The Lunatic Fringe

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Pre-Slash, Drama, Holiday, Missing Scene/Epilogue
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  1 - April 1-3, 1997
Spoilers:  The First Commandment
Size:  50kb
Written:  March 28-30, November 18-20,23-26,30, 2007
Summary:  As the members SG-1 gets to know each other a little better, the team goes on a rescue mission that risks Jack's life and reunites Sam with her ex-fiancé.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Jo, Claudia, Melissa, Tonya, Carol, Linda!

The Lunatic Fringe
by Orrymain

“Daniel, you're worse than my son was,” Jack said, shaking his friend as he tried to wake him.  He shook harder, finally getting a muffled response.  “Rise and shine, Doctor Jackson.  The Froot Loops will get hot,” he teased.

“Wha...what?” the younger man said, glancing up.  ~Why is it dark?~  Suddenly, he felt like he was suffocating.  ~Oh, gawd,~ he sighed, removing the pillow that was covering his head.  Blinking sleepily, he looked over to see his friend, the colonel, staring down at him, laughing.  “Huh?”

“Time to get up, Daniel.  Breakfast is waiting,” Jack said, reaching down and slapping the younger man on his derriere one time before turning and walking out of the spare bedroom of his uniquely built two-story home.

The archaeologist groaned, plopping his head back down on the pillow.  Pulling the covers up a little more, he snuggled back down in the bed.  He wanted to sleep just a little bit longer.

“*Now, Daniel!*” Jack shouted.

The loud bark from the stairs resulted in more groans from the archaeologist, but it worked.  Slowly, he turned over and climbed out of the warm bed.  Yawning, he wandered out of the spare room and into Jack's bedroom and then into the bathroom.  The older man's house only had the one bathroom.  It was a bit of an odd layout, but the uniqueness of the design had been one of the reasons Jack had purchased the house in the first place.

Daniel reached over and started the shower, making sure to turn on the hot tap.  He was used to, and preferred, the heat.  He'd only been back on Earth for a couple of months after having lived on the desert planet of Abydos for over a year.  In the chill of the early morning, he yearned to feel the pulsing warmth against his body.  Still yawning, he removed his pajamas and placed them on the rack near the tub/shower.

The archaeologist stepped inside, yawning again as he moved to stand beneath the cascading warmth of the falling water.  He made a full three-hundred-sixty degree turn to wet his body, his eyes closed as he imagined himself in his beloved desert.  He reached over to grab the bar of soap, rubbing it against the washcloth, and then began to clean his smooth skin, not missing one inch of his anatomy.

Daniel arched his head back, letting the water hit his face.  His eyes were still closed as he visualized himself on Abydos, helping his wife, Sha're, prepare their evening meal.  Some of the other men frowned upon the practice, but Daniel believed in sharing the chores, and Sha're was much more liberal than her counterparts, so was glad to have her husband's assistance.

The smile on the young man's face was loving and happy, but then, in an instant, it faded.  Opening his eyes, Daniel remembered that he wasn't on Abydos.  His Sha're was nowhere close, having been taken captive by the Goa'uld and forced to play host to Apophis' mate.  He sighed, vowing again to somehow save his wife.

The man looked down, for no special reason.  He blinked, wondering if maybe he was really still asleep.  He couldn't possibly be ... blue?  Examining the soap more closely and rubbing it against his skin briskly, Daniel realized the bar of blue soap was coloring his somewhat pale white skin.

“JACK!”

Daniel pushed back the curtain, prepared to seek out and strangle his prankster host when the flashbulb blinded him.

“Now there's one for posterity!” Jack laughed loudly.

“I'm naked!”

“I noticed,” Jack cackled.

Daniel reached over to the rack, wrapping a towel around his colored body.

“I'm *blue*, O'Neill!”

“Daniel Smurf,” the colonel teased as he stared at the camera.  “I'd better have this developed privately.  I don't think the drugstore would appreciate it.”

“Very funny, Jack.  What's the big idea?” the archaeologist spoke as he stepped onto the tile floor of the bathroom.

“April Fool's!” Jack laughed, turning and making a hasty exit out of the bathroom. “I'll just make sure a few hundred of my closest Air Force buddies see this and ...”

“Oooooooo'Neilllllll!” Daniel threatened as he gave chase.

Daniel caught his prey downstairs, behind the sofa.  As he straddled the older man, his eyes were shooting daggers.  Then he saw Jack's shining brown eyes and the huge grin on the man's face.  It was just too much.

“Gawd,” Daniel expressed as he plopped off to the side, leaning against the back of the couch.  “I can't believe you did that.”

Sitting upright, the camera still in his hands, Jack laughed, “Just having some fun, Dannyboy!”

“I'm blue, in case you haven't noticed.”

“And wet,” Jack pointed out.  Laughing, he assured, “It washes off.”

“When?  We have a mission, you know,” Daniel whined.

Jack reached into his pocket, pulling out a small bar of soap.  He tossed it over to his Smurf-like friend.

“The anti-blue soap?”

The older man chuckled, “We'll see.”

Daniel glared as he stood up.  He knew Jack had a lot of connections in the Air Force, and it was possible he could have had one of them conjure up this magical blue soap and its remedy.  Or, he supposed, he could have purchased it in a magic shop.  He figured he'd probably never know which because Jack O'Neill was a man of secrets, and Daniel knew there were a lot of them.  Of course, he had a lot of his own secrets, too.

“You're a freakin' lunatic, Jack,” Daniel accused as he headed up the stairs.

“Not arguing,” Jack chuckled to himself as he stood up.  Staring at the camera, he thought, ~I've been through too much not to see the lighter side of life now.  I ... have to see that.~  Looking up the stairs, he smiled and then opened up the camera, exposing the film.  “I've got your six, Danny,” he said as he yanked out the film, crumpling it and then heading for the kitchen to dispose of it properly, ensuring no one would ever see the blue and buck-naked Daniel.  ~Cute, though,~ he mused about his friend, the archaeologist.  ~Maybe I should have kept this and made an eight-by-ten out of it for Sha're when we find her.~

====

The members of SG-1 were walking down the corridors of the SGC toward the commissary.  As sometimes happened, their day hadn't gone as planned.  Originally, they had been scheduled to depart at 1300 hours, but because of the weather conditions on the planet, that had been postponed until 1600 hours.  Finally, they deduced from the MALP's readings, that the conditions should be more accommodating early in the morning of April 2nd.  Thus, the team had gotten some sleep in the VIP rooms, awaking shortly before 1 a.m.  Now, they were planning on enjoying a quick snack before embarking on their mission.  Jack, especially, was anxious to indulge in one of his new favorite foods.

