to the team's location, he felt obligated to stay at the Mountain to assist in the decisions that needed to be made, primarily because General Hammond had been called out of town himself, leaving a somewhat hesitant and uncertain Sam in charge of the base.  She was eager to have her friend and teammate's input.

Daniel understood totally.  Being in charge of the entire SGC was much more mind-boggling than leading a single team.  Unfortunately, that meant a two-day delay in his plans, which ultimately meant there wasn't much point in going to the cabin.  If he tried, the lovers would probably just cross paths on the highway.

Worse for Daniel, Jack had forgotten, probably intentionally, to take his cell phone with him, meaning he was virtually incommunicado.  That also meant Jack would inevitably be upset that he hadn't shown up at the cabin as promised.

“Daniel, I ...”  Sam paused as she walked into his office.  “Sorry.”

“No, I was just getting up,” Daniel said, affixing his glasses properly and then standing up.  “Problems?”

“No,” Sam said, smiling gleefully.

“General Hammond is back,” Daniel surmised, sensing an aura of relief surrounding the major.

“Isn't that great?” Sam chuckled with happy eyes.  “He got back last night.”

“You did great,” Daniel praised.

“Well, thank you for staying.  It helped,” the blonde responded.  More seriously, she added, “Something's up, though.  I think it might be about Kinsey.”  She shrugged as Daniel joined her at the table.  “Have you been watching the news?”

“No, I was ...” Daniel answered, pointing back at the twin-sized cot on which he had been sleeping.

Sam sat down on one of the stools in the archaeologist's office and reached for the remote, turning on the TV.  Daniel sat down in his chair by the worktable, and the two began to watch the news.

With one news report over, they changed channels to see what another station was saying.  At that point, Teal'c joined them, sitting down opposite Sam on another stool.

“I can't believe he's dead,” Sam stated.

“I can,” Daniel replied while listening for any new details since the last report he'd tuned in to on Monday evening.

The subject of the news report was the assassination of Senator Robert Kinsey which had occurred on Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C., where the presidential candidate was making a final public appearance before joining his family at their summer home for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

Exiting the hotel where the event had taken place, Kinsey had paused to shake hands with some of the crowd before walking over to his limousine.  He turned around and waved a last time to the enthusiastic crowd when a shot suddenly rang out from across the street.

Kinsey had immediately clutched his chest and fallen to the ground, an apparent victim of the rifle blast.

“I do not believe SenatorKinsey's presence will be missed,” Teal'c stated without emotion.

“I can't say I'll miss him,” Sam admitted.

“Hey.  I'm back.  What'd I miss?” Jack asked, walking inside the office, still wearing casual attire.  His pleasant demeanor covered up his inner anger at his soulmate.  **You are toast, Daniel.**

**Jack, there's an explanation,** Daniel said, standing up and walking forward a couple of steps.

**There's always an explanation,** the colonel groused mentally.

**Okay, fine, but there's something happening that you need to know about,** Daniel advised.

Having muted the television, Sam automatically stood to face her CO, speaking at the same time Daniel had started to communicate the news.

“Sir, Senator Kinsey is dead.  He was shot.”

“What?” Jack asked, shocked by the news.  ~And why did they *all* stand up just now when I walked in?  Is my fly open or something?~

“Yeah.  It's been all over the news for three days,” Daniel reported.

**Well, I've been at the cabin where *you* were supposed to be,** Jack responded angrily.  Verbally, though, he explained, “I've been on vacation.”

**Without your cell phone,** Daniel chastised, not getting a response of any kind from his soulmate.

“It looks like it was a professional hit.  The shooter took him out from a hotel room across the street and then just disappeared,” Sam informed her CO.

“Any suspects?”

“Police aren't saying anything,” Sam answered.

“It is reasonable to assume that a man in SenatorKinsey's position would have a great many enemies,” Teal'c stated.

Jack was about to reply when Hammond entered the office, the general having been alerted to the colonel's arrival on the base by the front gate.  With him were two SF's.  After greeting his second-in-command, he explained the reason for his presence.

“I'm sorry to have to do this, but these men are here to escort you to Peterson. From there, you'll be flown to Andrews and then turned over to the civilian authorities in Washington,” Hammond announced to a very confused SG-1.

“Why?” Daniel questioned, unable to suppress his shock.

“Sir, what is this?” Sam asked at about the same time.  ~That explains why he acted funny last night.  I knew something was up.~

“Colonel O'Neill is under arrest for the murder of Senator Kinsey,” Hammond explained.  ~Not that I believe he did it.~

“What?” Jack asked, shocked by the accusation.  ~This is not a funny joke, General.~

“You'll have to come with us, Sir,” one of the SF's spoke.

“I don't think so.”

“Colonel ...” Hammond began.

“General, I've been on vacation!” Jack exclaimed.

“I believe you, Jack, but for the moment, we're going to have to cooperate,” Hammond stated.

**And I don't friggin' have an alibi, do I, Daniel?** Jack shouted in his mind at the younger man.

Daniel bowed his head and licked his lips as he struggled for a response while thinking, ~He's right.  I should have kept my promise and gone to the cabin, no matter what.  He was alone.  I know he didn't do it, but ... he was alone.~

====

With Jack headed for Peterson, Hammond and SG-1 walked swiftly towards the briefing room.

“How could they possibly think that he's responsible?  He wasn't even in Washington,” Daniel spoke just as the group reached the briefing room.

“Actually, it looks like he was,” Major Paul Davis responded, standing by the conference table, several papers and a remote control in front of him.

“Major Davis is acting as liaison between the Pentagon and the district attorney. He has a report for us.  Major?” Hammond explained.

As everyone sat down, Davis used the remote to reveal surveillance footage that was taken from a security camera after the shooting.  The video clearly showed a man with Jack's face leaving the hotel.

“Now, the trajectory of the bullet indicates that the shot did in fact come from this hotel,” Davis stated.

Pointing at the video, Daniel argued, “That doesn't prove anything.”

“No, but based on this evidence, the FBI obtained search warrants to both the colonel's house and his cabin.  They didn't find anything, but one of the neighbors told them that they saw Colonel O'Neill dumping something down by the lake.  They sent down a diver, who came up with this.”  Davis pulled out a photograph of the dismantled rifle and case, giving it to the major general, who then passed it on to Sam.  “Ballistics match it with the bullet that killed Senator Kinsey.”

~It's a frame,~ Daniel thought when Sam handed him the photograph. ~Jack *never* dumps anything in the lake.  He's a recycling maniac when it comes to the lake.  Why didn't I go?~  Guilt was growing within his body, and then concern for Jack's fate took on a new direction for him.  ~Oh, gawd.  What if I had been at the house when the FBI searched it?~  His eyes widened as he pondered, ~What if they ... what if they found our keepsake box?~

“I don't know what else to say, Sir,” Major Davis continued as he sat down.  “It's certainly no secret that there was bad blood between them.”

The team went on to discuss Jack's previous run-ins with Kinsey, including how the senator was part of the conspiracy to blackmail Hammond into resigning a year or so earlier.

“Senator Kinsey was shot in broad daylight on a public street in front of a dozen civilian witnesses.  If we tried to ship this to a military court, it would be a political disaster for the current administration,” Hammond stated.

“With all due respect, Sir, the current administration owes a lot to Jack,” Daniel pointed out.  “In fact, the current administration would very probably be dead, as would we all, without Jack.”

