The Need of Two

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Major Angst, H/C, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17 (for subject matter)
Season:  2
Spoilers:  Need, Hathor, Prisoners
Size:  197kb
Written:  October 7,16-26,28, November 11-12, 2004  Revised for consistency:  January 20, 2007
Summary:  Daniel suffers withdrawal from the sarcophagus, and it's up to Jack to get his lover through a very difficult recovery, but will Jack's own traumatic past catch up to him?  Just who will end up taking care of who?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Warning: this fic includes potentially sensitive subject matter re: Jack's time in an Iraqi prison.  Readers know I will only get “so” graphic, but anyone terribly squeamish should be forewarned.
2) Hanky warning!
3) 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.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Backlash”
6) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, QuinGem, Linda, Kat, Drdjlover, Alison!

The Need of Two
by Orrymain

“Colonel, you can't do this,” Janet called out after the fleeing Air Force Colonel.

“Oh, yes, I can, and I am,” Jack said, turning and marching out of the general infirmary, heading for Daniel's private room.

“No, you ... Colonel, please stop,” the petite doctor requested.

Directly on her heels was Doctor MacKenzie, the psychology expert, who indignantly shouted, “You are not going to touch that man, Colonel, or I'll have you restrained.”

Jack was practically running through the corridor.  Hearing the two doctors, he stopped and turned.

“Look, he doesn't want to be here.  He's a civilian.  Daniel can go wherever he wants, and he wants to go h...” Jack paused, realizing what he had been about to say, that Daniel wanted to go home, only the home Jack meant was his house, not Daniel's apartment.  “Doc, it's his choice,” he said, looking at Janet and ignoring MacKenzie whom he didn't like or trust.

“He's suffering through withdrawal, Colonel.  You have no idea what he's going through, and it's only the beginning.  You're not equipped to do that at Daniel's apartment.”

“I'm taking him to my place, Janet.  I'll take care of him.”

“Colonel O'Neill, I don't have time for this.  As a physician on this base, I have certain rights, and since Doctor Jackson is one of my patients, I can say this.  Colonel, I order you to stay away from Doctor Jackson.  He is not to leave this base.”  MacKenzie looked at Janet.  “Doctor Fraiser, I have an appointment at the hospital I can't miss.  I'll let you handle things from this point, but I expect my orders to be respected.”

“Moron,” Jack mouthed quietly as the doctor departed.

“Colonel, Doctor MacKenzie aside, it's in Daniel's best interest to remain at the SGC.  He's at a critical point in his recovery.  I cannot condone his discharge at this time.”

“I'm taking him to my house, and I'll take care of him,” Jack reiterated calmly.

“And when did you become a physician?  Daniel needs medical care: qualified medical care.  You can't just whisk him out of here with medication you're not qualified to dispense and ...”

“He wants out.”

“No, Colonel.  I won't allow you to do this.”

“You don't have a say in the matter.”

“Colonel O'Neill, I do have a say in this, and not only can I not in good conscience release Daniel, but I won't.  While he may not be military, he is contractually bound to the military, and due to the nature of the Stargate Program, I *am* running this show.”

“You or MacKenzie?”

“Sarcasm isn't going to help right now.  Daniel is staying here.”

“He *wants* to go home ... you know that.  His apartment is too small, so we're going to my house.  End of story.”

“I don't think General Hammond will allow that, either,” Janet threatened subtly.

“Doctor Fraiser, I am taking Daniel out of here ... now, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.”

“But there's something I can do, Colonel.  What's going on?” Hammond asked, clearly not happy at the feud being played out in the corridors of the SGC.

“General, Daniel doesn't want to be here.  He doesn't feel ... comfortable.  He wants to overcome this thing without an audience, at home, and I intend to let him do that.”

“Jack, I know you and Doctor Jackson are close, but in this situation, I think Doctor Fraiser's opinion should prevail.”

“And my opinion is that Doctor Jackson should, and *needs*, to remain at the SGC for round-the-clock care.”

“No,” Jack stated stubbornly yet calmly as he moved towards Daniel's room.

Hammond glanced at Janet.  Although he was not surprised that Jack was upset by the situation, he was surprised at Jack's determination to go the extra mile for Daniel.  Silently, the two followed Jack into Daniel's room.  Daniel was restrained on the bed, for his protection and others.

“He's tied down like an animal.  Tell me, Doctor Fraiser, how is this helping him?” Jack demanded.

“J'ck?  JACK!”

“I'm right here, Daniel; so is the general.  Daniel, tell General Hammond what you want.”

Daniel was breathing heavily, sweat pouring down his body.  He tried to focus on Hammond, but saw only a blur.  He searched again for Jack.

“Home ... Jack.  I want to go home.”

“Daniel,” Janet said, approaching the side of the bed.  “The Colonel isn't qualified to ...”

“Please ... home ... now.  Jack?”

Hammond moved closer and said as gently as he could, “I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson, but I can't allow Colonel O'Neill to go against the advice of Doctor Fraiser.”

The tiny sob from Daniel at the general's words broke Jack's heart.

“General ...”

“Colonel, I order you to get some sleep.  Maybe in the morning you'll be able to see things a little more clearly.”

“Sir ...”

“Dismissed, Colonel.”

“I'm sorry, General.  I'm taking Daniel now.”

Jack untied Daniel's restraints, pulled his lover up, and removed the IV shunt.  When Janet moved to try and stop him, he fixed her in place with one of his infamous death stares.  She froze and looked at Hammond who seemed stunned into inaction by his 2IC's blatant disregard of a direct order.
 
The Colonel pulled Daniel up onto his feet, supporting the young man as much as possible, and walked out the door, completely ignoring Janet's demands that he stop.  Unfortunately for the lovers, Hammond regained his senses, picked up the phone, and seconds later, Jack found himself surrounded by a group of Marines.

“Home, J'ck.”

“Colonel,” Hammond said as he walked into Jack's sights.  “Don't make this harder than it has to be.

Helplessly, Jack looked at Daniel, then back at the Marines.  He had no choice, so reluctantly, he released Daniel to the care of the medical team and watched as they carted him away.

**I'll be back.**

**NO! Don't leave me here!**

In his most authoritative voice, Hammond spoke, “Colonel, I want you to follow my orders.  Go home, get some sleep, and tomorrow we'll look at options.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack droned as he backed away and headed for his office.  

Jack O'Neill was an unhappy man who was very angry at the world.  Daniel was his lover, but he had no legal rights or claims.  He couldn't even make the arguments that might help convince Janet and Hammond to let him care for the younger man without risking a jail sentence.  He sighed, wondering if he was even thinking clearly.  He loved Daniel, and right now, following Daniel's wishes was the most important thing in the world, even though part of him knew Janet was right; there was a risk.

Feeling miserable and defeated, Jack sat down in his chair and stared into the darkness.  His mind wandered back to a few hours earlier when he had chased Daniel into a storeroom after the younger man had broken free of his restraints and run from his private room.

It had been touch and go, but Jack finally got through to his lover, and then he had made him a promise.  Daniel had begged Jack to take him home, and Jack assured him he would.

~It's not going to be easy.  We need medication.  No, cold turkey.  You're going to hate me, but then you'll love me again.  That's how it goes when your world is controlled by stimulants.  Reality becomes a blur, but I'll help you to focus again.  You're counting on me, Danny, and I won't let you down.~

Jack looked up towards the ceiling.

~Okay, if You are ... You, could You help me out here?  He doesn't deserve this misery.  I'm not sure I can do it, but I have to.  Give me a hand, will ya ... if You are ... You.~

====

It was 3 a.m., and a light but chilly breeze filtered through Colorado Springs.  It was a calm night, with no signs of rain or snow on the horizon, but at fifty-three degrees, it was still cold.  At a stoplight, Jack glanced up at the moon.  It wasn't full, but it was close.  It loomed over him, seemingly lighting his way as he drove the winding road leading to the Mountain and calmly went through the security gate to the parking area assigned to SGC personnel.

Fall was coming at a rapid pace, and Jack had looked forward to sharing this new season with his lover.  His lover ... his Daniel.  It was all so new, but it felt more right than anything Jack had ever done in his life.  His dream had come true amid the heat of the summer while wishing upon a falling star, and he'd make sure that in the fall of their first year as a couple, Daniel was safe and protected in his arms, no matter what the cost.

The base was as quiet as it would ever be in a place that functioned twenty-fours a day.  Jack sat quietly in his truck, waiting.  His mind raced back to the cause of their current predicament.

~It was my fault; I didn't make sure my team was clear, and you're the one paying the price, Danny; the man I love most in life.  My fault.~

//Flashback//
Inside the dark and damp mine, the weary members of SG-1 were close to the breaking point as they used their picks and tools to search for naquadah.  Daniel, in particular, was exhausted.

The exhausted archaeologist sat down on a rock stating, “I can't move anymore.”

A loud horn sounded, and the Jaffa in charge ordered the prisoners to put down their tools.  Other Jaffa began to unshackle the prisoner's leg irons, beginning with Sam and then Teal'c.  As Jack's were removed, he exchanged barbs with the Jaffa in charge.  They'd argued before, and Jack was anxious to get some revenge for the Jaffa's attitude.

As they stood, Jack saw their chance.  He hit the guard.  Teal'c, who had not put down his picking tool, used it to knock out the guard standing next to him, and then tossed it like a knife through the air, taking out yet another of their Jaffa guards.  Jack picked up a staff weapon and fired at the last of their captors that were nearby.

“Let’s go.  Let’s go,” the colonel ordered anxiously.

“This way,” Teal'c announced, leading the way out.

Jack and Sam followed.

~Where's Daniel?~  “Let’s go, Daniel!” Jack shouted.

Daniel had simply sat and watched the entire escape play out.  He had been caught off guard and was stunned by their success.  Normally, it wouldn't have affected him, but he was so exhausted that his muscles ached, and he was still in his leg irons.

~Why now?  I can't move.  My legs hurt.  Gawd, I'm still chained up.  Go Jack.  Get away.~  “I’m coming!”  ~I'll never make it, but you go.~

As Daniel struggled to move and escape with his teammates, a group of Jaffa entered the area and opened fire.  A direct hit to some unstable rocks high up on the wall brought the lot tumbling down, and all SG-1 could see was Daniel being swallowed up by a mound of rocks.

~NO!  Danny, what have I done?~  Jack's heart stopped when he turned and realized what had happened.  He ran back to the pile of stone and frantically began to take them away, one by one, until he finally saw his injured lover.  ~Danny, I love you; I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.~

The young man was alive, but unconscious.  Jack ordered Sam and Teal'c to keep going, but it was too late.  The Jaffa were blocking their exodus.

“Help me, Teal'c,” Jack cried out as they worked to free Daniel.

“Daniel?” Jack asked, taking the young man into his arms.

“He needs help,” Sam pleaded with their captors, seeing her friend's current state.

“He will die,” one of the Jaffa said heartlessly.  “Attempt to escape again, and you will all die.”

Jack lay Daniel gently down and jumped up, attacking the Jaffa.  He shoved his enemy against the wall.

“You have to help him.”

The Jaffa stared indignantly at Jack, but then another entered and spoke in a different language.

As they knelt by Daniel, Teal'c translated for Sam.

“He is warning the other of the Princess' interest in DanielJackson.  She is fond of him and might not appreciate hearing of his death.  They have sent for her.”

“Sir, maybe the Princess can help Daniel,” Sam called out.

“I should let him die,” the Jaffa said, his back still against the wall.

Jack released him, needing and wanting only one thing -- for Daniel to live.

Moments later, Shyla appeared, looking uncomfortable in the setting.  She saw Daniel's limp body.

“Quickly, take him to the palace.”

“Oh, I don't think so.”

“We can help him.  I have something that will make him better.”

Jack didn't like the idea of Daniel being subjected to alien technology.  His mind searched for an 'or' to save his lover.

~Isn't there a doctor on this lunatic planet?~

“It is the only way,” the black-haired maiden insisted.

“Sir.  He's dying.  She's right.”

Jack turned and stared at his lover.

“Take him,” he said, and then he looked at Shyla and gave her an evil stare.  “If he dies, I won't rest until you die, too.”

A punch in the abdomen brought Jack to the ground.

“Do not speak to the Princess in that manner.”

Jack went to say something to her, but she had already left, following the Jaffa who were carrying Daniel out the other way.

“CAN'T TAKE THE HEAT, PRINCESS?  WELCOME TO THE SLUMS!”  ~I'll kill her, the little witch.~  The Jaffa kicked Jack in the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him for a few moments as he rolled on the dirt ground.  ~Live, Danny.  What did I do?  How could I have made such an error in judgment?~

Sam rushed to Jack once all the Jaffa were gone.

“Sir?”

Jack crawled to sit against the wall.

“Leave me alone, Carter.”

“You didn't have a choice, Colonel.  Daniel needed medical attention.”

“I SAID LEAVE ME ALONE!”

“Yes, Sir.”

Sam got up and rejoined Teal'c who gave her a nod.

“He is most worried about DanielJackson.”

“So am I, Teal'c.  So am I.”
//End of Flashback//

~I was in such a hurry; I let my emotions control me.  The taunts.  I shouldn't have let him get the best of me like that.  It's just ... being in another prison.  It was a reminder.  Idiot!  You're an idiot, O'Neill!~

“Jack ...” Lou said quietly as he tapped on the window.

Jack started at the intrusion.  He was breathing hard from his trip down nightmare lane, and it took him a moment to regroup, but finally, he rolled down his window and looked at his good friend and former teammate, Lou Ferretti.

“You don't have to do this, Lou.  There's a lot at stake here.”

“We're wasting time, Jack.”

Jack paused for just a few seconds and then exited the truck.  He looked around and spoke softly.

“You could be court-martialed for helping me.”

“Jack, are we doing this, or do you want to stay and chit-chat until breakfast?”

“Thanks, Lou,” Jack said.

Jack needed help, and he had turned to the only other person he felt he could really trust.  He'd known Ferretti for several years, and they had gone on the original mission to Abydos together.  Had it not been for Charles Kawalsky, Ferretti would probably have been considered Jack's best friend, and now, their friendship was closer than ever.

Although Lou didn't know about Jack's love affair with Daniel, he knew the two were close friends, and while the Major had had a rocky start with Daniel on that first Abydos mission, they'd become friends of a sort as well.  Daniel still considered Lou Jack's friend, but he liked the man a lot.  Jack knew the archaeologist would never believe just how much Lou had come to respect him.

When Jack had called Lou earlier and requested his help, Lou hadn't hesitated, even though it could result in a court-martial.  It wasn't just being caught that was risky; it was the entire setup.  Hammond would know what had happened; security tapes would reveal it, and there would be little doubt as to the identity of Daniel's main kidnapper but Jack figured once it was done, Hammond would reluctantly give in; at least, that's what he was hoping.

“Let's go.”
 
====

The two friends made their way to the infirmary.  As they'd anticipated, the corridors were practically deserted, but one thing that had surprised them was the lackadaisical demeanor of the serviceman manning the security check-in.  He wasn't paying a lot of attention to the comings and goings of the personnel.

Although they weren't yet hiding their presence in the SGC, Jack didn't approve of the yawns or nonchalant manner of the guard.

~I'll have to fix that ... later,~ Jack thought after clearing the check-in.

Still, it would prove helpful in a few minutes.

Once on the correct level, Jack motioned towards the private room where Daniel was.  After a quick check of the surrounding area, Jack had established that Doctor Warner was working on something in his office.  He covertly watched two of the nurses head out of the infirmary on break, and the only other nurse currently working in the area was checking on a patient in the general infirmary.

~Where in blazes is that idiot?~

Jack stewed.  Even though it made things easier for him now, there was supposed to be an airman guarding Daniel's door, only the airman was nowhere in sight.  He made a silent note to reprimand the missing private at another point in time.

Nodding to Lou, Jack entered the private room.

“What the ...” Jack looked around, checking out every part of the room.

Hearing the exclamation, Lou sneaked a peek inside, expecting to see both Jack and Daniel.

“Jack, where's the Doc?”

“That's what I'd like to know!” Jack growled.

“Jack, look,” Lou said, drawing his friend's attention to the fact that one of the wrist restraints at the side of the bed was frayed.

Jack moved to examine it more closely, as well as the one opposite it.

“He must have been trying to get out of this all day.”

Jack also noticed the power to the monitors had been turned off.

~Smart boy.  Turn them off so they don't set off any alarms.~

Despite his worry, Jack couldn't help but admire Daniel's determination and ingenuity.

“Where do you think he went?” Lou asked.

Jack shook his head.

“We didn't pass him on the way in, so he had to go another route.”  ~I'm going to kill that airman ... oh geez, I hope Daniel didn't hurt someone else.  He'll never forgive himself if he has.  It's going to be hard enough to get him past knocking down Fraiser.~  **Daniel?  Are you out there?  Talk to me!**  ~Crap, nothing.~  “Come on, Lou.”

Lou followed Jack into the corridor, closing the door to Daniel's room behind them.  The two walked the area, looking for signs of Daniel.  Hearing footsteps, Jack and Lou ducked into a storage room.  They didn't want to be seen or get sidetracked.

Jack looked out the crack of the door and watched as the airman took his place in front of Daniel's room.

