More Than Meets the Eye

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17 for violent depictions
Season:  6 - July 10 - August 22, 2002
Spoilers:  None
Size:  121kb
Written:  September 29-30 - October 1-4,13-14,25,27,29, 2003  Tweaked:  January 25, 2005  Revised for consistency:  February 11-12, 2007  Tweaked Again:  March 20, 2007  Revised for timeline:  March 22-23, April 2,5,7, May 4,13,25, 2008
Summary:  Daniel is attacked and ends up questioning his choices and his lifestyle, while losing confidence in his abilities and his sense of self.  Can he rise above his fears when Jack's life is on the line?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to Gail and Kelly for the information on the P-90 weapon!
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Suzanna, Drdjlover, Mama Beast, StarShadow, Linda, Irina, Melissa, Lissa, Keri!

More Than Meets the Eye
by Orrymain

Daniel cursed in Abydonian as he walked out of the mall.  It had been a bad day, one of the worst he could remember.  Jack had left town the night before, which meant the archaeologist hadn't slept very well.  When he'd finally gotten some rest, he ended up shutting off the alarm, which meant that he had been late for an important staff meeting.

Then the linguist had misplaced his notes on a difficult translation that he'd been working on for a couple of months, having spent hours upon hours noting patterns and symbols.  Right when he thought he'd made a breakthrough and only needed to verify and crosscheck, the notes had disappeared.  After having spent two hours searching and having finally given up on finding them, he'd thrown himself on the cot in his office in despair.

When he reached under the pillow to adjust it, Daniel felt some papers, and they turned out to be the notes.  He vaguely remembered having added a few final notations a few nights before, so he figured he must have stashed the papers under the pillow and forgotten about them after he had fallen asleep.

Daniel's latest misadventure happened at the mall he had just exited.  He was supposed to pick up a barbecue grill set that he and Jack had ordered and also a just-released western novel that Jack had been looking forward to reading.  Unfortunately, he had been delayed at the SGC by a host of petty needs and an insistent general who wanted Daniel's opinion on just about everything (or so it seemed to the archaeologist, who had only wanted to go home), Daniel had reached the mall late, and the outdoor shop had closed five minutes before his arrival.

The bookstore was still open, but as Daniel studied the new releases, he realized that he'd forgotten which book Jack had asked him to pick up.  He couldn't remember the title or the author, and when a store clerk tried to assist, Daniel couldn't even remember for sure when the book had been released, and as it turned out, there were several to choose from.

The entire trip had been a waste of time, and Daniel was exhausted.  It was 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and there weren't a lot of other customers still out and about.

The local mall was undergoing some construction, with several pieces of heavy-duty equipment parked on the lot, including a bulldozer and a steam roller.

Just Daniel's luck, he had parked on the south side, not far from where the yellow work vehicles sat.  He hadn't realized that the entrance on that side had been blocked off and locked until he had walked up to the entrance, and not wanting to take the time to re-park, he had quickly strode to the doors on the north side.

Not really paying attention to his surroundings, Daniel was muttering to himself about his bad day as he meandered his way through the lonely parking lot where only a handful of cars were scattered.  He was wearing black pants with a light blue short sleeve shirt, the top three buttons undone.  It was cold out, but he had forgotten his jacket, causing him to curse himself for being so scatterbrained today.

Frustrated, Daniel pulled out his keys, his head bowed as he continued towards his car.  He never noticed the gang of five hoodlums that had been watching him amble across the partially graveled lot.

“Well, look what we have here,” one of the thugs said as they each took their positions, circling Daniel.

Daniel looked up and saw that he was surrounded by the tall and rugged group.  In fact, they reminded him of the Marines that comprised some of the SG teams: all well-built, tough looking men.  Two were blondes, and the other three had dark hair.  He noticed a tattoo on the arm of one of them, but beyond that, he didn't see much, the nearest working light pole being several yards away.

“Excuse me, was there something you wanted?” Daniel asked calmly, though inside he wasn't the least bit relaxed.  The last time he had been in this situation had been back at Harvard, and he didn't want to think about how that had turned out.

“Oh, yeah, Pretty Boy, I can think of something I want,” one of the men said as he entered Daniel's personal space.

Daniel had faced down System Lords, and he was sure he could do the same to a group of thugs.

“Look, just ... leave me alone,” Daniel said, attempting to slowly back away from the man who leered at him with a look in his eye that made Daniel very uncomfortable.

Another man walked around behind Daniel, stopping him from his efforts to back away.  Daniel took a deep breath, “What do you want?”

Three of the men walked forward at the same time.

“I've seen you here before, all googly eyed with some guy.  You're one of those homos aren't you ... Pretty Boy?  You give it to guys.  Can't get it up enough to please a woman, I'll bet.”

“Look, just ... go away,” Daniel said, wondering, ~Why me?~ silently as he attempted to turn away.

As far as Daniel knew, he hadn't said or done anything to draw the attention of the gang.  He simply wanted to go home in peace.

One of the men motioned to the others as a lone woman appeared at the far corner of the lot.  Quickly, one of the thugs grabbed Daniel from behind, covering his mouth.  Two of the others picked up his feet as he started to kick, trying to scream as well.

The five men carried Daniel out of view, to a spot between the bulldozer and a makeshift material shed.  This effectively blocked them from sight of anyone who might walk around to the south side parking lot.

Though Daniel had hoped the thugs would go away, they had other plans for him.  They forced him down to the ground, each one of them taking turns punching at his stomach or kicking him.  Daniel managed to get up, but one of the men slugged him in the face, knocking him back down to the ground, which resulted in his head making solid contact with the concrete of the parking lot.

“Pretty Boys deserve what they get,” one of them said, adding, “and we're making it our mission to make sure they get it, one by one.”

“We need to protect the world from the likes of you,” another man said, pulling out a knife as another one of them unbuttoned and unzipped Daniel's pants.

Daniel's shirt had been torn open from the initial struggle.  He tried to cry out for help, but he was dizzy and could feel blood dripping down his face.

One man grabbed Daniel's head and, using a handkerchief, gagged him. Then, he and another man held Daniel's arms down as two more held down his legs.  They pulled down his pants as the apparent leader brandished his knife in Daniel's face.

Daniel's eyes were bulging; he was trying to yell, but the gag prevented it.  The man lightly punctured a small niche below Daniel's chin.

“Stop fighting, or we'll kill you.  You're lucky we decided to let you live, Pretty Boy, but you and your kind are disgusting, and we're going to make sure you can't defile anyone again.”

The man cackled as he slid the knife down Daniel's chest to his belly button, letting the edge of the dagger push inside just a tad.

Daniel was breathing hard, his heart pounding, and his eyes pleading for them to stop, but they didn't.

“You're not a man, Pretty Boy; you're an insult.  You want to do it with another guy, then act like the wimpy female you are.  Beg us to stop.  Go on -- beg us!”  The man rubbed the sharp dagger against Daniel's groin and laughed loudly.  “Say good-bye to whatever manhood you may have had ... Pretty Boy.”

The man raised the blade and started to lower it when sirens blared and headlights highlighted the men, interrupting the assault.  Daniel closed his eyes in relief as the men scattered, the police giving chase.  

====

Late the following afternoon, Jack whistled as he walked in his front door.  His three-day trip had been unexpectedly shortened to two days when one of the big wigs came down with Bronchitis and had to be hospitalized.  He was as happy as the proverbial clam.  He figured he'd surprise his lover and talk him into staying home from the SGC the next day, and they'd spend twenty-four hours in bed, making love.  He was sure that their two-day separation would allow him to easily sway Daniel to his side.

Jack sneaked a quick peek into the study, expecting to see Daniel working away, but the lights were off.  He walked upstairs, but, again, no Daniel.  After a search, of the backyard, roof, and garage, he became moderately concerned because Daniel's car was in the driveway.  Then again, it was possible he was out with someone.

~Out with someone?~ Jack yelled to himself, his jealousy threatening to take over.

Fortunately, Jack got a grip on his emotions and decided to try and locate the missing man.  After having no success reaching the archaeologist in his office, the colonel dialed the SGC security gate.

While not knowing the details, the security guard surprised Jack by explaining that Daniel had taken a few days off and wasn't scheduled to return until Monday.

“I'll kill him,” Jack said aloud as he hung up the phone, his rage building at the thought of Daniel being with someone else.  He dialed another number.  ~I'll strangle him myself for cheating on me, then I'll kiss him silly and make sure he knows where he belongs -- with me!~ his jealousy spoke irrationally.

“Hello.”

“Carter, where in Netu is Daniel, and *don't* cover up for him, Major.  I want to know where he is *now*,” Jack barked, shocking his 2IC.

“I ... uh, well ... excuse me, Sir.”

Jack heard mumbling in the background, but couldn't make out the voices.  He was growing more irate by the minute.

“Jack,” the solemn voice came over the phone line.

“Daniel, where are you, and what kind of trouble are you and Carter getting into?”

“No trouble.  We were just ... um, we were ... talking,” Daniel claimed.

Jack was livid from Daniel's hesitations and the fact Daniel hadn't answered his question about where he was.  His Mr. Jealousy alter ego was leaping to all kinds of sinful conclusions.  After all, for as much as the SGC gossiped about he and Sam, Jack had heard just as much about the so-called Science Twins, always huddled together working on some project or another.  He paced as he held the cordless phone in his hand, his fury growing.

“How's .. how's ... wherever you are?” Daniel asked.

“Peachy, just peachy.”

“Jack, are you angry about something?”

“No, no, why should I be?  I thought you'd be home, that's all.  Anything I should know?” Jack baited.

“No, everything's ... fine, except ... I'm glad you called.  I ... I ... um, there's a workshop I need to attend so I won't be home when you get home.”

“Goodbye, Daniel,” Jack replied coldly.  He hung up the phone, not wanting to hear another lie.  ~I'll strangle him, then I'll ... Daniel and Carter?  I'll kill her first!~

“Jack?” Daniel sighed.  He dropped the phone, both from the disconnection from his lover and a sudden stab of pain.  “He, uh ... hung up.”

“Daniel, you should have told him,” Sam urged.

In response, Daniel simply shook his head and sadly turned away from her.

====

A few hours later, Sam was quietly reading a book on her sofa when she heard a pounding on her door.  She almost reached for her gun until she heard a bellowing that she couldn't mistake for anyone but her CO.  She rolled her eyes, and headed for the door.

After having stewed around his house for hours, devising how and when he'd murder his second-in-command and then his lover, Jack had finally decided to take action.  First on his agenda was finding out where Daniel was hiding, not to mention what he was doing with Sam.

“Alright, Carter, where is he, and what exactly are you two doing here?” Jack barked as he walked around her house, looking around corners, behind furniture, and anywhere that someone might hide.

Sam shook her head in utter amazement at just how insane her CO could be when he was concerned about Daniel.

“Sir, if I can explain ...”

“*Daniel!*” Jack shouted, ignoring Sam, about to start checking out other rooms in Sam's home.

~Sorry, Daniel, but the colonel needs to know,~ Sam opined.

“*Daniel!*” Jack called out loudly again.

“Sir, he's been hurt,” Sam stated abruptly.

“*I said* ...” Jack stopped, twisting to face his 2IC, a look of surprise in his eyes.  “Repeat that, Major,” he quietly requested.

“Daniel was beaten up by some ... bigots ... in a mall parking lot.”

Jack sank down onto the couch, and put his face in his hands as he bemoaned, “Crap, Carter.  Do you have any idea what I was thinking?”

“Permission to speak freely, Sir?” the major asked as she continued to stand.

“We're not at the SGC.”

“Sir ... Jack, Daniel couldn't be more committed to you.  He doesn't need your jealousy right now.  He needs a lot of understanding.  He's having a difficult time getting through this.”

“Where is he?”

“Sir, if I may ...”

Jack's impatience was taking hold of him again.  He knew Sam was doing what she thought was best, but no one knew Daniel better than he did, and he needed to get to his lover ASAP.

Standing, the colonel responded, “No, you may not, Carter.  Where is Daniel?”

Sam took a deep breath.  Her CO was about to kill her for helping Daniel 'escape'.