“I'm aware of that, Doctor, as is the President.  Unfortunately, there's nothing he can do for Colonel O'Neill at this time.  On the other hand, I'm not a politician, which is why I'm suspending SG-1's off-world duties and assigning the three of you to get to the bottom of this.  You have the *full* resources of this command at your disposal.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Sam acknowledged.

“Dismissed,” Hammond ordered, getting up and exiting the room, certain in his conviction that his 2IC was innocent and that SG-1 would find a way to clear his name.

Sam and Teal'c walked out, too, but Daniel lagged behind, staring at the Pentagon liaison.

“Paul, he didn't do this,” Daniel proclaimed.

“Explain this,” Davis requested, replaying the video.

“I can't ... yet,” Daniel conceded.  Looking at the major, he added, “But I will.”  He saw his friend looking down at the 'evidence'.  “Paul, I know the cabin and the vicinity.  Jack doesn't have neighbors for miles and miles.  *Why* would he chance dumping something near where a neighbor could see him?  Why not do it closer to the cabin itself, where he wouldn't be seen?  For that matter, why dump it anywhere near his cabin at all?  He could have gone anywhere.  It's too pat.  You *have* to see that.”

Paul Davis looked over at the other man and had to admit that he was making sense.

“Daniel, what do you want me to do?”

“Give us time.  Keep Jack at Peterson.  *Don't* let them send him to Washington, not yet.”

“Daniel, I don't think ...”

“Find a way,” the archaeologist implored.  “Please, and ... do your best to keep Jack's name out of the media.  I know what I'm asking is difficult, but I'm ... give us time, a few days,” he pleaded before slowly turning around and leaving the room.  ~If they turn him over to the civilian authorities, it'll become a zoo.  It could affect his career, and ... he wouldn't want Sara to hear this.~

====

Daniel and Teal'c waited anxiously inside the stockade at Peterson for a chance to talk with Jack.  Both were relieved when a door buzzed, and Jack was finally led in to the visiting area.

~Gawd, he's in shackles.~

Though still angry at his Love, Jack knew the shock that his situation would cause and attempted to tease, **I'm wearing dark blue.  Every time I look at this outfit, I think of you.**

**And how I didn't keep my promise,** Daniel replied intuitively.  **Jack, I'm so sorry.  There was a reason I stayed at the Mountain, but I was wrong to stay.**

**Daniel, we don't have time for guilt trips right now.  I'll just kill you once I get out of this mess,** Jack replied a bit sarcastically.

“How are you?” Daniel asked.

“I'm accused of a murder I didn't commit.  How do you think I'm doing?” Jack snapped as he sat down at a table opposite his teammates.  ~Dang, I love him, but right now I want to strangle him,~ he thought about his mixed emotions.

“When are you supposed to get transferred to Washington?” Daniel dared to ask, wondering if Paul Davis had managed to delay the transfer that originally was supposed to happen the same day.

“Couple of days.”

~Thank you, Paul,~ Daniel sighed inwardly.

“General Hammond has suspended our off-world duties in order that we may investigate this situation further,” Teal'c advised.

“It's, uh ... not going very well,” Daniel admitted.

“There is evidence that places you at the scene of the shooting,” Teal'c informed the colonel.

“I was fishing!” Jack groused.  **Alone.**

While Teal'c accepted the alibi, Daniel squirmed a little in his seat, not because of the alibi, but that his lover had been alone, all because he hadn't followed through on their plans.

“Look, Kinsey wasn't exactly my best buddy, and, on occasion, I felt like beating the crap out of him, but I didn't kill him,” Jack stated forcefully.

“They ... have a video that places you, or, rather, someone who looks like you, in Washington, D.C. three days ago,” Daniel revealed.

Jack shook his head and muttered, “I don't believe this.”

“O'Neill, in the past, you have left SG-1 to perform secret missions that we are not privy to the details ...” Teal'c began.

“I wasn't on a mission, Teal'c,” Jack interrupted angrily.  “I was in Minnesota, on vacation!”  **Alone.**

As Daniel looked away, Teal'c questioned, “Did you encounter anyone that could verify your story?”

“I was twenty miles away from the closest town, *alone.*  That was the point,” Jack responded in frustration.  **Alone, as in the *two* of us, that was the point. Daniel, where the heck were you?**

**At the Mountain.  Sam needed me.**

**I'm touched by your devotion to Samantha, rather than to your lover where it should have been,** Jack replied snarkily, shifting in his chair as his frustration mounted.

“Perhaps this is all part of an elaborate plan and those responsible chose to act at a time when they knew you would have no alibi,” Teal'c theorized.

Jack stared at the Jaffa thoughtfully and responded, “Now that's a theory we can work with.”

“But who, and why?” Daniel questioned.

“I'd love to help you find out, but I'm a little confined at the moment,” the colonel stated snippily, raising his hands up, the chain binding them dangling noisily from his demonstration.

“It would have to be someone who didn't want Kinsey around,” Daniel stated, trying his best not to be flustered by the agony he was feeling because of his soulmate being chained.  ~It's overkill.  Why are they treating him like this?~

“Now that's a clue,” Jack snapped.

“Okay, look.  We're gonna go and see what we can find out.  I'll be back,” Daniel stated as he and Teal'c stood up.

“Is that a promise?” Jack queried pointedly, cocking his head and arching his eyebrows.

Daniel sighed, but said nothing as he headed for the door and walked out.  He couldn't stay there any longer.  Jack was angry with him, and he was angry with himself.

Teal'c remained, however, looking over at the colonel and stating, “DanielJackson does not believe you are guilty, O'Neill.  Why are you treating him as if he did?”

“I'm not,” Jack argued.

“Then I would suggest you reevaluate your words the next time he visits,” Teal'c stated, turning and leaving the visitor area.

~Crap,~ Jack sighed, knowing his frustration had impacted his tone and demeanor.  ~Carter needed him?  *I* needed, make that *need*, him.  I'm sorry, Angel.  It's just that I had plans for this weekend, and this *so* wasn't a part of them.~  **I know you can't hear me, Danny, but I love you.**

====

“How's he doing?” Sam asked as the teammates headed for a briefing with General Hammond.

Daniel just shrugged, but Teal'c answered, “He is not himself.  He is agi...”

“Not himself,” Daniel mumbled.  ~Not himself,~ he reiterated silently as the three sat down at the table and the general walked in, his mind racing to find the answer that he knew was just out of reach.

“Major,” Hammond stated expectantly.

“I checked the videotape to see if it had been doctored, but it appears to be genuine,” Sam stated.

“So, either that really is Jack or ... or ...” the archaeologist began.

“Daniel?” the major questioned curiously.

“Or it's someone who happens to look exactly like him,” Daniel said, completing his thought and looking over at Sam and Teal'c, an expression of 'that's it' on his face.

“We have encountered duplicating technology before,” Teal'c stated, immediately getting on board with the theory.

“Yes, we have,” Daniel affirmed, looking at Sam for confirmation of what he hadn't yet said verbally.

“I think you're right, Daniel, except those mimic devices are under heavy guard,” Sam responded.

“You're referring to the foothold situation we had here three years ago?” Hammond queried.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam confirmed.

“The aliens gained control of the SGC by using mimic devices to impersonate and replace base personnel, including myself ... and Jack,” Daniel pointed out, feeling as if, for the first time, the group had something to work with in their quest to exonerate Jack from the murder charge.

“Sir, request permission to go to Area 51,” Sam stated since the devices were stored there.

“Granted.”

“Sir, I ...” Daniel began.