Lou chuckled.

“Jack, we're gonna have to do something about these bozos they're sending us.  That guy doesn't even know he's guarding an empty room.”

“He will ... later.”

Jack's tone was icy cold, and Lou almost felt sorry for the airman -- almost.

~Of course, knowing that he's guarding the Doc, he should have been more alert.  You'd think the Marines would have learned by now: anything happens to Jack's archaeologist, and facing Apophis unarmed would seem like a picnic compared to facing Jack.~

They resumed their search, finding all of the access shafts properly sealed.

“Jack, the door to the stairwell; it's ajar.”

The stairs weren't often used at the SGC, but like any facility, backups to elevators were needed.

“He went topside,” Jack thought out loud.  ~Of course, Danny loves it up there.~

Jack nodded towards the stairs, and Lou followed him as they began the long trek to the top of the Mountain.

“This is my exercise for the month, Jack,” Lou wisecracked.

“Just look for signs of Daniel; any signs.”  A few flights up, Jack sighed. “I don't believe this.”

Lying on one of the steps was an IV bag, half full, together with the needle that went into the patient.

“I guess the Doc got tired of lugging it around.”

“He's not thinking clearly, Lou.  We have to find him,” Jack said, his voice pained. He had seen a few droplets of blood on the stairs, too, which he assumed was from Daniel roughly pulling out the needle.  Jack ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.  ~I never should have left his bedside, no matter what Hammond said.  You could hurt yourself, Danny.~

“It's cold out there, Jack,” Lou said, a worried look in his eyes.

Jack nodded, and they continued their climb up.  As they neared the top, they took a chance and peeked out into a hallway and finding it empty, made their way to the nearest access shaft hatch.  They lucked out, finding one that was partly open, something Daniel would not have done if he were thinking rationally.

“Geez, Jack, if he's just wearing that hospital garb, he's gonna be a popsicle real quick.”

“Okay.  Listen, I think I know where he went.  Daniel ... he likes to go for walks.  I'll find him.  Go down to the parking level and guard the stairwell.  When I find Daniel, I'll bring him there.”

“Are you sure you don't want me to help you search?”

Jack debated for a moment, then made his decision.

“Guard the stairwell.  If I don't have Daniel down there in forty minutes, come back up and help me look, but if he's where I think he is, it'll take me less than half that time to find him and bring him back.”

“Anything you say, Jack.”

Lou headed back down while Jack began his search.  After fifteen minutes, his worry increased.  Daniel wasn't in the area he had expected him to be in.

**Danny?**

After twenty-five minutes, Jack had begun to second-guess his decision to search on his own, but then he heard tiny sounds -- sniffles and sobs -- that reminded him of a young child.

“Daniel?” he called out in a whispered but raised voice.

“Jack?  Find me!”

“I'm coming, Danny,” Jack responded, following the sniffling voice.

“Jack?”

“Aw, Danny,” Jack said, seeing his lover hunched down by a tree, tears streaming down his face.

“Jack?  Is it really you?” Daniel asked, raising his head up to look.

He had had his head buried in his knees, his arms wrapped around them.  Jack couldn't help but remember a time when his son Charlie had gotten lost in the woods.  The five-year-old had done the same thing -- found a tree to huddle next to, and then had sat down, crying until Jack had found him.  Jack took a breath, realizing that was a long time ago, and Daniel was definitely not five-years-old, and yet, at the moment, he was just as scared as Charlie had been that day.

“Yes,” Jack said, kneeling down and taking his lover into his arms.  “Daniel, you're freezing,” Jack chided, taking his coat off and putting it around Daniel's shoulders as he surreptitiously eyed the dried blood on Daniel's hand where the IV shunt had been pulled out.  “What on Earth were you thinking?”

“Home.  I wanted to go home.  You promised.  I tried to find you, but I got lost.  Where am I?”

“Danny,” Jack pulled the young man into his arms again.  “It's okay now.  You should have waited for me.  I told you I'd take you home, and that's what I'm doing.”

“Now?”

“Right now.”

Daniel was shaking, more from the night air than withdrawal at this point, and he was frightened.

“Tried to find you, Jack.  Kept calling for you.  You didn't answer me.  Why didn't you answer?  Don't you want me anymore?”

“Of course, I want you.  Want you so much.  I'm here now, Love.”

“It's so dark and cold,” Daniel cried.

“I know,” Jack responded, rubbing rapidly against Daniel's back to try and aid the warming-up process.  “You ready to go home?”

“Home ... with you?”

“Where else?”

Daniel sniffled, and Jack just couldn't resist, even though he knew the clock was ticking and Lou just might show up at any moment.

He kissed his lover, and was surprised when Daniel found the strength to return the kiss with such fervor that Jack fell backwards with Daniel lying atop him.

“Hey, Beautiful,” Jack said, smiling.  “As much as I love this, let's do it at home.”

“Okay,” Daniel sniffled again, getting off Jack.

Jack carefully guided a shaking Daniel down the ladder of the access shaft to the level where he had left the stairwell.

As they walked down the stairs to the proper level, Jack reminded his lover, “You have to be quiet, very quiet.”

“J'ck, I'm not ... feeling so great.”

Jack's heart ached at the pain he knew Daniel was in.

“I know, and it's going to get worse.”

“Don't ... I don't want ... people to ... to ... see me.”

“They won't; we're going home.”

Jack had his arm around Daniel's waist as they moved down the stairs.  Finally, they reached the parking level.  Cautiously, Jack opened the door and spotted Lou who had been keeping a covert eye on the area as requested.

Lou nodded, and with a smile, handed Jack a bag.

“Clothes?”

“Can't have the Doc walking out in that, can we?”

“Thanks.  Keep watch.”

Jack closed the door to the stairwell, leaving Lou on the other side.  

“What are you doing, Jack?”

“Getting you dressed.”

“Oh.”

As quickly as he could, Jack removed the hospital attire, putting it in the bag, then assisted a confused and shaking Daniel into his street clothes.  Finally, he led Daniel out of the stairwell, and they moved quickly to the security gate.

Daniel suddenly realized he and Jack weren't alone.

“Hi, Lou.  Did you come to visit me?”

“Hey, Doc.  I came to bust you out.”

Daniel smiled sappily.

“Wow.  Thanks, Lou.  You're a good friend.”

“You gotta watch that IV fluid, Doc.  It's going to your head,” the Major teased.

Jack got down to business.

“Lou, you know what to do.”

Near the check-in, Lou went first, initiating a discussion with the airman on duty about football.  The airman was lured into the discussion, and Lou positioned himself so that the airman was looking away from the security scanner.

Quickly, Jack led Daniel through it, placing their palms in position and sliding their cards through the exit gate.  The airman only glanced at the sight of the two men walking out of the facility, not even really sure who they were.  All he knew was that they had cleared the security, so obviously, they weren't of any concern.

Moments later, Lou excused himself, scanned himself out and headed for the parking lot, jogging to catch up.

“Lou, help me out here.”

Daniel was weak, his body still not up to any kind of real exertion.  He was sweating, and Jack was supporting him more and more.

Lou rushed to Daniel's side and assisted Jack in getting the archaeologist into the vehicle.

“Jack, you're going to have to do something about that airman.  That was way too easy.”

“Him and that moron who was supposed to be guarding Daniel's room.”

“You just can't get good help anymore,” Lou lamented, only half-joking.

“Yeah, you can,” Jack said looking gratefully at his friend.  “Thanks for the help, Lou.  I wasn't sure this was going to go so smoothly.”

“Uh, Jack, you better go.”

“Why?”

“Because Fraiser just drove in.”

Jack cursed, started the car, and raced to the final gate.  Free of it, he headed for home, but he was far from breathing a sigh of relief.  He looked over at his sweaty and pale lover.  He felt lucky on a couple of accounts, one of which was finding Daniel lucid enough to cooperate in their 'escape', but mostly, Jack had been lucky that they'd found Daniel before the entire base went on alert looking for the missing man.  He would have had no hope of spiriting the young man away with half the SGC looking for him.  Now, things would get worse, a lot worse, before they got better.

Once they got home, he took Daniel upstairs and settled him into their bed.  Then he went downstairs and locked up the house.  He looked around and sighed.

~For the next several days, this isn't a home; it's going to be a war zone.~

Jack took what he knew would be one of the few quiet moments over the next several days to sit down and relax, just for a minute.  He needed to just sit and make sure he was focused on the ultimate goal -- to get Daniel through the nightmare.

He thought about how unusually easy it had been to take Daniel from the SGC; their personnel were trained better than that.  The tired Colonel smiled and looked up towards the ceiling.

~Okay, if You are You, thank You.  I have a gut feeling You might have helped out a little with the security, or lack of security at the base, so ... if You are You, I'm in your debt.~

Jack closed his eyes and imagined making love with Daniel.  Soon; it would happen soon, when Daniel was well.

~Okay, Danny.  I'm ready now.  I'm ... ready.~

====

“Doctor Fraiser, what are you doing here so early?” Nurse Carol Cortazi asked when Janet entered the general infirmary.

“I wasn't expecting to be, Carol, but Doctor Warner called about Airman Lynch.

“He's not doing well, is he?”

“He could be better.  We may have to operate.  Where's Doctor Warner?”

“He was in his office a half hour ago.”

“Thanks.  Carol, how's Doctor Jackson?”

“He was sleeping the last time I checked on him; he seemed a little restless, but that's about it.”

“Okay.  I'll be with Doctor Warner.”

====

Fifteen minutes later, Janet and Warner were finishing their consultation.

“I'm afraid you're right, Skeet,” Janet said, addressing Warner by his nickname.  “I think we need to schedule surgery right away.”

“Anderson would be the best bet.  He's had more experience with this kind of thing.  I'll give him a call.”

“Okay, I'm going to check on Doctor Jackson, and then I'll meet up with you in Airman Lynch's room at 0500 hours.”

0500 was only twenty minutes away, but that's all the time the diminutive doctor needed to check on Daniel and get the medical team lined up to do a few more tests on Lynch.

“Airman,” she called to the man guarding Daniel's door.  He nodded, opening the door to let Janet inside.  Janet entered, stopping dead in her tracks.  “Airman, where is Doctor Jackson?”

“Ma'am?” the shocked airman responded, walking inside the room, only to come to an abrupt halt beside the angry looking doctor.

“Where is he?”

“I, um, he was ... I ... I don't know, Ma'am.”

“I want him found NOW, Airman!”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

Janet sighed, and looked around in frustration.  Seeing the frayed wrist restraint, she looked up indignantly towards the ceiling.

“Daniel, so help me, what am I going to do with you?”  ~At least no one got hurt this time.  Don't you understand, Daniel, that you need to be here?  You threw me over a bed and beat up a guard.  That's not even close to who you are.  We need to get you back here pronto!~

====

“I'm sorry, Ma'am,” the airman reported to Janet.  “It seems Doctor Jackson left the base some time ago.”

“Left the base?  HOW?”

“He ... walked out, Ma'am.”

Janet threw down a file she'd been holding, and walked into the airman's personal space.

“I'm *not* happy, Airman.  Do you know what they say about me when I'm *not* happy?”  She saw the airman gulp and flinch slightly.  “I have a needle with your name on it, and Airman, it's very, very big.”

Janet walked hurriedly out of the infirmary.

“Janet, you look angry,” Warner said as he crossed paths with Janet in the hallway.

“You don't know the half of it, but first things first.  Did you get in touch with Anderson?”

“He's on his way, and Lynch is being prepped.”

“Good.  Skeet, did you check on Doctor Jackson tonight?”

“I did a check about three hours ago.  He was awake, begging to go home.  He kept asking for Colonel O'Neill.”

“General Hammond ordered the colonel to ...”  Janet paused, suddenly realizing how Daniel managed to leave the SGC.  “I'll kill him.  I am going to kill him.”

“Janet?”

“Excuse me, Skeet.  Page me when Doctor Anderson arrives.”

Like a woman scorned, Janet headed for her office and picked up the phone.

“Hammond,” the general muttered groggily.

In a sarcastic tone, the physician said, “General, Colonel O'Neill has busted Doctor Jackson out of prison.”

“Excuse me?”

“I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm ... This is Doctor Fraiser, and I'm at the SGC.  It seems Doctor Jackson has left the base, and I'll give you three guesses as to who was responsible for that.”

“One will do, but prison, Doctor Fraiser?”

“Well, Sir, to Colonel O'Neill, that's what the SGC is to Daniel at the moment, and judging from how Doctor Jackson left, it's pretty much the truth.”

“I'm on my way.”

The major general hung up the phone and leaned back against his pillow.

“Jack, I may just court-martial you myself; or maybe a few months as liaison to Senator Kinsey might teach you something.”

====

“Doctor Fraiser, give me an overview of Doctor Jackson's medical condition: how he got where he is, what he's going through, and your prognosis.”

“Well, General, as you know, according to Daniel and SG-1, while on P3R-636, they were captured by the locals and accused of being Goa'uld spies, or something of that sort.  They were forced to work in the naquadah mines.  Essentially, they were slaves, kept in leg irons most of the day as they worked.  They were given very little food and water and had minimal rest time.  As a result, the entire team was malnourished and weakened.  They also had bruises and rashes on their lower legs and ankles.

“Apparently, Colonel O'Neill attempted an escape, but Daniel was still in his leg irons and couldn't keep up with the others.  There was a rockslide of sorts inside the mine, and Daniel was buried under rocks.  From what the colonel and Captain Carter described to me, he had a severe head injury, multiple cuts and lacerations, and probable internal injuries.  Captain Carter told me she thought Daniel would be dead within an hour if they hadn't done what they did.”

“And that was to allow Doctor Jackson to be treated by Pyrus and his people?” Hammond asked, wanting to confirm his understanding of what had been discussed during the debriefing.

“Yes, Sir.  They didn't know what kind of doctors were available, but they did know that Daniel's injuries were bad enough that without any help, he would have died for sure.”

“Go on, Doctor.”

“Well, after that, it gets a bit harder to know the exact details.  Since his return from the planet, Daniel has been so wired that, as you know, he wasn't able to sit down long enough to do a formal report, and even if he had been, frankly, Sir, I'm not sure he was capable of completing an accurate report.  Uh, so what we did was record Daniel's version of everything that happened and then had it transcribed, but again, you have to be aware that the report is jaded by the effects of the sarcophagus.”

“Understood.”

“Okay, well, according to the reports, the Princess, uh,” Janet shuffled through some papers and paused to read for a second, “yes, her name is Shyla.  Sir, she put Daniel in a sarcophagus.  It seemed to have worked, but the problem is that even after his injuries had healed, she continued to convince him to use the sarcophagus.  The result of that is what we're dealing with now.”

“Doctor Fraiser, this isn't the first time Doctor Jackson has used a sarcophagus.  He used it Abydos and again when he returned from Apophis' ship.  Both times he recovered from his injuries without incident.  How is this different?”

“Yes, both of those were single uses.  He was in the sarcophagus just long enough to heal his wounds, but this time, he continued to use the sarcophagus after his injuries were healed.”  Janet took a breath as she sought the right comparison and words for her thoughts.  “General, the sarcophagus is like a drug when used repeatedly.  When SG-1 returned from the planet, Daniel's system was completely out of whack. His vital signs were extremely elevated, and his endorphin level was through the roof.

“I was concerned, and at that point, privately spoke with Colonel O'Neill, recommending that he keep someone with Daniel until I could evaluate the test results further and consult with Doctor MacKenzie.  I was very much afraid that Daniel would eventually suffer some type of withdrawal.  I just underestimated the power of the withdrawal when it did finally occur.”

“So what happened next?”

“Daniel became anxious, jittery, and even agitated at almost nothing. He couldn't sit still, Sir.  There have been bouts of memory loss as well.  The, uh, worst moment up until then was the incident with Captain Carter.  She reported uncharacteristic behavior -- aggressiveness that bordered on violence to the point that she had become frightened by his actions.”

“Yes, she told me.  It's hard to believe Doctor Jackson would act in such a manner.”

“I agree, General, and I don't for a moment think he had any intention of hurting her, but his movements and their results were dangerous.  Then, as you know, Daniel collapsed here in your office.  We ran more tests and discovered that his liver and kidney functions were compromised, as well as his endorphin and electrolyte levels which were still through the roof.  Eventually, I realized that his cellular functions were breaking down.

“I still believe we made the right call.  Daniel was getting better; his vital signs were approaching normal readings: his blood pressure was down, his pulse normal, his body temperature down, and perhaps the most important thing, his cellular functions were taking root again.  We had a long way to go, but he was responding.”

“That's when he attacked you.”

“I don't look at it that way.  Daniel's going through a massive withdrawal, General.  Every indication is that his system was completely thrown out of whack as a direct result of the sarcophagus. It's like he's on heroin, crack, ecstasy, and who knows what, all at the same time, and now, he's coming down, and coming down hard.”

“Your prognosis?”

“Doctor Jackson is young and otherwise healthy.  He was responding to treatment, and I think with proper medical supervision that he'll make a full recovery, in a few weeks, but, General, there are risks in coming down from such a strong high as Daniel has been on, without being monitored and medicated, that are extremely severe.  Frankly, those are risks I do not want to take.  Doctor MacKenzie is especially concerned that Daniel might try to harm himself, or the colonel.  Sir, you *have* to get Colonel O'Neill to bring Doctor Jackson back here immediately.”