A bit reluctantly, the blonde answered, “He's at a cabin outside of town.  He said that you two rent it sometimes.  It was available, so he decided to stay there for a couple of days.”

“Let me get this straight, Major,” Jack said in his best colonel voice, his tone quiet but deadly serious, as he walked straight into her personal space.  “Daniel was beaten up, hurt to the point that he left his home, called in sick to the SGC, lied to me about where he was going, and is now *alone* in that cabin.  Is that accurate?”

Recognizing the tone, Sam squirmed, verbalizing a weak, “Yes, Sir.”  She hadn't wanted Daniel to be alone, either, but he wouldn't allow her to stay.  He'd also made her promise not to call Jack.  ~He's as stubborn as you are, Colonel.~

“And you didn't call me the *instant* you knew he had been hurt *because* ...?”

“Because Daniel's a grown man, and my friend, and he asked me not to.  He expected you to be gone through tomorrow.”

“He might be a grown man Carter, but he's also my partner and my responsibility,” Jack intoned gruffly.

“He can look after himself,” Sam opined.

Nodding, Jack responded, “Most of the time that's true, but this isn't most of the time.  He's going to run and hide if he can.  Besides, don't you understand?  He doesn't have to go through these nightmares alone anymore.  He doesn't have to run, and he has nothing to hide from, not with me at his side.”  He inhaled deeply as he ran his right hand through his silver-gray hair.  “What the heck is wrong with him?  We're supposed to be honest with each other, no matter what.”

Sam cocked her head, speculating, “He just wants some time on his own, to get himself together.”

“Carter!” Jack was flustered as he was flooded with a variety of emotions, having no idea which he should let govern his actions at the moment.  “He doesn't need to be alone.  He needs to know I love him, and that we'll get through this together, just like we get through every other mess that happens.  How the blazes is he supposed to be reassured of that if he's lying to me, sitting alone in some cabin while I'm here?”

“I think maybe if you ...”

“Look, Sam, I know you love him, but you don't know the scars like I do,” Jack interrupted.  “He'll bottle it up and bury himself so deep within it that we may not be able to find him.  I may not be much, but whatever I am, Daniel needs me now more than ever.  So don't fight me on this.”  He paused for a few moments, then asked, “Were you at the cabin when I called you on the cell?”

“Yes, I was.”

Jack nodded and headed for the door, but stopped to say one more thing to his 2IC.

“Major, I order you *not* to make any contact with Daniel until I tell you.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“He'll try to run if you call him.  If his thinking is so messed up that he's lying to me, he'll run for sure if he knows I'm headed there.  He needs me.  I hope you understand that.”  Jack took out his keys.  “Goodnight, Carter, and I'm sorry about what was I thinking when I first got here.”

Sam gulped watching her CO leave.  She did want to call Daniel and warn him.  She picked up her phone, intending to place the call, but then she sighed and put it back down for a few reasons.

First, the major had no desire to be stationed at some tiny weather station in Alaska.  Second, Daniel needed his rest and had just fallen asleep when she had left the cabin, and she didn't want to be the one responsible for waking him up. Lastly, Jack O'Neill loved Daniel Jackson and, right now, he needed that love badly.  She knew her CO had been right about Daniel needing him.  Of that last factor, Sam was very certain.

Sam went back to her novel, feeling positive that Daniel would be in safe hands, once Jack bellowed for a few minutes first.

====

Jack stopped by the park entrance office before heading up to the cabin.  The manager knew him well and had no qualms about giving him a key to the cabin.  Long before he'd met Daniel, he used this place.  In fact, the twosome used it so often that he'd toyed with the idea of buying it.

The concerned colonel entered the darkened cabin and carefully made his way to the small bedroom where one light was on.  He had wanted to be angry, to vent his anger at Daniel's running and his lies, but looking at the black and blue face of his lover, the only thing Jack wanted to do was run to Daniel's side and hold him; then he'd kill the monsters who had hurt him.

~First things first,~ Jack thought to himself as he hurried to the bed, and sat quietly.

Daniel was fully dressed without even a comforter over him.  He was tossing and turning slightly.

Jack knew these signs well.  His lover was in the middle of a nightmare that would escalate soon.

Jack took off his jacket and shoes, and then, with great stealth, removed Daniel's shoes.  He knew holding his Heart in his arms was the one thing that would make Daniel feel safe.  He was confident of the fact that even in his sleep, Daniel would recognize that safety.

~Gotta keep that nightmare at bay.  You probably haven't slept since this thing happened.~  Jack let out a tiny snort as he thought, ~You probably wouldn't wake up without coffee under your nose, a nightmare, or an earthquake.~

The older man took his place on the bed and gently moved his life partner over into his favorite sleeping position.

Daniel mumbled something and moved his head to snuggle into Jack, his hand automatically reaching across Jack's chest like he normally did, one leg hooking between his Love's.

Jack kissed Daniel's messy hair and held him securely, whispering, “I love you, Danny.”  He didn't sleep.  He was angry at himself for jumping to all the wrong conclusions, for letting his fears of not being good enough for Daniel get the best of him.  He had actually considered for a moment that Daniel and Sam might be having an affair.  He cringed at his insecurities, knowing that his paranoia was because of his own feelings of not being good enough and not because of anything that Daniel had said and done.  ~I'm such an idiot.~

The only proof Jack needed about Daniel's love had been given during the night when Daniel had moaned softly from Jack's touches and soft words of reassurance and by the fact that Daniel's certain nightmare had been circumvented by his protective hold.

====

Daylight was looming, and the sun's rays were beginning to seep through the windows.  Jack placed another kiss on his precious lover's head and raised his left hand up to run his fingers through Daniel's hair.  How he loved the feel of the younger man's silky locks.  He sometimes missed the longer shag, but even the shorter strands felt rich to his touch.

Jack felt a small movement under his grip, and heard a small wisp of air on his chest.  He could feel a change in Daniel's breathing.  His lover was waking up.

“Jack?”

“That would be me.”

Daniel tensed, full of questions, and also stunned, unsure of where he was for a moment.

“Where?”

“Rental cabin.  Sam brought you up here last night,” the older man answered.

“You were supposed to be ... wherever you were ... longer,” Daniel said with trepidation.

“Sorry to ruin your little plan.”

Daniel seemed to stop breathing, his body going totally still, tenser than before, but Jack placed another kiss on his hair while gently rubbing his back.

“I'm not going to yell, Danny ... at least, not now, but trust me, at some point in the future, you are so going to get it.”

Daniel didn't say anything, nor did he move.  Jack continued to caress his back until finally the younger man let out a big sigh.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Jack laughed, “You know the way.”

Daniel started to move very slowly off of Jack, and, at first, Jack had planned to hold his spot.  Thinking better of it, he quickly arose and went to the other side of the bed, getting there practically before Daniel had his feet on the floor.  The younger man looked up at his lover and blinked several times.  Jack smiled, his hands taking hold of his soulmate's and very gently pulling him up.

Daniel blinked even more now that they were standing so close.  Jack could see the bruises on his heart's face clearer now, and wanted to lash out at whomever had hurt Daniel.

~First things first.~  Brushing his hands very lightly against the bruised face, Jack leaned in and briefly grazed Daniel's lips.  “I love you, Danny.  I'm mad as sin, but I love you, and right now, that's the priority.  Need some help?”

Daniel nodded shyly as he answered softly, “Everything hurts, Jack.”  He leaned into Jack's shoulder.  ~Feels good,~ he thought about the tender embrace his lover had him in.

“I'm going to take care of everything.  I'm here now.  What do you need?”

“You,” Daniel answered succinctly.

“You've got me, forever and always, Angel,” Jack assured softly.

Daniel swallowed to hide his swelling emotions and then admitted, “But I really want to take a shower, Jack.”

Jack kissed Daniel more fully, and led him to the cabin's bathroom and tended to his lover's needs.

====

“Feel better?” Jack asked, walking outside onto the small front porch of the cabin, slinking his arms around Daniel.

“A little.”

“Want to sit down?”

Daniel nodded, so the two sat on the steps of the porch.  Daniel winced in pain as he moved.  Jack squelched his anger as much as possible as he took hold of Daniel's left hand.

“Tell me.”

“Day from Netu, worse even,” Daniel answered.

“Danny.”

“I was going to my car, and they surrounded me.  I tried to fight them, but they caught me off-guard, and there were five of them.  They said things, Jack, ugly things, but nothing we haven't heard before.”

Jack's blood pressure was rising fast.  He desperately wanted a Goa'uld to kill.

“They pushed me down to the ground, and hit me and kicked me ... all over.  I got up, but they just kept at it.  One of them had a knife ... a long knife.  He cut me here.”

Daniel pointed to the tiny scab under his chin.

Jack hadn't seen that injury in the dimly lit bedroom, but he had noticed every other injury as he'd bathed Daniel.  His blood was seething from rage at the unknowns who had hurt his precious love.

“They ... they um ... they ...”

“Danny, you're safe.  I've got you,” Jack assured, changing his position so that now his left arm went around Daniel's shoulders and his right hand was holding Daniel's securely.  He kissed Daniel on the temple and whispered, “I'm here, Danny.  It's okay. Tell me.”

Daniel's head leaned over against Jack's as he tried to compose himself, trying desperately to hold back the tears that were so close to the surface.

“They pulled my pants down and the one with the knife was going to ... cu...they were going to ...”

“Cut you?”

Daniel nodded, but Jack felt a tension and an anxiety that alarmed him greatly.

“Danny, what do you mean exactly?”

“Gawd, Jack, he was going to cut it off, take away what manhood I had, according to him.”

Jack closed his eyes, his blood boiling at his lover's torment.  His arms encircled Daniel completely as the younger man sobbed into his neck, unable to hold back any longer, now that Jack was there to take care of him.  Jack didn't have words for the emotion he felt.  Anger and fury didn't cover his outrage over the attack, and love and compassion didn't come close to matching the depth of his caring for the man he held in his arms.

====

Jack spent the day holding Daniel, keeping him so close that they felt like one body.  Daniel didn't seem to have a need for independence which was just fine with Jack because he had a powerful need to keep Daniel as close to him as possible.

The lovers hadn't talked much.  Daniel was feeling too ashamed and humiliated, while Jack was afraid that if he said much, his murderous wrath would result in someone being killed, which wasn't what the younger man needed right now.

As the couple watched the setting sun from the front porch, Jack deeply inhaled the fresh air and then began, “Danny, before the police came, did they ...?”

“No.  They didn't want to, said I was some defect or something.”

Jack was afraid to speak for a few moments.  His anger at the men was beginning to consume him, and he struggled to remain calm.

“Did you see them, Danny?  Can you identify them?”

“It was dark, but they weren't trying to hide, Jack.  It's just ... I didn't really look at them.  I remember ... flashes ... or images.  Eyes, a scar ... one had a scar,  and ... a tattoo I think, but I don't ... I don't know.”

Daniel's voice was cracking from the memories, and he was shaking a little as he recalled what had happened for Jack.

“Shhh, Angel.  You don't have to remember right now.  I'm sorry, Baby; it's okay,” Jack whispered as he held his lover close and rocked him back and forth in a soothing manner.

“Don't call me Baby, Jack, unless you want me to call you ... Honey or Sugar Lips.”

“Sugar Lips?”

“... or something.”

Jack smiled at the attempt at normalcy as he held his still-bruised lover close to him.  He didn't know why he had called Daniel 'Baby'.  He didn't remember ever using that endearment before, but he wasn't sure.  He was just feeling protective, and for the first time since he'd known him, Daniel seemed fragile.

“I'm sorry, Love.  It just slipped out.  Don't even know why,” Jack spoke, placing a kiss on his partner's temple.

“It's okay, Sugar Lips.”

Jack groaned, lightly chuckling, “You're gonna pay for that.”

“Yeah, I know.  You're going to have me on a leash for at least a month, maybe two,” Daniel sighed.

“Danny ...”

“It's okay, Jack.  Maybe you're right ... maybe I can't take care of myself.”

Daniel's voice was strained.  As he pulled free from Jack and started to stand, he flinched from the pain radiating through his bruised and battered body.  He grabbed the rail and quickly closed his eyes as he waited for the initial pain to pass.