“Go ahead, Doctor,” Hammond replied, giving his permission for Daniel to accompany Sam to the secret facility.

“I will apprise O'Neill of our suspicions,” Teal'c advised as the team separated.

====

On the flight to the desert base, Sam noticed how quiet her friend was.  She wasn't surprised; after all, she knew Jack and Daniel were lovers.  Still, the archaeologist seemed unusually subdued, especially since they were following such a potentially good lead at the moment.

“Daniel.”

Daniel looked over at the blonde and sighed, “Sam, I was supposed to be there, at the cabin.”

“But I kept you from going,” Sam acknowledged with a sigh of her own.

“No, Sam,” Daniel spoke up quickly, not wanting her to feel bad.  “It was me.  I had some things to do, and I stayed longer than I should have.”

“Daniel, I begged you to stay, maybe not in words, but you knew I wanted you there, and you're too good of a friend to let a friend down,” Sam asserted, rubbing the archaeologist's back supportively.  “I'm sorry I doubted myself and caused you to ...”

“... break a promise,” Daniel interrupted.  “I promised him I'd be there on Saturday.  Because of me, he was alone.  I should have just gone with him in the first place, like we'd planned originally.  If I'd been there, I would be his alibi.”

“Maybe, but, Daniel, you weren't any fonder of Senator Kinsey than the colonel.  It's possible that whoever is responsible for this could just as easily have set you up, too.”

“Maybe,” Daniel acknowledged reluctantly, still letting his guilt drive him at the moment.

“Well, these aren't amateurs,” Sam put forth.

“Sam, the FBI searched the house,” Daniel revealed, communicating his concern and hoping she'd understand without him getting into too much detail.  “I was just ... I ...”

“I'll see what I can find out,” the major replied with a smile.  ~He must have some items there that he's worried about.  I know who I can contact.~

====

Daniel and Sam sat down in front of Jack at Peterson Air Force Base.  They'd just returned from Area 51, where they'd examined the twelve mimic devices that had been recovered from the SGC after the foothold situation.

“It's a fake.  All the mimic devices were switched,” Sam informed her CO as she placed one of the false items on the table between them.

“Someone duplicated the duplicators?” Jack questioned.

“The last recorded test of those devices was six months ago.  They could've been taken any time after that,” Sam stated.

“There has to be a way we can use this to clear you,” Daniel interjected, gazing into his lover's chocolate brown eyes.

“I don't think the 'alien technology' defense is gonna fly,” Jack replied antagonistically.

“Jack, there's someone walking around out there who can make himself look exactly like you at the push of a button.  That *has* to be relevant.”  The archaeologist sighed and then said, “Okay, we can't talk about that in a civilian court, but there has to be some way that we can use this information to prevent this from going to court in the first place.”

“Gonna make the Stargate public information?” Jack quipped snarkily with raised eyebrows.

“No, Sir, but maybe we can use it to find the real assassin,” Sam suggested.

“You don't think the government will help?  I mean, uh, knowing who Jack is, they ...”

“Daniel, think about it,” Jack interrupted sternly.  “They'll throw me to the wolves, and they won't look back.  You know that.”

The younger man sighed, wishing his Love was wrong, but knowing he was right.

“Okay, you're right.  So, what are we going to do?”

Jack looked around, staring at a guard for a few seconds before asking, “What do we know?”

The question was a common one.  Even in the worst situation, SG-1 would start with the obvious and go from there.

“Senator Kinsey was killed by someone wearing one of these devices,” Daniel stated, pointing at the device that was setting on the table.

“And those devices work how?” Jack asked for review purposes.

“Well, it's a two part process,” Sam began.  “First, you take somebody and pass them through a large scanning device, which then uploads their exact image into a holographic sequencer.”

“Which is what this is,” Daniel said, holding up the mimic device.  

“Exactly,” Sam affirmed.  “Then you place that sequencer somewhere on your body and activate it.  You instantly take on the appearance of the person you scanned.  Now, the scanning device wasn't taken.  It's still at Area 51.  We checked it out.”

“So, whoever did this can only impersonate a limited number of people,” Daniel stated.

“Twelve, to be precise,” Sam began.

“Me, the Doc, and Daniel,” Jack listed.

“And Paul,” Daniel interjected.

“And Paul,” Jack sing-songed mockingly, causing Daniel and Sam to exchange a look.

“Daniel, when you get back to the Mountain, put in a request for all the personnel files on everyone who had access to these devices.  Go over them with Teal'c, and see if anything stands out,” Sam instructed.

“What about you?” Daniel questioned.

Looking at her CO, Sam took a breath and answered, “I'm going to Washington.  I need to look up an old acquaintance.”

“Okay.”

“Hang in there, Sir,” Sam said, standing.  “I'll meet you outside,” she spoke to Daniel, wanting to give the lovers a chance to talk privately for a minute.

Daniel twisted around to watch Sam leave and then looked over at the guard standing at the corner of the room.  Finally, he focused on his soulmate.

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, I'm sorry.  I blew my stack, and I've been blaming you for something that isn't your fault.  I'm just so friggin' frustrated being locked up here,” Jack spoke sincerely.

“It is my fault.”

“No, it's not,” Jack insisted emphatically, wishing he could take his Love's hand in his.  “We had plans for a weekend, two friends spending time together, fishing, hanging out.  You had a crisis at work, and you needed to be there.  I understand that.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, when I'm not wallowing in self-pity, I do.”

“I'm going to get you out of here,” Daniel vowed firmly.

“I believe you,” Jack responded, smiling and giving his soulmate a nod.  **I love you, Angel.**

**I love you, too.  Are you really okay?**

**After Iraq, this is nothing.  I'm just bored.**

**As soon as you get out of here, you won't have a chance to be bored,** Daniel promised seductively.

**Now that's worth waiting for,** Jack responded eagerly.

“We'll see you soon,” Daniel said verbally for the benefit of the guards and the cameras taping them.

“The sooner, the better,” Jack replied lightly.  The lovers stared at each other, both wishing they could touch, something they wanted to do desperately.  “Go.  You've got some rescuing to do.”

Daniel smiled, nodded, and repeated, “You'll be out of here soon.  I promise, and that's one promise you can bank your life on.”

“Danny, I bank my life on all of your promises,” Jack said quietly, his eyes reaffirming his spoken words.

Then the colonel got up and motioned to the guard.  He needed the exchange to be over, or he might just give the guard a little more to tell about, if asked.

====

“Any luck?” Daniel asked over a secured line that night when Sam called to report in.

“I'm working with Agent Barrett,” Sam responded.  “Daniel, he's fed up with the rogue NID group.  He went after Kinsey and actually convinced him to turn on the leaders.”

“Wait a minute,” Daniel responded.  “Are you saying Senator Kinsey was going to turn in the rogue group?”

“Malcolm knows some things about the senator,” Sam stated, using Barrett's given name.

“He didn't have a choice,” Daniel surmised.

“No, and Malcolm agreed to leave Kinsey out of it.”

“It's an election year,” Daniel sighed.

“Right, but I guess the rogue NID leaders found out about it,” Sam sighed.  “How about you?” the major inquired.

“When the mimic devices were first brought to Area 51, a team of eight scientists was assigned to study them.  The Pentagon was hoping to be able to adapt the devices for use in the field.  However, while the original holographic images that were created by the aliens seemed to last indefinitely, those that were created by the scientists in the lab were only sustainable for three to four minutes at a time due to problems with electromagnetic interference.  So, the project was scaled back, and five of the original team members were reassigned.  The remaining three continued working on the devices for another six months, but with no new breakthroughs, the entire project was shut down.”