Hammond nodded and stood up, escorting the SGC's Chief Medical Officer to the door.

“Thank you, Doctor.  I'll get back to you,” Hammond said, closing the door behind the redheaded doctor as she exited.  He sighed as he returned to his desk and sat down.  He had a decision to make, and it wasn't going to be easy.  A knock on the door drew the major general's attention.  “Come.”

“Sir, this is what we have so far on Doctor Jackson's ... departure from the SGC,” Sergeant Davis spoke.  “There are some gaps, General; and here are the copies of the mission reports filed by Colonel O'Neill, Captain Carter, and Teal'c that you requested.”

“What about Doctor Jackson's report?”

“The transcription of his verbal report is at the bottom.”

“Thank you,” Hammond said, taking the reports and putting them in front of him on the desk.

Hammond began by reviewing Teal'c's report.  As always, his was the most succinct and would give Hammond a quick summary of the tactical events that had transpired.

“We arrived on P3R-636 and proceeded to look for naquadah or other minerals that would be of use to the Tau'ri.  We observed several Jaffa sending raw naquadah through the Stargate.  A young woman veered away from the group, and DanielJackson followed her.  I believe he thought the woman intended to harm herself.  He risked his life to save the woman from jumping off a cliff by grabbing her and pulling her back to safety.”

Hammond read on, learning that the young woman was a princess named Shyla and that her father, Pyrus, was king of the planet.  Interestingly, the planet was guarded by Jaffa, and these Jaffa had taken SG-1 prisoners in the belief that they had intended to harm their princess.

Teal'c's report continued, “We were taken to the palace.  DanielJackson seemed surprised when the woman did not admit the truth about her rescue.  We were taken to the mines and forced to dig for naquadah.  I was unable to find a way to escape.  The Jaffa were many, and we were kept in leg irons except for short periods during which we were fed something they called food.  As O'Neill sometimes says, I have had much worse.”

Hammond skipped ahead a few paragraphs.

“O'Neill initiated an escape attempt, but DanielJackson could not keep up.  He was injured and taken to the palace.”

Hammond decided he wanted to take a closer look at what had happened.  He opened Sam's report next and read her comments, hoping they weren't terribly scientific.

~Sorry, Captain, but Jack is right.  You do prattle.  I'm not saying that's bad, just that as Jack says, you're way, way smarter than we are, at least in the field of science.~

“Since Shyla hadn't admitted the truth to her father, Pyrus, he had us taken to the mines where the inhabitants of the world are forced to work as slaves.  The planet is full of raw naquadah.  There are so many uses for this.  We could ...”

Hammond skipped ahead.

~Prattling, Captain.~

“I reported my feelings to the colonel.  Lately, I've noticed that I can sense the presence of the Goa'uld.  I'm convinced it's because I was host to Jolinar.  Pyrus was not a Goa'uld, and strangely, I had a feeling that the Jaffa were actually Jaffa, either.

“We were forced to work long hours with few breaks.  We were dirty, sweaty, and hungry, and we were desperate to find a way out.  After the horn sounded signaling a rest period, the Jaffa began to remove our leg irons.  The Colonel seized a chance for us to overtake the guards and get away.  However, we acted before Daniel's chains had been removed.  He was already weak from the labor, and was slow to follow us out of the shaft.  I'm not sure what happened next, but I believe other Jaffa entered and opened fire, and that one of the staff blasts hit the side of the wall, dislodging a pile of rocks that fell on Daniel.

“His injuries were severe.  His pulse was weak, and once we dug him out, we could see several cuts and lacerations.  He wasn't responding to any first-aid treatments.  I told the colonel that I was concerned Daniel had internal injuries and advised him to let the Princess take Daniel to the surface to get medical attention.”

~Okay, I know about all of this.  Let's skip over this, too; and this.  Fascinating to know about the appearance of the ore, but not what I need to focus on right now.  Prattling, Captain, prattling.  Ah, here we go.  Sounds like SG-1 had been on P3R-636 for four days at this point.~

“All of a sudden, we saw Daniel.  He was dressed in royal robes that he said Shyla had given him.  He seemed fine physically, but there was something odd that I couldn't put my finger on.  I think the colonel wasn't very happy with him.  After all, Daniel was clean and relaxed, and we were filthy and exhausted, not to mention starving.  It didn't help when Daniel said he had only come to show us that he was okay, and that he'd talk to Pyrus that night 'at dinner' about freeing us.  I have to be honest and say that right at that moment, I wasn't real happy with Daniel, either.

“We didn't see Daniel again for several days, and when we did, I think we were all shocked.  He wasn't wearing his glasses, and his expression seemed a bit on the wild side.  His speech was erratic and excitable.  He just seemed a little incoherent.  What disturbed me most was Daniel's admission that he had been using the sarcophagus, at least nine or ten times, but I wondered if it had been more.  I really didn't feel as though I could trust what he was saying.

“The Colonel got a little angry.”

~I'll bet he did.~

 “He actually threatened Daniel that if he didn't get us out soon, that we'd find a way out ourselves and leave him behind.  Of course, that was just talk.  The Colonel would never leave a member of his team behind.”

Her next paragraph mentioned the radio message Daniel had told them he had sent through the MALP to keep Hammond from sending more personnel to the planet.

~Yes, that was strange.  No direct contact; just a recorded message with no opportunity to ask questions.  I should have acted on my gut feeling that something was wrong then.  Still, we need better procedures and protocol for circumstances such as those.~

Hammond made a note to study the issue and review their current policies.  Perhaps a change needed to be made.

The General returned to Sam's report, moving ahead once again.

“Suddenly, I was startled when I had this vision.  It was just a flash, or pattern of flashes.  I'm sure this all ties in with Jolinar.  Being a host to the Tok'ra, even for a short time, has left me with strange feelings and memories.  I never know when they will happen, just like this one.

“The feeling I got was one of severe danger.  The sarcophagus was dangerous to a person's soul.  It might heal injuries, but continued use like Daniel had been doing (using it while healthy) was altering his mind, perhaps even changing his brain chemistry.  I had a very strong voice inside yelling that we had to get Daniel out of there and away from the sarcophagus now, or we might never get him back, not the Daniel we know anyway.”

Another knock on the door took Hammond from his review.  Sergeant Davis entered.

“Thought you might want some coffee, Sir.”

“Thank you, Sergeant, and, Sergeant, I want two full security teams ready to accompany me off-base within thirty minutes,” Hammond ordered.  “Have them waiting for me at the security gate.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Hammond drank a few sips of coffee and flipped open Jack's report, which always made for colorful reading.  One thing Jack O'Neill never did, was hold back, not even in official reports.

“So Daniel does the damsel-in-distress thing again.  He never changes. Naturally, he saves the damsel, but she's more of a witch than the Princess she purports to be.  She clams up tighter than a lamb when Daddy Dearest wants to know what happened, which means we're all taken down to the Seven Dwarves territory, only the dwarves are smarter than we are and are nowhere in sight.”

~You do have a way with words, Colonel.~

“The next thing I know this arrogant Jaffa fellow is shoving us around and having a high-old time doing it.  I'd had enough.  I saw that Teal'c still had his picking tool, and the other Jaffa weren't paying attention.  My leg irons had been removed, so I hit the guy and ordered the escape.  In a flash, Teal'c had used the tool to knock out the Jaffa closest to him, then sent it flying through the air to take out another one.  The big guy has great aim!

“I picked up the arrogant Jaffa's staff weapon and took out another guard and ordered the team to move quickly away.  Teal'c and Carter were in front of me.  I turned and yelled at Daniel to get a move on.  He said he was coming, only I made a mistake.  I take full responsibility for having made a poor command decision.  I failed my team, but none of it would have happened had that 'Princess' not wanted Daniel as some prize for her mantel.

“Daniel's leg irons hadn't been removed, and he was weaker than the rest of us, mainly because he had been working harder than the rest of us.  Daniel doesn't know how to do anything half way.  He had said he couldn't move, but I hadn't taken it seriously.  When the fighting began, he couldn't keep up, and then I heard the sound of rocks falling.

“When I turned back around, I realized Daniel had been buried alive under the rocks which I assume had been loosened by a Jaffa staff blast.  We dug him out, but his injuries were severe.  Carter kept insisting that he needed help we couldn't give him.  She was right, but I didn't like it, not one bit.

“The guards had sent for Shyla, and I let her take him.  It was the only way to save his life, but it was a decision that continued to nag at me for days since we hadn't had any word from him, until the man who would be king finally showed up looking like a king while we were his paupers.

“A while later, Carter had one of those vision things; she said Daniel could dark side on us if we didn't get him away from the sarc.  I demanded to see Daniel, and that didn't go over too well, but I guess he got the message, because a few hours later, I was literally dragged in to see him.  It seems my warning came a little late.  Daniel was acting even stranger than before, and he seemed to have some type of memory loss, but he said we were free to go.”

Hammond next turned to the transcript of Daniel's oral report.  It was of great concern to him that his normally detailed and responsible head of archaeology couldn't calm himself long enough to do even a brief version of his required report.

According to the transcript, Daniel had been asked what had happened on the planet.  His response was a gigantic, rambling paragraph that seemed like an essay full of run-on sentences.  As he read it, Hammond realized they were in serious trouble.  Daniel Jackson was obviously affected by the sarcophagus, and had been for several days.

Daniel's response to the question read in part:

“She was beautiful, walking through the forest, the sunlight bouncing off her hair.  I couldn't let her die, but I don't understand why she lied to her father when we were brought to the palace, although maybe it was because she was just scared.  I'm her destiny.  She loves me, and I have to go back.  I am going back.  Oh, okay, well, so we were sent to the mines; man, it was hot down there, and I was tired, way tired, and I told Jack, but like usual, he wasn't listening to me; naturally he wasn't listening; he never listens.  He's always ... what?  Okay, so that's neither here nor there, so we were in the mines and suddenly Jack decides it's time to break out.  I mean, couldn't he have waited until they had my leg irons off and at least give me a chance, but oh, no, Mister Military just wants to hit the big, bad Jaffa and ... okay, okay, so I try to follow, but the next thing I know, I'm waking up in a sarcophagus wearing this dress.  So, it wasn't a dress, but robes.  If you ask me, they need to hire Armani.

“Anyway, Shyla loves me, and that's all that's important.  We went for a walk in the forest and talked about trees.  It's beautiful there.  Shyla's beautiful.  She loves me.  We're ... oh, okay, okay, okay.  Geez.  So, I try to get her to release the guys, but, uh, well, she loves ... I *am* answering the question, for crying out loud.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, so she loves me and wants me to stay.  I told her I would and asked her to release them, but she didn't trust me yet.  I needed to get her to trust me, so I did what she wanted and got back into the sarcophagus.  Couldn't hurt, right?  Maybe it would make me see better.  Actually, uh, it, uh, did.

“So anyway, after a while, I went to see the guys.  They didn't really look that happy to see me; not a big surprise, but I was trying to get them out.  They just didn't understand that it was going to take time.  I had to court Shyla.  We had a great time; it's really a beautiful planet.  There's this waterfall ... right, you're no fun.  Okay, so over dinner that night, I found out that Pyrus was over seven-hundred years old.  Can you imagine?  Wow!  He had liberated his people from Goa'uld rule, and I guess he got control of the sarcophagus.  It kept him alive.  I had visions of Shyla being five-hundred or something, not that it would matter, because wow, she's beautiful, has that long black hair, and ... ALL RIGHT, fine ... so anyway, that's how Pyrus had become king and what he did was to pretend the Goa'uld were still there.  Pretty cool, huh?  I mean, think about it for a minute.  He continued to mine the raw naquadah and send it through the Stargate just like the Goa'uld had done, and he didn't stop there, the old smarty pants.  He created a bunch of Jaffa; I mean, literally took part of the inhabitants and said, 'You're Jaffa', just in case the Goa'uld ever came back.  It was like a Masquerade party.  Jack would like that.  Jack likes parties, well, kiddie parties anyway.  There's something about Jack I'm supposed to remember, but, oh well, guess it's not really that important, but I should remember.  I mean, uh, it's important, really important.  I wonder what it is?  I know I ... geez, you're a pain in the ... yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ... fine, I'll keep going.”

Hammond shook his head at the ramblings.  This was not the Daniel Jackson he knew.  He was particularly disheartened by subsequent statements the young man had made about believing he had a place on Shyla's world, and that he had never felt like he had fit in or made a difference on Earth.

~Son, you're our most important asset and resource.  I do not understand why you can't see that.~

Hammond closed the reports, and got up.  He put on his blue Air Force blazer, took the preliminary report about Daniel's escape with him, and headed for the security gate.  As he walked, he pondered the events that had occurred since SG-1's return from the planet, especially Sam's encounter with Daniel as she watched him.  This was the discussion he had spoken with Janet about a bit earlier.

“General Hammond, I need to speak with you,” she had said when she entered Hammond's office.  Seeing Jack already there, she had added, “Sir, I'm glad you're here.  You need to know about what just happened with Daniel.”

“Aren't you supposed to be with Daniel, Captain?”

“Yes, Sir, that's why I'm here.”

“Go ahead, Captain,” Hammond had said, noticing that Jack was standing defensively with his arms folded as he leaned against a wall.

“Sir, Daniel was with me for the last forty-five minutes in my lab.  The entire time he was extremely nervous: pacing, fidgeting, unable to stand still for more than a few seconds at a time.  He kept insisting that he wanted to return to P3R-636.  I tried to calm him down, to reason with him, but he wasn't really listening to me.  Another thing I noticed, he seemed forgetful.”

“I've noticed that, too, Sir,” Jack had said sadly from his spot against the wall.

“General, he struggled to remember Sha're's name and acted like he didn't even care about her anymore.  His comments were irrational.  I tried to remind him that his brain chemistry might have been altered, that the sarcophagus was like a narcotic, and he was going through withdrawal, but ...”

Sam had hesitated, taking a deep breath.

“Captain, go on,” Hammond had ordered.

“Yes, Sir.  Sir, he became violent.  He didn't like what I was saying ...”

“What were you saying?” Jack had interrupted, needing to know.

“That Shyla was manipulating him, keeping us slaving away in the mines just to get to him.  He, uh, slammed his fist against the table, causing some supplies to fall onto the floor, and then, he ...”  She had paused, really hating this and yet having no choice.  Her friend needed help desperately.  “He approached me and made some personal comments.  General, the Daniel Jackson we know would never have said anything like that, not in a million years, and ...”

“Out with it, Carter,” Jack had ordered impatiently.

“In all honesty, General, there was a moment when I wasn't sure what Daniel was going to do.  I was ... frightened.”

~That's hard to imagine.  Doctor Jackson is not a violent man, especially not with his teammates.  If there's any one piece of evidence that indicates he needs help, that is it.~

Sam had continued, “Daniel, he was angry.  He shoved several things off the computer table where I was working, and then he walked out.  I hate to admit it, Sir, but I hesitated in following him.  He acted like he needed a fix.”

“What are you saying, Captain?” Hammond had asked.

“Sir, I think he needs to be confined.  He's clearly addicted to the effects ...”

As an airman drove the general's car towards Jack's house, Hammond recalled that that had been the moment when Daniel had burst into his office, resignation in hand, and requested to be allowed to go through the Stargate to Shyla's home world.

~Jack wasn't happy about that.~

Before the conversation had gone on too long, Daniel had collapsed, and a medical team called.  Soon, he had been taken to the infirmary for further testing, the results of which Janet had just covered with the major general before his review of the reports had begun.

~I feel sorry for Doctor Fraiser.  She's close to SG-1.  It can't be easy to tend to a friend, but she's a professional.  'Massive withdrawal' she called it.~  Hammond sighed, remembering Janet's words about only being able to treat the symptoms and her intention to keep Daniel sedated until his body became stable.

He had also heard about the incident in the infirmary when Daniel had tried to pull his IVs out to leave.  He had thrown Teal'c against the wall before being subdued by Jack who had pinned him down to the hospital bed.  That was when they had had a crucial decision to make -- whether or not to return to 636 as Teal'c had suggested and put Daniel into the sarcophagus and hope it helped him to recover, or to simply wait it out, and hope that Janet's treatment of the symptoms did some good.  They had decided to wait it out, and Daniel had responded.  Janet had felt encouraged, only that's when things had really gone crazy.

With Jack watching a monitor from another part of the infirmary, Janet had gone to give Daniel another sedative, only the archaeologist had been awake and, after throwing Janet against a wall, had beat up a guard and ran out.  Jack, who had turned away from the monitor momentarily, looked back and saw Daniel was gone.  He had given chase, finally confronting Daniel in the storeroom.

Hammond had been told that the colonel had walked the young man back to the infirmary several minutes later.  No one really knew what had transpired inside the storeroom, except for the obvious struggle. Storage racks and supplies were all over the floor and the overhead light had been destroyed by a bullet.

~And that brings us to why I'm in this car.~

Hammond pulled out the last report, the one that talked about how Jack had taken Daniel out of the SGC in the wee hours of the morning. He didn't like what he read about the graveyard shift workers involved.