Jack stood and wrapped himself around Daniel, placing a kiss on his nape.

“Danny, if it had been me, I couldn't have fought them either.  You did good.  You're alive, and everything's okay now.”

Daniel bolted out of Jack's embrace, releasing the venom he had held in for the last two and a half days.

“Alive?  I'm alive because someone called the police.  Jack, they arrived as he had the knife in his hand sliding down my body.  Two seconds, Jack. *Two freakin' seconds* longer and he would have ...  Gawd.  I couldn't fight them.  I tried, but it's not even that.”  Vulnerably, he asked, “Why me, Jack?  I was just walking to the car.  That's all.  How could they tell about my ... my lifestyle by how I walked to the car?”  His anger and frustration heightened again, he shouted, “*I don't freakin' understand*!  Why?  Tell me why!”

“I don't know, Danny.  We need to talk to the police, see what they know.”  Jack dragged both hands through his hair as he took a deep breath and looked all around them.  He wished he had the answers and was able to give Daniel the reassurance he needed, but he was as clueless as Daniel was.  “Look, I just got back.  I haven't had a chance to check this out.  I remember reading something in the paper about some increase in gang violence, but I only skimmed it.  I assumed it was teenage stuff, but maybe not.  Or maybe ... maybe they're just ignorant and don't know any better.  Danny, Angel, I don't know.  I wish I did.”

“But why me?  Do I have a sign on my head?  'Here's the geek, the friggin' gay abnormality.'  Is there something about me that says that?  Gawd, Jack, I was straight.  My whole life was normal until ...”

Jack was horrified and stood very still, expressionless, listening to Daniel's soul bleed about his anything-but-normal life.

“Oh, gawd! I'm sorry, Jack.  I didn't mean anything by that. I love you so much.”

Daniel's eyes pleaded.  His outburst was over, his internal rage replaced by a fear that he'd just said something that would haunt them for a very long time.  He needed Jack to tell him they were okay.

“Hold me, Jack.  Just ... please, hold me.”

Jack took Daniel in his arms, still taken aback by his lover's words, but Daniel would have to say a lot worse than that before he'd ever lose the older man.

“I love you, Jack, and I don't regret anything, nothing, absolutely nothing,” Daniel said, sounding almost desperate, afraid that he'd lost his soulmate with his thoughtless words.

Jack held on firmly, reassuring, “I know.  You're just angry at the lunacy.  Love you, too, Danny.  It's okay.  We're okay, Love.”

====

The following Monday, after spending a full day at the SGC, the lovers were back at home when Jack returned an important phone call.

“Yeah, I'm glad she decided to call the police, too.  Tell her we're grateful that she decided to get involved, and thanks for letting me know, Sergeant.  If you get any leads, I'd appreciate being informed.”

Jack sighed as he hung up the phone in the study, quickly realizing he wasn't alone.

“They don't have a complete enough description to know for sure, but they have suspects.  He did say, though, that they've been having problems in the area, not just at the mall with people being beaten, usually ...” Jack's voice trailed off for a few moments, not really wanting to finish, but Daniel was staring, his inquisitive blue eyes demanding the sentence be completed.  “... men, between twenty and forty.”

Jack watched Daniel, standing and staring like a zombie, and concluded, “From what they know, this gang is hanging out, watching public places, picking out their targets.  No real reason.”

“I forgot,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“Forgot what, Angel?”

“One of them said he had seen me before, looking at someone ... had to be you, I suppose ... looking at you ... just ... looking at you,” Daniel droned, the ache of knowing that a simple look of love had apparently been the catalyst for his beating.

Daniel was standing at the doorway, his arms folded.  His bruises were fading with each passing day, his physical injuries slowly healing.  He'd told the police everything he knew, but just as he'd told Jack, he didn't get a solid look at any of them, in large part, he had to admit, due to his fatigue, frustration, and fear.

The archaeologist had also been singled out, for reasons he couldn't understand. That fact cut into his very soul in such a way that he couldn't even understand it himself, let alone explain his tumultuous feelings to his lover.  He wanted the whole thing to go away.  Truth be told, Daniel just wanted to get away himself.

Knowing he needed to say something, the young man finally added, “Even if they find them, I can't identify them, not for sure, and I don't want to do anything based on ... incomplete evidence.  Please, Jack.”

Jack nodded and agreed, “Okay.”

Daniel walked out of the study, leaving Jack alone with his worry.  He was no longer worried about the kicks, punches, and bruises.  Now, it was his lover's lack of belief in himself that frightened Jack.  Daniel had taken the events of that night and let them drain him of his confidence.

The last time Jack had seen Daniel full of as much self-doubt as he was seeing now was when he'd first met the younger man.  At that point, Daniel had been laughed out of academia, leaving him with no choice but to accept Catherine's offer to join the Stargate Program.

Upon joining, Daniel's confidence level increased as he first opened the Stargate and then helped to save the Abydonian people from Ra.  Upon returning, Jack's love and support had really allowed the archaeologist to flourish, but now all of that seemed to have been destroyed by the incident at the mall.

Jack had trained his lover in self-defense.  He knew Daniel was one of the strongest fighters at the SGC, and he was a scrapper.  He looked small, but he was six feet tall with broad shoulders, and since Jack had suggested he work out, his physique was awesome.  Daniel was not a wimp, and, in fact, was far from it, but those monsters had injured his soul more than his body, and Jack was having a hard time helping Daniel's mind and spirit to heal.

====

“Dismissed.  Jack, in my office.”

Jack took a deep breath as he gathered up the pre-mission report.  He glanced at Daniel for a quick moment, watching him follow Sam and Teal'c out of the briefing room with his head lowered.  Daniel hadn't said much during the briefing.  In fact, he hadn't said much at all since the attack, and Jack had a good idea why General Hammond had requested his presence in his office.

“Sit down, Jack.”

“Something wrong, Sir?”

“You tell me,” Hammond said, sitting back in his chair, an aura of expectation surrounding him.

“Everything's ... fine, Sir.  Just ... peachy.”

“Doctor Fraiser informed me this morning that she isn't sure she's comfortable with clearing Doctor Jackson for the mission this afternoon.”

“Daniel will be fine.”

“The operative phrase there, Colonel, is 'will be'.”  Seeing the leader of the flagship team look down evasively, he continued, “Jack, I understand he's been through a difficult ordeal, and I know you want him on your team.  *I* want him on your team, but can you honestly sit there and tell me that the man who walked out of the briefing room just now is the Daniel Jackson we've come to know?”  ~and love,~ the general added.

“He needs this mission, General.”

“Jack, SG-1 has been on three missions in the last nine days, none of which seems to have impacted Doctor Jackson, one way or the other.  I'm inclined to agree with Doctor Fraiser that until ...”

Jack stood up, raising his voice as he argued, “No, General, he needs *this* one. You don't understand.”  He paused, regretful of his outburst.  “I'm sorry, Sir, but Daniel does need this mission.”

“What makes this mission so different?”

“The ruins,” Jack mumbled.

“Ruins?”  Hammond glanced at the folder on his desk, saying, “Jack, there was no mention in the briefing about ruins.”

“I know that, Sir.  Carter was ... we kinda wanted to surprise him.  They showed up in some of the readings Carter got back yesterday.  General, this is the kind of place that Daniel gets so fanatical about.  You know, those places he loses himself in and bores us all silly about for hours on end, begging for more time.”

“The six-hour debriefings about ancient cultures,” Hammond acknowledged, privately amused and well aware that he was exaggerating, just slightly.

“Right,” Jack confirmed.  “He needs to be at that place.  I know we only have a few hours while Carter conducts the energy and mineral testing, but while she's playing with her doohickeys,” he continued, causing a small smile to appear on the general's face, “Daniel can do what he does best, what he loves most in the world.  It's important, Sir.”

Hammond studied his 2IC closely for a few moments, noting both the plea and insistence of the tone of his voice.

With a nod, the general replied, “Very well, Jack.  I'll talk to Doctor Fraiser ... *this* time, but, Colonel, it'll be the last time unless Doctor Jackson shows a marked improvement to becoming his old self again.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“SG-1 will embark on schedule tomorrow at 1000 hours.  Dismissed, Colonel.” ~I hope you know what you're doing, Jack.  I want our boy back to his old self just as much as you do, but if this doesn't work, I don't know what any of us can do,~ the general thought, knowing that their best chance for the safe return of Daniel lay with the man who'd just left his office.

====

As SG-1 walked through the mineral rich valley of the planet called Troljanda, Jack pondered their situation.  Teal'c was in the lead, then Sam, and Daniel.  Jack was watching Daniel's six, one of his favorite pastimes in all the world.

Since the beating at the mall, Daniel's physical injuries had completely healed, the bruises having disappeared and the scarring evaporating and melding into his skin.  The mental injuries, however, were still very visible.  He'd been unusually quiet and had, in fact, become a bit of a recluse, staying either at the SGC or in their house, holed up with books or research reports and surrounded by artifacts.

The archaeologist had rarely initiated any type of conversation, and even at the SGC, he'd said only what was required and nothing more.  He walked with sagging shoulders and a bowed head.  He kept his office door closed, shutting out the rest of the world.

Many of Daniel's friends had tried to talk with him, or at the very least simply be there in support, spending time with the young man, but he had blocked all their efforts.  Sam, Teal'c, Lou Ferretti, Casey Hemmings, and Jeff Cornell had all made repeated efforts to stay by Daniel's side, but he had rebuffed all of them.  He had even found a way to back out of a planned museum excursion with Cassandra, and not even Mrs. Valissi's scrumptious Italian cooking could entice him to have dinner with the loving neighbor who thought of Daniel as a son.

The subdued scientist had shut Jack out, too.  Instead of sleeping on his Jack pillow, as was his custom, he was sleeping on his left side.  Jack would spoon into him and hold and caress him, but that was all Daniel would allow.  They hadn't made love, or even kissed much.  Whenever Jack had tried to show affection, Daniel simply went along, and that was the problem.

Daniel wasn't fighting Jack, but he also wasn't being a participant.  When Jack looked into his life partner's eyes, he saw nothing but compliance, an unresisting 'do whatever you want and need to do' type of look, which tore through the older man's soul, ripping it to pieces at the pain his soulmate was feeling.

Two nights ago, out of desperation, Jack had tried to goad Daniel.  He had tried everything else, but all he had ever gotten in response was the look of a zombie, not the spirited, passionate man he loved and was used to.  So, he'd tried to start an argument, ending by calling his lover a child, taunting him that he was acting like a three-year-old and should be treated like one.

Unfortunately, instead of having fire in his eyes and rage in his voice, Daniel had spoken softly, acknowledging his lover's assessment with a succinct, “You're right, Jack,” and then walking away.

No matter what Jack had done or said, Daniel's reaction had been completely unfeeling, almost like a drone: functioning with facts, but lacking any emotion.

Troljanda was a lush, rain forest-like planet that the Tok'ra had told the Tau'ri about.  It was inhabited by a gentle population of human-like beings whom had given the SGC permission to conduct tests and make use of their results in whatever manner they wanted to.  The Troljandans lived mainly in caved cities and had no use for the fertile minerals or compounds on its surface.

The ruins Jack had discussed with the general had shown up during one of the UAV flights.  Jack was hoping that the mysteries that the old writings and walls held would spark something inside his lover.  He didn't know what he'd do if they didn't.

The ruins were southwest of where Sam needed to run her tests, but a second run of the UAV showed they were further away from the test site than originally thought, so Jack had been forced to change their plans slightly.

Instead of Daniel being able to examine the ruins while the tests were being conducted, they would stop there to have a quick look around and judge Daniel's reaction, and then they'd have to help Sam set up her testing.  They'd give Daniel as much time as they could, but it wouldn't be what Jack had initially hoped for.

The team was carrying a lot of equipment with them, and all four were needed to assist in its set up.  After the testing had begun, Teal'c would be going to the Troljandan city to learn more about the citizens and their culture.

The Troljandans had taken to the Jaffa.  His size and coloring had made him appear more acceptable to them, for reasons the Tau'ri hadn't yet understood, but the Troljandans had wanted only Teal'c to come and share.