“What happened to those three scientists?”

“Two of them were transferred to the X-303 project and the third was supposedly killed in a car crash two days before the transfer was due to take effect.”

“Supposedly?” Sam questioned curiously.

“Sam, Doctor Langham's body, if it was his, was burned beyond recognition.  He was identified through dental records, but the problem is that the toxicology report came back completely clean.”

“What's so unusual about that?”

“Doctor Langham was an epileptic.  Janet said there should have been traces of the anti-convulsant drugs that he was taking regularly,” Daniel explained.

“So, it wasn't Langham who died.”

“No, and either he or someone else engineered his disappearance.  Teal'c and I are going to try and track him down in the morning.”

“Okay, well, keep in touch,” Sam said.  “Oh, Daniel, about what you've been wondering about.  You know, the colonel's home.”

“Yeah?”

“I have it on good authority that they didn't find anything about ... anything.  The search warrant was pretty narrow -- weapons and the like, so no worries there.  I do think that when this is over, we should do a precautionary sweep.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

====

That night, afraid to return to the home he shared with Jack, Daniel went to his apartment to spend the night.  Feeling restless and out of place, though, and unable to focus on anything else, he quickly sought peace in sleep.

An hour later, the archaeologist tossed and turned, mumbling indistinct words in his slumber.

In his deep sleep, Daniel saw his lover and smiled wantonly.  At first, all he could see were Jack's inviting brown eyes.  He got lost in them, seeing the safety they brought to him.  Then the image of his Love pulled back so that Daniel could see Jack's nose and mouth.  He longed to rub his thumb against the luscious lips.  More than that, he wanted to brush his lips against those of the older man's.  He moaned in anticipation of the kiss he desired so desperately.

The dream image pulled back even further, so that now, Daniel could see the silver-gray hair of his soulmate.  There was still a smidgeon of brown there, but what the archaeologist saw was his Silver Fox -- sly, svelte, and sexy.  He wanted to reach out and run his fingers through the short strands and then use his palm to hold his Love protectively.

“You should have kept your promise.”

Daniel watched in horror as the image pulled back to normal, so that he could see his lover's entire body and his surroundings.  Jack was standing on a gallows, his hands tied behind his back.  He saw a man, dressed in black, secure a thick rope around the colonel's neck, pulling it taut, causing Jack to grimace.

“Your fault, Daniel.  You let me down,” Jack's image spoke.  “Now you're on your own.  Goodbye, Daniel.”

Sounding like thunder, the floor of the gallows sprang open, and Jack dropped, the noose around his neck tightening as he bobbed up and down in the air, his body growing limp as the last drops of life ebbed out of him.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Daniel screamed, bolting up in his bed, the young man now sweating and out of breath.  “Gawd, Jack, no!  Noooo!” he cried, dropping his head to his knees and giving in to the angst of the moment.

====

“Daniel, we may have a lead,” Sam revealed early the following day.  “We found the warehouse was where the rifle was purchased.  The shooter also looked at another rifle while he was ... shopping.”

“Prints?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“There's a full print belonging to one of the seller's men and a partial print that is definitely *not* the colonel's.  We're checking it against the NID files now.  I'm waiting to hear back on that now.”

“Well, we got lucky,” Daniel stated as he started to fill his teammate in.  “According to Janet, the drug combination that Doctor Langham is on is very specific.  Janet was able to cross reference information on prescriptions written in the past three weeks from the national pharmaceutical database with age and gender.”

“That was good thinking,” Sam complimented.  “Any luck?”

“We're still working on it.”

“Daniel, are you okay?  You sound a little ... funny,” the major commented.

“I didn't sleep much last night, but I'm fine.”

~Fine?  Oh, Daniel,~ Sam sighed, wishing she was there to help her friend, who was so not fine in her opinion.  Worse, she was on the clock at the moment and had to end the conversation.  “Daniel, I have to go.  If I can't reach you, I'll check in with General Hammond.”

“Okay.  Good luck.”

“You, too,” Sam responded, disconnecting the call.

====

Daniel, carrying a clipboard with a list of names and addresses on it, and Teal'c arrived at a two-story gray house and approached the front door.  Both were in their civvies.  This was the fourth attempt to track down Doctor Langham.  Six more were on their list.  The man who answered the door, though, didn't look like Langham, so the two teammates apologized for intruding and walked away.

“Did he look familiar to you?” Daniel questioned.

“He did not.”

“Really?” Daniel questioned.  “He, uh, looked familiar to me.”  Halfway to the car, he stopped.  “No.  Wait, wait, wait.  I've seen him before.  He's an airman at the Mountain.”

Daniel, followed by the Jaffa, quickly returned to the front door, knocking on it and calling out for the man, using the alias that was on the clipboard.  Not getting an answer, Teal'c attempted to open the front door with no success.  The two teammates then headed for separate sides of the back of the house.

The archaeologist saw the man run across the backyard and climb over the fence.  He followed, chasing the man down the alley between homes and then onto the front street.

As the man turned to check on Daniel's progress, he ran alongside a parked vehicle.  When he turned back to face forward, he ran right into Teal'c's outstretched arm, his hand clutched into a fist.  The impact knocked the man to the pavement.

“I guess he didn't see you,” Daniel said, breathing heavily from his run as he looked down at the unconscious man.

“He was not looking where he was going, DanielJackson,” Teal'c responded as he reached down and opened the man's shirt, revealing the mimic device.

Seeing Teal'c pull off the device and the man morphing back into Langham, Daniel quipped, “Doctor Langham, I presume.”

“Indeed.”

====

“You have to help us,” Daniel implored as he and Teal'c headed towards the Nevada air base to return to the Springs with Langham.

“I'm not going to tell you anything.”

“A man's life is at stake, and you *are* going to help us,” Daniel reiterated forcefully.  ~That nightmare I had is *not* going to happen.  I don't care what we, uh, Teal'c, has to do to prevent it.~

Langham laughed and looked out the window.

“Why are you doing this?” the archaeologist asked, getting nothing but silence in return.  “Look, your future doesn't look very bright, if you don't cooperate with us.”

“My future isn't bright *if* I help you.  Besides, I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Of course, you don't,” Daniel sighed, trying to think of something that might convince the man to talk.

====

Aboard the aircraft, Daniel, Teal'c, and Langham sat.  Daniel was opposite the man and continued to try and convince him to tell the truth, but he'd refused.

Standing, Teal'c walked between the two and, while staring down at Langham, said, “DanielJackson, I believe you are using an ineffective method to convince this man to cooperate.  If he will not talk of his own volition, perhaps we should use some other means.  On Chulak, there were a number of methods available.  Let us discuss them.”

“Oh, yeah, right,” Daniel agreed.  “What was that ... first ... method?” he asked, playing along with his friend.  ~At least, I hope he's ... playing.~

Daniel was conflicted.  He knew Langham's cooperation was vital to freeing Jack, but he didn't want Teal'c to actually hurt the man, either.  Still, saving his lover was his first priority.  He hated the position he was in, and he prayed that he wouldn't actually have to make a choice that might end up causing him to hate himself.
 
For the remainder of the flight, all kinds of physical torture used in extracting information was detailed.  Though not saying anything yet, Langham was sweating as he listened to the Chulakian methods for extracting the truth.