“Yep, *blue* Jell-O: that's good stuff.  I don't know who came up with the idea, but they should get a raise,” the colonel spoke as the team walked.

“It's just Jell-O, Sir,” Sam countered.  “The coloring doesn't give it any extra flavor.”

“Carter, did anyone ever tell you that you could make a laughing hyena *blue*?” Jack snarked.

Daniel glared at the continuing references to the color 'blue', especially since a part of his abdomen and his left thigh were still blue in color.  Apparently, the remedy wasn't quite as good as Jack thought.

“I was just saying ...”

“I know what you were saying,” Jack responded, his fun on the verge of being ruined.  ~Plan B.~  He smiled, “I'm glad today is Tuesday.  One *blue* Monday a week is plenty.”

“My Monday wasn't blue at all,” Sam refuted.

Jack rolled his eyes.  His second-in-command just wasn't playing along today.

“I was not aware Mondays were designated by a color,” Teal'c spoke.

“It's just a way of saying you have the blahs, Teal'c,” Sam explained, adding, “You know, the beginning of a work week.”

“What are the blahs?” the Jaffa questioned curiously.

“Never mind,” Jack interjected.  He smiled and asked no one in particular, “Ever seen the *blue*prints to this place?”  He looked around and opined, “Gray is blah. There you go, Teal'c.  Blah, gray; gray, blah; but blue is exciting.  Yep, we should have blue walls.”

“O'Neill, is there something about the word 'blue' you wish to tell us?” Teal'c inquired.  When Jack looked back, giving him a quizzical look, the Jaffa pointed out, “I have counted the word 'blue' used in conversation at least fifteen times this morning.  There must be some significance with your obsession for the word.”

“I am *not* obsessed,” Jack claimed.

Daniel smiled, loving that his friend was finally being put on the spot for his continual reminders of the blue attack.

“He's right, Sir,” Sam agreed.  “Before the briefing, you talked about correlation between 'Song Sung Blue' by Neil Diamond and 'Blue Suede Shoes' by Elvis Presley.  Then you talked about which was the better name -- the Moody Blues or the Blues Brothers.  Then ...”

“I don't need a replay, Carter,” Jack interrupted.

“They're right, Jack,” Daniel stated smugly.  “I mean, uh, out of the blue, you seem to be hooked on the blues.”

As Jack stared at the younger man in disbelief, the klaxons began to blare, along with Sergeant Davis' call of 'Unscheduled off-world activation' over the speaker.  Immediately, their food break and the blue debate were forgotten as the team hurried to the control room.

====

“Sir?” Jack called out as he entered the control room, Daniel following him to face Major General George Hammond.

“P3X-513, but no one's come through yet.”

“That's SG-9, isn't it?” the colonel questioned.

Hammond nodded, full of concern as he looked at the open Stargate.  He looked at his watch.  The Gate had been open for three minutes now.

“Where are they?” Daniel questioned, his hands on his hips as he looked out the large window of the control room.

Sam walked forward, standing near the seated Sergeant Davis.  Her face was etched with worry, something everyone noticed, though no one said a word about it at the moment.

“Maybe they forgot something,” Jack put forth, not that he nor anyone else in the room believed that.

“Were they scheduled for a check-in?” Sam inquired.

“No,” Hammond answered.  With a sigh, he ordered, “Shut it down.”  Looking at SG-1, he instructed, “Acquaint yourselves with SG-9's reports.  Your mission to PA1-999 is postponed.  If we don't hear from SG-9 by 0630 hours, you'll be going through on a search and rescue mission.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged as Hammond walked away.

The colonel exchanged looks with his team and then headed for his office to pull up the previous reports from the team in question.

====

“Jack, you're going to want it,” Daniel said.

“Daniel, these things are goofy.  I like my cap,” Jack insisted.

The two men were in the locker room, just about to exit and meet up with Sam and Teal'c in the gate room.

“You heard what Sam said about the planet.  We need to protect ourselves from the UV rays as much as possible,” Daniel reminded.

“We'll look like the Bobbsey Twins or something,” Jack whined.

“The who?” Daniel teased.  Seeing the older man's glare, he sighed, “Jack, I don't see anyone confusing us.  We don't look alike, and we rarely agree on anything.”  After a pause, he requested, “Humor me.”

“I do, Daniel -- every day,” Jack said snarkily, taking the green boonie and then walking out the door.

“Stubborn,” Daniel muttered.

“Daniel, now would be good!” Jack called out.

“Right,” the younger man responded, picking up his backpack and hurrying out of the room.

====

Having just arrived on P3X-513, Daniel walked over and stood by the DHD.  He now wore his green bandana draped around his head and had already put on his sunglasses as well.

Jack looked up through the abundance of trees, observing the brightness of the sun.  While he preferred to wear his baseball style cap, he had to admit it wasn't the best choice of head wear for this particular planet.  He pulled out his boonie, putting it on his head.  Then he put on his sunglasses and felt ready to begin their search for SG-9.

Taking in the extreme amount of foliage on the planet, the archaeologist remarked, “For a planet with a UV radiation as high as this one's supposed to have, the plant life seems to be doing very well.”

“Apparently, Abydos was the exception, not the rule, as far as trees are concerned,” Sam responded.

“Well, that makes sense.  I mean, in order for a planet to support human life, there must be some sort of carbon-based vegetation, right?” Daniel asked, seeing Sam's affirmative nod.

Teal'c interjected, “It is no accident.  Many Stargate worlds were terraformed by the Goa'uld centuries ago.”

~Okay, okay, we get it.  Trees: lots of trees,~ Jack noted inwardly.  “Okay, let's take a quick look around the Gate before we move out and find SG-9.”

====

Not long thereafter, SG-1 met up with Lieutenant Conner of SG-9.  To be more precise, Conner had met up with them, surprising Daniel from behind and grabbing the archaeologist's gun, pointing the weapon at his throat while holding him in a choke hold.  Fortunately, Jack had been nearby and retaliated by putting a gun to Conner's head.  At that point, the lieutenant had collapsed.

“Daniel, where do you think you were wandering off to?” Jack asked as he and Daniel carried Conner back to the Stargate, each holding up one of the man's arms.

“I wasn't wandering, Jack.  I was sure there had to be a road up ahead,” Daniel responded.  “Where were you?”

“Saving your butt,” the colonel responded.  “And why aren't you wearing your boonie?  You made me wear this thing and then took yours off.”

“I was afraid someone might think we were twins,” the archaeologist joked.  “Uh, and thank you ... for saving my butt ... and the rest of me,” Daniel spoke disarmingly.