First, the airman assigned to guard Daniel's room had left his post to go to the bathroom and get a snack.  He failed to follow proper procedure completely.  Second, the guard at the last security gate had allowed himself to become distracted by Lou Ferretti.  He admitted to knowing only that two men had left passed through the security gate without setting off the alarms.  He still had no idea who they were.

~This is not acceptable.~  Hammond picked up the phone and called the base, telling Davis to pull the personnel files on the two men and have them waiting for him on his desk.  “And pull Major Ferretti's file as well.”  ~You're involved in this, Major; I can feel it in my bones, but I'm not really worried about you.  Your leader, my 2IC, on the other hand, he's guilty as can be; not sure what to do about him.  This is serious, and I certainly hope he realizes just how serious it is.~

====

Jack heard the knock at the door; then he heard the knock become a pounding; finally, he heard the voice, and it didn't sound happy.

“Colonel O'Neill, if you don't let me in, I'll have the Marines break this door down.”

Sighing, Jack opened the door.  He smiled.

“Morning, General.  What brings you here ...” Jack looked out on the street, “along with the entire United States Air Force?”  ~Not to mention the Marines assigned to us.~

Several Airmen and Marines were on the street, awaiting orders.

Hammond stepped past Jack who was relieved when the Airmen and Marines made no move to do the same.  

“I think you know what, Colonel.  Shut the door.”

Jack coughed.  This was Hammond's stern voice, the one which never failed to remind Jack that his teddy bear of a CO had earned his way to the top by being just as intimidating as Jack could be, maybe even more so.

“Where is he, Colonel?”

“Who, Sir?”  Hammond's glare made Jack swallow.  The jig was up, and Jack knew it.  If he didn't, all he had to do was look out his front door.  “He's upstairs, sleeping, if you can call it that.”

“Jack, are you out of your mind?”

“Sir, with all due respect, I don't care if I am or not.  Daniel asked me to take him out of there.  What lies ahead for him isn't fun.  I ... know what that's like.”

“I know that, but Colonel, you crossed the line here.  Doctor Jackson needs medical attention.  You went against my orders and those of Doctor Fraiser.  I just can't let that go by.”

“I understand that, General.”

“Jack, what is it that you think you're doing?”

“Helping Daniel.”  Jack walked to the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen.  He shook his head, and turned back to face his CO.  “Sir, I know what Daniel needs, and I'm going to make sure he gets it.  I'm asking you to trust me.”

“And what are you going to do if Doctor Jackson's withdrawal becomes critical?”

“If he needs medical attention, I'll call Fraiser.”  Jack decided to up the stakes a little.  “By the way, Daniel had already escaped his room in the infirmary when I found him.”

He didn't need to mention the wayward airman or the lax security officer.  Hammond had already gotten the picture.  They had work to do at the SGC, but that wasn't the subject at hand.

The important issue Jack had just communicated was that Daniel wasn't any safer at the SGC, and that he obviously didn't want to be there and was capable of fighting his way out, with or without Jack.  The archaeologist wanted to recover on his own, and that's what Jack had hoped his comment really reminded the general of.

“I don't like this, Jack.”

“General, the only way you're going to get Daniel out of this house is to set those Airmen and Marines loose.  You'll have to lock me up, Sir.”

Hammond looked at Jack as if he wanted a piece of him himself, but finally, he moved quietly to the door.  He paused, looked back at Jack, and warned, “If this goes south, Jack, I won't be able to help you.”

With that, the general left, taking the servicemen with him.

~There's going to be a big price to pay for this.~

Hearing a noise, Jack headed upstairs to check on Daniel, but was relieved to find he was sleeping, though not very peacefully.

~I don't care what they do to me, Danny.  You come first, and you are worth any price I have to pay to keep you safe.~

====

It was 10 a.m., and Daniel, unable to get comfortable, tossed and turned in the bed he shared with Jack.  He was awake, yet in some strange state of semiconsciousness.  At the moment, he didn't know what was real and what was only in his mind.

Daniel's breathing was heavy, and his chest felt tight, as if he were suffocating.  His throat was dry, but it wasn't water he was desperate for.

Jack had chosen to use the “cold turkey” method of treating Daniel after all.  There wouldn't be any weaning from the drug-like effects of the sarcophagus, and there wouldn't be any more of Janet's pills and drug-infested IVs that only pumped more alien fluids into the younger man.  They'd do it the hard way, regardless of how painful, both physically and emotionally, it was going to be.

“Sarc'agus ... Pills.  Need pills.  JACK, HELP ME!”

“I am, Danny,” Jack said, his voice full of pain as he sat at the side of the bed, trying to calm his lover, his hand combing through Daniel's hair as he spoke.

“No!  Working.  I'm trying.”

“Trying what, Danny?”

Daniel was flashing back to the planet, to a trip down into the mines.  In his mind, he was wearing his royal robes, gazing down at his dirty, sweaty, and tired friends.

“I’m still working on getting you guys out.  Found out ... found out something ... something incredible.”

“Danny ...”

Instead of his name, Daniel heard, “You do know we're dying down here, don't you?”

“No,” Daniel's head continued to thrash from side to side.  He tried to focus his eyes on Jack, but couldn't.  “Did ... research,” he swallowed hard, “on ... the sarcophagus.  It’s amazing what it does to you if you use it when you're already healthy.”

“No, Danny,” Jack said as he moved in even closer to his distraught partner.  He took a damp cloth and pressed it against his lover's forehead.  “The sarcophagus is not something you want to try when you're healthy.”

“No choice.  Shy...Shyla.  Need her to trust me.  Can't ... I can't get Shyla to trust me if I don't show that I trust her.”

“The little witch.”

Again, Daniel heard other words, words Jack had spoken in jealously -- “Oh, Shyla is it now; first name basis.  Shyla.”

“Jealous?  But you wanted to get rid of me,” Daniel sobbed, a sound that tore through Jack's heart.

“No, Danny.”

Daniel ignored the words he never really heard, and in a sudden transformation, went from tears to an eerie but anxious calm.  He was truly drifting in and out between the actual conversation in the mines and the emotional upheaval going on inside him in his present.

“And I've used it before without any side effects, and look -- no glasses!”

Daniel pointed to his eyes.

“No, no glasses,” Jack said softly, realizing his lover's body was with him, but his mind was elsewhere.  “Carter said that the twenty-twenty vision was a side effect.”

Daniel heard, “Daniel, get us out of here,” the words spoken sharply.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” Daniel responded to the imaginary voice.  “I’m work...working on it.  Time, Jack.  I just need a little more time.  Sarcophagus ... valuable.  If we do this right, we'll have access to all the naquadah *and* the sarcophagus.”

Jack watched sadly as his lover carried out the conversation that had occurred days earlier.  He knew his 2IC had next asked how many times Daniel had used the Goa'uld lifeline.

“Nine.  Ten.  Nine or ten.  Don't know for sure, but everything is so clear.  I feel like I could do anything.”

“You can, Danny.  You're strong and the most capable man I've ever met.  All you have to do is put your mind to it.  Think, Daniel.  I know you can do it.”

Daniel heard Jack threaten to break out of the mines without him.  He wasn't surprised; he was used to being left behind, but he wouldn't be now.  He'd stay with Shyla if he had to.

“She wants me to marry her,” Daniel said, looking at Jack, but not seeing him.

“Tough.  You're mine.”

Suddenly, Daniel became angry.  He swatted Jack's hands away from him.  Jack remembered that at this point in the conversation, he'd lost his patience with his lover.  He was angry at being confined to the mines, jealous that Daniel seemed to be getting closer to Shyla, and just plain frustrated at not having come up with a plan to escape.  He'd become aggressive and challenging with the archaeologist, but before he could say anything much, Daniel had cut him off.  Jack's heart ached as Daniel struggled to repeat those words now, his face red with his own anger.

“No, *you* look, Jack!  I have got everything under control, okay?  Gawd, you never show me any respect!  Your way didn't work.  Now I'm handling it.  All you guys have to do is hang in there.”

That had been the end of the conversation, and Jack hoped Daniel would settle down now that the memory had been replayed and run its course.

“Respect; no respect.  Let me do it.  I can get them out.  They're my friends.  Isn't there someone I should remember?”

“Daniel, come on, Love; snap out of it.”

“Supposed to 'member someone.  Can't ... Sha're ... Shyla wants me.  No, not Sha're.  Who?  Can't remember now.”

“I'll help you.”

“Help me remember?”

“Oh yeah.”  Daniel had calmed, and Jack began to see recognition again in the blue eyes he treasured.  “You with me, Love?”

“Jack?”

The older man smiled, and leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Daniel's lips.

“Remember?”  Daniel nodded.  “Forever, Danny.  You and I are forever.  I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel said, blinking several times and his eyes misting a bit.

“Danny?”  He saw he had his lover's attention, so Jack continued, speaking firmly.  “I respect you more than I've ever respected another living soul.  Do you hear me?”  Daniel nodded.  “No, Danny, I want you to say it.”

“You ... you, uh ...”

“I respect you.  Say it.”

Daniel shook his head and rolled over onto his right side.  Jack closed his eyes.  He prayed it was just Daniel's whacked-up system that was causing this bout of insecurity, but if not, he vowed to make sure Daniel knew how much Jack not only respected, but admired him.

“I love you, Danny.”

“Love you, too,” Daniel said.

Jack ran his hand gently up and down Daniel's side and then his back.

“You rest, Love.  Close your eyes.  Dream good things; only good things.”

====

“Col...collllld, J'ck.  I'm so cold,” Daniel spoke, his lips quivering as he spoke.

Jack saw the goose bumps all over his lover's body and placed yet another blanket over the younger man.  They'd gotten through lunch, if it could be called that.  Daniel had eaten some soup and then had rested for an hour or so.  After that, Daniel had awakened and was restless, not wanting to lay still.  Jack had sat with him, even reading the first few chapters of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” which, amazingly enough, seemed to still Daniel's anxiety for a while.  Suddenly, though, the archaeologist had begun to have bouts of cold flashes like the one he was currently having.

“It'll pass.”

“Sick.  I feel sick.”

“I'm sorry, Love,” Jack said as he made sure the blanket was snug around Daniel.

“I'm ... going to ... oh ...”  It was too late.  Daniel vomited all over the blanket and himself.  “Gawd,” he said afterwards, feeling incredibly forlorn.

“It's okay.”

“Don't leave me, Jack.  Please don't leave me,” Daniel cried.

“Danny,” Jack said, his voice shocked that Daniel would think he would bolt over a little bodily gunk.  “I'm not going anywhere, except to get some towels and things to clean this up.”

Daniel blinked several times, and Jack saw such vulnerability there.  If he'd had time, he would have pursued it -- the fear in Daniel's eyes, but right now, he had other things to do.

Jack tended to his Love.  Fortunately, the snug blanket had taken the worst of it, and the bedding and mattress were unscathed.  Jack helped his lover put on dry pajamas, and scooted him over to the other side of the bed.

With the area cleaned, Jack sat at the edge of the bed next to Daniel.  With his right hand, he caressed his lover's cheek.

“I love you so much.”  It was a simple declaration of love, but for Daniel, with his emotions all out of whack, he lost control, sobbing as he heard the words.  “Oh, Danny,” Jack said softly.

He pulled his lover up to hold him in his arms and placed a kiss on the side of his neck.  Daniel's cries increased, and he clung to Jack, making sure the older man couldn't move.

~Not going anywhere.  Geez, Danny, hasn't anyone ever held you before?  Sometimes I think you've never been hugged ... ever, except maybe by your parents.  My parents held me all the time.  Danny, My Danny.  I'll hold you forever if that's what you want; I'm not going anywhere.~

Jack held Daniel until the young man finally fell asleep, and then he gently lay his lover to rest on the bed.  Jack readjusted the sheets, then leaned forward to place a chaste kiss on Daniel's forehead.  His fingers traced Daniel's eyes, then his nose, and finally his lips.

“You're so beautiful, Danny, and you're mine.  I love you, and soon, very soon, this is going to seem like a miserable dream.  I'm going to take you away from here for a while.  Maybe the Bahamas; I don't know, but someplace warm.  I'm going to watch you bask in the sun and walk on the beach, and so help me, Daniel, I'm going to see you smile.  When this is over, that's what we're going to do.”

====

“Colonel, please.  Let me at least come and examine him,” Janet requested over the phone the next morning.

She hadn't been the least bit happy when General Hammond had arrived back at the SGC without Daniel in tow.  The petite physician had gone on the warpath, but fortunately for Jack and Daniel, Hammond's orders had stopped her from taking a band of Marines to forcibly retrieve the archaeologist.

“No.”

“You don't know what you're dealing with.”

~Yes, I do, more than you know.~  “I'm monitoring his vital signs, Doctor Fraiser.  What Daniel needs isn't to be hooked up to IVs with nurses gawking at him.  He needs ... he needs to be just where he is.”

“Jack,” Janet tried to make it a more personal discussion.  She was desperate to get him to understand the risks of keeping Daniel away from proper medical care.  “Daniel could suffer a number of side effects, even cardiac arrest.  You have to let me see him.”

“Thank you for your concern, Doctor Fraiser,” Jack responded, keeping it formal, “but don't call us, we'll call you.”

Jack hung up the phone.  He knew way more than Janet knew he did about the subject, and he knew Daniel better than anyone else did.  Yes, there were risks, but they were risks he was willing to take.  He was just glad that Hammond seemed to be ignoring his little archaeologist-napping for the time being.  Jack knew, though, that once Daniel was better, Hammond would haul him through the fire for it.

~Doesn't matter.  When Danny is better, he can do whatever he likes to me.~

====

It seemed like days, but it had only been thirty-one hours since Jack had brought Daniel home.  Jack leaned against the dresser in his bedroom and brought the palms of his hands to his face, rubbing up and down for a moment.  He took a giant breath, and slowly lowered his hands until his fingers were just covering his lips and chin.

He stared at Daniel lying on their bed, restlessly moving about, his legs and arms twitching in nervous motions.  The older man knew their ordeal was far from over; he also knew that sooner or later, he was going to have to get some sleep.  Since bringing Daniel home, he'd gotten very little, just scattered catnaps.

Jack shoved himself away from the dresser and walked the width of the room.  He turned and walked back over to the dresser, then raised his arms to stretch, desperately trying to wake up his numb body.

All of sudden, Jack saw a blur out of the corner of his eye.  He turned towards the bed just in time to see his lover charging towards him.

“Daniel!”  The younger man tackled the older, and they fell to ground, struggling for control.  “What the blazes are you doing?  DANIEL!”

“I have to get to the Stargate; have to go home.”

“Home?” Jack tried to roll them over, but the adrenaline in Daniel's system had given the archaeologist incredible temporary strength.  “Daniel, stop!”

“Shyla needs me; her people need me.”

“Shyla is a demonic witch, a spoiled brat that left Carter, Teal'c, and I to die in a hellhole disguised as a mine while she stuffed you in a Goa'uld torture chamber.”

“She saved my life,” Daniel argued.

He scrambled off Jack and made a break for the door, but Jack leaped up, managing to grab hold of Daniel's white pajama bottoms.  Then he grabbed onto Daniel's legs as he worked to get a more stable grip.  The younger man tried to shake himself free, twisting and turning his body. Spying Jack's coat on a chair, he managed to grab it and use it as a weapon, striking Jack with it in the face.

“OW!  DANIEL, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”

Daniel broke free, and Jack scrambled to catch him, doing so at the top of the stairs.  Again the two fought, coming close to falling down the stairs until Jack managed to push Daniel back towards the wall, finally pinning him there.

“Daniel, look at me.  Shyla isn't worth it.”

“I kissed her.  What do I tell Sha're?  First, Hathor, then Shyla.  I've cheated on my wife over and over again.”

“No, you haven't.”  ~Geez, what did I just say?  Crap!~  “Danny, listen.  Hathor raped you.”

“Should have been stronger.”

“There was nothing you could have done.”

“YOU WEREN'T THERE!  You don't know how it feels to be ... to not be able to ... gawd, what she did to me,” Daniel cried.  Then, just as suddenly as the tears had begun, they stopped.  Daniel's entire demeanor changed.  His face grew tight.  “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH SHA'RE?  SHE'S MY WIFE, AND I DEMAND YOU GIVE HER BACK TO ME!”

“I don't have her, Danny, or I would.”

“YOU STOLE HER!  YOU LYING ... SNAKE!” Daniel said, surprising Jack by kicking him in the leg, causing enough pain that Jack's own knee gave out.

~Snake?  Geez, he thinks I'm Apophis.~

Jack groaned as he straightened himself up after the shocking blow to his body.  Daniel hadn't run this time, but was sliding along the wall, his hands trying to grip the wall.  It looked to Jack as if Daniel thought he was on a ledge.

“Have to jump.  Sha're.  She's gone.  Nothing left to live for.”

Slowly, Jack approached Daniel until he stood in front of him again.

“Danny, look at me.  Look into my eyes.  We'll get Sha're back.  I promise.  Soon.  We'll find her and bring her home.  Look at me, Danny.”

“Jack?”

The word was soft.  For a moment, Jack thought they had finished with this crisis, especially when Daniel reached out to touch Jack's cheek.  There was a tiny cut there.

“I hurt you.”