~Teal'c wouldn't really do anything; well, I don't ... think he would, but if Langham believes he would, then he might talk, and we really need him to talk,~ Daniel thought, hoping Langham would cave and reveal all that he knew about Kinsey's killing.

====

General Hammond entered the briefing room, placing a file on the table where Daniel and Teal'c were already seated.

“You found Doctor Langham,” the general said and then took his seat at the head of the table.

“He's in a holding cell on Level 16,” Daniel affirmed.

“Well done.  Has he said anything?” Hammond inquired.

“No, Sir, but he did ask for a lawyer,” Daniel answered.

“That could be a problem.  We're not exactly following proper procedure here,” Hammond responded.

“Sir, this guy stole top secret material and is an accessory to murder!” Daniel asserted.

“Doctor Langham is also the only one that can verify ColonelO'Neill's innocence,” Teal'c added forcefully.

“Not necessarily,” Hammond responded.  “Major Carter and Agent Barrett are pursuing a lead that may take them to the real assassin.”

“And if it doesn't?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“I know you how feel,” Hammond replied sympathetically.  “No one wants Colonel O'Neill back more than I do, but this is a delicate situation.  I understand this man had some injuries when you brought him in,” he noted, pointing to a few lines in the file as he pushed it towards the Jaffa.

“Doctor Langham was reluctant to accompany us back to the SGC.  He required some convincing,” Teal'c explained.

“All I'm saying is, we have to be careful.  We're operating *way* outside our jurisdiction, and, like it or not, this man has rights,” Hammond reminded.

“He will volunteer the information.  Of that, I am certain,” Teal'c stated strongly, not flinching as Hammond studied him.

“Be careful,” the major general advised.  “I don't want to get Colonel O'Neill back and lose one or both of you in the process,” he warned, standing and exiting the room.

====

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Agent Barrett had met up with Sam again and revealed that the partial prints they'd recovered from the second gun matched an NID agent named Mark Devlin.  The two went to his house and found no one there.

After Barrett kicked in the door, the pair went inside and began to look around.  Both noticed an alarm clock, seemingly ticking down.  Sam grabbed the man's arm, and they ran outside.  Within seconds, the house exploded.

====

When Teal'c entered the holding cell at the SGC, alone, Langham panicked.  Teal'c said nothing, but his stoic yet threatening presence, intimidated the doctor, who hadn't forgotten any of what he'd heard on the plane.  From his view, there was nothing to prevent Teal'c from following through on any of a number of tortures he'd mentioned during the flight.

In a relatively short period of time, Langham succumbed and agreed to tell his story.

--

With Daniel and Hammond present in the holding cell just a couple of minutes later, the questioning began.

“When you first switched the devices with the fakes, where'd you take them?” Daniel asked, standing at the end of the table, Tealc' next to him.

“Washington.  They wanted me to take them myself because they thought using a middleman would be too risky.”

“To whom are you referring?” Teal'c inquired.

“They call themselves the Committee.  They run the whole show,” the prisoner answered.

“We're going to need names,” Hammond responded from his seat opposite the prisoner.  When the man didn't say anything, he pointed out strongly, “You're looking at conspiracy to commit murder.”

“I didn't know they were going to use the devices to kill anybody.  They told me that they were going to analyze the technology for possible commercial applications,” Langham claimed.

“Why would you believe that?” Daniel queried curiously.

“You don't think money has anything to do with this?” Langham asked.  “In the last six months, there have been at least ten new patents that can be traced back *directly* to Area 51.  I'm talking industrial chemicals, metallurgy, computers; you name it.”

“So, they're selling alien technology?” Daniel questioned.

“No, they're buying it!  The members of the Committee aren't spies or secret agents, they're businessmen.  The rogue NID agents work for them.  They've got hundreds of millions invested, and they expect to make billions in return by incorporating alien advancements into their product lines.”

“I thought this was about protecting the planet,” Daniel replied.

“Well, nobody said it had to be a non-profit business,” the prisoner pointed out.

“Give us the names, and we'll ensure your safety,” Hammond offered.

“Well, I'm going to need a few more details.  You work for the Air Force.  You don't have a witness protection program,” Langham responded skeptically.

“But we do have the Stargate,” Daniel stated.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if these people are as powerful as you say they are, there's probably nowhere on Earth you'd be safe.  Fortunately, we have other options,” Hammond elaborated.

====

Back in Sam's hotel room, Barrett confronted her.  He believed there had to be leak somewhere, since it was obvious that Devlin knew they were onto him.

“Agent Devlin was waiting for us.  That means somebody obviously tipped him off,” Barrett stated.

“Not necessarily,” Sam refuted.  “Think about it.  You used a computer to access those personnel files, right?  Maybe somebody tracked you.”

At that moment, Hammond called, giving Sam the names that Langham had just revealed.  When Barrett asked for the details of the conversation, she refused.

“This assignment came from the White House, Major.  If you don't tell me what I need to know, I'm gonna have to make a phone call.  You're the one who's always talking about trust.”

Sam realized the man was right, and he'd already trusted her on a few things.  It was time for her to return the favor.

“The man who shot Kinsey was using a piece of alien technology, a device capable of creating a flawless holographic disguise.  In this case a duplicate image of Colonel O'Neill.  It was a perfect plan to get rid of Kinsey and the colonel at the same time.”

“Wait a minute.  Why ... why have I never heard about this technology before?”

“We encountered the devices three years ago during a foothold situation.  It was a close one.  Kinsey was trying to shut down the Stargate program for being too risky, so the whole thing was covered up by Presidential order.”

“Who's your source?” the agent asked.

“A scientist at Area 51.  He's the one who smuggled the devices out,” Sam answered.

Barrett claimed the information wasn't strong enough, and there was nothing that could be done at this point.  Suddenly, he hesitated, his silence piquing Sam's curiosity.  That's when the man revealed a shocking truth.

“Senator Kinsey's not dead; he's in a coma.  We've got him under twenty-four hour guard,” Barrett stated.

“Why didn't you tell me?” Sam asked a bit angrily.

“Because we needed to keep his condition a secret for his protection.  If and when he regains consciousness, he'll be able to provide us with the information we need to bring these people down,” Barrett answered.

“So, we were both keeping secrets,” Sam acknowledged.

With a shrug, Barrett agreed, “That's the way the game is played.”

As they continued to talk, Barrett told Sam that the Pentagon has been informed about Kinsey's status, and they were sending Major Paul Davis over to the senator's location.  Hearing that, Sam quickly stood and grabbed her sidearm.

“What?” Barrett asked with concern.

“There are twelve alien devices capable of mimicking specific individuals.  Major Davis was one of them.”

====

“Sam?” Daniel asked anxiously the next day, having been waiting for her call for the last half-hour or so.

“Daniel, we got everything we needed; more even,” Sam spoke happily over her cell phone.

“You're sure?”

“Major Davis is working on the colonel's release papers now.”

Daniel closed his eyes, swallowing hard as relief swelled through his body.

“I'll meet you at Peterson,” Sam stated.

====

Not yet free to go, but having been allowed to change into his civvies, Jack was again in the visiting room, seated at the table opposite Daniel and Sam.

“How'd you do it?” the colonel asked.

“Sam did it,” Daniel said, smiling at the blonde as he gave her all of the credit.

“It was a team effort, Sir.  We couldn't have done anything if Daniel and Teal'c hadn't tracked down Doctor Langham and convinced him to talk.”

“'We'?” Jack asked lightly and with curiosity.

“Me and Agent Barrett.  He was already working on taking down the shadow group within the NID.  He trusted me, Sir, and I trusted him.”