The Tok'ra had prepared their allies for this quirk, explaining that it was never known what race or creed the inhabitants would gather round, but no matter what culture had been introduced to them, they always seemed to flock to one for what they called a 'learning round table'.  Teal'c would be staying with them for three days to share in the process.

The remainder of SG-1, however, would have to return in twenty-four hours to finish a delicate negotiation with yet another new potential ally.  Thus, the game plan was to go in, let Daniel 'play' for a short while, get the tests set up, help Sam calculate and monitor the sensitive equipment and results, and then head back to the SGC.

It had been Jack's decision not to warn Daniel about the discovery of the ruins.  He hoped that if they simply 'stumbled' upon it, that Daniel's natural love of ancient history would take root and pull him out of his funk.  He watched his archaeologist carefully, knowing the ruins were less than a mile away.

====

Daniel was lost in his thoughts, thoughts like ~You're a real loser, Jackson~ and ~Jack needs someone stronger than me~ or ~I wish I were dead.~

Those three notions had pretty much been at the core of the anguished man's thinking for the last couple of weeks.  He had totally lost sight of who he was and why Jack loved him so much.  As he walked, Daniel caught a glance at something he wasn't expecting.  For a moment, his curiosity took hold.  He quickened his pace, but then he stopped and just stared.

~C'mon Danny,~ Jack was urging privately from behind.  ~This is the stuff you love.  Show me you're still in there,~ he rooted silently, almost afraid to breathe as he watched, standing as still as Daniel was.

Sam and Teal'c had stopped, too, watching Jack for instructions.  He motioned for them to hold their ground and remain silent.

Daniel finally walked slowly toward the first layer of ruins that were outside of a fallen structure.  His slender fingers traced the carvings that were made on several of the walls, and his eyes roamed every inch of the walls, from top to bottom.  He walked around several of the exposed walls.

~Come on, Angel.  I know you're there.  Let those juices flow, Love,~ Jack pleaded silently.

“Jack, look at these.”

~There we go.~  Daniel had spoken softly, but Jack's heart sang at hearing the voice.  He leisurely approached the archaeologist with his best 'What, more rocks?' swagger and asked calmly, “What are they?”

“I don't know exactly, but they could tell us a lot about the Troljandans ... I think.”

“How long?”

Daniel looked at Jack with clueless eyes, asking, “How long what?”

“How long to figure out ... anything ... from all of ... this?” Jack asked, holding his arm out, signaling the ruins.

“Weeks, months ... I don't know.”

“Better get started,” Jack responded.  “We can hang out here for an hour or so.  I know it's not much, but maybe we can get some pictures and tape, and you can do whatever it is you do, and we can pitch it to Hammond for a return trip.”

Daniel nodded, which wasn't exactly what Jack had hoped for, but at least it was something, and Daniel's eyes had shown some sign of life.

Jack called out to the others, “Carter, Teal'c, let's let Daniel play in his sandbox for a while.  Help him out if we can.  How long do we have, Carter?”

Sam knew her CO wanted Daniel to have at least an hour.  She looked at her watch and debated.  She spoke silently to herself, considering all the tests she would need to complete.  She was very excited about the readings she had gotten and was especially looking forward to conducting a little extra experiment, using the planet's natural minerals and some samples she had brought.  It wasn't on the schedule, but she knew she'd have time, if they got there in the next hour, as unofficially scheduled.

~It's working.~  In her best Air Force manner, Sam started to say her 'scripted' line about having an hour, but as she looked up, she saw Daniel's eyes affixed on one stone carving, causing her to pause.  He was lost in it, already scribbling notes.  It was more life than she'd seen from him in quite a while.  Looking at her CO, she answered, “We have at least ninety minutes, Sir, maybe more.”

Sam had just tabled her personal desires and curiosity, and Jack was well aware of that, flashing her a silent 'thank you' smile.

Teal'c stayed with Daniel as he made notes and asked questions about some of the cultures Teal'c had been involved with to see if there was any tie-in.  Sam was taking photos, lots and lots of photos, on Daniel's behalf, and Jack was carefully videotaping the entire area.

While SG-1 was a team unit, always helping each other, this was the first time they'd all worked so diligently on trying to detail a site for their archaeologist.  In this instance, they all knew there was more at stake than an ancient civilization being detailed correctly.

“Jack.  Wow!  Look at this.  I think it may tie in to the Furlings,” Daniel theorized.

“The Furlings?  How?”

“I'm not sure.”

“Then how do you know?”

With a cock of his head and a wave of his hand, Daniel answered, “Because the language is similar to an old Indian one I learned once, well at least I learned a part of it, I mean, I don't know it all, but the point is I think I can read part of this ... and ... I think it's talking about the Furlings.”

“We need something a little more concrete, Daniel.”

“I need more time, Jack.”

Jack smiled.  Daniel had finally asked for something, but while he smiled at that, he also hated what he was going to have to say next.  He looked at his 2IC.

With a sigh, Sam shook her head, saying, “We've already stayed longer than we should have, Colonel.  If we don't go, I won't have time to finish the tests.”

A darkness filling him, Jack sighed, “We'll talk Hammond into letting us come back, Daniel.  We can't wait any longer.”

“But, Jack ... okay.”

Jack closed his eyes, hating himself.  Daniel had shown a spark, and now he had no choice but to extinguish it.  Sometimes, life was unkind to Jack O'Neill.

====

Sam's doohickeys were all set, and she was currently monitoring the first results.  Teal'c had left to meet with the Troljandans, and Daniel was pacing, while Jack watched both him and some electronic device Sam had asked him to keep an eye on.  He was supposed to let her know if the reading went over a 'five' at any time.

“This is so ... fascinating, Major,” Jack whined.

“Welcome to my world, Colonel,” Sam said, smiling and being totally in heaven as she played with her 'toys', as Jack thought of them.

“Jack?”

“Major, is the sky going to cave in if I talk with Daniel for a minute and miss this thing going from 'two' to 'three'?”

“No, Sir.”

“I'll be right back,” Jack stated.  He walked to Daniel, who lead him outside of Sam's sight.  “What's up?” he asked, tapping on his P-90.

Daniel turned and said calmly as he pointed at the weapon, “Put that down, Jack.”

Jack stared at Daniel and chuckled, “I don't think so.”

“Please,” Daniel asked with an irresistible smile.

It was the first genuine smile Jack had seen on Daniel since before he had left town a couple of weeks ago and so his P-90 was gently placed against the tree.

“Okay, now wha...mmmmmm.”

Jack found himself attacked by one very adorable archaeologist.  The passion almost overwhelmed him.  It had been so long since they'd kissed like they were doing now.

Daniel flung his arms around Jack, and Jack's quickly wrapped around Daniel's waist, pressing them together.

~This feels good,~ Jack thought happily to himself, but then the colonel part of his brain reminded him where they were, and the lover part was none too pleased, but gave in.  “Danny, I love you, but ... we have to help Carter, something about reading all those doohickeys and for some reason, she can't do it alone.”

“No, she can't, Jack, but she doesn't need both of us.  You can help her.”

“And while I'm helping her, you'll be ... ?” the colonel prodded.

“Studying the ruins.”

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

“Why not?”

“Because you'd be alone on a strange planet.”

“Jack, I can take care of myself,” Daniel argued, though his words weren't quite as strong as they normally were, but at least he had said them.  “Jack, the Troljandans are friendly, and they don't even live out here.  The ruins are only forty-five minutes away, and we're only talking a couple of hours.  Please.”

Even the colonel melted.  He just couldn't say 'no' to Daniel's first request since the attack.

“You check in when you get there, and we'll radio before we leave.  We'll meet you in three hours.”

“But what about the equipment?  You'll need me to carry some of it.”

“Nah, we can handle it.  Go play in your sandbox.”

“It's not a sandbox, Jack.”

Jack was loving this.  Daniel's tone was tentative, but there was snap in there now, and it was filling up his heart with joy.  Now, they had a fighting chance.

“Be careful, Love,” Daniel stated as he started to walk away.  Turning back to see his lover picking up his P-90, he called out, “Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you,” Daniel stated; then turned and walked hurriedly towards the ruins.

“Yep, we're going to be okay now,” Jack spoke softly, seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  Not that it would be easy, and he knew that kiss was Daniel trying to get what he wanted, but the fact his lover had done that meant he was in that robotic body, struggling to get out.  Now Jack knew he could be reached.  ~That's definitely progress.~

====

Daniel made excellent time, arriving back at the ruins in only thirty minutes.  Of course, he had run a good part of the way, eager to see what he could learn about the Furlings.  They still knew so little about this great race they had yet to meet.  They'd met the Asgard, the Ancients, and the Nox, in one way or another, but never the Furlings, at least not to their knowledge, so this potential link excited the archaeologist.

His professional juices bubbling for the first time in weeks, Daniel set out to learn all he could in the short time he had, barely able to remember to check in with Jack.

“Jack, this is Daniel.  Come in.”

“Daniel, are you okay?”

“I'm fine.  You told me to check in when I got here.  Well, I'm here.”

“You sound out of breath.”

“Yeah, well ... I guess I ran a little.”

“Danny?” the colonel called out, a tad concerned.

“I'm fine, Jack. I just didn't want to waste any time, which is why I'm signing off now.  Daniel out.”

Jack growled audibly, causing Sam to laugh.

“Well, at least he sounds alive now,” Jack commented with a shrug and a slight smile.

“You think this will actually work, Sir?”

“I hope so, Major.  I don't want to think about the alternative.”

====

Daniel was lost in his world of ancient civilizations.  He had made significant progress and felt both challenged and energized.  It felt good, he admitted to himself.  Suddenly, though, as he reached for a flashlight, the young man realized it had turned dark.

“What the ...?” Daniel questioned out loud as he looked at his watch.

Five hours had passed.  Jack and Sam were supposed to radio before they left their location, and that should have happened at least two or three hours ago.

“Jack, this is Daniel.  Come in, please.”  His heartbeat quickened as he stood up and paced for a minute.  “Jack?  Sam?  This is Daniel.  Please acknowledge.”  A full minute passed, but there was no response.  “*Jack*,” he shouted into the radio, his pulse beginning to race with concern.

Daniel looked around at the planet's darkness.  There was no moon over Troljanda, only a couple of very dim satellites that provided a bare minimum of light making it very difficult to see.

“Jack, please come in.  *Jack*!”

Daniel began to run back to the testing site.  Even though he had a flashlight, he was running so fast that he was unable to notice every obstacle in his path.  As a result, he tripped a couple of times.

“Shibatwray,” Daniel cursed in Abydonian when he fell the second time.

The archaeologist was angry at himself for having become so wrapped up in the ruins that he'd failed to notice the lack of the expected check-in by his lover.  He was breathing hard, not from the running, but from the panic that erupted inside him.  He was fearing the worst, well aware that his lover would never let him go off by himself for so long.

Even when life was normal, Jack would watch over Daniel.  It was just his way, and Daniel didn't really mind because Jack loved him, and he loved Jack.  Lately, though, he hadn't been himself, doubting his abilities and his entire lifestyle.

With that in mind, Jack would never let Daniel out of his sight on a strange planet for very long, and he certainly wouldn't have missed a scheduled check in.  The only reason Daniel could think of for Jack to miss the opportunity to 'mother hen' him was that something terrible had happened, preventing the colonel from checking in and meeting him at the ruins.

Halfway there, Daniel stopped, his heart was pounding and his head was throbbing.  He bent over putting his hands on his knees.  He closed his eyes, and concentrated as hard as he could.  He flicked on the radio again, but there was still no response.  He continued his run, until he finally reached the testing area.

It was hard to breathe, but Daniel had to be silent.  The area was in shambles with Sam's equipment smashed and spread out all over the ground.

“*Jack?  Sam*?” Daniel called out, but only the darkness answered him.  He spun around in desperation looking for something, anything.  Then his heart stopped as he saw something about eight yards in front of him, barely visible in the beam of the flashlight.  He slowly walked and picked it up, and sank to his knees.  “Jack?” he cried softly, holding his Silver Fox's blood-soiled cap in his hands.

Daniel's cry intensified as he saw the bullet hole on the left side of the cap.  He held the cap to his stomach, as he vomited.