“Nah, my face was just in the wrong place.”

“The coat.  I'm sorry,” the young man said, guilt consuming him as he realized the zipper to Jack's coat had hit his lover in the face, causing the small cut to happen.

Jack smiled sweetly and enjoyed the tender feel of Daniel's hand against his skin.

“I can't do this.  I'm not strong enough,” Daniel whined.

“Yes, you can.  You *are*.”

“No, I'm a failure.  I deserve a life with Shyla.  It hurts.  My hands.  My stomach.  My feet.  It all hurts.  I need the pain to go away.  Have to go away,” he said, darting to his right and running down the stairs.

Daniel flew into a painful rage as he ran.

“PAIN HURTS TOO MUCH.  WANT IT TO STOP.  CAN'T DO THIS.  I NEED SOMETHING, ANYTHING!”

He tore through the kitchen, opening drawers and clearing shelves, hoping to find some kind of drugs, but finding nothing.  Jack watched helplessly from a distance.

“Daniel, this will pass.  We'll ...”

“SHUT UP, JACK.  YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IS GOING ON INSIDE ME.  YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MY GUTS FEEL LIKE THEY ARE GOING TO EXPLODE.  EVERYTHING'S CHURNING.  YOU LIKE MOVIES, JACK?  THINK THE EXORCIST BECAUSE THAT'S HOW I FEEL, LIKE MY HEAD IS SPINNING COMPLETELY AROUND, AND I'M GOING TO SPIT OUT GREEN PUKE!  YOU DO *NOT* KNOW HOW I FEEL.  STOP PATRONIZING ME!”

In a furor, Daniel ran past Jack to the fireplace.  He was like a madman, his eyes wide and wild.  In one fell swoop, he shoved everything off the mantel as he shouted, “YOU DON'T LOVE ME.  IF YOU DID, YOU'D HELP ME.  YOU'D GIVE ME SOMETHING INSTEAD OF STANDING THERE WATCHING ME LIKE I'M SOME FREAK.”

Then, Daniel looked down.  He saw the picture frame crash against the bricks of the fireplace.  It felt like everything was moving in slow motion.  He could see every fracture of the glass happening, the flecks of broken glass bouncing up and around the photo, and the wooden frame cracking as it bounced up and down several times.

“Charlie ... oh, gawd ... Charlie.”  He knelt down, the palms of his hands and knees on the floor.  Daniel didn't even register the pain as pieces of glass cut through his left hand as he leaned against them, staring at the photo.  “I'm so sorry, Charlie,” he cried, picking up the broken frame with glass jutting from it, and pressing it to his chest.

“DANIEL!”

Jack panicked, worried the glass would cut into Daniel's chest, but also afraid of scaring his lover.  If Daniel moved forward or stood up and took a step without paying attention, he might step on the broken glass.  The young man was still clad only in his pajamas, and his feet were bare.

Daniel rocked back and forth in rapid, abbreviated motions.

“Sorry, so sorry.  Charlie, I'm sorry,” he chanted over and over again.

Jack worked his way quietly behind his lover.

“It's okay, Danny,” he said, kneeling down behind him.  “Shhh, Love.  Charlie's not mad.  It's okay.”  Jack cautiously placed his hands on Daniel's shoulders and rubbed gently, slowly lowering his hands to rub the young man's back.  “It's only a frame, Daniel.  It can be replaced, but you can't.  I need you, Danny.  I love you.”

Daniel continued to rock himself, gripping the photo tightly.  Jack could see his lover's fingers pressing hard against the broken frame.

“Sorry, Charlie.  I didn't mean it.  Jack loves you.  He loves you so much.”

“Yes, I do,” Jack said, as he inched his arms to wrap around Daniel's abdomen, resting just below where Daniel cradling the photo.  “And I love you, too, Danny.  Let me see your hand,” Jack requested as he moved his left hand up to try and take Daniel's.

One step at a time, almost moving at half-speed, Jack carefully pried Charlie's photo out of Daniel's hands and placed it on the floor.  He used the end of the frame to sweep away the biggest pieces of glass, and then he took Daniel's hands, careful to avoid the places where they were cut, and used them to pull Daniel up.

“Watch your step.  That's it.  Let's go over here,” Jack said, guiding his lover to the sofa.  Daniel seemed to be in a trance-like state, not saying anything as he sat down and stared straight ahead.  “Stay here, Danny. Don't move.”

Jack hurried to the kitchen and retrieved a first-aid kit from a drawer.  Then he sat next to Daniel and cleaned the tiny cuts, applying some ointment, and wrapping a gauze bandage around the palm of Daniel's hand when he was done.  Although none of the cuts were big or deep, there were quite a lot of them, and Jack felt that the large bandage was the best way, at least in the short term, of protecting Daniel's hand.

“I'm sorry, Jack,” the young man said when Jack was finished.

“You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“I've made a mess of everything.  Let me go.  Please let me go.”

“Can't do that.  I love you.”

“My hands are shaking.  If you love me, give me something to make this stop.  You must have something to make this pain go away.”

“Look, Danny, I won't lie to you.  Things are going to get worse before they get better, but they *will* get better.”

“Jack,” Daniel began to cry, and in less than five seconds, Jack had moved to the edge of the sofa and taken Daniel into his arms.

There, they sat and snuggled for quite a while.  It was one of the few peaceful times they'd had.  Daniel was still shaking, but he was lucid, though filled with sorrow and regret.

“I feel so guilty.  Sha're trusted me.  I let Hathor ...”

“You didn't let Hathor do anything, Daniel.”

“She's just a woman, Jack.”

“She's a Goa'uld, and she poisoned our minds with that drug.”

“Shyla.  Gawd, I kissed her, right in front of you.  I forgot about us.  How could I have done that?”

“It was the sarcophagus, Danny.  Carter says that thing is dangerous.  It messes with your mind, like a narcotic, and that little witch made you use it when you didn't need it.  It was like one great big giant high.”

“I'm so weak; should have fought her; should have stayed in control.”

“You're one of the strongest people I know, Love.”

“I don't feel like it.”

“It's the drug,” Jack said, his hands massaging his lover's abdomen as Daniel leaned against him.

“Hold me, Jack,” Daniel requested, not really feeling the warm arms already wrapped around him.

“I have you, Love.”

“Tighter.  Don't let go.”

“I won't,” Jack said, squeezing Daniel to him.

====

“No, Carter, you can't come over ... For one thing, he's finally asleep ... Look, Daniel wants to be left alone; he doesn't want anyone to see him until he's feeling better, and I aim to see that his wishes are followed ... Thanks, I'll let you know if I need anything.  Goodnight.”

Jack hung up the phone and went to the sofa where Daniel had fallen asleep two hours earlier.  He sat down and just looked at his lover, once again memorizing every inch of the younger man.  It was something Jack did frequently.

Twenty minutes later, Daniel awoke.  Jack hand fed him some more soup and led him back upstairs.

“Guess we'd better get some new pajamas for you.”

“Why?”

“These are torn,” Jack said.

Daniel twisted to look behind him.

“I can't tell.”

“Trust me.  Nice big hole here.  Of course, it does have its advantages,” Jack said, slipping three fingers inside the hole, making contact with Daniel's butt and pinching it for effect.

“Oh,” Daniel smiled.

It was his first genuine smile in days, and it warmed Jack's heart.

Once Daniel had changed into a fresh pair of pajamas, Jack helped him into bed.  He placed a kiss on his lips and then pulled the covers over him.

“Aren't you coming to bed?”

Daniel's vulnerability showed again, his eyes searching Jack's soul.

“Sure, I am.  Be right back.”

Jack readied himself for bed and then got in under the covers.

“Hold me, Jack.”

“That's the plan,” he answered as he took his Daniel blanket into his arms.

Jack sighed.  He was a pillow for the first time in several days, and he loved it.  He prayed Daniel would sleep peacefully; he knew he would not, full of worry, and having to be on guard in case Daniel suffered some kind of episode before morning.

“I love you, Daniel.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

====

“Hurts.  Help me.  GIVE ME SOMETHING!” Daniel demanded as he held his hands to his abdomen.

“I'm sorry, Danny, but you said you didn't want more drugs.  I promise you, it will get better.”

The young man was experiencing cramps, both in his abdomen and legs.  His muscles had gone through periodic spasms, but this was the most severe physical reaction he'd had thus far.

“You don't know.”  Jack started to say he did, but Daniel interrupted him.  “AND STOP SAYING YOU DO.  You don't.  You don't know what this feels like.  You've never been like this.”

“Daniel, I told you I had.”

“NO, YOU'RE LYING.  YOU JUST WANT ME TO FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.  POOR JACK!  YOU DON'T LOVE ME!”

“Yes, I do.”

“IF YOU LOVED ME, YOU'D GIVE ME SOMETHING FOR THE PAIN.  I HURT.  CAN'T YOU GET THAT THROUGH YOUR FAT HEAD?”

Jack continued to try and comfort the younger man.  He refused to let Daniel push him away, and he knew the hurtful words coming from his lover weren't Daniel, but the withdrawal.  Things would improve, eventually.

====

Exhausted, Jack sat back in a dining room chair that he had brought up from downstairs.  He had placed the chair in front of the closed door.  He didn't know how much longer he could stay awake, but he felt like he had to try.  Daniel's withdrawal had been bad thus far, worse than the older man had anticipated.  His lover had bouts of violence which were followed by guilt and depression, neither of which helped him to battle the physical effects of the withdrawal.  Jack considered calling in backup, but he had made a promise to the younger man.

~No one will see you like this.  I won't let them.~

He yawned and fought to keep his eyes open, but then he looked at the younger man sprawled out on the bed.  The sight of Daniel, with sweat still rolling down his body as he tossed and turned, his body having momentary convulsions, woke him up like nothing else could have.

~Danny, I love you, and there will be an end to this.  I know you can't see it, but we'll get there.  You're already better.  This is bad, but at least you know me now.  Geez, I almost died down in that mine when I realized you'd forgotten about us.  That was so hard.  It started when Carter had that dream.  She woke up realizing that the sarcophagus was dangerous, addictive.  That's when I had to see you.  I had to ask three times to see you, Danny -- three friggin' times.  I couldn't understand why.  I do now.  You'd been suffering from the effects of a drug we can't define or understand; those dang sarcs -- they're lethal to us.~

Jack stared at his lover, as he recalled the last day on the planet, and their first days back on Earth.

//Flashback//
“You know, I can walk by myself,” Jack snipped at the Jaffa as they dragged him from the mine to the throne room.  Then he saw Daniel, dressed in royal robes, sitting on the large throne at the head of the room.  ~I don't believe it.~  “The man who would be king.”

“Hi, Jack!  Hi, Jack.  Ha Ha … hijack!”

Daniel laughed at the combination of Jack's name and the greeting to make the word 'hijack' as he moved from the throne to sit on the huge pedestal that the throne sat on.  He seemed unusually tickled by it.

The archaeologist snapped his fingers at the Jaffa, motioning for them to leave.  Jack was on his knees, several feet in front of his lover.  He coughed, but Daniel didn't react, not showing any concern at either the cough or Jack's weakened condition.  Instead, Daniel just stared while nervously moving his legs back and forth.

“We’re losing the battle down there, you know.  Carter's started having, um, Goa’uld flashbacks; says if you keep using the sarcophagus, you're going to dark side on us, if you haven't already.”

Daniel wasn't phased by the comments, and spoke with an upbeat tone of voice.

“Well, don't worry a bit.  We’re getting out of here tomorrow.”

“What?”

As if he had solved a giant puzzle, Daniel answered nonchalantly, “I agreed to marry her.”

“You did?”

Jack couldn't believe what he had heard, nor the look of emptiness in Daniel's eyes.  It wasn't that Daniel didn't know him, but something was missing that Jack couldn't put his finger on.

“But ...” Daniel jumped off the pedestal and moved to Jack.  He helped him to stand up, putting his left arm around Jack's shoulder, and continued.  “I said I had to go home and straighten a few things out first, and you guys are coming with me.”

Jack saw the giant smile on Daniel's face.  He didn't understand what was happening to his lover.  He asked, “And she trusts you?”

Daniel took a giant breath and answered with pride, “She … *loves* me.”

Jack paused, still not believing the way Daniel was talking.

~Danny, you're not talking like this is an escape plan, you're talking like you plan on going through with it.~  “Daniel, you aren't serious.”

“Why not?”

“You don't really want to marry her.”

“She's beautiful, Jack.”

“She's a *WITCH*, Daniel.”

“You just don't understand her,” Daniel argued, moving a few feet to the left of his lover.

“SHE'S A WITCH, Daniel!”

“She's wonderful.  She's beautiful and intelligent, and she needs me.  She loves me, Jack.”

“Okay,” Jack walked towards Daniel.  “Let's just forget that you're already married.  You *do* remember, Sha're, don't you?”

“Of course, I do,” Daniel said, turning and walking away a couple of steps.  He folded his arms and turned back to face Jack.  “But she's gone.  It's been a year.  Shyla is here, and ... there are things I could do here.”

“Do?”

“I can make a difference.”

“You make a difference on Earth.  Daniel,” Jack walked closer to the younger man, “what about us?”

“Us?  We're friends.  You don't have anything to do with who I marry.”

“Daniel, I mean ... us ... as in *us*.”

“Jack, what are you talking about?”

“Never mind.  Let's get out of here.”  ~I hope you're just playing dumb.~  **Danny, you're just pretending, right?**

There was no response.  Jack tried several more times, but apparently, one of the side effects of the sarcophagus was that their telepathic-like communication wasn't working.  Jack hoped it was temporary.  Even if he didn't understand it, he enjoyed their silent exchanges.  At the moment, though, the inability to share silent thoughts with Daniel was the least of Jack's problems.

Not quite an hour later, SG-1 stood at the foot of the Stargate.  Shyla stood arrogantly in front of the team, but addressed Jack.
 
“My father once was the greatest of men, but he can rule no longer.  He lives only to see me married.  I extend the sincerest of apologies for the hardship done to you and offer the friendship of our world.”

~Witch.~  “Well, thanks.”  ~And don't invite me to the wedding.  I can tell you right now that it ISN'T going to happen.  And your hospitality has been underwhelming.~

“Please know that from now on you will always be welcome here and will be treated with the utmost respect.”

~Go with the devil, Witch.~

Jack and Teal'c walked towards the Stargate while Sam began to dial the Gate.  Daniel moved to Shyla and kissed her, then said, “I'll be back, soon.”

**Danny, what are you doing?**  Again, there was no reaction from the younger man.  Jack fought down his jealousy, reminding himself that Daniel didn't know what he was doing.  ~I'm going to kill her if we don't get off this planet now.~

They walked through the Stargate and down to the foot of the ramp where General Hammond was waiting.

“We had a nice time, Sir.  Carter picked up some naquadah, Teal'c made some new friends as usual, Daniel got engaged, and, um, I'm gonna hit the showers.”  ~And then I might kill someone.~

====

Jack watched Daniel from the shower stall he was using.  He couldn't help but notice that the younger man wasn't sneaking him any glances. They always did that ... little looks, silent words, tiny smiles.  They couldn't do anything obvious, but their well-known 'best friends' camaraderie afforded them some freedom.

Instead, all he saw was Daniel acting a bit more hyper than usual.  He recognized the 'wired' movements, but hoped he was just imagining it, that perhaps it was just the stress of the events on Shyla's home world.

After they dressed, they headed for the infirmary.  Hammond had postponed the debriefing until the following morning, based on Jack's recommendation.  During the post-mission exams, Daniel was unusually fidgety.

“Daniel, there's something wrong here,” Janet said, monitoring his vital signs.

“I'm fine, Janet.”

“No, I don't think so.”

“What's wrong, Doc?” Jack asked, jumping off the exam table he'd been sitting on and walking towards the two.

“I need to do more tests, but I think the sarcophagus has affected Daniel's system.”

“I'm FINE,” he insisted, jumping off the table and starting to leave.

“Whoa, Daniel,” Jack said, running to cut off his lover.  He put his hands on Daniel's shoulder and stared into his eyes.  It startled him.  In many ways, Jack felt like he was looking at a stranger.  “You're staying here until the Doc clears you to leave.”

“I'm fine, Jack.”

“Fine.  I'm glad you're fine, Daniel, but you're not leaving here until Doctor Fraiser says you can.”

“Fine!” Daniel responded, pushing away from Jack and pacing the infirmary.

“Colonel, I need to do some more tests.  I don't think Daniel should be left alone.”

Jack sighed, “You need help handling him?”

“I'm going to call in the heavyweights,” the physician said softly, adding, “just in case, unless you and Teal'c want to stay.  I hate to agitate him, Colonel.”

“I'll stay while you do the tests, but then I have to meet with Hammond.  After that, Carter can stay with him for a while.”

Janet nodded, and motioned to one of the nurses to join her.

“Daniel, we need to do some tests.”

Daniel was about to protest, but he saw Jack and Teal'c staring at him.

“Fine,” the archaeologist said angrily, submitting to the tests grudgingly.

Afterwards, Jack told Sam and Teal'c to get something to eat.  Hammond had pushed back their meeting thirty minutes, so Jack said he'd stay with Daniel until then.