“No problem,” Jack replied.  Then he smirked, “I wouldn't want Carter singing the *blues* over your demise.”

“Lunatic,” Daniel mumbled as the three headed for the Stargate to meet up with Sam and Teal'c.

====

Back at the Stargate, SG-1 and Conner sat on the steps of the Stargate.  Conner was weary and disheveled.  He'd clearly been through some kind of ordeal.

“Alright, Conner, what's going on?” Jack asked, pointing out that SG-9's signal had come through six hours ago.

Conner became agitated as the team struggled to learn what was going on.  Suddenly, he got up and ran down the path, stopping by a pile of ashes and bone.  He knelt down to his knees in despair, seeing the ashen remains of his teammate and friend, Frakes.  After SG-1 caught up with him, he reached into the pile, pulling out dog tags that confirmed Frakes' identification.

“Conner, I need to know what happened,” Jack stated as he looked down on the visibly shaken man.

“Permission to speak freely about a superior officer, Sir,” the man requested.

~This is gonna be a bad day,~ Jack thought.  “Yeah, go ahead.”

Hesitantly, Conner explained that the man in charge of SG-9, Captain Jonas Hanson, had begun acting oddly, “out of control,” perhaps because of the sun or the radiation.  He shrugged, the scientific explanation for it beyond him, but, for whatever reason, Hanson had begun to believe he was a god, and the inhabitants of P3X-513 had believed he was as well.

Frakes and Conner had realized they needed help.  The two had headed for the Stargate, wanting to warn the SGC about what was happening, but Hanson, Baker (the fourth member of SG-9), and the inhabitants had chased the two men down.  Ultimately, Hanson had cold-bloodedly shot Frakes and then ordered his body burned, though Conner had managed to get to the Stargate, opening it and sending through the team's code via a GDO.

With Hanson's henchmen chasing him and finally catching up to him, Conner hadn't had time to actually make it through the Stargate and instead had hidden out in the woods, helped by the fact that Hanson believed he had made it through the Stargate.

~Crap!~ Jack exclaimed inwardly.  ~He's telling the truth,~ he opined.  “Carter,” he said, leading her away from the others.  He pulled off his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes, and then, as he tugged on his boonie, he said, “I want you to take Conner back through the Stargate; report to General Hammond what's happened here.”

“No, Sir,” Sam stated strongly.

“No, Sir?” Jack questioned incredulously with a wide-eyed expression on his face.

With great resolve, the blonde captain insisted, “If you're going after Captain Hanson, I should go with you.  I can get to him.”

~Why is she arguing with me?~  Testily, Jack responded, “Look ... *Captain*, either we're bringing him back to face a court-martial, or not; and I think we both know what the 'not' means.”

“I know him, Colonel.”

“Yeah, that would be the problem, wouldn't it?”

Sam argued, “I gave back the ring *because* I know him.  I know how he thinks, how he operates.”

“How he likes to play God?” Jack challenged.

“I don't understand how that could happen any more than you do, but if SG-1 is going after him, then I am going with you.”

Just then, Conner interrupted the conversation, fearing for SG-1's safety and insisting that the locals would “... die for him; they'll kill for him in a heartbeat.”

“That's not your problem,” Jack responded.  “Now, I need someone to report back to the general, and that is you,” he instructed, looking at the black lieutenant.

“No, Sir,” the man refuted, sounding just as obstinate as Sam had a moment before.

Once again disbelieving the response, Jack echoed, “No, Sir?”  He looked at Sam and asked sarcastically, “Does it say 'colonel' anywhere on my uniform?”

Unless he wanted to make a real issue of it, Jack knew he had lost the battle with both his second-in-command and SG-9's lieutenant.  Unable to deny that there was logic to allowing both to go along, especially Conner since he knew the planet and the situation, he reluctantly agreed.

“We've got to move now: in the daylight,” Conner insisted as he moved forward, walking between Jack and Sam and towards the woods.

~Pushy.~  After a moment, Jack sighed.  He gave his head a quick shake, knowing he didn't have a choice, and quipped, “Well, we're off to see the wizard.”

“I hope you packed lots of sunblock,” Conner commented.

“Uh, we're mostly under cover,” Daniel spoke as he walked towards the man.

“The probe's data indicated that shade, even heavy cloud cover, won't protect us. It can be pouring rain, and we'll still burn,” Sam explained.

“She's right,” Conner confirmed.

~Why didn't she give us that detail in the briefing?~ Daniel lamented.  ~I wouldn't have left my boonie behind.~  He glanced at Jack, thinking, ~Being a Bobbsey Twin with Jack wouldn't be too bad; as long as it was short term.~

After Conner pointed out that the people on the planet lived in caves that were once mines, coming out only at night, Jack quipped, “To Oz,” and then looked back briefly before putting on his sunglasses.

Conner began the long trek, with Jack and the rest of SG-1 close behind.

====

“You're not happy Sam didn't go back to the SGC,” Daniel surmised as he and Jack walked side by side during the trek to the camp where Hanson was holed up.

“Are you?” Jack retorted.  He sighed, “Daniel, she was engaged to Jonas Hanson.  If he really does think he's a god, we're going to have to take him down.”

“She knows that.”

“She thinks she can save him,” Jack groaned.  “When a man like Hanson sours, he's not looking for his ex to come and rescue him.”

“That's not what's bothering you,” the younger man replied.

Jack gave his friend an amazed stare.  When exactly had they learned how to read each other so well?

Looking away and letting out a puff of air, Jack confirmed, “No.  No, it isn't.”

“Then ...”

“Daniel, Conner opened the Gate, and Hanson knows that.  He had to know we'd come after him,” Jack stated.

“We?  Or Sam?”

Jack gave Daniel a questioning look, one that said he didn't have the answers, but that he was concerned.  They could be walking into an ambush, and, if they weren't, that could mean Hanson truly was delusional, so much so that he didn't view an SG team as a threat.

“Or maybe he's hoping to get Sam back,” Daniel spoke after several seconds of studying Jack's demeanor and face as they walked.  “You think he set this up.”

“No, but I think he'll try and take advantage of it,” Jack responded.  “And I think Carter is going to fall for it.”

“She can protect herself, Jack.”

“Against the Goa'uld?  Sure,” Jack said.  “Against someone she almost married?  I'm not so sure.”

Daniel stopped walking, pondering the words.  He felt Jack's concern was genuine, and he wondered if he could be right.  He also knew that if they had thought about all of this, Sam probably had, too.  He glanced back at the way they'd come for just a second and then hurried to catch up.  After all, they were committed now, for better or for worse.