====

Daniel had returned to the testing site after searching the surrounding area in vain for his lover and Sam.  There hadn't been any sign of them, except for the bloodied cap he was currently twisting in his hands..

The anguished lover sat on the ground, despair and agony consuming him.  He rocked back and forth for a couple of minutes, wallowing in his loss.  He had gone to 'play' in his sandbox, and his soulmate had probably been killed.  What's worse, he'd treated Jack horribly during the past two weeks while he drowned himself in self-pity.  He had almost left Jack several times, convinced Jack would be better off without him.

Daniel traced the blood on the cap with his fingers and then held the cap to his nose and mouth as he rocked himself.  He closed his eyes, and concentrated as hard as he could.  It was the only thing he could will himself to do at the moment.

**Jack.  Please hear me.  Jack?  Say something, anything.  Jack, I love you so much.  I need you, Jack.  Where are you?  Talk to me!**

Jack and Daniel had a rare near-telepathic connection.  It wasn't exactly telepathy.  They couldn't read each other's minds, but they did have an unusual sense or awareness about the other, and sometimes, they were able to translate that awareness into private, unspoken conversations.  Daniel was desperate to sense his lover, and, in his fragile emotional state, was kicking himself for not thinking of it before.

**Gawd, Jack, please be alive,** Daniel begged the cap he held close.

**Danny.  Get away ... now!**

Daniel stopped in the middle of his rocking.  His eyes opened wide, the cap against his lips.  He slowly lowered it down to hold it close to his heart.  He didn't dare to breathe.

With all the love he could he muster, and that was a lot, he let his heart reach out.

**I'm going to find you, Jack.  Do you know where you are?**

**No ... don't ... dangerous.**

**Don't argue, Jack.**

**That's my Danny, never follow an order.**

**Don't want to ruin my image.  Are you hurt?  How's Sam?**

As quickly as the communication had begun, it ended.  Once again, there was only silence.

Daniel knew one of two things had happened.  He had either gone insane, or his lover was injured, and it was up to Daniel to find the older man.  He laughed inwardly. That was a joke.  How could he help Jack?  He was useless. Jack needed someone he could depend on, someone who knew how to look after himself.

Feeling anything but confident, Daniel sighed and looked around.  He was alone; there was no one else.  He could do this.  He had to do this.

====

~Get it together, Jackson.~  A bit later, Daniel stood up.  He took a final look at the cap, kissed it, and said softly, “I love you, Jack, and I'm going to find you and Sam, and then we're all going home ... together.”  

Daniel put the cap in his pocket and very carefully surveyed the destroyed testing site again.  This time, though, he wasn't looking at it from the eyes of a desperate lover, but from those of the Special Ops trainee.  

Over the years, Jack had taught Daniel the tricks of the trade, and now it was time for Daniel to prove that he'd been paying attention.  He also needed to prove his own words right, that he could not only take care of himself, but his family, too, and Jack O'Neill was Daniel Jackson's family.  Though he was tired, there was no time for rest.

The amateur Special Ops sleuth noticed for the first time that Sam's pack was gone.  He remembered that she had taken it off when they had started setting up.  He also didn't see any of her notes or notebooks anywhere, but he did see, gathered on the ground, the notations Jack had been making.  He also saw some blood against the canvas that had stowed some of the equipment; it wasn't much, but it was enough to indicate a struggle might have happened there.

It was still night, and as much as Daniel wanted to go in search of his lover, he also knew the smart thing to do was to wait for daylight.  

“Patience, Danny, is often the key to a successful op.  People panic; they rush in. It's the biggest mistake you could ever make.  It's not always easy, but trust me, Grasshopper, patience may one day save your life, or mine.”

Daniel chilled at the remembrance of an early training session with his lover, but he could hear the words.  He trusted Jack, so he wrapped himself in a blanket and waited for the daylight to come.  The sleep would be welcome, although he knew he wouldn't get much, if any, but he was proud that he was heeding Jack's training and not adhering to his own stubborn pride.

**I'm coming, Jack.  Just hold on.  I love you.**

====

Daniel blinked at the sight of the sun.  He had fallen asleep, but he knew it hadn't been for long.  He took care of nature's calling, and went about his task of finding his soulmate.

Using the experience he'd accumulated over the years, Daniel studied the ground, and saw footprints leading to the edge of the test area.  He didn't see tracks going in any other direction, so he decided to go northeast, which was the direction in which the footprints led also where he'd initially found Jack's ball cap.  He headed that way, and noticed more blood on the ground, but it was a grassy area, and there were no footprints to follow.

The archaeologist remembered something Jack had said about observing bushes and plants, looking for missing pieces and bent twigs, anything unusual that might indicate someone had walked through or by the shrubbery.  As he looked, he saw plants with broken stems and missing leaves.  He decided to keep going in that direction.  He wasn't a tracker, but he would do the best he could.

====

Daniel was tired.  The daytime on Troljanda lasted eighteen Earth hours.  He prayed he was going in the right direction.  He had found a handkerchief of Jack's as he traveled through the forest.  It was soaked in blood, and the only reason he knew it was Jack's was because he had bought it for him, along with two others just like it, last Christmas and they were easily recognizable, having been embroidered with F-15's in blue on one side and the Air Force emblem on the other.  

Daniel ate half of the only power bar he had.  It was one he had thrown into his pocket while studying the ruins.  In his haste to find out what had happened to Jack and Sam, he had left his pack behind.  For a while, he'd berated himself for such a costly oversight, but Jack didn't need him wallowing in more self-pity.  No, what his lover needed was for him to keep himself together, to be strong, and to rescue him.

The would-be-rescuer closed his eyes to calm himself, realizing that all he had was what was in his pockets, and it would have to be good enough, even if it wasn't much.

Night had fallen, and Daniel huddled himself against a large tree, knowing he had to wait for daylight again.  There were two good things about the nights on Troljanda -- they only lasted seven hours, and the temperature rarely went below fifty degrees.  It rained a lot at night, but it was a warm rain.

--

When Daniel awoke the next morning, he was dampened by the mists of the night, but the giant trees had shielded him from the worst of the downpours.  With steadfast determination, he again set out in search of Jack and Sam.

====

Five hours into the second day of his trek, Daniel came upon a camp.  He counted eight men, three apparently guarding the perimeter, four at a table talking, and one was in front of a moderately sized canvas tent reading something.

Daniel moved back from his position very carefully, afraid of being spotted.  When he was sure he was far enough away, he tried to make contact with Jack again, concentrating as hard as he could.  If ever there was a time to be telepathic, this was it.

**Jack?  Jack, can you hear me?**

**Danny, love you.**

**Love you, too, but we don't have time for that right now.  Jack, do you know where you are?**

Daniel was breathing heavily from the tenseness of the situation and when Jack didn't answer, he almost panicked, until he remembered Jack's pearl of wisdom about patience.

**Jack, are you in a tent?  Is Sam there?  Is anyone else with you?**

**Tent, yes.  Don't know about ... others.**

**Are you hurt, Jack?**

**Love you, Danny, but need you to be safe.  Go, please.**

Daniel sighed.  The avoidance of his question meant a definite 'yes' response.  

**Jack, my turn.  You do what you always tell me to do.  Stay alive.  That's your job now.  Stay alive.  I'll find you and take you home, but you have to stay alive. ... Jack?**

The connection had died.

~He's just asleep,~ Daniel silently decided, preferring not to consider any other option as he shifted his position to study the situation further.

====

Nighttime had fallen again, and it was time for Daniel to make his move.  He had watched the strangers.  There were always the three guards, but they were relaxed, and their perimeter searches were lackadaisical and incomplete.  Daniel figured they weren't expecting trouble so weren't guarding against it.  The guards were not in the sights of the others, which aided in his plan.

Three of the men had gone to sleep, several yards away from the tent, near a fire.  This left one man in front of the tent, and the last man inside.

“Surprise, Danny, is always your best friend in any attack.  When they aren't expecting you, their defenses are down; and if they are expecting you, and it's at all possible, do the opposite of what is logical.  It may be riskier, but the element of surprise will lean the odds in your favor.”

Jack's words echoed through Daniel.  He knew they weren't expecting him, or anyone else.  That was clear from their actions during the day, and how they guarded the site.

Daniel inched his way quietly through the rain forest surrounding the camp.  He was close to the guard that blocked him from the back of the tent.  Suddenly, he tensed, well aware that he had to be clear on his task.  This moment was more than being the soldier he knew he was required to be now.  It was also more than defending himself and his team in battle.  What he was about to do, was murder.  He wondered if he could do it.  He almost backed away, but then he heard his Silver Fox again.

**Danny, not going to last much longer.  Love you.  Please be safe.  Love you, Angel.**

Daniel screamed in his mind, and his eyes grew cold.  There was no way he was going to have come this far and lose his Heart anyway.  He focused again on the man, gently easing the dagger from his boot.  This wasn't a regular military knife, but one of a pair of very sharp, specially made daggers that Jack had covertly acquired for them both only a few months ago.  No one knew they carried them.  Until now, they'd never needed them.  He remembered Jack's words that had convinced him to carry it, and now he was glad

//Flashback//
“Jack, this is ridiculous.  I don't want to carry this thing on missions.”

“Humor me, Love,” Jack requested, scowling at the younger man's resistant stare.  “Look, Danny, we never know what we'll run across.  I'm just asking you to be prepared.”

“I have the Beretta, Jack.”

“Which they'll immediately take.  They might find the knife, or they might get lazy, and that, Danny, could save our bacon big time.”

“Jack, I could never use it, not ... not in the way you're thinking.”

“I hope you never have to, Daniel, but if you do, don't hesitate.  It needs to be quick and clean, like this ...”
//End of Flashback//

Daniel flinched for a moment, remembering the procedure Jack had demonstrated to him, and forced him to re-enact over and over again.  They had argued about it at the time, but now, Daniel was glad he had lost the loud debate that night.

His resolve renewed and decision made, Daniel went undetected, approaching the careless guard from behind, and with one swift move, slit his throat.  Not one sound was made.  He quietly lowered the dead man to the ground, suppressing the strong urge to throw up again.

Daniel wanted to sneak into the tent and carry Jack to safety, but even if he did so, once the others woke up and realized Jack was gone, he feared they'd track them down, and they didn't have the weapons to fight anyone, especially with Jack injured.  

Having no choice, the archaeologist again fought off the desire to heave just thinking about what had just happened and what was yet to happen.  Like a stealth plane, he glided around to the other two guards and repeated his actions.  He had now killed three men.  He couldn't think about it, or both he and Jack would be goners.

The rescuer had acquired the dead men's weapons.  Two looked like pistols, the other some alien device he' never seen before.  He saw Jack's P-90 sitting by the campfire near the food.  He wondered if the men realized how powerful of a weapon it is, since it was casually sitting with the food, away from the men.

The archaeologist noticed that the man relaxing in front of the tent was sleeping.  He had to make a decision about the eighth man in the tent, not knowing what he was doing.  His heart was racing.  He was afraid of making a wrong choice, not sure whether to go after the three sleeping men, or the man asleep in front of the tent, or try to get under the tent and get that man inside.

Daniel closed his eyes, remembering yet another Jack O'Neill pearl of wisdom:

“When in doubt, Danny, follow your gut instinct.  Don't over think, and I know that's hard for you.  Heaven knows asking you not to think is like asking the sun to set at noon, but when push comes to shove, Love, and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, stop thinking, and go with your intuition.  Do what your gut is telling you to do.”

~Gawd, I hope so, Jack,~ Daniel silently prayed as he slithered along the ground, grabbing the P-90 and backing off in the direction he had come.

Daniel hid the weapons he had taken off the dead men, and then he followed his gut instinct as Jack had instructed.  He crawled along the edges of the tent and was able to lift the bottom slightly.  He caught his first glimpse of Jack, but didn't allow what he saw to sink in, focusing instead on the eighth man, writing notes while sitting in a chair at a table.  Jack was on a cot behind him.  The tent was closed.  Daniel couldn't see the outline of the man he knew was sleeping in front of it.

The young man crawled to the front of the tent, checking to make sure that the three sleeping men were still by the campfire.  They hadn't moved.  He stood up. The sleeping man was hunched over as if to fight his sleep.  He had to move with precision.  If he didn't time this exactly right, the man could awaken and warn the others.