Daniel continued to pace rapidly across the expanse of the infirmary floor.  He picked up a pillow and squeezed it; then he looked at Jack.

“What are you looking at?”

“My best friend.”

Daniel stared, but said nothing.  He tossed the pillow back onto the bed.

“I want to go back.”

“No, you don't.  There's nothing for you there.”

“Shyla's there.”

“You don't love her.”

“How would you know?  What makes you think you know everything?”

“I don't, but I know you, and I know that right now you're suffering from the effects of the sarcophagus.”  **Danny?  Don't you remember?  Can't you hear me?**

The lack of response saddened Jack.

“You can't keep me here, Jack.”

Jack walked into Daniel's personal space.

“You can't tell me you really want to go back to that planet.”

“I can, and I do.”

“Why?”

“I love her.”

“What about us?”  Jack reached out to touch his lover, but Daniel unconsciously backed away, startling the older man.  “We're nothing?”

“Why do you keep asking me that?  We're friends, Jack, but that doesn't mean that you can meddle in my private affairs.”

“Friends?  Meddle?”  Jack shook his head in disbelief.  “We're ... friends.”

“Okay, best friends.  You should be happy for me.  What's your problem, Jack?”

“Nothing,” Jack responded softly, the truth hitting him like a ton of bricks.  Daniel truly didn't remember that they were in love.  ~I have to get out of here.~ He started to leave, but remembered he couldn't.  Regardless of his own hurt, he had to make sure Daniel was safe.  “So, Daniel, when we go home ...”

“Jack, when Janet releases me, I'm going home, and I'm going to pack, and then I'm going to come back here and go through the Stargate.  I'm sorry you're having a hard time with that, but that's how it is.”

“You're going home?”

“Gawd, Jack, what's your problem?  Yes, I'm going home, to pack.”

“You're going to the apartment?”

Daniel felt exasperated.

~Just leave me alone.~  “Yes, Jack, it's where I live.  Gawd, I think it's you who has a problem here; not me.”

“What about me?”

“What about you?  Look, thank you for being a friend, Jack, but Shyla is more than a friend, and I'm going back.  You can find someone else to watch boring hockey games and eat cold pizza with.”

“I see,” Jack said, both stunned and saddened.

He was on the verge of losing Daniel forever if he didn't do something, and fast.  The only problem was that he hadn't a clue what to do.

“Sir,” Sam interrupted, “I'm back.”

Jack looked at Sam.  Normally, he would have questioned her early return, but at the moment, he was grateful for it; he needed to escape.

“Stay with him, Captain.  Do not let him leave.  I'll be with General Hammond.”

Jack looked at Daniel one last time, and then headed for the general's office.
//End of Flashback//

~That's when things really went south.  You scared Carter out of her mind, and that's not easy to do.  She didn't even recognize you.  Imagine that, Danny.  You actually frightened Carter to the point where you had her cringing and shaking.  You're going to feel so guilty about that when this is over.~

Jack got up from his chair and walked to the bed.  He placed his hand on Daniel's clammy cheek.

“I love you, Danny.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah, it's me.  I'm sorry.  I didn't think you'd wake up.”

“Hard to sleep.”

“I know.  I love you.”  Jack was desperate to hear the words, but he wouldn't ask; instead, he'd keep saying them over and over again, knowing that Daniel was insecure and needed Jack to say them first.  “I love you so friggin' much.”

“I love you, too.”  Jack smiled, and even through the mucky haze that currently filled his mind, Daniel knew what his lover was thinking about.  “I'm sorry, Jack.  I'm sorry I forgot.”

“It wasn't you, Love; it was that thing.”

“I hurt you.”

“No, it was that thing,” Jack repeated, his hand continuing to caress Daniel's cheek.

Daniel raised his left hand to take hold of Jack's.  Though Daniel's hand was shaking, he held on and then kissed the center of Jack's palm.  He leaned his cheek into Jack's hand and closed his eyes.

“Love you so much, Jack.  Sorry, so sorry.”

“Come here, you,” Jack said, moving to sit against the headboard of the bed and pulling his lover to lay atop him.  Jack's fingers ran through Daniel's long hair.  He leaned down and placed a kiss on Daniel's head. “I love you so much.  We're going to get through this.”

“How?” Daniel began to cry, losing control of his emotions.  “I can't do this, Jack.  I have no control over anything; I need to be in control; it's all I have.”

“You have me.”  He heard the sniffling of the younger man and placed another kiss on his head.  “You can get through this; it just takes time.  I'm here; we're together, and together, we're unbeatable.”

“Too hard.”

“No, Love.  You'll see, but right now, you need to rest.  Close your eyes.”

“Don't leave.”

“Never, not ever.”

Daniel's head lay on Jack's lap, tears running down his face.  He was tormented by the knowledge of the hurt he had caused Jack.  He'd suffered amnesia, and it wasn't until Jack held him in the storeroom of the SGC during his escape attempt that his memory had come flooding back.  He had almost shot not just his best friend, but his soulmate, and that knowledge was now infesting Daniel like a plague eating away at his body.

~My fault.  Hurt him.  Gawd, no.  I almost killed him.~

The young man's mind raced remembering how he had almost shot the man he cherished more than life.

//Flashback//
~I have to get free.  Escape.  Get back to Shyla.  Don't want to be here. They're all against me.  You're against me, Janet.~

From his private room, Daniel plotted his next move.  He heard Janet enter the room, and then he heard her say, “Okay, Daniel” as she used her penlight to check Daniel's pupil reactions.

With a burst of anger and strength, Daniel broke free of his restraints, grabbed Janet, and threw her over the top of his body to the other side of the room.

The Special Forces officer on guard heard the commotion, but was no match for the hyped-up archaeologist who beat the guard with his fist several times.

~Have to get to the Stargate before they hurt me.~  Daniel fled the room that was a prison to him.  ~Where do I go?  Just run.  Must run.~

In another part of the infirmary, Jack's internal Daniel alarm blared.  He turned to look at a nearby monitor and saw the empty bed where his lover had been just minutes earlier.  Quickly, he ran to the room.

Janet had gotten up and was exiting the private room.  She told Jack she was okay.  He hit the alarm button, setting off the loud alarm within the SGC and gave chase.

**Daniel, stop!**  Jack had to attempt it, but there still wasn't any response.  ~Come on, Daniel.  How far do you think you'll get anyway?~

Jack followed Daniel to a darkened storeroom.  He flipped on the light switch and carefully looked around.  He was shocked when a bullet flew by, hitting the overhead lighting, the bulb exploding over Jack's head.

“Geez, Daniel!  Are you trying to kill me?” he called out after taking cover.  ~And where did you get the gun?  The guard.  We really need to improve military training.~

“You're trying to kill me,” the young man accused from across the room.

~Okay, let's try the military approach; see if they can get something right.~  “There'll be guards here in thirty seconds.”

“I'm going back.”

~No, you're not.  And no they can't get anything right.  Who's in charge of training around here anyway?~  “You don't have to.  Fraiser says you're getting better.”

~I want to believe you.~  “You're lying!”

“Why would I do that?”  **For crying out loud, I love you, Danny!**

**No!**

Jack's momentary thrill at hearing the silent communication ended when he saw Daniel take off, trying to flee the room.  Jack moved swiftly to stop his lover, tackling him to the floor.  They struggled in a fierce battle to gain control of the other, knocking down storage racks as they wrestled.

Jack was surprised by Daniel's strength, though he realized it was a result of what Janet called “the sarcophagus drug” in his system; it made him that much more difficult to handle.

Finally, Daniel managed to break free.  He sat against the wall near the door and aimed the pistol he had taken from the SF at Jack.  He looked crazed, his eyes wide and his hair straggled and sweat-soaked from their fight.

“Daniel!  What are you going to do, Daniel?  Do you want to kill me?”  Jack saw the gun wavering in the younger man's hands.  His hold wasn't tight.  He could hear Daniel's labored breathing.  He paused, giving his lover a chance to put down the weapon.  “Look at you.  I know what this is.  I know what it's like.  You can get through it.”  **I love you.**

Daniel was crying, unable to accept both what he was doing and what Jack was saying to him.  The conflict was tearing him apart.  His mind couldn't comprehend the truth, nor even the lies of his paranoia.

“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head, breaking down.

Jack watched in agony.  Daniel was truly at the end of his rope, and he looked it.  He waved his left hand in front of his face a couple of times, like a baby swatting at nothing.

**I love you, Danny.**

**Love?  Me?  No!  No, you don't.**

**Oh, yes, I do.  You're my life.  I love you, Space Monkey.**

Daniel's mind processed his thoughts as silent messages to Jack.  He didn't realize he was doing it, but slowly, the connections that had snapped loose fused back together.  He was Jack's Space Monkey, his falling star, his love.

**Space ... Mon...key.  Falling Star.  Jack?  Jack, I love you.  Gawd, I love you.**

**Yes, Danny.  My beautiful falling star.  Mine, all mine.**

The cries became more desperate, and Jack moved forward.  Daniel still held the gun in his right hand, but it was limp in his hand.  He leaned forward, crying in frustrating sobs.

Reaching Daniel, Jack grabbed hold of the gun with his right hand while leaning forward on his knees to comfort his lover.  His left arm circled around Daniel's back to hold the young man to him.  Jack gently placed the gun on the floor and brought his right hand to Daniel's head, allowing Daniel to cry into his shoulder.  He rocked his lover back and forth as he hugged him, saying nothing for several seconds.  He rubbed his back and held him as close as he could.

Not for one moment did Jack think about the security cameras or the personnel that were quickly approaching the area.  Jack's entire universe was in his arms, and he had but one goal, one purpose, at the moment -- to comfort the man he loved more than life.

He'd never seen Daniel so distraught, but Jack knew what it was like, and somehow, he vowed to get them through this latest disaster.

“It's okay, Danny.”

“Gawd, I for...forgot.”

“Shhh.”  **I love you.  Can you hear me?  I love you, Daniel.  We will get through this.**

**Lost, so lost, Jack.  Can't ... think.**

**It's okay.  I'll think for both of us.  Trust me.**  “Trust me, Daniel.”

“Don't let them see me, Jack; they'll laugh.  I want to go home.  Please.”

~Laugh?  Not if they want to live.~  “I don't think the Doc would approve.”

“Take me home.  Please take me home.  I want to go...go home.”

“Shh.  Relax, Danny.  Everything will be all right.  You'll see.”

“I want to die,” he wailed.

“No, you don't.”  **We have a forever to live.**

“Sir,” Sam called out, three Marines behind her.

“Carter, get them out of here,” Jack barked.

Sam motioned for the Marines to stand back and away from the storeroom.  She looked at Jack holding Daniel, and she saw how the archaeologist was clinging to him.  There was something different about this.  It wasn't the colonel protecting a member of his team.  It wasn't one best friend protecting another.

~You *are* together.  Holy Hannah!  I'm right.~  Sam looked nervously at the Marines and back at her CO.  Daniel's head was lying on Jack's shoulder and Jack's chin was buried in Daniel's hair.  ~What do I do?~

“Shh, Danny, it'll be okay,” Jack whispered.

“Scared.  Can't do this, Jack.”

“Yes, you can.  We can.  Together.  We *can* and we will.”

“Forgot, Jack. So sorry.  Us ... forgot about us.“

“Shh, it's okay.  You remember now.”

“Help me, Jack.  Take me home.”

“I will, Danny.  We'll go home, and we'll make this nightmare go away.”

Sam hadn't been able to hear much, just a few scattered words -- scared, together, us, home -- but it wasn't the words that told her their secret, it was the touching, the way her two friends were holding on to each other, the way their faces were snuggled together.

The blonde Captain had suspected there was more to her friend's relationship than friendship since they had been sent to the prison world of Hadante.  She had seen little things there that made her wonder, and couldn't get over the way the usually very private Daniel had allowed Jack into his personal space.  Now, with what she had just witnessed, every fiber of her being told her that her suspicions were correct.

~I knew it; just didn't quite want to believe it.  Wow, it's real.  It's so real.~

Sam heard a noise and looked to her right.  She saw one of the Marines moving forward.

“That's okay, guys.  Everything is under control.”

“Sam!” Janet called out.  “Where's Daniel?”

“He's with the colonel.”

“In there?” Janet started to move towards the storeroom, but Sam grabbed her arm.

“Give them a minute, Janet.  I think what Daniel needs right now is ... just a minute or two with ... his best friend.”

Janet looked at the captain quizzically.

“Sam ...”

“Just one minute, okay?”

Hesitantly, Janet relented, but continued to stare at the open door.  Sam nodded her thanks, and after a few more seconds, moved back to the entrance of the storeroom.

“Sir, Janet's outside.”

“Thanks, Carter.  Give us a minute.”

Sam backed away.

“Danny, we need to go back to the infirmary.”

“Hoooome,” Daniel cried.  “Don't let them see me.  Cold.  Please ... home.”

“I'll take you home, but the Doc needs to check you out first.”  **I love you.**

“Love you,” Daniel said, unaware he'd spoken it aloud.

Jack didn't mind.  He didn't care about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' at the moment.  Gently, he helped his lover up.  Tears streaming down Daniel's face, he gazed into Jack's eyes.  The older man brushed back the straggly clumps of Daniel's sweaty hair and smiled.  Then he put one arm around his lover's waist to support him, and with his other hand, he held Daniel's.  They'd walk out together, and if anyone wanted to make assumptions, they could.

Slowly, they exited the storeroom.  Daniel started to panic when he saw the Marines and the medical team outside, instinctively moving back towards the storeroom, but Jack squeezed him close.

**Look at me, Danny.  It's just us.  You and me.  I love you.**

Daniel swallowed and leaned his head against Jack's shoulder.  He didn't care much about the real world at the moment, and even if he did, his mind felt too soggy and full of muck that was hampering his thinking to do anything about it.

“Here we go.  Lay down,” Jack said as he helped his partner onto the gurney the medical team had brought.

“Home, Jack.  Please.”

“We'll go home soon.  I promise.”

“Okay, Colonel, let me in there.”

Suddenly, Daniel remembered shoving Janet out of his way.

“Gawd.  Janet, I'm sorry ...”

“Quiet down, Doctor Jackson.  It wasn't you; it was the effects of the sarcophagus.  Now, relax, and let me examine you.”
//End of Flashback//

~Gawd.  I hurt them all.~

“Danny, rest.  I can hear you.”

“I should have fought harder.”

“You are fighting, Love.  I'm proud of you.”

“Shyla.  She wanted me.  I forgot about you, Jack.  How could I do that?”

“Not you, Love,” Jack stroked his lover's head and back.  “It was that Goa'uld chamber of horrors, except,” Jack sighed, “it did save your life.”

Daniel leaped up and looked at Jack with rage in his eyes.

“YOU DON'T WANT ME!  YOU WANTED ME TO STAY.”

“Daniel,” Jack got off the bed and walked slowly towards his soulmate, “you know that's not true.”

“IT IS TRUE.  I'M NOTHING!  INSIGNIFICANT!  YOU PUT ME IN THAT THING!”

“Danny, I didn't even know they had one of those things.  I didn't know that until you told us later.  I just hoped they had a doctor to help you, but Danny, if that was the only way to save your life, then I would have done it anyway.  I had to; I'd do anything to safe your life.”

“To save me?  SAVE ME?  You call THIS saving me?”

“We're going to get through it.”

“I DON'T NEED YOU!”

Daniel ran and struggled to get by Jack.  He bumped into the side of the dresser and knocked several things off.  Jack grabbed on to the back of Daniel's shirt and then managed to pull Daniel back to him.  Jack's front was against Daniel's back as the younger man fought for his freedom.

“LET ME GO!  YOU DON'T WANT ME!”

“I love you,” Jack said softly, refusing to let Daniel's episode of paranoia get to him.

“YOU SET ME UP!  IT WAS A WAY TO GET RID OF ME!  I'M GOING BACK THERE.”

“Over my dead body,” Jack said firmly.

All of a sudden, Daniel managed to jab Jack in the abdomen with his elbow.  It caught Jack off guard and he moaned and moved back.

Daniel ran to the hallway and turned around.

“FINE.  I'LL KILL YOU!”

As soon as the words had left his mouth, Daniel began to see flashes of the storeroom.  Like lightning, they thundered in his mind.  He shook his head as he remembered.

“No.  Gawd, no.  Jaaaaack,” he cried, falling to his knees.

Jack hurried to him, and again held Daniel in his arms.

“I want to die, Jack.  It hurts.  My muscles hurt.  Everything hurts.  I need drugs; I need the sarcophagus.  Pleeeeeeeeeeease.”

“No, Danny, the only drug I can give you is love.”

“Not a drug.”

“It can be.  You know how blind people can get.  I love you so much.”

Daniel cried in Jack's arms until he fell asleep, and then gently, Jack settled the two against the closest wall.  He didn't want to wake up his soulmate, so he only risked scooting them over a little.

“Sleep, Danny.  It'll be better tomorrow, and then it will get worse.  Then the sun will come out, and then we'll cry some more,” Jack said with a sigh, “but eventually, it really will get better.  I know you can't see that yet, but I know what I'm doing.  I've ... been there.  Sleep, Love.  We'll tackle tomorrow ... tomorrow.”