====

When evening fell, the group made camp.  While Jack and Teal'c checked their surroundings, Sam and Daniel made a fire.  Hungry, Daniel immediately prepared his ready-to-eat meal, anxiously beginning to eat it once it was hot.

~I was looking forward to his?~ the young man questioned internally as he downed the first bite.  After one more taste, he complained, “This tastes like chicken.”

“So what's wrong with that?” Sam asked, looking over at her friend who was seated next to her.

“It's macaroni and cheese,” Daniel replied.

--

A couple of minutes later, Sam had prepared her own meal and stated, “Daniel, what you said about your MRE: it could be worse.”

“How?”

“You could have mine.”

“What's wrong with it?” the archaeologist inquired.

“It tastes like macaroni and cheese,” the blonde stated.

“And that's bad?”

“When it's supposed to be beef stroganoff with egg noodles,” the woman answered.

“Trade you?”

“Help yourself,” Sam said.

Daniel shook his head, his comment having been in jest.  He was having enough problems trying to down his chickenesque macaroni and cheese.  He watched Sam dispose of her meal, tossing it to the side, having no interest in finishing it.

~It's not the food, Sam.  You're thinking about Captain Hanson.  I wish I knew more about him.  He has to have something good about him for you to have been interested in him.~

After the passage of another moment, Conner joined the two scientists, sitting down at the fire.  As the three began to discuss how things had gotten so bad on the planet, especially since the SG teams were composed of professionals trained to handle unique and difficult situations, Daniel decided he wasn't hungry enough to finish his MRE and placed it down in front of him.  That's when Jack and Teal'c returned and joined the others in front of the fire.

“Well, when we first met the cave dwellers, they immediately bowed down to us; thought we were gods,” Conner stated.

“Well, that's a fairly common phenomenon.  I mean, uh ... it happens,” Daniel replied.

“Except Hanson didn't deny it; told us it might be safer if we allowed them to believe he was their god for awhile; said it was the system of government they needed to retake their world,” Conner explained.

“And ... you were okay with that?” Daniel questioned.

“Frakes was our anthropologist.  He agreed with Hanson that it might be safer, but the longer we stayed here, the stronger they believed.  In our fourth or fifth week here, a young child wandered out of the caves; must have gotten lost.  Hanson went out after him.  He was gone for two full days before he came back, carrying the child, barely alive, in his arms.”

“The cave dwellers must have loved him for that,” Sam supposed.

“Yeah, they did,” the lieutenant confirmed.  “He wasn't sane after that.”

“You're saying that that's what sent him over the edge?  The sun?” Sam inquired, anxious to get to the truth.

Conner sighed and answered, “It wasn't any one thing.  If it was, me and Frakes, we could have seen it coming; done something about it, before ...”

“Before what?” Teal'c asked after Conner had trailed off, not completing his sentence.

“There were a few cave dwellers who ... got the idea that Hanson was just a man like they were ... thanks to Frakes and I.  He had them tied to stakes and left out in the direct sunlight.  It they lived seven days, they were allowed back in the caves,” Conner answered.

“A number of significant biblical events took place over the course of seven days,” Daniel spoke.

Staring into the fire, Conner informed, “By then they were blind; giant bleeding burns all over them.  Just took them a little longer to die.  Personally, I'd rather eat a bullet.”

SG-1 had heard more than they had wanted to, and they understood more than ever the nightmare they were about to walk into.  There seemed little point to saying much more at the moment.

“I'll take first watch,” Jack announced to the now-quiet group, his eyes already focused to the woods surrounding their camp.

====

Thirty minutes later, Daniel walked over and stood by Jack's side.

“You should be asleep,” Jack stated, his focus on the unknown in the darkness of the trees.

“I just wanted to say thanks,” the younger man spoke in a near whisper.

“For what?”

Daniel looked at Jack and confided, “This was the first April Fool's Day I've had where the joke was in fun and not ...”  He paused, smiling evasively.  Now wasn't the time to talk about his painful past, one in which April Fool's jokes were cruel and harmful.  It wasn't the sitting in a mess of glue that resulted in his being the brunt of his school one day that was so bad, but it was the foster home where one of his supposed 'fathers' thought it would be funny to replace his glasses with a pair that had no lenses.  No amount of pleading from the boy had gotten his real set of glasses back; that is, not until the social worker happened to pay a visit to the household the next day.  He closed his eyes for a moment in an attempt to block out those, and worse, memories.  Focusing on the present, he lightheartedly replied, “Next year, there will be payback, O'Neill.”

“Do you best, Dannyboy,” Jack quipped.

“I'm thinking pink.”

The two men shared a friendly smile, and then the colonel ordered, “Go on.  We need to be ready for whatever we're going to face tomorrow.”

Daniel nodded and slowly backed away.

“Jack?”

“Yeah?” Jack responded, twisting around.

After a moment, the archaeologist simply shook his head and said, “Goodnight.”

“Night,” Jack replied as he turned and walked a few yards to his left to check another part of the camp's perimeter.

====

A few hours later, Conner awoke and approached Jack, offering to take the next watch.  Suddenly, though, both men spotted movement in the trees and realized the cave dwellers were nearby.  They returned to the camp to get the others.  Jack immediately shook Teal'c out of his kelno-reem state and then leaned down to wake his archaeologist.

“Let's go.  We've got company,” Jack stated quietly.

“You sure?” Daniel queried.

Just then, an arrow hit the tree trunk beside Daniel's head.  Both men stared at it.

“Pretty sure,” Jack stated.

A small fight broke out, but just as quickly as they came, the planet's inhabitants disappeared.  Apparently, though, they'd gotten what they'd come for: Conner, who was now nowhere to be found.

====

“It was strange that they didn't put up more of a fight and take us all out,” Sam commented as SG-1 walked through the woods, trying to find their way to where Hanson was running his operation.

The two teammates were walking side-by-side a few feet behind Teal'c, but a yard or two in front of Jack.  It was very early the next morning, the need for their sunglasses not yet as prevalent as it would be in a couple of hours.

“Well, they were probably just instructed just to ... take Conner; send us a message that Hanson's in control,” the archaeologist theorized.

“Sounds familiar,” Sam agreed.

“Which part?”

“He likes control,” the blonde admitted.

“Well, what did you see in him?” Daniel asked curiously.  ~He doesn't sound like Sam's type.~

Sam glanced at Daniel, replying, “I dunno. I ... I guess I've always had a soft spot for the lunatic fringe.  He was ... he was charming.”

“Well, that's good.  Charming is good,” Daniel responded, his speech rapid.  ~I still don't understand.  Sam is smarter than that.~

“I don't know,” Sam continued.  “I should be more surprised by this than I am, but I'm not.  You know, he had this in him Daniel: too many years of black ops.”