Daniel knew he couldn't use the same maneuver on this man as he had on the others because he couldn't come from behind.  He would be coming from along the side.  It was a far riskier move than his previous attacks.  He backed away, retrieved the P-90 and placed it at the corner of the tent.  He wanted to take a deep breath, but was afraid of being too loud.  His anxiety was great, his palms sweating and pulse racing.  He wondered if the others could hear his pounding heart, which sounded like thunder to him.

The archaeologist thought his stomach had risen to his throat.  Everything balanced on his ability to neutralize this man without waking the others.  He had to gain control of his nervous anxiety.  He had to save Jack and Sam.  Then, Jack's words echoed through his mind, “... but trust me, Grasshopper, patience may save your life, or mine.”

Daniel backed away.  He would wait, just a while longer, to see if the man in the tent, or the man asleep front of it, changed their positions.  It was the smart and patient thing to do.  He still had four hours of night left.  He made a silent deal with himself to give it one hour, and then he'd move in, one way or the other.

====

Forty minutes later, Daniel got lucky, and his patience paid off when the man in front of the tent got up and walked towards the campfire.  Daniel's only worry was that he might notice the missing P-90.

The man took a drink of something and headed towards the woods, where one of the dead guards laid.  Daniel moved swiftly like a deer to get into position, and just when the man was about to stumble over one of the dead guards, Daniel grabbed hold and started to slice his throat, but the man was strong and jabbed Daniel with his elbow, pushing him back.  

Daniel's luck had turned bad.  The man charged him, and they rolled along the ground, each trying to get control of the knife.  He was afraid his adversary would call out and alert his friends.  He knew if he didn't succeed, Jack would die.  The man had Daniel on the ground, choking him.  Daniel gasped trying to breathe, his mind flooded with thoughts of Jack's life being his responsibility.

The scientist stopped trying to remove the man's hands from his throat, and concentrated on getting his right hand to his Beretta.  Struggling to get air, he managed to unholster the gun and hit the man on the side of the head with it.  He coughed when the man released his hands from Daniel's neck and rolled to the ground while Daniel moved onto his knees.

~You don't have time for this, Jackson,~ Daniel chided himself.  

The man had started to come around.  Daniel had no time, so he kicked him in the groin, stunning him.  

Daniel found his dagger and his gun.  He knelt in front of the man.  This was hard.  This situation was very different from the others, but he had no choice.  He had nothing to tie the man with.

“I have no choice.  I'm sorry,” Daniel said softly, and just as the man started to come to, his knife severed the life from him.  

Daniel wanted to cry.  He wanted to vomit.  He wanted to run, but, again, he knew he was Jack's lifeline, and time was running out.  Acting on auto-pilot, afraid to let himself think or feel, he returned to the tent and picked up the P-90, placing it around himself as he had seen Jack do so many times.

The archaeologist looked at the sleeping men, and envisioned the images of Apophis, Hathor, and other Goa'ulds he hated the most.  Apophis had changed his life forever, the snaking and rape of his beautiful Sha're never completely forgotten, while Hathor had raped him and abused Jack.  Others flashed through his mind.  He pictured their faces and heard their taunts in his mind.  He saw Apophis holding the hand of his Sha're as they walked to the Stargate.  He heard Hathor's seductive, “It is time that you become our chosen one.”  He felt Jack's pain at watching Skaara, the boy both cared about, be chosen as the host for Apophis' son.

Daniel let himself get lost in the hate.  It was the only way he could do this.  He let every hurt, every slap, every emotional scar come to the surface.  There would be no mercy in his mind or heart for the horrid Goa'uld he held in his thoughts.  Finally, with his body full of rage for Apophis, Hathor, and the others, he clicked off the safety on the P-90 and fired multiple rounds into the sleeping men.

Then Daniel turned and saw the eighth man running out of the tent to see what had happened.  They locked eyes in the black air, each man unable to see more than just the outline of their opponent.  Somehow, though, their eyes, two pairs of cold eyes, locked onto each other, trying to stare down the other.  

After the man pulled his weapon and moved to go inside the tent, Daniel ran, following him inside.  Just as the man was about to fire the weapon into Jack's body, Daniel called out.  Inside, he had allowed himself a faint hope that one man might live, that he might not have to kill them all, but the man turned and smiled an evil expression.

For a moment, Daniel wanted the man to win the war, to fire his weapon into him.  The archaeologist was afraid the aftermath of his actions would kill him anyway.  He almost begged for the man to fire.

The man laughed as Daniel breathed hard.  

“Coward,” the eighth man spat, as he again aimed the weapon at Jack.  

Daniel fired the P-90, but nothing happened.  He didn't know if it was the firing pin, the ejector, or just a bad round of ammunition that prevented the powerful gun from releasing its deadly projectiles, but his eyes widened in fear that his failure would cost Jack his life.  The eighth man cackled heartily.

“Weakling and weak weapons.  He dies; then you,” the man vowed as he slowly squeezed the triggering device.  

The echo of Daniel's Beretta filled the night air, the weapon now dangling limply from Daniel's fingers.  He had drawn the gun quietly, and fired on his target.  His shot had plunged through the man's side.  

The injured man angled backwards, but didn't fall, now aiming his weapon at Daniel.

Daniel tightened his grip on his own gun and fired round after round through the alien's torso and lungs, and twice where the man's heart would be if he were human.  Finally, his sixth shot pounded through the man's chest.  

In a rage over all he had done and the pain he was sure Jack had suffered at the hands of these men, Daniel grabbed his dagger and slit the dead man's throat.  He began to cry and at the same time, he pounded on the corpse, hitting him over and over again.

“Danny ... Danny ... I ... need you ... Danny,” Jack groaned with painful short breaths.

Daniel stood and stumbled backwards, tears down his cheeks, blood all over his shirt.  

“Danny,” Jack called again, finally getting the young man to come back to reality.

Daniel hurried to the cot and for the first time got a good look at his lover, who was blindfolded.  He'd been shot twice by some sort of projectile weapon.  One discharge had creased Jack's temple, the dried blood all over his face.  The other 'bullet' had lodged in his abdomen, against his ribcage.

The archaeologist untied his lover's hands and feet, and then he undid the blindfold.  He gasped lightly, seeing now that the aliens had beaten his Love.  Jack's eyes were swollen, puffy, and closed.

The colonel had lost a lot of blood.  His lips were dry and his throat was sore from dehydration, having not been given any water since his capture.  He was having a hard time breathing.  His hands and feet had been tied with small scalpel type objects jabbed into his ankles, blood surrounding them.  There was redness there, infection having set in from the open wounds.

“Jack, I'm here now.  I'm going to take you home,” Daniel said softly.  He had intended his words to be strong and firm, like Jack always was when Daniel was hurt, but he couldn't do it.  His heart was too full of anguish for what he saw.  “It's going to be all right, Jack,” he assured, trying desperately to find a safe place to rest his hand against Jack's battered body.

“Danny.”

Daniel grabbed the only water bottle he had and cringed when he realized it had been cut during one of his fights and only a small amount of water remained, but he gently pressed the water against Jack's lips.

“Just a little, Jack.”  The younger man sat for a moment, washing his soulmate's face with dabs of saliva and his own handkerchief and then gave him the few remaining drops of water.  “Jack, where's Sam?”

“Stargate.  Safe.”

Daniel reached for his radio to call Sam, but there was nothing there.  He figured the radio must have fallen off during the struggle with the man in the woods.  Not knowing if other aliens would be following, he didn't think he had time to go looking for it.  He considered it a viable possibility that the radio had been damaged in the fight.  He was also concerned about Jack, and knew he needed to focus on his lover.

The younger man didn't see how, but what he did know was that he needed to get Jack out of there and back home.  There was no safe way to do it, but in his heart, he knew if he didn't try something, Jack would die in the tent.

As the night came to a close, and light once again took over the planet for a new day, Daniel made a travois using the cot and some rope he found.  He tied Jack down, and gave his lover a kiss on the lips.  He cried for a moment, afraid it might be their last kiss.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Love ...” was all Jack got out before lapsing into unconsciousness.

Daniel secured the rigging.  He had the P-90, having ejected the bad round of ammo that had caused the weapon to jam earlier, his now re-loaded Beretta, and the dagger with him.  The food and drink the men were digesting disgusted him.  He was afraid it wasn't compatible for humans, so he left it behind.  He had eaten the last half of his power bar before his attack had begun, but that had been all he had eaten.  He was drained, but determined.

====

Through the rain forest, Daniel dragged his lover, stopping frequently to touch his now-fevered body.  The infection was worse; Jack's ankles were bright red, hot and swollen.  At the end of the day, he had managed to keep his lover alive, but the terrain had been difficult to travel with the travois.

Daniel sank down next to his unconscious colonel, his head on his hands which lightly clung to Jack's midriff.  He didn't know how he could go on.  He had murdered eight men, and Jack was going to die anyway.  As he lost himself in his thoughts, a hand suddenly brushed against his hair.  It was the hand of his lover, whom he cherished beyond all life.

“Danny, we'll be okay.”

Daniel looked up, and amid Jack's pain and Daniel's despair, they lied to each other for about three minutes, about how they'd make it back, and would laugh about this experience next week.

“Love you, Angel.”

“I love you so much, Jack,” Daniel replied emotionally, watching Jack close his eyes again.  “No!” Daniel exclaimed out loud.  “You're not going to die, Jack, not after all this.  No!  No!  No!”

Daniel forced himself up and back into the travois.  Even though he could barely see, he took his lover towards the Stargate.  He had to keep moving.  They didn't have time to wait.

====

After a while, Daniel came across a river where he could wash Jack and wet his lips.  Jack hadn't woke in hours, but he was still alive.

Daniel forced himself to keep going.  His feet were sore and swollen from the pressure of traversing the terrain with the travois, and he was very weak from his lack of food.  He drove himself forward with one thought -- Jack.

It took three days, but, somehow, Daniel reached the Stargate, Jack barely clinging to life.  As the large circle came into view, they were greeted by SGC Marines.  At their sight, Daniel fell unconscious to the ground, his hand touching Jack's.

====

“J'ck?”

Sam smiled.  In the six years she'd known Daniel Jackson, each and every time he awoke from illness, injury, or just being punched and knocked out, the first word that always came out of his mouth was the name he'd just spoken.

“Jack,” Daniel repeated, his breathing hitching.

“Daniel, it's Sam.  You're going to be fine.”

“Jack?”

“The colonel isn't doing so well right now, but Janet's with him.  She's trying to get the infection under control; that's really the worst thing.  He's, um, hanging in there, but he's getting a lot medical support, too.  He'll be okay. ”

Daniel stared at Sam, translating her words -- Jack was fighting for his life and hooked to a bevy of medical machinery, separated from him.  He didn't have anything else to say, and there was nothing more Sam could say to him that mattered, so he checked out and into himself.

====

“Daniel, if you don't eat something, I'll have to hook you up to IV's,” Janet prodded, getting no response.  Daniel hadn't seen Jack since they'd come back through the Stargate, and it had been twenty-four hours.  He hadn't said anything, too lost in the darkness of all that had happened on Troljanda.  “Don't say I didn't try, Daniel,” she advised as she hooked up another IV to the unresisting archaeologist.

====

It was roughly one in the morning, and Janet had gone home for the night, leaving Doctor Warner on duty.  Quietly, Daniel disconnected his IV's and turned off the various medical machines.  Being the SGC's most frequent infirmary visitor had its advantages, including knowing the best time to sneak away and the best sequence for turning things off to avoid detection.

Daniel knew Jack had to be in one of the private rooms.  He covertly checked the halls and opened doors until he found the right one. He walked in and over to the bed and sat on the side, taking Jack's hand in his.

Jack's head and chest were bandaged.  He had a nasal cannula to help him breathe and was hooked up to a slew of other medical machines.  His body was bruised; his ankles still showing signs of infection, but much better than the last time Daniel had seen him.

Daniel didn't say anything; he simply continued to hold his lover's hand.  There was life in that hand, and the continuation of that life which he considered to the most beautiful in the world ensured that Daniel's own life continued.