====

They'd now gone through fifty-two hours of withdrawal hell, and Jack wasn't sure how much more either of them could endure.

Daniel's hallucinations came and went without warning, taking the young man back to Abydos and memories of Sha're; to their battles with Apophis both real and imagined; to Shyla's planet, her advances, and their shared kisses while his friends were held captive and treated like slaves in the mines; and memories of Jack and their blossoming nation of two, beginning with the immortal nickname of 'Space Monkey' and everything since, along with imagined fights and accusations of Jack not wanting to find Sha're, as well as using Daniel as a play thing.

The young man's physical pain seemed to be like a light switch flipped on and off by some unseen and random force.  If he wasn't vomiting, he was suffering from diarrhea.  He was always sweating, and his skin was cold and clammy.  The cramps and muscle spasms seemed to ignore no part of Daniel's body, including his arms and legs.

The memory loss that Daniel had suffered on the planet came back occasionally, too.  His guilt at cheating on Sha're, and even on Jack with Shyla, ate away at him, even though Jack continually tried to reassure him.  Nothing had happened with Shyla except for a few kisses, and only at her insistence; Daniel had resisted anything more than that.  Then, Daniel felt guilty about not remembering his love for Jack.  He was under so many layers of guilt that Jack worried it would consume Daniel if they didn't get the withdrawal under control soon.

Emotionally, Daniel was nervous, anxious, and aside from the guilt, depressed.  He felt weak and whiny.  He blamed himself for everything -- Sha're's abduction, Shyla's woes, Jack's pain -- if there was something in need of blame, Daniel felt it was his responsibility.

As for Jack, he still hadn't gotten any quality sleep.  If he wasn't fighting Daniel, he was having to deal with phone calls from Hammond, Janet, Sam, and even one from Teal'c.  He finally turned the volume down and the ringer off, leaving a message that said, “Don't call me, and I won't call you.”

At the end of his physical endurance, as he sat upright against the headboard of the bed, Jack finally fell asleep.  He wasn't sure how long he'd slept, but when he awoke, fear flooded his tired body as he realized Daniel wasn't in the room.

“DANIEL?  DANNY, WHERE ARE YOU?”

Jack ran downstairs.  His heart literally skipped a few beats when he saw his gun cabinet open.

~No.  Not again.  NO!~  “DANIEL, ANSWER ME!”

Seeing the patio door slightly ajar, Jack ran outside.  The sun was out, though obscured by clouds, and suddenly, it began to rain.  It trickled at first, then became a drizzle, but within sixty seconds, the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance, and then the rain grew heavier.

“DANIEL!”

In desperation, Jack climbed up the ladder, closing his eyes in gratitude when he saw his lover alive, staring at him from the other side of the balcony.  Yet, the older man still couldn't breathe easily.  In Daniel's hands was Jack's pistol.  It wasn't the one that had killed Charlie, but it was its companion.  Jack had purchased two that day so many years earlier.  He'd intended for Sara to keep one nearby, and the other for himself, but Sara hadn't wanted anything to do with the guns, so Jack had kept this one locked up.

~I should have gotten rid of it.  Geez, Danny, please don't do this.  I can't ... not again.~  Slowly, he climbed over the ladder to the roof deck.  “Danny, put the gun down.”

“I'm nothing.  I'm a ... cypher.  I've never mattered.  My parents loved me, but I was still second to their work.  Never had anyone after that, except for Suzanna, but I wasn't with her family very long.  No one has really cared, and what have I done?  Nothing.  So I read.  Big deal.  Anyone can do that.  It's my fault.  Sha're could be married to Kazul.  He loved her, but Kasuf gave her to me.  If she'd married Kazul, they'd be happy.  She'd have kids.”

“Daniel, Sha're loves you.  She wouldn't have been happy with that Kazul guy.  You know how she is.  Gift or not, she wouldn't have married you if she didn't want to.”

“And where does that leave me?  Look at me, at us.  I'm not supposed to be ha... not supposed to ...”

A tear made its way down Daniel's cheek, mixing with the rain.

“Sha're wouldn't want you being miserable.”

“Oh, but she'd want me cheating on her ... with a man?  Is that what you're telling me?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“No,” Jack responded, moving a couple steps closer to Daniel.  “What I'm saying is that she'd want you to put down the gun.”

“I can't do this anymore.  I want to die.”

“No, you don't.”

“Yes, I do.  I want the pain to go away.  I don't want Sha're to hate me. I don't want Shyla to be alone.  I don't want you to be court-martialed.  I'm not worth it, Jack.  I want the pain, all of it, to go away.”

“I love you, Danny.”  Jack's breathing hitched as he watched Daniel raise the gun to his temple.  “Daniel, listen to me.”  Desperate to reach his lover, Jack knelt down on his haunches.  “Shoot me.”

“What?”

The shock of Jack's statement resulted in Daniel lowering the gun a fraction.

“If you are going to pull that trigger, you might as well shoot me first, because I'll be right behind you.  You know something, Danny?  That gun ... I bought it for Sara the same time I bought the one that ... Charlie found.  They're exactly the same; twins, you could say.”

“Twins,” Daniel repeated softly.

The gun was lowered a little more.  Even feeling as much pain and sorrow he currently did, Daniel couldn't hurt Jack.  That concept, of causing Jack any kind of pain, mental or physical, tore through Daniel like a bullet ripping through his body.

“I can't go through that again.  Charlie died in my arms, Danny.  Did I tell you that?  His blood ... he died in my arms, just like you will if you pull that trigger, and this time,” Jack's voice cracked, and he didn't try to stop the tears from escaping his eyes, “this time, I won't be the survivor.  There won't be anything for me.  So ... you just do us both a favor, and shoot me first, okay?  Come on, Daniel.  Do it.  Aim that gun at me, and pull the trigger.”

“Jack, I can't ...”

“You are; you will, unless you put that thing down.  Please, Danny.  I know you're tired of hearing it.  I know you don't believe it, but we're almost there.  It *will* get better -- soon.  Please, Danny, put the gun down.”

Daniel blinked three times and then lowered the gun to the ground.  He broke down into tears, shaking his head.

“I don't know how much longer I can fight this, Jack.  I don't even know what's real anymore.”

Making a mental note to get rid of this particular gun as soon as possible, Jack took it and placed it carefully on the table where it was out of the way.  Then he sat down next to his lover, taking him into his arms.

“You can endure it for as long as you have to.  You're so strong, Daniel.  I believe in you.  Soon, it'll be behind us.  Soon.”

====

“YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS IS LIKE!” Daniel accused from his spot on the other side of the bedroom, only nine hours after the gun incident on the roof deck.

“Daniel, you will survive.  We'll both survive.  I know it looks bad, but ...”

“SHUT UP, JACK.  I'M SICK AND TIRED OF YOU ACTING LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT I'M FEELING, BECAUSE YOU DON'T.  I ... I CAN'T DO THIS. I ... I NEED SOMETHING. Pleeeeeeease, give me something.”

“No, Danny, I can't, and you will be okay.  Just another day, maybe two,” Jack said in a desperate attempt to reassure the younger man.

“NO! NO! NO!”  Daniel dashed for the door, but Jack tackled him, knocking him to the floor.  The younger man was sobbing as Jack scooted up to him and rolled him over.  “You ... don't know ... help me,” Daniel pleaded.

Jack braced Daniel up, and leaned against the wall.  He held his lover to his chest, his chin against Daniel's forehead, his right arm wrapped around Daniel's back, and his left hand alternating between massaging Daniel's head and running his fingers through the shaggy hair.

“Let me go, Jack.  Give me something to get through this.  Just a little bit.  I can't see.  I'm ... sha...shaking.  I can't do this.”  Daniel struggled in Jack's arms, and the Special Ops Colonel tightened his hold.  “You don't know anything, Jack.  You don't know, not with Ha...Hath...or, and not this.”

Jack closed his eyes.  Daniel's number one argument during the bad times had been that Jack didn't understand, but he did; he understood more than he ever wanted to admit, or remember.

“I know, Danny.  I know how vulnerable you feel; how violated, weak, disgusted. I know you think you're weak, that you should have been able to fight harder.  There had to be something you could have done. What kind of man are you to have been raped by a woman, Goa'uld or no Goa'uld?  What kind of miserable, good-for-nothing human being are you to have gotten hooked on drugs in the first place?  Scum ... worthless, weak, humiliated ... scared.  Gawd, so scared.”

When he spoke, his voice was almost monotone, and definitely the mannerism of a man who was detaching himself from the words, and the memories.  It was this more than anything that caught Daniel's attention and stopped his struggles.

“There was another night like this, in a miserable part of the world.  Four stinking months.  Four months in a hellhole, beaten, starved, interrogated morning, noon, and night.  I gave them nothing.  Days, weeks ... nothing.”

Daniel's shaking had calmed, but he was breathing hard.  His eyes were almost forced open.  Something in Jack's demeanor was different, unlike anything Daniel had ever seen before.  The young man was almost afraid to move, and he didn't even know why.

“They started giving me drugs, all kinds -- marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines, LSD, cocaine -- you name it, they gave it to me, slowly at first, but then it built until I couldn't live without it.  PCP, whatever they had, I *had* to have it.  I had nightmares, hallucinations; when I was high, at least I wasn't in that hellhole.  I was home with Sara, but then it'd turn sour, and I'd be climbing walls that weren't there and talking to people who didn't exist.  I was so strung out I didn't know my name, but somehow, I gave them squat.”  Jack let out a vicious laugh.  “Couldn't protect myself, but that good, old-fashioned military training stayed intact.  No matter what they gave me, they got nothing.  *Nothing,*” Jack repeated.

Daniel noticed Jack's hold on him tightened.  He moved his right hand to tug gently on Jack's black shirt.

“Jack?”

“It was a night like this,” Jack said, speaking as if in a trance and ignoring Daniel's call.  “I was on ... I don't know.  I lost track of the drugs, but something. The door to my cell opened, and four ... four of them came in.  All ... women,” Jack said, emphasizing the word in a nervous disquiet, “kept staring at me.  I hadn't seen them before.  I wanted more drugs.  They laughed.  One of them pushed me down to the floor.  It was cold.  I could hear the thunder through the walls.”

Daniel's heart was beating rapidly.  He didn't like what he was hearing.  He remembered that after the Hathor incident that his lover had said he understood, and he had intimated that it had been more than one person, but after thinking about it, Daniel had assumed Jack had just been trying to make him feel better.

Jack was strong and brave.  He was trained in covert operations.  He could stare down an army and never blink.  Daniel had never imagined that Jack could be in a situation like that, unable to prevent himself from being abused, drugged, and raped -- not his Jack, his hero, his protector.

“She ... I was so weak, Danny.  I tried, until I couldn't fight anymore.  Two of them held me down.  They took my clothes off.  The slab of the floor felt like ice.  She ... then ... they ...”

Jack was the one shaking now.  Daniel freed himself from the tight lock his lover had on him.  He looked at Jack and saw how pale he was.

“Jack,” Daniel cupped his lover's face.

“They raped me, Danny.  They had an orgy at my expense.  I don't want to remember.  I can't.”  The tears rolled down his face, and Daniel moved to take Jack into his arms.  “They wouldn't get off of me, and they wouldn't let go.  I kept yelling for Sara.  I wanted Sara.  I ... gawd, Daniel, I pretended it was Sara.  Over and over, it was all I could do to survive.  THEY WOULDN'T LET ME GO!  I WANTED HER TO GET OFF ... OF ... of ... she wouldn't.  Sounds.  I heard them, Danny.  I could hear the guards laughing, saw them watching, getting their jollies.”

“Jack,” Daniel rocked his quivering lover in his arms.  He held on for dear life.  He'd never seen Jack like this, not ever.  “I'm sorry, Jack.  Don't remember.  Gawd, I'm sorry,” Daniel cried, feeling extremely guilty for causing the man he loved to relive this nightmare.

“I was their puppet.  I couldn't fight them.  Sara.  I thought about Sara.”

“So sorry, Babe.  I'm sorry.”

“Their taunts never stopped.  'Want some rocket fuel, Fly Boy?'  'Need help getting it up?'  'Can't handle a woman, little gigolo?'  The drugs and the women; being high and getting raped -- I thought it wouldn't end.”

“Don't think about it anymore, Jack.  Gawd, please don't.  It's over.  Don't remember anymore,” Daniel pleaded.  He couldn't stand the heartbreak.  “Thunder.  I let it take me home to Sara.  I saw her face, felt her hands.  She kept me alive, Danny.  Their filthy, rotten, stinking hands kept sliding over my body, touching me, making me do things I didn't want to do.  GET OFF OF ME!” Jack yelled as he vividly relived the experience.

“Jack, no, you're safe.  Come back to me, Jack.  That was a long time ago.  You survived.  I'll ... I'll survive.  Please, Jack.  Gawd, please, put it back wherever it's lived.  It's over.  You're safe.”

“Wasn't safe there,” Jack said in an unsteady voice.  He was still transfixed by his past, unable to move forward.  “When they were done, they taunted me with the drugs.  They held out joints and pills, teasing me.  I wanted them.  I needed them, more than ever.  They stood there, laughing at me.  I ... I was crawling on the cement floor, naked, begging them for the pills.  I wanted to forget.  I wanted them to give me enough that I could forget them and never wake up.  I never thought I could feel like that ... ashamed.  I've never been ashamed of anything in my life, until then.”

“Not your fault, Jack.  You're safe now,” Daniel said, tears streaming down his face.

“I lunged for them, but it was useless.  They left just enough to keep me strung up.  They came the next day; the next day ...”

“Gawd, no.”

“And they did it again.  They got rougher ...”  Daniel closed his eyes, rocking Jack back and forth rapidly.  He clung to his lover as he had never clung to him before. “It was hard to imagine Sara with them touching me like that -- no caring, no warmth, no love ... just raw, violent ... sex.  And the taunts.  The guards; they had a field day.  'What kind of a man can't fight off a bunch of women?'  'He likes it; he wants it'.  I didn't want it.  I hated it.  Even the other prisoners were looking at me with disgust. I wanted to die.  I did die.”

“Wha...what?”

“I wanted to die, Danny.  I couldn't go through a second night.  It was still thundering and I was freezing cold.  I knew I couldn't go back to Sara.  I loved her, Danny.  I felt like a failure in every way possible, and I didn't want to live anymore.  Two of them held my arms, she came towards me, laughing ... I'll never forget that sound.  Somehow I kicked her ... got her in the face. They got angry.  I'm not sure what they were going to do next, but I didn't care as long as I didn't have to think about it.  I shut down.  I willed myself to die.”

“I don't understand.”

“I turned off.  The drugs, the rapes ... no more.  No more.  NO MORE!  When I woke up, I was in their so-called hospital, which was a joke.  They said I'd gone into cardiac arrest.  I told them they should have let me die.”

“I'm so sorry, Jack.  It's over now.”

“They moved me to another section of the prison.  I never saw the four women again.  I met someone in the new section.  He helped me escape a few weeks later.  He died, making sure I got out.  He knew I would die if I stayed there much longer.  I don't want to remember that either, how he sacrificed his life for me.  They beheaded him, Danny.  I saw them from where I was hiding.”

Daniel kissed Jack on his head and continued rocking him.  He didn't know what else to do.  Jack was still shaking.

“Somehow, I got away; made it back to some little village.  A woman there helped me through what amounted to detox.  Detox.  Right.  She had nothing to give me, and I had nothing to take.  I felt like my skin was going to jump off me.  One second I could feel spiders crawling up me, the next, I was sweating bullets, and the next after that, I couldn't get clean quick enough.  It took me days to stop the obvious effects of the withdrawal.  It took weeks to stop the hallucinations.  It took months before all the effects had gone away.”

Jack let out a wail that broke Daniel's heart.

“I didn't think I could go home.  How could I face Sara?  She had kept me alive, in my mind, but how could I walk through the door and ... worry about paying the bills and going on picnics.  Sara loved picnics.”

“It wasn't your fault; you didn't have a choice.  You lived, Jack.  You lived for Sara, and for me, even if you didn't know it then.  You were staying alive,” Daniel sobbed, his tears falling onto Jack's hair, “for me, for us.”

“I made it go away, Danny.  It was the only way I could go forward.  I pushed it so far inside of me that it never happened.  I made that military training pay off.  I buried it.”

“Oh gawd, I'm sorry.  It's my fault.  I'm sorry, Jack.  Please put it back.  Please.  Gawd, I'm sorry.”

“I had to make sure when I saw Sara again that I could hold her.  I pushed it out of my existence.”

“Push it there again.  It doesn't exist; let it disappear, Jack.”

Daniel's guilt was huge.  Jack was still shaking; tears were falling like a waterfall down his cheeks; his voice was cracked and weak when he spoke; and still, Jack stared straight ahead.  He wasn't really here with Daniel, even though he was talking to him.  Daniel was dying inside.  His own addiction and rape seemed to pale in comparison to what Jack had lived through.  He hated himself for being so weak that Jack had to let out his hidden anguish in order to comfort him.  He knew Jack had revealed this hidden horror only so that Daniel would realize that he, Jack, truly did understand the nightmare.