“Well, that's typical of our government's evaluation of soldiers.  The crazier they are, the more extreme the situation they seem to be put into,” Daniel spoke, glancing back at Jack.  ~What did black ops do to you, Jack?~

“I can't really ... he wasn't happy when I broke off the engagement, but he seemed like he'd really pulled himself together when we met up at Stargate Command.”

“Apparently not,” Daniel responded.

At that moment, Teal'c raised his hand in warning, stopping the group.  Quickly, Jack walked by Sam and Daniel to stand with the Jaffa.

“What've you got, Teal'c?” the colonel questioned.

“This way,” Teal'c stated, leading the team down a path.

====

The path emerged at the top of a cliff, overseeing the building of the temple that Hanson had ordered be built.  SG-1 crouched down and watched as hundreds of workers slaved away, breaking rocks, moving boulders, and clearing away rubble.

~Looks like a scene out of 'The Ten Commandments',” Jack thought as he took in the activity below.

“The road out of the valley, toward the mountain,” the Jaffa pointed out.

Wanting a more detailed look, Jack looked through his binoculars, eventually seeing several men tied to stakes in the center of the activity.  All were sunburned, their heads hanging down to their chests.  Conner was the third man in the line.  He appeared to be exhausted, but was definitely still alive, his eyes opening and following the action going on around him.

Jack sighed as he lowered the binoculars.  He needed a plan.

~This needs stealth; one man can do it: blend in, cut him lose, and just walk away,~ the team leader concluded.  ~Need a little more intel first.~  “I'll be back in thirty minutes,” he announced.

“If you are thinking about rescuing Conner ...” the Jaffa began, sounding more anxious than normal due to his concern and caring for the colonel.

“Not yet,” Jack interrupted.  Looking at Sam, he informed, “Captain, when the time comes, I'll need your help to get in the front door.”

Nodding, Sam responded, “I'm prepared for that, Sir.”

As Jack disappeared into the woods, the three teammates continued talking, with Daniel comparing Hanson's obsession with the building of the temple to Abraham, explaining to Teal'c that Abraham was a “Biblical figure: believed to be the father of man.  God tested his faith by instructing him to make a great sacrifice: his son, Isaac.”

“Did he sacrifice his son?” Teal'c asked curiously.

With a quick nod, the archaeologist answered, “He gave it a good shot before an angel stopped him ... at the last minute.”

Looking through her binoculars, Sam saw a worker fall.  Though others tried to help him, Baker told them to get away.  He shouted at the man and then hit him several times, causing the worker's friends to scatter.

~I have to do something; I just can't sit here,~ Sam resolved.  ~I can reason with Jonas; I know I can.  He'll listen to me.  I ... I couldn't have been that wrong about him.~

After pointing out the situation to Teal'c and handing him the binoculars, the captain stood, immediately getting Daniel's attention.

“Whoa.  Where you going?” the archaeologist questioned.

“I can't just stay here and watch him beat that man to death.”

“You will be captured,” Teal'c stated matter-of-factly.

“Uh-huh,” Sam confirmed.  ~That's the plan.~

“Uh, and you think that's a plan?” Daniel challenged incredulously.  ~Doesn't sound like a very good plan to me.~

“Daniel, I can get to Hanson.  That's what the colonel was talking about,” Sam informed.

~I know that, but ...~  Daniel asked, “Well, can you at least wait until he gets back?”

“The man could be dead by then,” Sam spoke, turning and walking away.

“We should have stopped her,” Daniel stated.  ~Jack is going to blame me, like I could have stopped her somehow.  I wonder if Hanson is doing all of this because of Sam.  That's what Jack was worried about.  He knew when Conner opened the Stargate that a team would come through.  He had to know it would be SG-1.~

“We would have failed,” Teal'c responded.

Daniel knew that was the truth, but he didn't like Sam taking this on by herself, either.

After a moment, the Jaffa asked, “SamanthaCarter was in love with CaptainHanson?”

Daniel cocked his head, answering, “She thought she was.”

“Did she not know for sure?” Teal'c asked.

“Teal'c, love is ... confusing,” Daniel responded.

Teal'c stared down at the workers, toiling away, their sweat beading their bodies. To him, Hanson was Apophis and the workers the Jaffa: they were choiceless and unable to resist their torture.  He had hope for his people now, though, and he believed in SG-1.

“What will happen to CaptainHanson?” Teal'c asked, sounding confident that the man would be overtaken by the SGC's flagship team.

“Well, uh, that depends.  If he's really ... crazy, they'll ... they'll lock him up; try to get him some help, but ...”

Teal'c looked at Daniel and questioned, “You do not believe he will be captured.”

Shaking his head, the archaeologist sighed, “If he really thinks he's a god ... no, I don't.”

====

Having ascertained the intel he desired, Jack returned to the bluff, informing, “Conner looks bad.  There's two guards be...”  He trailed off, realizing what had happened.  He watched as his second-in-command raised her hands and was taken prisoner below.  “Daniel.”

~I knew he'd blame me,~ Daniel thought as he helplessly motioned towards his friend below.

“Never mind,” Jack sighed, glancing just briefly at the younger man.  “It's probably our only way in without a firefight, anyway.”

“Jack, we couldn't stop her,” Daniel spoke, unable to stop himself from defending the situation.

“Daniel, I know.  If the situation were reversed, I would have done the same thing,” Jack stated.  With an incredulous flare, he accused, “And we know you would have done the same thing, too.”  As Daniel stared at him, his mouth open slightly, the colonel put forth, “So, Plan B.”

====

Sam was taken to the cave where Hanson was running his operation.  It was full of people, with fires burning in various areas.  Hanson was seated in a corner in a throne-like chair, with three young girls at his feet.

~He really does think he's a god or something,~ Sam realized.

From their first words, it became obvious that Hanson was indeed demented.  He explained to Sam that the planet was like “a third world country *in* a bottle” and he was saving them.

“These people, they're human beings,” Hanson explained with a sense of passion. “They're like us.  How can we turn our backs on them?  *Kidnapped* from Earth, *forced* into slavery for centuries ...”

“We can't change that,” Sam argued as she sat opposite her one-time fiancé.

“Yes, we can.  We must help.”

“Well, how does posing as a god and slowly working these people to death help them?” Sam challenged.

“I hate that word.  *Stop* using it.  I am not ... posing,” Hanson insisted intensely, revealing just how lost he truly was.

~I can't believe this is happening,~ Sam thought.  ~He actually believes what he's saying.~

The blonde continued listening to Hanson's misguided beliefs, hoping to find some indication that the man hadn't completely taken leave of his senses.