====

“Doctor Warner, I can't seem to find Doctor Jackson,” the head of the nightshift spoke with alarm.

“Find Doctor Jackson?”

“I went to check his IV and ... he's gone, Doctor.  Should I call Doctor Fraiser?”

“No, Debra.  I'm sure I know where he is.  Why don't you continue on with your schedule?”

“Anything you say, Doctor Warner,” the nurse responded, turning around to resume her other duties.

Two minutes later, Doctor Warner confirmed his suspicions as he slid open the door to ISO Room 2 where Jack O'Neill was.  He saw Daniel holding Jack's hand, returned back to the infirmary, and placed a call.

====

Five minutes later, Sam opened the door to Jack's room and went over to her friend, saying calmly, “Daniel, Janet says he's doing much better now.  She thinks he'll wake up later today.”  Not getting a response, she placed her hand on her friend's shoulder supportively.  “Okay, listen, you can't sit here all night.  You need to rest, so ...”

“I'm not leaving, Sam.”

“I know.  Look, lay down ... um, just lay down, okay.”  Though Daniel faced Sam, blinking a few times, he said nothing.  She smiled.  “Lay down, Daniel, and ... sleep.  It'll be okay.  I'll take care of it.  I promise.”

“Sam?”

“It's okay.  The bullet was on his left side, and the head wound was mostly a scratch.  He won't break, Daniel.  You saved him.  Come on.  Lay down.”

Daniel was unsure, but he wasn't leaving either so he let go of Jack's hand and laid down snugly against Jack; it was the closest they had slept in over a month.

Sam got a couple of blankets from a cabinet and put them on top of her friends.  When Daniel blinked at her for a moment, she smiled again.

“Go to sleep,” Sam instructed gently, turning and walking out the door.

Daniel wasn't sure what Sam was doing, but he didn't care.  He snuggled into Jack and within minutes, he went to sleep.

====

A few hours later, Sam walked back into the room and woke Daniel, warning, “Janet is on her way, Daniel.  You need to get back to your bed.  I'll give you a minute, okay?”

Daniel nodded as Sam helped him up and then exited the room.  He stood up slowly and then leaned over carefully to give his lover a kiss.

“I love you, Jack.  We'll go home soon.  I promise.”

====

Daniel was released from the infirmary two days later, though coming as a surprise to no one, he pretty much remained at Jack's side while the colonel continued his recuperation at the SGC.  A few days after that, Jack was released.

Now, a couple of evenings later, the lovers were sitting up on the roof deck, enjoying the brisk night air.  Jack leaned against the wall, and Daniel leaned against him, enjoying the feel of the older man's wrapping around him.

“Are you sure this doesn't hurt, Jack?”

“Danny, I live to hold you in my arms.  Please don't move,” Jack requested.

“But it hurts.”

“It's a little sore, but I like you right here.  Let me hold you.”

At the SGC, they hadn't talked about the events that had occurred on the planet. Daniel hadn't even wanted to know about the kidnapping and beatings.  He'd just wanted to go home with his lover, safe and sound.  Once home, though, the questions begged for answers, and both men had given them.

Daniel had filled Jack in on every gory, horrific detail of his actions.  He had left nothing out, had spared himself no pain, and had given himself no kindness.

Jack had cringed, knowing Daniel had killed repeatedly for him and understanding that would eat away at his Love's heart forever.  At the same time, he was extremely proud of him for not giving up, for using the skills he had taught him, and for getting them both back to the SGC alive.

The colonel had then explained what had happened on Troljanda.  Sam had needed a specialized 'doo-dad' as he called it when she realized they might have stumbled onto a major find, something stronger than Trinium.

Jack had told the major to go back to the SGC and get whatever she needed.  He felt the potential find was more important than being on time for the negotiations; plus, they had some time to play with.  He was sure Hammond would agree, so Sam had headed back, while Jack had continued to monitor the results, per her instructions.  That's the reason Sam's pack had been gone from the testing area, as she had put it back on for the trip to the Stargate.

About an hour later, the eight-man team had surprised Jack.  The Air Force colonel had tried to fight them off, but he had definitely been out-manned.  Still, he had almost got away until they shot him.  He had tried to stop the bleeding using the only thing he could as he fled -- his cap.  They had managed to catch him only because his knees were not up to a sprint.

Jack had no idea who they were or what they wanted.  They hadn't told him, and while they seemed to know English, they had usually spoken a language unfamiliar to him.  He'd speculated that they might be marauders or some type of guerrilla outfit.  They had gotten their jollies from tormenting Jack, which explained his bruises and the sharp objects in his ankles; it had been their version of Tic Tac Toe, according to the tortured colonel.

Sam had explained that when she returned to the SGC, it had taken longer than she had expected to get the needed equipment, and in addition, General Hammond had been called to a meeting, and she had to wait to talk with him until he returned from the off-site meeting.

When Sam had finally returned and saw the disarray of the test site, she had immediately headed back to the Stargate to get help.  Eventually, they'd found the eight men, but, apparently, had missed crossing paths with Daniel pulling Jack in the travois.  They figured Daniel had already turned towards the river, or simply the cover of the darkened skies made them miss each other.

Teal'c had returned the following day and told Hammond he was sure the eight men were some type of outcasts, forced to live outside the Troljandan caves because of crimes committed.  He had heard tales during his stay about their solution for a peaceful, almost crime-free society.  Apparently, part of their solution was banishment.

--

After fifteen minutes of simply holding and touching each other, Daniel broke their silence.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Special Ops.  When you lived that life, is this what it was like?”

~Mental torture.~  Jack closed his eyes and squeezed Daniel to him.  He hated the Fates right now.  “Usually, but you have to shut it out, Danny, or it will take over your life.”

Ten more minutes of silence filled the air before Daniel spoke, calling out a quiet, “Jack?”

Jack kissed Daniel's nape and then replied, “What, Love?”

“Is what I did ... is that what you did ... a lot?”

Now, the colonel cursed the Fates.  He didn't want to think about this stuff anymore.  He didn't want Daniel to know, though they had talked much more than they should have about the things from his Black Ops past.  Cold-blooded murder, even in the name of one's country, was hard.  He was afraid Daniel would hate him, or maybe still love him, but not be able to live with him, if he knew the grueling details of what being a good little soldier could mean.

More than anything, Jack hated that Daniel now understood first hand what that life was like.  He swallowed hard.  A little lie -- would it be that bad, he wondered.

“Jack?”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Daniel, I never wanted you to know all of this.  Gawd, I'd do anything to keep you from knowing.”

“But we don't lie to each other,” Daniel responded sternly.  ~Don't start now.  Please.  I need ... truth.~

“No, we don't,” Jack sighed.  ~Crap.  He needs to deal with this.  O'Neill, put him first.  Deal with the truth.~

“So, is this what it was like?  Is that what you did?” Daniel questioned, needing to know.

“Sometimes.  Yes, more than I want to remember, and more than I ... yes.”

“Do you ever forget?” the younger man asked, hoping for an answer he feared wouldn't come.

“No,” Jack answered, his response a long, drawn out sigh.

“How do you live with yourself?” Daniel asked, not intending to be cruel; he was trying to figure out how to survive.  ~I need to know how you do it.~

Jack took his biggest breath yet, answering, “I remember that I had no choice; that what I did was for the greater good; that in the end, lives were saved, even if lives were also taken.  Mostly, I think about you, and how much I love you, and that somehow, maybe if I can keep you safe and ... gawd, Danny.  You're my redemption, my something good, and look what I've done to you now.”

“You didn't do anything, Jack,” Daniel said, taking hold of his lover's hands and holding them firmly in his.

“I made bad choices.”

Daniel turned around, sitting on his knees between Jack's legs.  He cupped his soulmate's face in his hands and kissed him.

“Jack, tell me the truth,” Daniel began.  “You knew the ruins were there, right?”

Jack let out a tiny smile, nodding and affirming, “Yes, and I let you go, which was probably the best mistake I ever made because it kept you safe.”

As they gazed into each other's eyes, a healing finally began for both men.

“Danny, do you know what you did?  And I don't mean the horror part of it, but I hope you realize how proud I am of you.  You did everything right, Love.  Your instincts were right -- everything, and to top it off, you saved my life.  By all rights, I should have died out there, and with anyone else watching my back, I would have.

“Look, I don't want you to remember killing those men.  I wish I could wipe it from your mind, but even if you throw that out, look at what you did!  You made that travois, carted me over difficult terrain for days, and you kept me alive, cleaned my wounds, got me water, and got us both to the Stargate, alive.  You did that, Danny -- just you.  And according to the Doc, if you had waited for Carter and the others, the infection would have killed me.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, you're a strong, capable man, with a determination that gives you such an edge when you have to fight.  There aren't many people out there I would trust with my life, but you're one of them, and you made me proud.  Don't you ever forget how you saved my life.”

“I'm so sorry.”

“Sorry?  For crying out loud, Daniel, what on Earth are you sorry for?”

“For doubting myself, and for doubting us.  I just ... lost my way for awhile.”

Jack sighed in amazement and replied, “Listen to me, my beautiful geek.  You are a wonder.  There's not a wimpy bone in your body.  You were outnumbered, Danny.  There's not a thing you could have done to get yourself out of that mess at the mall.  Do you hear me?  Nothing!  Not one single thing, and I couldn't have either if they had singled me out.  You're strong, and you're smart, and I don't mean that genius stuff, I mean you're smart about how to fight and when to fight.  You pick your battles, and that's not a bad thing.”

“I hurt you, Jack.  I pushed you away.”

“I didn't go anywhere; never will.  You are so stuck with me, Daniel -- forever.”

“You got me, forever and always my sexy Silver Fox,” Daniel said, mirroring a statement that his Heart had said to him that morning in the cabin two days after the attack.

Daniel leaned in for their most passionate kiss in a month.  Neither wanted it to end, so they kept inventing ways for it to continue, breathing only when they had to.  Daniel moaned as his hands lingered on Jack's neck.  Finally, they broke apart.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“How much does it hurt?”

With a grin, Jack answered, “Not that much.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that you could make me feel no pain at all, if you put your mind to it.”

“I do all the work.”

“I've missed you so much, Angel,” Jack spoke, his eyes shining in the joy of their love.

Daniel found Jack's lips again; then said, “You have no idea, Jack.  I was such a jerk.”

“You were just confused for a while, a victim of those monsters.”

“I'm back now, if you can forgive me.”

“There's nothing to forgive.  Nothing,” Jack whispered as he devoured his lover's mouth.

====

While Daniel was the first to return to duty at the SGC, soon enough Jack returned as well, initially being placed on light duty before being given the green light to return to full, active duty.

At home, the lovers reminded themselves of just how compatible they really were, making love often, and almost gluing themselves to each other as if making up for the weeks of lost time.

Finally, things at the SGC were pretty much back to normal.  Perhaps equally as important as Jack's physical recovery was the return of Daniel's confidence in himself.  His faith had come back, as well.

The younger man still had a difficult time with what he'd done, but the clincher was the realization that if he were ever put back into the same situation, knowing the outcome, he'd do it all over again, without a moment's hesitation.  He would always protect Jack first and foremost.  He'd always known that, but he never knew the extent or extreme that he'd go through to keep his Heart safe until now.

Daniel also had a new awareness of his lover.  He realized just how difficult it was for Jack to live each day as fully as he was.  For the first time, he truly understood what was behind Jack's witty sarcasm, and why his lover had such a need to play.  It was a survival tool and a defense mechanism.

The archaeologist would never again criticize Jack's inappropriate sarcasm as he had once called it, at least not for real, because he now understood first hand how important a tool that was in getting through a day when, maybe, life was a little tougher than normal.

Jack had made Daniel talk a lot about what happened, his feelings, and what it meant.  It had been extremely taxing on the younger man, but, in the end, he had felt better for sorting through his conflicting emotions.

Daniel had made a silent vow that one day, he was going to get Jack to open up more about what he'd done in his past.  Jack had shared some things, but now, he knew there was much more that needed to be talked about.

On this particular day, Jack wandered into Daniel's office, locking the door behind him and turning off the security equipment.

“Jack, I have to get this done.”

“And I need to get this done,” Jack said, pulling Daniel off his chair, into his arms, and practically inside his skin.