“That's nice,” Jack replied.  More forcefully, he repeated, “How'd you do it?”

Sam looked down as she smiled and began answering, “Using the device to morph into Major Davis, Devlin gained access to Kinsey's room.”

“So, you weren't there yet?” Daniel asked.

“No,” Sam confirmed.  “By the time we arrived, Devlin was already inside the hospital, so we sprung a quick trap.  We pulled the fire alarm and instructed the medical personnel to take Kinsey out of his room and head down for the basement.”

“Why not just confront Devlin there?” Daniel questioned.

“Less chance of anyone getting caught in crossfire or for a hostage situation to occur,” Jack explained for the major.

“Exactly,” Sam agreed.  “We instructed the SF's to contain Devlin if they could, but he got by them.”

“You thought he would,” Jack surmised.

“He's well trained at what he does, Sir.  It seemed logical that he had at least a fifty-fifty chance to get away from them.  We just didn't have time to have backup personnel in place.”

“How'd you know he'd go to the basement?” Daniel asked.

“We were lucky.  We knew he'd track Kinsey, but the timing had to be right.  Like I said, we got lucky.  The team in the elevator saw Devlin approaching just as the doors were closing.”

“He walked right into it,” Jack stated.

“Yes, Sir.  He took the stairs to the basement, and we zatted him on sight,” Sam elaborated.  “As soon as we removed the mimic device, Devlin morphed back into himself.”

“He talked?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Yes.  He told us when he was supposed to meet with The Committee and where.”

“Carter, I have a sneaking suspicion there's more to this story,” Jack stated, leaning forward and cocking his head to the side.

“We used the device to create an image of Devlin.  We only needed a few minutes, we hoped,” Sam responded.

“You impersonated Devlin?” Jack asked in disbelief at the risk he knew the blonde had taken.

“Yes, Sir.  The Committee thought I was Mark Devlin.  In the few minutes I was there, they definitely incriminated themselves in the attempted assassination of Senator Kinsey, and they set a new target -- General Hammond.  They ordered Devlin to try and convince the general to retire for the safety and wellbeing of his family.”

“And?” Jack prompted.

“If Devlin was unsuccessful, he was ordered to kill General Hammond,” Sam stated.

“It's really over then,” Daniel responded with relief.  ~Maybe I can get some sleep tonight.~

“Colonel O'Neill,” Paul Davis called out, entering the visiting area.

“Major,” Jack said, staring at the man who just wasn't one of his favorite people in the world.

“With the apologies of the Pentagon, you are free to go.  Uh, General Hammond would like you to report to the SGC immediately, however.”

“Why?” Jack questioned, happy to be free but wondering why the major was relaying orders.

“Sir, Senator Kinsey's condition is still critical.  We're not releasing any information at this time.  General Hammond would like to discuss the situation with you in more detail,” Davis answered.

The major looked over at Daniel and Sam, nodding.  Then he turned and walked out.

“I suggest we get out of here before they change their minds,” Jack commented, the three teammates heading for the door.  “By the way, Major, nice suit,” he complimented regarding Sam's white dress suit that she was wearing.

“Thank you, Sir,” Sam responded with a smile.  “To be honest, it was nice to wear something besides a BDU for a while.  Alternative dress wear can be stimulating.”

“I think that depends on what the alternative dress wear is”, Jack responded, looking behind him at the visiting area.

====

“Jack, welcome back!” Hammond greeted enthusiastically, standing up and shaking the man's hand.

“Thank you, Sir,” the colonel responded.

“Good work,” the major general praised, looking over at Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c as the three stood near their commanding officer.

“But ...” Jack prompted. “Sir, it wasn't that I didn't want to see you, but why the order to come to the base?”

Hammond sighed as he turned around and sat down behind his desk.

“I'm not going to like this, am I?” Jack sighed, glancing over at Daniel for a moment.

“Colonel, we're all hoping for Senator Kinsey's recovery, but we don't know yet what's going to happen.”

“And that affects me ... how?”

“We contained much of the bad press since you were implicated in the senator's shooting, but we couldn't stop all of it.  The public is going to need an explanation.”

Jack sighed, taking a breath as he looked at lover for a moment before turning back towards Hammond and repeating, “And that affects me ... how?”

Hammond let out a smile and then answered, “Jack, they want you to play along, for the good of the world and national security.”

“Play along?” the colonel asked skeptically.

“The Pentagon has come up with a story, and it's one they're certain Senator Kinsey will go along with.  You're part of the plan.”

As Hammond explained the scenario to Jack, the colonel simply stared in disbelief.  Just hearing the cover story made him want to heave.  He didn't like a word of what he was hearing.

“Sir, with all due respect, no, as in no way, never, and I don't think so,” Jack responded emphatically.

“Jack, you don't really have a choice.”

“Sir, I know you don't like this idea, but so much of what's happened is classified that they do need a cover like this,” Sam opined, knowing her opinion would not be popular with the colonel.

“Have you lost your mind?” Jack groused as he stared at the major.  Looking back at the general, he said, “Why?”

“Your picture was out there, Colonel.  The public needs a reason to not think of you as a killer.”

Jack sighed, “What if I say no?”

“I'm not sure,” Hammond answered truthfully.  “The pressure is on, from the highest source.”

“The highest source,” Jack echoed, knowing that meant the President.

“He wants your cooperation,” Hammond added.  He paused, seeing Jack's hesitation, but knowing the colonel would agree once he'd had time to think about the situation.  “In the meantime, they want you to lay low, so I've scheduled SG-1 for several missions over the next couple of weeks, dependent upon the speed of Senator Kinsey's recovery.”

“Oh, so I'm free, as long as I stay off-world.”

“No, Son, that's just a request, and it's one I'll hope you'll agree to, as a favor to me.”

Jack smiled hesitantly, but nodded.  He wouldn't turn down Hammond.

“Go home.  Have a good meal.  Get a good night's sleep.  Tomorrow, SG-1 will embark to P2X-005.”

“Really?” Sam questioned, a smile instantly forming on her face.  “That's great!”  Seeing Jack's quizzical expression, she explained, “I've been wanting to go there for quite some time, Sir.”

“That's correct,” Hammond acknowledged.  “It was scheduled for another time, but I'm moving it up.  Dismissed.”

SG-1 exchanged looks and then began to walk out.

“Colonel,” Hammond called out.  “I'm glad it worked out.”

“Me, too, Sir.  Thank you,” Jack replied.

====

The lovers pulled into the driveway within seconds of each other, both immediately getting out of their vehicles.  They smiled, and Jack walked quickly to his soulmate.

“Colonel!  Daniel!”

The two men looked over at the voice, seeing their neighbor, Mrs. Sophia Valissi, jogging hurriedly towards them.

“Mrs. V!” Jack greeted.

“Hello, Mrs. Valissi,” Daniel spoke with a smile.

“Colonel, are you all right?”

“You've seen the news,” Jack sighed.

“It's a long story,” Daniel began.

“And I wish I could tell ...” Jack added, though his words were interrupted.

“Colonel, I've watched you come and go enough over the years to know you're ... special,” the intuitive senior citizen spoke.  “Are you all right?  That's all I want to know.”

Jack smiled, nodding as he answered, “Yeah.  I'm good.”

“Good,” the spry woman spoke.  “I'll make you a pie and bring it over later.”

“That's not ...”

“Hush now.  You've had a time of it, I'm sure.  I'll drop it by later.  It's good to have you both home,” the happy woman stated before jogging away.