“I'm creating a great people,” the man stated at one point.

“In your image?”

“Yes!” Hanson responded emphatically.

~How could I have ever loved him?~ Sam wondered.

====


Meanwhile, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c decided to try get one of the workers alone and get some intel from them.  Looking through his binoculars, the archaeologist spotted the man who had been attacked, the one Sam had saved by allowing herself to be captured.  He knew this man was the one they should talk to.

Quietly, the three teammates headed towards the stream where the man was getting some water.  They confronted the frightened native, who tried to run, but was silenced by Teal'c, who made a shushing sound towards him.

“Relax,” Jack called out.  “We just want some information.”

====

Back inside the cave, things escalated as Sam sought to understand her ex-fiancé, and Hanson tried to convince her that his delusion was right.  Suddenly, Sam realized that the man had known she'd come to the planet and try and find him.

“You knew I would come, didn't you?” Sam asked.

“How could you not?” Hanson responded.  “Healer of the emotionally *wounded*.  I was your one failure, the bird with the broken wing that wouldn't heal.”

“You seem to be flying well enough on your own.”

“I'd hoped that you would understand,” Hanson replied.

~Oh, I do,~ Sam thought, grabbing a nearby pistol when the man turned away for a moment.  She cocked it, aiming it at Hanson.  “I do understand.  You're sick, and you need help.”

Unfortunately, Sam's emotions got the best of her.  Hanson slowly approached, taunting her, even urging her to fire the trigger.

“It's still loaded.  Pull the trigger,” the male captain insisted as he moved closer to the woman.  “Do it!”

In spite of the man's continued urgings to fire the trigger, Sam couldn't.  She was visibly shaken, tearing up as she relinquished the weapon to the man.

Smugly, Hanson spoke, “You had the gun.  You appeared to have all ... the power; yet, I was in control.  That ... is the strength of a *god*.”

~Why couldn't I do it?~ Sam berated herself.

====

Back at the stream, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c attempted to befriend the cowering Jamala, who was the man they had surprised and were seeking help from.  As Jack crouched down close to the native, the man told him that Jonas had predicted their arrival, calling SG-1 “devils.”

“No, no, we're not devils,” Daniel refuted as he worked hard to reassure the man, especially about Teal'c.

Jamala had recognized Teal'c as a Jaffa.  Trying to calm the native, Daniel walked over and put his arm around Teal'c, calling him a friend and telling Teal'c to smile.

Teal'c attempted the facial expression, but it wasn't all that successful and actually looked even more frightening than his usual impassive facade.

“You're going to have to work on that a little bit,” Jack retorted as he reviewed the attempted expression.

The team struggled to convince Jamala that Jonas Hanson was simply a crazy man from Earth.  As they spoke, the native crawled backwards away from them, afraid that Hanson would hear the words and harm him.  Daniel looked away, frustrated that SG-9's leader had the inhabitants so convinced he was a god.  Fearfully, Jamala insisted that Jonas was the people's savior.

When Teal'c questioned Jonas' tactics, Jamala replied, “If we finish the temple, Jonas will make the sky orange.  It will be safe to come out in the light.  There will be no more sickness.”

“The sky?  Orange?” the colonel questioned, not understanding what the man was saying.

“The sky, up there,” Jamala spoke, pointing upwards.

“Yeah, I know what the sky is.  Why?” Jack asked.

The native explained, “When the sky is orange, it's good.  There's no more sickness.”

“And Jonas can make the sky orange?” Teal'c sought to verify.

“Yes, he can,” Jamala confirmed.

“How do you know?” Teal'c questioned.

“He says he can,” the native answered somewhat vulnerably.

“Do you know what he's talking about?” Jack asked Teal'c.

“I believe so,” the Jaffa answered.

Teal'c took out a notepad and sketched an object.  Though he didn't know it at the time, his sketch of the object was similar to one of the paintings in Hanson's cave.

Hanson didn't really know what the drawing meant, but was curious about it.

Jack helped Jamala up and the four stood close together to see what Teal'c was drawing.

“What is it?” Daniel asked as he looked at the rough sketch.

“It is something I have seen the Goa'ulds use.  It creates an energy force high in the air,” the Jaffa answered.

“What, protection from radiation?  Like ... like this planet's sun?”

“The device I saw appeared to turn the sky orange,” Teal'c explained.

“The cave paintings tell of this.  They show this symbol,” Jamala spoke.

“Have you ever actually seen one of these things he's talking about?” Jack asked.

When Jamala nodded, Daniel asked, “Where?”

====

Meanwhile, Hanson led Sam to one of the devices in the cave.  He explained that he didn't know what it was exactly, but that he'd learned the gods used it to turn the sky orange, which somehow protected the people from the sun sickness.

Sam quickly surmised her ex-fiancé had no clue how to use the shield.  She then realized the truth as to why Hanson really wanted her on the planet.

With a snort, Sam stated, “You never cared about my coming here because you wanted me, Jonas.  You just wanted me to figure out how to turn this thing on for you.”

“Oh, no, that's not true,” Hanson replied, denying the charge.  He put his hands on Sam's arms, saying, “I sincerely hope that one day, you will agree to be my goddess.”

Sam refused to help the man, but Hanson warned that if she didn't, they would watch every single cave dweller die and then he'd kill both of them.

“You're a lunatic, Jonas,” Sam stated.

“That's why you love me,” Jonas quipped.

“No,” Sam refuted.  “Maybe I did once, but you're not that man.”

“Are you so sure, Sam?”

Sam stared, her eyes a bit tearful, though distant.  She said nothing, just stared at the man.

“You're going to help me, Sam.  You can't stand to see those people die.  I know you,” the male captain stated with arrogance.

====

“You're more his size, you know,” Jack spoke quietly to Daniel while he smeared black facing powder on to help camouflage his face.  He was sitting on a large rock, facing the archaeologist, and now wore the white outfit the native had been wearing earlier. ~Not that I'd let you go, but I can have some fun with you for a minute.~

“Yes, but some lunatic thought he'd have some fun yesterday at my expense,” Daniel replied, keeping their conversation quiet, aware that just behind him, Jamala and Teal'c were talking.

“It's not like we got naked and changed underwear,” Jack stated, knowing his friend didn't want his bare body to be seen by the others since it was still partially blue.

“You took off your shirt,” Daniel noted.

“You noticed?” Jack teased.

Daniel rolled his eyes as he tilted his head back for a second.

“Not that I'm any Adonis, but I think the pecs are in good shape still,” the older man boasted.

“Gawd,” the younger man expressed in disbelief.

“No, but Jonas apparently thinks he's one.”