“Wow, Jack.  You're such a good kisser,” Daniel teased, as if the two had never engaged in that particular activity.

“Practice with my precious Angel, who's the absolute best everything,” Jack declared as he kissed him again.

“I love you, Jack, but ...”

“Yeah, I know.  Me, too, but I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.  It's been,” Daniel checked his watch, “a whole two hours, seven minutes, and twenty-two seconds since you were here last.”

Jack laughed as he caressed Daniel's cheek, asking, “You trying to tell me something, like get lost?”

Daniel shook his head and responded, “No, I'm trying to ask what took you so long?”

“Briefing at 1400 hours.  Don't forget.”

“I won't.  Lunch?”

“Can't,” the colonel sighed with regret.  “Hammond wants me in some drab meeting.”

“I could wait,” Daniel suggested hopefully.

With a sad groan, Jack answered, “Won't have time, Danny.  Grab Sam.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“Love you, Danny, so friggin' much.”

====

Daniel took his tray to a corner table in the commissary.  Sam and Teal'c both had other obligations, so he was on his own.  As he tasted his soup, he heard something that ran a chill down his spine, but he couldn't place it.  Laughter from another table drew his attention.  A group of Marines were gathered.  He recognized a few of them, but not all.

The SGC had a constant turnaround of airmen and Marines.  The program was constantly expanding, and recruits were funneled through to SG teams, the Alpha Site, and Area 51.  To remain stationed with the program meant that you were truly the cream of the crop.  With the continuing changes in personnel, there were always new personnel circulating the hallways.

Daniel saw Lou Ferretti walk in.  Lou waved and started to walk over to the archaeologist, but was waylaid by the group of Marines that occupied the two tables across the room.  Lou seemed at ease with the men and sat down at one of their tables.  Daniel shrugged.  He'd have to make do with just himself and his lunch on this day.

--

Having finished his meal, Daniel discarded his tray and started to exit when Lou called out, “Hey, Doc.  Have you met the latest victims of the SGC?”

“No, I guess I haven't.”

“Guys, this is the resident genius, Doctor Daniel Jackson.  Knows more than all of us combined.”

“Come on, Lou, you're exaggerating,” one man spoke.

“Yeah, right,” another of the Marines smirked.

“Doc, this is John Maxim, Roy Bingham, and the smarty pants over there is Phil Whitehead,” Lou introduced jovially.

Daniel shook hands with John and Roy, and then with Phil, but when he did, that chill ran down him again.  There was something in the man's eyes, a sound in his voice that made him uneasy.

~Maybe I'm just tired and overly sensitive, considering everything that's happened recently,~ Daniel thought before excusing himself and walking away.

Lou took off a few minutes later, but the three new recruits remained in the mess hall.

--

Halfway back to his office, Daniel realized he had forgotten his book that he had taken with him to the commissary, thinking he might read a while, but he never did.  Returning to the commissary, he heard the men laughing.

“I can't believe that homo geek works for the SGC.  We gotta do something about that,” Whitehead said.

Bingham added, “You don't think he recognized any of us, do you?”

“No way.  He's not so smart,” Whitehead responded.

Daniel backed away, unseen, and headed for his office.

====

At the lovers' home two days later, Jack was outside, having just finished mowing the lawn.  He didn't know why, but Daniel had suffered a relapse, closing himself off again.  Doing the yard work gave Jack a non-violent release for his anger and frustration.

Jack put the lawn mower back in the shed and turned on the hose to grab a drink of water to quench his thirst.  When he turned it off and stood back up, Daniel was there, in his self-hug protective pose, staring at him.

“Danny?”

“Jack, I need to tell you something, but I also need you to promise me something, too.”

“Let's go in the house,” Jack suggested, not waiting for a response and knowing that whatever the topic was, it was serious.

Daniel walked inside, following Jack, and closed the door.

Jack leaned against the arm of the sofa, his arms folded as he spoke, “Okay, I'm listening.”

“I need you, Jack, and I know what you're going to want to do, but I can't let  you because ... I love you, and I need you ...”

“You already said that.”

“But I do, Jack,” Daniel stated with certainty.  He walked into his lover's personal space and cupped his face in his hands.  “You never understand how much I need you.  I killed for you, and as much as I hate that, I know I'd do it again.  No doubt in my mind that I would; but, you see, because I know that, and how that feels, I can't let you do it for me again.  I won't, Jack.”

“Danny, I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Jack, I want you to promise me that you won't ...”  Daniel hesitated.  He didn't want to say it.  He'd been struggling with this for two days, and there were no easy answers.  All that mattered to him, though, was protecting Jack from himself.  He kissed his lover softly and took his hands in his.  “Promise me, Babe, that you won't do anything I don't agree to.  Promise me, that we'll talk about it and make the decision together.  Promise me.”

“Danny, give me a clue here.”

“Promise me, Jack.”

“Okay, Danny, I promise.  We talk about everything anyway,” Jack stated.

“Not this, not before, but we do now, Jack.  Promise.”

“I promise I'll listen, Danny.  That's all I can do,” Jack responded, his Daniel alarm blaring with every insistence that he remain calm and talk whatever the problem was out.

With a nod, Daniel revealed, “I know who some of them are.”

Jack tensed as he stood up, asking incredulously, “What?”

His hands dropping to his side from his lover's movement, Daniel questioned, “Jack, do you remember what I said when it happened?  I mean, how I described them?”

“Well-built, military types,” Jack said hesitantly.

Daniel nodded, and Jack knew what that meant without asking.  He pulled away from his partner and paced.  He wanted to kill them, and now he knew why Daniel had insisted on the promise.

“I have to protect you, Jack, just like you protect me, so I'm holding you to that promise.”

“I only said I'd listen, Daniel.”

“It was more, Jack, and you know it.”

Though Jack nodded, he still needed a bit of space to get a grip on his emotions.  He paced as he fought his rising blood pressure.  He so wanted to tear those monsters into shreds.  He was having a hard time keeping control, and then he glanced at Daniel -- his lover, his soulmate -- self-hugging, scared, worried, not about himself, but about Jack.

The older man scolded himself for being so wrapped up in his own need for revenge, that he had forgotten that he wasn't the victim.  Daniel was, and Daniel needed his support, not his anger, and definitely not his frustrated need to avenge his hurt.  He resolved to do whatever his soulmate needed to get them both through the rest of the nightmare.

“Ah, Danny, I'm a jerk again,” Jack confessed as he rushed to his partner.  “Maybe someday I'll get this right.”  Holding Daniel close, he asked, “Are you okay, Angel?  Tell me.”

“It was some of the new ...”

“No, Danny, that's not what I mean.  I want to know what you feel.  I want you to tell me what you need from me to get us whole again.”

Daniel's eyes grew misty as he leaned into Jack's embrace, and he spoke honestly when he said, “I think you just did it, Jack.”

Jack had put aside his own desires, putting Daniel's first.  That fact meant more than anything to the younger man.  Now, he knew they'd get through this, and both he and his Love would be safe.

====

“And you're sure, Doctor Jackson?” General Hammond questioned, his expression serious as he sat behind his desk, his hands clasped tightly together.

“Yes, Sir.  It wouldn't hold up in court, but I am positive,” Daniel asserted confidently as he sat with his arms folded in one of the chairs in Hammond's office.

“Very well.  Take care of it, Colonel,” the major general ordered.

“With pleasure, General,” Jack replied as he stood at the corner of the man's desk, his hands in his pockets.

“Jack,” the bald-headed man called out with concern.

“Don't worry, General.  I promised Daniel I wouldn't kill them,” Jack confessed.

“Jaaaack.”

“Just speaking the truth, Daniel.  Let's go,” Jack said with a nod towards the door, ushering his lover out of the office, leaving the general shaking his head at the antics of his 2IC and Head of Archaeology.

~Congratulations, Jack.  You got our boy back.  I wish it wasn't always so hard on him, though.~

====

“Oh, I don't think so, Fly Boy,” Daniel said as he escaped the grasp of his lover.

It was a couple of days later, and the lovers were outside in their backyard.  It was about 4 p.m., and they had done their yard work for the week, and now they were two little boys at play.

“You might be able to run faster than me, Rock Boy, but you can't hide.”

“I don't need to.  You'll never catch me,” Daniel laughed scooting out of Jack's reach again.

“You are so going to eat those words, my little linguist.”

“Not little.  Didn't we have that discussion already Jack?  I can have Janet do an official measurement, if you like.”

“That's it.  You're mine.”

The shirtless Daniel laughed again, “Only if you catch me,” as he sought to dart by his lover.

Surprisingly, Jack caught a piece of Daniel's jeans, causing his prize to tumble onto the grass.

Jack laughed smugly and crawled up to Daniel, rolling him onto his back.  He was expecting to start a kissing session, but suddenly the younger man grinned, causing him to feel alarmed for a moment.  Then he realized why.

In his hand, Daniel held the hose.  Turning it on, he thoroughly doused his soulmate, who scooted away hurriedly, trying to escape the 'rain'.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Daniel.  Turn it off.”

“You have to catch me first, Wet Boy,” Daniel teased.

“Oh, Doctor Jackson.  You are so going to eat those words.”

“Actually, I was thinking about eating something else, Jack.”

Daniel batted his eyelashes, causing Jack to sneer as he lunged forward unexpectedly, tackling his laughing lover to the ground.  They were both in hysterics, their arms around each other.

“Geez, Danny, what you do to me.  I love you.”

The couple kissed, and Daniel kept Jack close to him as he spoke, “I love you so much, Jack.  Gawd, I still can't believe you did that.  It was perfect, absolutely friggin' perfect.”

“Hey, that's my word.”

Jack's hand caressed Daniel's face.  They had both finally healed from their battle scars of the last six weeks.  They might never go away completely, but they had a handle on them now.  More importantly, they were happy and so very much in love.

“How about a shower?  We're all dirty now,” Jack observed.

“A shower sounds good.  I'll watch your six,” Daniel said with a smile.

“You always do, Danny, and I'm alive because of it.  Thank you,” Jack said seriously.

The lovers kissed again and then went upstairs to 'discuss' their love some more.

====

Meanwhile, on a small planetoid SG-1 had visited briefly, John Maxim, Roy Bingham, and  Phil Whitehead argued over the disbursement of their supplies.

“I thought you said this was a prime mission to volunteer for,” Maxim complained to Whitehead.

“That's what I had heard.  I don't understand this.  I overheard them talking.  This should be a paradise,” the man replied.

“This isn't my idea of a paradise, Whitehead,” Bingham whined.

“Well, get used to it.  We're here for two years,” Whitehead groused.

“I can't believe this.  I'd rather be at Elmendorf peeling potatoes,” Maxim spoke.

The three Marines had volunteered for this prime detail after Phil Whitehead 'eavesdropped' on a conversation between Jack O'Neill and Lou Ferretti.  Jack had been trying to convince Lou to volunteer for it with him, claiming it was a paradise beyond belief.  The two had done an amazing acting job during the staged scene, and Whitehead had bought every word.

As a result, the three men had been reassigned as cultural liaisons to the inhabitants of PR4-291, a small but quaint planet where the citizens believed in the basics.  They had practically no comforts or luxuries, and the three volunteers would be required to assist in their normal routine, planting, harvesting, using scrub boards to do their laundry, and other mundane but necessary daily chores.

Teal'c had been assigned as the liaison to the liaisons.  He personally escorted the trio to their new home, a small hut in need of a roof, the original one having been blown away by the last storm.  Teal'c assured the three he would be checking on them frequently.  He also made it clear that the inhabitants were special to him, and that it would be very bad if any of them became ill or injured during the cultural exchange with the Tau'ri.

--

As the sun set in Colorado Springs, Jack and Daniel were making love, full of peace and ready to tackle their forever together.

--

As the sun set on PR4-291, John, Roy, and Phil sat in the circle of honor with the inhabitants of the planetoid, a place occupied by a race called the Mengali, a highly intelligent race of men, who dated and married other men and had children, biologically, something their bodies were designed for.

“Two years, Whitehead.  Two f-ing years.”

Phil Whitehead shook his head in disbelief.  It was going to be a very long two years.

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