“She's a great lady,” Jack remarked as the two men watched Mrs. Valissi continue on her jog.

“Yeah, and she's ... smart.”

“Very smart,” Jack agreed, heading for the front door.

====

Knowing their neighbor would be over later, the couple satisfied their need for each other as soon as they stepped foot inside the house.  They'd made love intensely, without much foreplay, and then they'd laid quietly, just snuggling for a few minutes before getting up and showering.

The couple's timing had been just about perfect, as Mrs. Valissi had arrived just twenty minutes after they'd made themselves presentable.  The three visited for a short while, and they'd asked their neighbor to join them for dinner, but she refused, saying she had some things to do.

With Mrs. Valissi gone, Jack and Daniel prepared dinner and then enjoyed the pie, the younger man chuckling when his lover ate four pieces, claiming that after jail food for the last few days, a homemade pie like Mrs. Valissi's was so good he had to eat as much as he did.  He just couldn't contain himself.

With the dishes done, the two men sat out under the stars, relaxing on the steps of the porch in the backyard.  Their shoulders were touching as they chatted about inconsequential things.  Jack was drinking a beer, while Daniel had a bottle of water.

“Jack, I have to say this.”

“Daniel, cut it out with the guilt thing,” Jack groaned.

“No, I keep saying I'm going to get a grip on how much I work, and then I don't follow through.”

Jack sighed, took a sip of beer, and then looked outward, towards the end of the large backward.  He knew he'd fueled his lover's guilt by his initial attitude towards him when he'd been arrested.  This was his doing, and he needed to correct it.

“Daniel, SG-1 is a team.  Carter's a good team player.  She's taken the lead a few times, and she's stretching her wings a little now, but commanding an SG unit is a far cry from commanding the entire SGC.  She did her best, but she was a little over her head.  You were there; you did what you had to do.”  Jack looked at his lover and stated firmly, “I would have done the same thing.”

“What?”

“Danny, I swear to you, if our situations had been reversed, and you were waiting for me at the cabin, and I had to make that same choice, I would have made the same one.  Carter needed support, and, at that moment, that was the priority.  We're a team, and we always cover one another's six.”  Jack smiled as he promised, “We'll have lots of other weekends together, a whole lot of them to be precise.”

“You really would have ... broken your promise?”

“I wish you wouldn't put it like that,” the older man said with a nervous laugh.  He nodded, “But, yeah, I would have, only because I know you would have understood.  That's where the problem was.  You would have understood from the moment you'd heard.  Me?  I needed some time to get over myself.  I'm sorry, Angel.  That was one-hundred percent my fault.”

Daniel smiled, finally free of his guilt after having it flow through his veins for the last few days.

Jack crossed his right hand over to caress his Heart's cheek and said, “I love you.  You did the right thing.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

The lovers kissed, both sighing contentedly afterwards.

“Danny, tell me.”

“What?”

“I see the bags under your eyes,” Jack spoke.  “You haven't slept.  Tell me.”

Daniel took a giant breath and then confided the details of his gruesome nightmare to his Love.

Strengthening his hold on the archaeologist, Jack responded somberly, “I'm sorry I added to your guilt.”

“It was just a nightmare.”

“And I'm guessing that's the last time you slept.  My fault, Angel.”

“Jack, no more faults, okay?  Not tonight, anyway,” Daniel begged.  “We're both ... free, and I just want ... I want ...”

“I know, Angel,” Jack sighed, placing a kiss on the side of his lover's head.

For several minutes, the lovers enjoyed the crispness of the night and their tender touches.  They hadn't said anything verbally, just letting their bodies and souls say all that needed to be communicated.

“Jack, I know you aren't happy about what you're going to have to if, uh, when Senator Kinsey wakes up,” Daniel stated, ending the quiet time.

“I can see it now.  He'll be standing there, like some pompous grandstander, taking credit for something he didn't do, and I'll have to stand there and listen to his crap.”

“You have to clear your reputation, publicly.  I mean, think about ... people who know you.”

Jack blinked as he stared into his lover's eyes.  Neither man spoke the name, but Jack knew Daniel was thinking about Sara.  It was true.  She might be the only person he cared about knowing the truth, not that it mattered.  The ex-spouses weren't in touch, but he was certain she must have heard his name associated with the crime.

“There's that,” the colonel sighed.  “It's not a necessity, though.”

“The Air Force needs you to do this,” Daniel asserted.

“Yeah.”  Jack took a swig of his beer and then said, “I wonder what they'll want me to do if he dies.”

“Hey,” Daniel said, reaching out to take his lover's free hand.  “I have an idea.”

Jack grinned, seeing his soulmate's seductive eyes.

“I can go for that.”

Deciding to focus on their love, Jack and Daniel went inside and shut out the world.

====

Eleven days later, with Teal'c off-world with Bra'tac and Sam helping General Hammond prepare for an upcoming meeting he would be having in Washington soon, Jack and Daniel had flown to the nation's capitol.  Senator Kinsey had made a full recovery and was being released from the hospital today.  A press conference was less than thirty minutes away, and Jack was already dreading every second of it.

Daniel was being as supportive as he could, but he knew the bitter taste his lover had in his mouth about what was going to happen.  Jack was about to swallow his tongue and act as if he and the senator were working together, giving the indication that they were aligned, possibly even friends.  This was the only way to complete the cover story and clear Jack publicly, as well as answer the questions that the news media had been asking.

If the colonel didn't go through with the press conference, it would make it difficult for him to continue in his position at the SGC.  It had been suggested that he might end up in some remote base somewhere for an indefinite period of time, if he backed out of the event.  Thus, Jack had no choice; that is, he didn't have a choice if he wanted to remain in the service.

“Jack, the sooner you go through with this, the sooner it will be over,” Daniel spoke quietly, well aware of his lover's internal struggle.

“I don't like it, Danny.”

“I know, but the President has asked you to do this for him as a favor, and you agreed,” Daniel reminded.

“I hate that man, and now it's going to look like I ... crap, like I support him,” Jack spoke with disdain about Kinsey.

“I know,” the younger man acknowledged, still ruing the fact that he hadn't gone to the cabin as promised.  ~This is killing him, and I can't allow that to happen.  I have to put him first, like he does with me,~ he determined inwardly.  “Jack, if you want to walk away now, we can.  You don't have to go through this.  Let's ... let's just leave.”

Jack looked over at his lover, surprised by the comment and seeing that Daniel was sincere.  The archaeologist was willing to give up the SGC and exploration, just to save his colonel some embarrassment.  The realization gave the older man the resolve he needed to go through with the game.

“No, Angel,” Jack said, walking over and putting his hands on Daniel's shoulders. “I can tough this out.  The people I care about know the truth, and that's enough.”

“No, it's not, not when you're beating yourself over the head, knowing what's about to happen.  This is eating away at your soul, and I won't let you do something that so goes against who you are.”

Jack smiled and leaned forward for a quick kiss, which was all they could risk since they were at the hospital, waiting in one of the visiting areas.  In fact, they shouldn't have done that much, but the colonel hadn't been able to help himself.

“Thank you, Daniel.  I needed that.”

“So, we'll walk away.”

“No,” Jack refuted.  “I'm just being a little overindulgent.”

“You hate the man.”

“Okay, I do, but you say it all the time: the world is about compromise.  I'll compromise, this time, anyway.”

“You don't have to,” Daniel replied.  “I see it in your eyes.  This ... this is hurting you.”