“I'm still blue, Jack,” Daniel stated, ignoring the last comment that would draw them both back into the reality of the moment.  ~Like you'd let me go in your place.  Right.  I can play this game, too, O'Neill.~

“Can't have a blue archaeologist,” the older man chuckled, coughing at the glare the other man gave him.  “It was just a joke.”  Brightening, he added, “In fact, you thanked me for it, remember?”

“I didn't want you to feel bad,” Daniel claimed.

“Of course, you didn't,” Jack replied dryly, though he had a small, knowing smile on his face.

Daniel sighed, knowing they didn't have much more time for humorous asides.  He was worried about Jack's plan to rescue Conner by himself.  They were a team, and he wanted to help.

“Jack, I'm not sure this is such a good idea.”

“I can't leave Conner out there another day.  He'll die,” Jack responded.

~He's right,~ Daniel sighed regretfully.  “We also have to do something about Captain Carter,” he began, walking forward and taking a firm stance right next to Jack and looking over at Jamala and Teal'c.  He continued, but more loudly than before, “But if Teal'c can turn on this device, we could seriously undermine Hanson's power.”

At that point, having heard Daniel's words, Teal'c informed the group that there had to be two devices in order for the shield to work.

“The shield technology involves a force field being bounced back and forth between two devices,” the Jaffa elaborated.

“I have only seen one, in his cave,” Jamala, who now wore Jack's uniform, stated.

“Hanson may not know he needs a second device,” Daniel put forth.

Teal'c made a second drawing, this one of the valley.  He drew a circle indicating the location of the Stargate and then made a mark that showed where the temple was.  Then Jamala pointed to where the first device was found, just south of the Stargate.  Teal'c then deduced that the second device would be somewhat north of the temple.  Activating both created a perfect arc over the valley that would protect the natives.

Having put on the head wrap that Jamala had been wearing, Jack stood and walked over to the others, saying, “I'm sorry, Teal'c, but your calculations could be way off.  Conner doesn't have time for us to be wrong.  I'll go after him.  You try and find that second device.”  Looking at Daniel, he said, “I'll try to meet you back here,” and then turned, walking away.

====

While Daniel, Teal'c, and Jamala located the first device and attempted to make it functional, Jack implemented his plan to rescue Conner.  Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as he'd hoped.  He managed to free Conner, but the two were stopped by Baker before getting away and taken to Hanson in the cave.

Entering the cave, Jack saw Sam trying to make the device work.

“Colonel O'Neill,” Sam called out, standing upon seeing Jack.

“Captain.”  Sarcastically, Jack spoke, “I see everything's working out *just* as we planned.”

When Hanson ordered Jack shot immediately, Sam quickly jumped up, agreeing to turn on the device in return for Jack's life being spared.  A moment later, the device was activated, giving Hanson great pleasure.  He called for a meeting of the natives at the “circle of the gods,” otherwise known as the Stargate.

====

With the Stargate tilted so that it was lying flat on the ground, Captain Hanson gave a dramatic speech about burying the doorway “that brings forth demons who threaten to undo us; but, first, I will send those *evil* undoers who have already invaded our world, back to the hell from whence they came.”

Hanson engaged the Stargate, the powerful wormhole jutting upwards as the event horizon settled into being.

“You said you wouldn't kill them,” Sam reminded.

“I'm not; I'm sending them back to Earth,” the man claimed.

Just as Jack and Conner were pushed to the edge of the rock platform overlooking the wormhole, Daniel appeared.  He jumped up onto a rock, where he could see the assembled crowd and they could all see him clearly, too.

“Wait!  Stop!” the archaeologist pleaded.

When Baker prepared to fire his weapon, Jamala shot him with Teal'c's staff weapon and ordered, “Back away!”

“Listen to me,” Daniel implored.  “No matter what Jonas has shown you or done for you, he is *not* a god.”

“Don't listen to him!” the natives' self-appointed god retaliated.  “They are demons, agents of the devil!  *I* am your savior!”

Jack called out, “We're not demons, for crying out loud.”

“This,” Daniel began, jumping to the ground, picking up a gun, and then getting back onto the rock again and continuing, “This ... this is not magical power.  It is called a gun, and it is a machine.”  He released the clip, the object falling to the ground to the gasps of the natives.  ~Please listen to me.~

“Do as I say, or you will all die,” Hanson threatened.

“Do as he says and you *will* die,” Jack shouted.

“Do not betray me, after all I have done for you.  I promised you I would bring you out of the caves, into the light.  Today, *I* fulfill that promise,” Hanson spoke dramatically.  He walked over to the shield device and activated it, the device's ray emitting straight upwards, though nothing else happened.  Angry, he walked over to where Sam was seated, handcuffed, and jerked her up a bit by the vest.  “What's wrong?”

“I don't know,” Sam answered.

“Fix it!” the deranged man ordered.

“It's a machine,” Daniel stated from his perch atop the rock.  “I can make it work, and so can you, just like ... Jamala there can fire that staff.  Now, I'll show you how.  There are two devices, and both must be turned on for the shield to work.  Watch.”

After Daniel nodded, Jamala shot off the staff weapon into the air, signaling Teal'c, who activated the second shield.

Immediately, the light arced towards the second stream of orange color shooting into the air.  They joined and created a rainbow-like affect, an orange dome forming overhead.

The natives were impressed and turned angrily toward the man they had thought was their god.

Seeing he was on his last legs, Hanson grabbed Sam, saying, “I'm taking you with me,” and started for the Stargate, intending on killing them both by jumping in.

Unfortunately for the deranged man, Jack had managed to free his hands while the others argued.  Quickly, he pushed Conner to the left, off the platform and out of harm's way, and then tackled Hanson, causing Sam to fall towards Conner.

Jack and Hanson fell the opposite way, landing on two natives on the ground. The natives then attacked their pretender god, tossing Hanson into the wormhole.

~It's over, Jonas,~ Sam thought, watching as the man she was once going to marry was tossed to his death.  She wasn't sure what she felt, but she was relieved that the natives had been saved.  ~Goodbye, Jonas.~

====

“Nice job, Daniel,” Jack spoke as he changed back into his green BDUs.

“I didn't do anything,” Daniel responded shyly.

Jack finished pulling down his black shirt and then walked close to his friend.

“Danny, you saved my life.  You saved *all* of our lives.  *You* did that,” Jack stated strongly.

“I just ... told them the truth.”

“That you did,” Jack said, smiling as he patted the man on the arm and then walked over to put on his jacket.  “Maybe you should have been a politician.  That was a great speech.”

“Uh, I don't think so,” Daniel replied, shaking his head.