“But I'll survive.  *We'll* survive,” Jack corrected, dropping his hands just before Major Davis entered.

“Sir, Senator Kinsey is about ready.  He'd like you to meet him in his room,” Davis advised.

“Yeah,” Jack sighed, walking over and picking up his cap.  He looked back at Daniel and smiled.  **I love you, Angel.**

**I love you, too.**

====

A minute or so later, a Secret Service man opened the door to Kinsey's room, and Jack reluctantly stepped inside.

Standing in front of the mirror, adjusting his tie, the senator saw Jack and smiled, saying, “Ah, Colonel O'Neill.  Glad you could make it.”

“What do you want, Kinsey?” Jack asked, momentarily reconsidering his lover's offer.

“I just thought we should have a little chat before we meet the press,” Kinsey answered, putting on his jacket.

“Did you need to *gloat* a little?”

Chuckling, the politician responded, “Don't be that way, Jack.  You need this as much as I do.  The only way you're going to get public vindication is if the two of us appear on the six o'clock news shaking hands.”

“Yeah ... I'm not sure it's worth it,” Jack answered.  ~Danny and I can get lost someplace; maybe go back to Xanadu.  We don't need this crap.~

“The American people don't want their Air Force officers to be assassins, Jack; they want them to be heroes,” Kinsey pointed out.  Slapping the colonel on the arm twice, he boasted, “I'm gonna make you a hero.”

~Let someone else save the planet over and over again,~ Jack thought, ignoring the fact that Kinsey had walked to the doorway.

“Shall we?”

Jack hesitated, thinking, ~No.  Daniel first.  He's not ready to leave the SGC behind.  Suck it up, O'Neill.~

The colonel reluctantly followed Kinsey down the hallway, eager for this day to end.

====

At the exit of the hospital, where the press conference was about to begin, a slew of reporters and photographers were waiting beyond the podium.

As pompous as any politician before him, Kinsey went to the podium and spoke, “First of all, I want to apologize to you and to the American people for the deception surrounding my ... untimely demise.  It was an unfortunate but necessary final step in my investigation of certain anti-democratic forces that had taken root in several key government agencies.  The ringleaders of this conspiracy have now been taken into custody.”

~For Danny.  I can endure this for Daniel.  I certainly don't need this.  It's for Daniel,~ Jack encouraged even as he squirmed from the words Kinsey was speaking.

--

Inside, Daniel watched the live conference on the TV screen in the visitor's lounge.  He stood, arms crossed, staring at his lover.  He saw the distress and wished he'd fought harder.

~Fight?  No, I should have insisted,~ the archaeologist corrected.  ~I know how that feels, sort of, in a different way.  I shouldn't have let him go through this.~

--

With a chuckle, the senator continued, “Of course, taking a bullet was not part of my original plan to bring these men down, but the *success* of the operation was *well* worth any personal sacrifice on my part; and I want the American people to know that, if elected, I intend to bring that same ... determination ... and zeal for justice with me to the White House.”

~Where's the barf bag?~ Jack wondered, thinking he was going to need one at any moment.

--

Inside the hospital, Daniel stared in disbelief at the story Kinsey was telling the American people.

~Sacrifice?  You were trying to save yourself,~ the scientist thought, his eyes centering in on the Air Force colonel and his Class A uniform.  ~Normally, I'd be lost in you, wearing that uniform.  Right now, though, all I feel is heartache because when your heart aches, so does mine.  Why didn't I just grab you by the hand and take you out of here?~

--

“I would also like to thank Colonel Jack O'Neill of the United States Air Force for the *vital* role he played in my investigation.  I can't go into details for reasons of national security, but I can assure you all that any evidence pointing to the colonel as my would-be assassin was simply part of the operation,” Kinsey spoke with a confident smile.  He turned to Jack, saying, “Colonel,” as he extended out his hand.

~Crap.  This is all crap, and he's an ...~  Jack took a deep breath.  ~For Danny,~ he vowed as he shook the senator's hand while the crowd threw out more questions and snapped a slew of photographs.

--

Daniel cringed as he watched the two men shaking hands.  Everything his Love stood for had just been mocked.  He closed his eyes, wishing they could go back in time and redo the choices made over the Memorial Day weekend.  It wasn't guilt he felt; it was sadness over what those decisions had wrought.

~Okay, it's almost over.  I'm sorry, Babe, but you were right about one thing.  We will survive, and we'll go on.  I promise you this, too.  I will *never* let anything like this happen to you again.  I will *not* ever again allow you to be in this position, sacrificing your integrity just so I can keep on searching for ... whatever it is I need from the SGC.  Never again, Jack.  That's a promise.~

Daniel wasn't sure if his lover would hear him, but he had to try and communicate, to say something that would help alleviate the emotional pain of the older man.

**Jack, it's almost over and then we can get out of here.**

**Danny, I want to beat the crap out of the man,** the colonel replied.

**I know, and I'm sorry.**

**Don't be,** Jack responded quickly.  **This is an inconvenience, but as long as I have you by my side, I can survive it.  Scratch that.  As long as I have you by my side, life is darn good.  Of course, if the opportunity arises in the future where I can beat the crap out of Kinsey, that would work, too.**

Daniel dropped his head, though he could hear both the seriousness and the slight tease that his soulmate had used to communicate the remark.  The archaeologist couldn't wait to get out this place and help his lover forget all about the day's events.

--

Putting his hand over the microphone, Kinsey smirked, “Smile, Colonel.  You just won me the election.”

~I hope not,~ Jack sighed, his facial expression detailing his unease at the entire event.  ~Can I go now?~

Finally, the conference ended, and Kinsey smirked, “Well done, Colonel.”

Jack just stared at the man and turned around.  He couldn't walk away quick enough.  Even after all the Special Ops he'd done, he hadn't ever before felt dirty in his uniform, but he did now.

“Daniel, let's go,” Jack called out in a tone that the younger man recognized wasn't really his lover, but just a facade created to survive what he'd just endured.

Quietly, the archaeologist followed, and the two rode silently to Andrews Air Force Base where a transport plane was waiting to take them back to Colorado Springs.  They'd turned down the offer of staying the night, both men preferring to get back home as soon as possible.

====

Once on the plane, knowing they were alone at last, Jack broke their silence, saying to his lover, “You know what the problem is, Danny?”

“Uh, no.  What?”

“They didn't have Donald there to help out Wild Wing.”

“Oh, sure, yeah,” Daniel replied.  “What?” he asked incredulously, having no clue what Jack was talking about.

“The Anaheim Ducks lost the Stanley Cup yesterday because Wild Wing needed more support.  There's only so much an anthropomorphized duck can do,” Jack opined.

“Uh...wha...um...a ... a duck?”

“Look, I know Wild Wing is popular, but he needs Donald and his nephews behind him.  It would get them a little more power.”

“Jack, you're crazy.”

“I've been called worse,” Jack replied.  “Of course, maybe if the Ducks could have cloned Jean-Sebastian Giguere, that might have helped.  That doesn't happen very often.”

“What doesn't?”

“Being named MVP of the series when you're on the losing team,” Jack responded.  “I'm not trying to take anything away from the Devils, but ...”

Daniel listened intently, smiling inside as his lover began to heal himself.  The world wasn't a perfect place, but Jack and Daniel together shared a love that was pure and eternal.  It was the real thing, not an illusion created by an alien device or an act performed to deceive the people.  Nothing could ever defeat that love, or the two men who shared it.  Just as Jack was doing now, life would go on, and so would their nation of two.

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