“Think of the perks,” Jack stated, adjusting his jacket to his liking.

“No,” Daniel said, smiling.

Jack smiled and then grew serious as he praised, “Good job, Danny.”

====

“Uh, I think we're ready,” Sam stated.

“Think we should tell them to bury the Gate after we're gone?” Jack asked.

Sam answered, “Teal'c seems to think the Goa'ulds won't be back.”

Daniel walked over and offered, “Maybe we should come back and check on these guys.”

“I think we've done enough, don't you?” Sam asked, believing they should leave the natives alone from now on.

~I guess she's right, but I still think there's a lot to be explored here,~ Daniel opined inwardly.  Outwardly, though, he nodded and walked away.  ~Maybe later, after they've had a chance to move forward from this.~

Sensing Sam was still concerned about something, Jack asked, “Something else on your mind?”

“I had the chance to end this, Colonel.  He literally asked me to do it.”

“Killing a man is no badge of honor, Captain.”

“I know.”

“Look, I'm no expert on this thing,” Jack said, holding up the Bible that Hanson had been pretending was a work of his own.  “I generally remember one commandment, and I think it's the first.”

“'I am the Lord your God, and you shall take no other Gods before me?'” Sam quoted.

Jack paused, making a face as he realized he was wrong.

“Okay, it's not the first one.  I'm talking about the 'no killing' one.  No matter what the reason, every time you break it, you take one step closer to Hanson,” Jack asserted, hoping to comfort the woman.

“Thanks,” Sam said, taking the Bible Jack handed her.  He walked over to Daniel by the DHD.  Seeing Jamala, he asked, “So, you gonna be all right?”

“Yes,” the native answered, shaking Jack's hand.  “The world outside the caves: it's very big, yes?”

With a wondrous smile that showed his dimples, Daniel answered, “Yeah.  It's bigger then you can imagine.”

Daniel shook Jamala's hand and then turned around to dial Earth.  He watched with an innocent awe as the Stargate engaged.  It was an expression Jack took note of.  For some reason, it touched him, and he wasn't sure he'd ever forget that one moment.

A few seconds later, SG-1 returned to Earth, leaving Jamala and his people to recreate their world in peace.

====

That night, Jack and Daniel were on the roof deck of Jack's home.  They were leaning up against the house, their knees raised up to their chests.  Jack held a beer, the bottle dangling from his right hand that was leaning on his knee.  Daniel was eating another piece of the now-cold pizza that the friends had ordered for dinner that night.

“Daniel, you're normally more finicky than that.  That's your fifth slice.”

“I'm hungry,” Daniel replied with a full mouth.

“We ate on the planet,” Jack refuted.

“Jack, those MREs were the worst ones I've ever had.  Maybe they were old,” Daniel surmised.

“Danny, MREs last five to ten years.  Trust me, our supply at the SGC isn't that old,” Jack responded lightheartedly.  He sighed.  “Was Carter still upset when you talked to her?”

“A little,” Daniel confirmed about his short conversation that he'd had with Sam before leaving Cheyenne Mountain after their debriefing.  “She thinks she was weak because she didn't kill him.  She kept saying he was an easy target.”  He paused, glancing over at the colonel.  “She's comparing herself to you.”

Jack looked over at the other man, their eyes locking.

“She's not Special Ops, Daniel.”

“I know that; but she doesn't want to disappoint you,” Daniel added.

“I told her it was okay,” Jack responded.  “I bent over backwards in the briefing to be supportive, too.”

“Yeah, I know.  So does she,” Daniel said, as if that was the problem.

“What?  She didn't want me to support her inaction?” Jack asked as he raised his beer to take a swallow.

“Yes, I mean, of course, she did, Jack.  It's just ...”

“It's the hormone thing,” Jack surmised, bobbing his head up and down.

“What?”

“She wants to be a man,” Jack spoke.  “Ah, let me restate that.  She thinks ...”

“She thinks to get your approval, she has to make every decision exactly the way you would.  She thinks you would have shot Hanson,” Daniel spoke.

“I would have,” Jack stated point blank.  “But I wasn't going to marry the guy.”

“That's good ... I think,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes just slightly.

Jack sighed, “Danny, there's a lot you don't know about me, and I promise you there are things Carter can guess about because of her military background, but she'll never know, either.  Not everyone can do what I did.”  He leaned his head back against the wall and said, “I wish I hadn't done everything I've had to do, but I've done it, because I had to, not because I wanted to.”

Daniel slowly took one last bite of the supreme pizza, digesting both the food and what his friend was saying.

The older man looked over at him and stated, “Carter is under the impression that to be my equal, she has to kill, like she thinks I've killed.  As right or wrong her assumptions are about what I've done, or not, she's wrong about her impression.”  When the archaeologist looked at him, Jack continued, “Not everyone is cut out for Special Ops.  Carter's good, but she's not ...”

Jack trailed off, wanting to move past this discussion.

“But you can't tell her that, can you?” Daniel asked.

“She'll think it's because she's a woman.  I trust her to cover my six, and yours.  I trust her to kill the enemy in battle.  I trust her to do what's necessary to get us out of a bad situation, but to shoot someone she's been intimate with, at point blank range?”  Jack shook his head, opining, “I don't think she's capable of that.”

“And ... you could?” Daniel asked a bit warily.

“We could have all died, Daniel,” Jack responded.  “More than that, those natives could have been left bowing down to a lunatic, forever.  That's a high price to pay for sentimentality.”

Daniel nodded and looked down, reaching over to grab his beer.  Right now, he wanted a few sips of the beverage badly.  He understood exactly what Jack was saying.  He wasn't judging his friend.  To the contrary, his understanding and awareness of the complex individual, who was quickly becoming his best friend, was growing.

“Uh, by the way, the blue's all gone,” Daniel reported, happy that with his last shower, all the evidence of Jack's April Fool's prank had disappeared.

“I'm so glad,” Jack said, his tone full of mischief.

“You should be glad it did,” Daniel replied.

“Oh, I don't know.  A blue archaeologist would give us something distinctive.  It could break down all the color barriers.  Us?  Prejudiced?” Jack quipped as if making a presentation with potential off-world allies.  “Just look at Doctor Jackson: he's blue, like the sky.”  After a moment, he began to sing mockingly, “Blue skies, nothing but blue skies.”  He paused, laughing, “Make that, blue geeks, nothing but blue geeks.”

“You're crazy, O'Neill.”

“Yeah!” Jack agreed, smiling.

The two friends laughed and continued their relaxing evening together.  It was a little chilly out, but where Jack and Daniel were, it was warm with friendship and the promise of what was to come in the future.

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