“Sara.  She deserved more than she got when I came back.  I tried, Danny.  I tried to bury it and make it go away.  When we started to make love, the first time, I screamed.  Sara; she didn't know what to do.  I pulled away from her, and ran.  You should have seen her eyes.  She was so frightened.  She didn't understand why I ran, and I couldn't tell her.  I couldn't.  I COULDN'T!”

“Shh, Jack.  It's okay now.”

Jack continued on, as if Daniel hadn't said a word.

“I knew then that if I didn't get rid of those memories, I might as well be dead.  I told Sara I needed time.  She gave it to me.  Geez, Danny, Sara always tried to understand.  She's a good woman.”

“I know, Jack.  You love her.  You couldn't love her if she wasn't good.”

“You're good, too, Danny.  You're the best,” Jack said, somehow jumping out of his nightmare to reassure Daniel, something that made Daniel's tears increase, knowing how much Jack loved him; but then, Jack was back in the past.  “Sara needed her husband, not a zombie, not a victim, not a weakling.  I willed it to go away.  I went to the cabin for a week.  I stared at Sara's photo and remembered nothing but our life together.  I kept a taser by my side, and every time I started to remember Iraq, I hit myself with it.”

Daniel gasped.

“You tortured yourself?  No, Jack.  You didn't.”

“I had to make sure I wouldn't remember, so every time I did, I gave myself a shock.  By the end of the week, all I saw was Sara.  When I went home to her, Iraq was a nightmare that I never thought about it, until a few weeks ago.”

“Hadante.  Jack, put it back; bury it.  Please.”

“You'll survive, Danny.”

“Yes, I will.  *We* will.  Together, Jack.  I'll ... get through this, and you'll put Iraq back into nonexistence, okay?”

Daniel felt Jack's head nod.  Both men cried, not moving, except for the gentler rocking motion Daniel now made.  He had become the healer, at least for now.

~I'll never forgive myself for this.  I'm so sorry, Jack, so sorry.~

As the thunder raged on, the men cried in each other's arms, clinging desperately to their nation of two.

====

Jack and Daniel had gone back upstairs to snuggle on their bed.  For the first time since the withdrawal had begun, Daniel wasn't sweating, and his muscles weren't hurting.  He had managed to turn the switch off himself, using some magic from deep down inside him.  He had to because right now, Jack needed him.

The older man was the one shaking now as he continued to remember the trauma of his four-month stay in an Iraqi prison.  His emotions from that time had been so carefully guarded, and earlier in the night had been the first time he had let them out since his self-inflicted torture sessions had forced him to forget the experience.

“Shh, Jack.  It's all in the past.  Go to sleep.”

Daniel placed a kiss on his lover's lips and watched him until he felt Jack's breathing even out, and he knew the older man was finally asleep.

~All my fault that he's going through this; all because I'm having a pity party for myself.  So life is tough for a few days; I'm better.  He's been helping me.  He's all I need, and how do I repay him for ... gawd, for risking his career?  I make him remember a nightmare that could destroy him.  I'm so sorry, Jack.  I have to fix this.  I have to.  I *have* to!~

====

Feeling better, Daniel got up to go to the bathroom, and then he realized that Jack probably hadn't eaten any more than he had over the last few days.

~Of course, he hasn't eaten right.  He's been with me every second.  Gawd, I'm so selfish.~  “I can do this.”

Daniel went downstairs to the kitchen.  He pulled out some bacon, sausage, and eggs, but a few minutes later, he thought better of it.

~Not such a good idea,~ he thought, turning off the burners and quickly exiting the aroma-filled kitchen.  “Sorry, Jack.  Maybe tomorrow.  Gawd, I can't do anything right.”

“GET OFF OF ME!  STOP!  NO, PLEASE.  I'M MARRIED.  DON'T TOUCH ME THERE.  NOOOOO!”

Daniel heard the horror and panic in the cries and ran up the stairs to the master bedroom.  Jack was shouting at the top of his lungs, his arms flailing all around.  His legs were kicking up the blankets in an effort to fend off his imaginary attackers.

“I'LL KILL YOU!  LET GO OF ME.  NO, DON'T ... NOT TRUE.  NOT WEAK.  SARA!”

Daniel scooted onto the bed, and tried to wake Jack.  He grabbed Jack's left arm, only in response, Jack's right arm rose up and hit Daniel in the face, knocking him backwards.

~Crap.  Darn Special Ops.~

Daniel regrouped and tried again.  Jack's shouts continued as he tossed even more violently in the bed.  Beads of sweat permeated his skin.  Slowly, Daniel approached his soulmate.

“Jack, please wake up.  You're safe.  Jack, it's me.  It's ... Danny.”

“No, don't.  Please leave me alone.  Not again.  Don't do it again.  Can't take it anymore.  Not again.”

Daniel moved closer.

“Jack, hear me.  Listen to my voice.  It's me.  I need you, Jack.”

Those seemed to be the magic words as Jack's shouts quieted, and his arms stopped flying wildly about.  Daniel placed his hands on Jack's face and then ran his hand through Jack's dampened hair.

“Shhh, Babe.  I'm here.”

“Danny?” Jack cried as he opened his eyes.

“Right here.”

“Dreaming.  This is a dream.”

“No, it's real.  Come here.”  Daniel lay down on the bed and moved Jack to rest on his chest.  He wrapped his arms around his lover and held him securely.  “This is reality.  You and me, here.  It's all that matters.”

“It was so real.”

“Put it back, Jack.  Don't remember anymore.  Please.  Bury it again.  I'm ... I'm okay now.”

“Danny, it's killing me.”

“No more, Jack.  Shhh.  It's just you and me now.  No one else is here.”

“You and me?”

“That's right.  I love you, Jack, so much.  I need you.”

“Me, too,” Jack replied.

Daniel rubbed his lover's back in small circles as he spoke.

“Jack, let's go back to Disneyland soon.  I think maybe we both need to be ... kids for a while.  We need go somewhere young and innocent.”

“My genius,” Jack croaked out, his body still quivering from his nightmare.

“I don't feel much like a genius lately, but whatever I am, Jack, is yours, all yours.”

Jack raised his head to look into Daniel's eyes.

“We're a mess, Danny.”

“But we'll get better,” Daniel said, unable to conceal a sniffle.

“Oh yeah.  We'll get better,” Jack repeated.

“Soon.  Right?  We'll be be...better soon.”

“Very soon ... if I can stop shaking,” Jack lamented.  “I don't think I've felt this ... I ...”

“Jack, I love you.  Please forget again.  I can't bear seeing you in this kind of pain.  Please forget.”

Jack nodded, and placed his head back down on Daniel's chest.

“Hold me, Danny.  Don't let go for a while.”

“Not for a long while.”

~Okay, O'Neill, focus on this.  You and Danny.  Just this.  He needs you to get your act together.  You don't need a taser to do this.  All you need is Daniel, so ...~  Jack swallowed and closed his eyes.  ~Iraq is the past.  It's over.  Gone.  It's gone.~

“Like the wicked witch,” Daniel said suddenly.

“What?”

“You said it's gone; just like the wicked witch in 'The Wizard of Oz', what happened then doesn't exist anymore.  It's ... melted.”

“You heard me?”

“You said it, didn't you?”

“Not out loud, Danny.”

“Oh, well ... I heard you.”

**I love you, Danny.**

**I love you, too, so much.**

Jack finally relaxed.  Things were getting back on track, and their silent communication being restored was one sign of that.  He was amazed, though, that Daniel had heard his thoughts since he hadn't even attempted to use their non-verbal communication that was becoming more and more a part of their lives.

~It doesn't matter.  All that matters is this.~

**I agree.**

Jack laughed and said, “I agree, too.”

====

“Hey,” Jack said, walking outside to join his lover on the steps of the patio porch.

“Hey,” Daniel said, a smile on his face.

The two kissed, and Jack raised his right hand to Daniel's cheek.  A bruise had appeared where Jack had hit him the night before.

“I'm so ...”

“It was my fault.  I made you remember.”  Jack was shaking his head before Daniel even finished the words.  “Well, it certainly wasn't yours.”

Jack sighed and asked the more important question.

“How ya feeling this morning?”

“A lot better.  Not shaking so much now.”

“Hungry?”

Daniel cringed and shook his head.

“Jack, I can still smell that breakfast from yesterday.  I just can't.”

“Okay, one more day.”

They kissed again, and Daniel leaned his head on Jack's left shoulder.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love.”

“I felt so guilty about everything.  I still do.”

“You shouldn't.  None of what happened was in your control.  Daniel, I let her take you, knowing what ...”

“No, that's not what I meant.”  Daniel shifted to look into Jack's eyes.  “I mean Hathor.  I'm a man, Jack.  I'm supposed to be stronger, but I let her touch me and ... do whatever she wanted.”

“That's not true, Danny.  You didn't let her do anything.  She drugged you.”

“But I should have found a way.  She was just one person, Jack.”

“A Goa'uld; that's not exactly you're average human, Danny.”

“Still, she was just one person, Jack, and the drugs may have affected my mind, but not my physical strength.  I should have fought her off.”

“Daniel, listen to me,” Jack said forcefully.  “There is no way you could have protected yourself or anyone else from that witch.  You're a man, Danny, not some cardboard hero that we watch in movies or see in comic books.  The drugs do affect your body and your mind.  You are not to blame.”

“But doesn't it make you cringe just a little to know what happened?  I mean, when you and I make love, doesn't it bother you?”

“Daniel, for crying out loud, no.  This wasn't some affair or something.  She raped you, violently.”

“So what you're saying is that it's not my fault because I was drugged and didn't have a choice.  The drugs messed with my mind, and my body, and therefore, I should let it go.”

“Exactly.”

“Exactly,” Daniel repeated pointedly, staring intently at Jack.  He saw that his lover knew where he was going with this discussion.  “Drugs make our bodies sick.  We can't fight if our bodies rebel because of drugs, especially if we're outnumbered, not to mention half-starved and living on practically nothing.”

Daniel leaned forward and placed a tender kiss on Jack's lips.

“And what you're saying is that you love me and want me, even knowing what happened because the truth is that it wasn't my fault because it wasn't my choice, and I was forced into it.  You don't even think about it, right?”

“My genius,” Jack said, his voice soft.

Daniel turned to face Jack even more squarely.  He cupped his face.

“Jack, I need you to hear me, okay?  This is really important.  I ... I love you, and that's not easy for me to say, and you know that.  I mean,” he sighed and closed his eyes, “it's easy except I get scared.”

“I know, Danny.”

“Jack, that ... witch raped me, and I don't think I'll ever forget it, but you taught me that we move forward.”  Daniel's fingers gently pressed against the skin of Jack's cheeks as he talked.  “I don't think I'll ever forget this experience, either, but I want to put it in the past.  I need to.”

“We will ... soon.”

“And you have to put Iraq back in the past, too, and more than that, Jack, you have to know that you couldn't control that any more than I could control Hathor and this nightmare.  You have to believe it.”

Jack bolted from the steps and walked to the middle of the lawn.  He put his hands in his pants pocket and stared downward.

“I can't do that.”

“Yes, you can,” Daniel said, standing and walking up behind his lover.  He put his arms around Jack's waist and rested his head on the back of Jack's shoulder.  “You can do anything, Jack.  What happened to you was beyond inhumanity, but it happened, and you have to do more than bury it back in your subconscious.  You have to give yourself a break.”  Daniel's hands snaked under his lover's yellow shirt to caress the skin underneath. “My Jack, so strong and brave, but like me, just a man, not a comic book super hero.  You were drugged, held down, and forced to do unspeakable things.  It wasn't your fault, and you have nothing to blame yourself for.”

“Stop throwing my own words back at me,” Jack said weakly.

“I have to, because they're the truth.  Aren't they, Jack?  Or were you lying to me?  Did Hathor rape me, or did I have a tawdry one-night stand?  Did those women abuse you, or did you take the first chance you had away from Sara to have some hip orgy?”

“It's ... those aren't ...”

“You can't even say it, can you?  They are the same, Jack.  What happened to us was violent, humiliating, and wrong, but we had no way of preventing it, not if we wanted to live, and you know what, Jack?  I wanted to live because I knew I had you.  And you, my love, you had Sara, and now you have me.  Gawd, Jack, I'd have nothing if you'd given up and let them kill you.  I'd be nothing.”

“No, Danny,” Jack turned to face his lover.  “That's not true.  You have so much to offer the world.”

“So do you.  If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here.  Sometimes, you have less self confidence than me, and that's pretty bad, but do you think I'm so pathetic that I would care so much, love so freakin' much, someone who was ... dense and unfeeling and weak?  Do you?”

“Danny, I ... I don't know what to say.”

“How about you'll try, and know I'm ... well, I'm ...”

“Talking a good game?”

“Something like that.”

Jack nodded, then sighed deeply.

“We have a long way to go, Doctor Jackson.”

“But if we go together, we'll survive.”

“Better than survive, Danny.  One day at a time.”

“One step at a time, Jack.  We'll help each other, okay?”

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

Jack sighed, then spoke hesitantly, “I can't remember those days.”

“I'm not asking you to.  The truth is I'm angry at myself for making you remember, but,” Daniel put three fingers to Jack's lips to stop him from interrupting, “if we live in the past, we'll never have a future.  If we let our cup be half empty, we'll shrivel up and die from all the bad, so, instead, we have to realize that our cup is half full.  We deal with our past, and together, we survive because we're ... unbeatable.  Isn't that what you keep telling me?  You know it is, so now, I just want you to forgive yourself for being human; that's all,” Daniel said softly as he moved his hand and took Jack into his arms.

“Forgive myself?  That's asking a lot.”

“One step at a time.  Maybe ... maybe you can start by admitting that the drugs made you incapable of fighting back.”

“Maybe.  Danny, do you feel up to a walk?”

“We've been cooped up in here for days.  I think a walk would be very nice.”

The lovers walked leisurely down the block enjoying the crisp morning air.  They said hello to a couple of the neighbors whom they passed, and stopped to watch a squirrel studying a tree.

“It's a Danny squirrel,” Jack laughed.  “Look at the way it's examining that tree, like it's an artifact.”

Daniel thumped Jack's arm, and then heard a noise higher up in the tree.  He laughed, “And that is a Jack squirrel, no doubt telling the Daniel squirrel to hurry up because The Simpsons are on.”

The two laughed and were still grinning as they watched the two squirrels for a minute before continuing on.

“Gawd, that felt good,” Daniel said as they walked.

“Laughter is good, Danny.”

“I wasn't sure I'd ever laugh again.”

“I knew you would.”

“You have such faith in me.”

“You got that right.”

“I have faith in you, too, Jack.”

Jack smiled, and soon they arrived at the park where they watched a couple of dogs running around for a couple of minutes, and then sat on a bench to simply enjoy being outside and free of their demons, or at least, trying to be free.

“One step at a time,” Jack said almost to himself.

“One step,” Daniel echoed.

“Not a super hero.”

“Neither one of us is.”

“Okay,” Jack nodded.  “We'll work on it, but no promises.”

“No promises,” Daniel replied, a small smile on his face.

“You know something, Danny?”

“What?”

“I may not be a super hero, but as long as we're together, I feel like one because it's how you make me feel, like ... like I can do anything.”

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel said, a little embarrassed.  “Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“I was, uh, thinking.”

“Dangerous,” Jack teased.

“Yes, maybe so, but I was thinking we could go back to the house and, um, well ...”

Daniel was turning a light shade of red.  Jack grinned.

“And you know?”

“Yeah, and you know.  I mean, we haven't in a while, and I ... gawd, I want to.  I really, really want to.”

“Me, too.  Let's go.”

The two lovers hurried home where they made love for the first time since SG-1 had visited Shyla's planet.  Their nation of two was definitely intact.

====

“Yes, Sir.  He's much better.  It's been a long two weeks, but things are going well now.  We'll be in this afternoon, and you can see for yourself.”

Jack hung up the phone and walked into the kitchen where Daniel was preparing breakfast.

“How ya doing?”

“It finally smells good,” Daniel answered.  “What did the general say?”

“Oh, nothing much except Fraiser wants my head on a platter.”

“I'm sorry Jack.  I made it difficult for you.”

“It was my choice, Daniel, and remember, we're together, so we'll get through anything, including this.”

Daniel nodded.

“I guess Janet will keep me on light duty for a while.”

“Probably, at least for a week or two, just to be sure,” Jack agreed.

Both knew Daniel could still suffer flashbacks or temporary physical reactions to the withdrawal for quite a while, and that Janet probably wouldn't clear him to go through the Stargate until she was as sure as she could be that he was fully recovered.

“Jack, when I do get back, there's something I have to do.”

“I'm not going to like this, am I?”

Daniel put the breakfast foods on their plates and carried them to the counter.  He and Jack sat down and began to nibble on their food.

“No, you're not,” the younger man finally answered, “but it's something that I have to do, Jack.  Please understand.  I have to.”

“We'll talk about it later.”

====

“What's up, Doc,” Jack said, flashing his best Irish smile to mask his fear.

“Colonel,” Janet said, gritting her teeth.  “Where is Doctor Jackson””

“I'm right here,” Daniel answered, appearing from behind his lover.

“Daniel, sit ... now!” Janet ordered, pointing to one of the examination tables.  “You're mine until I say you aren't, and so help me, you budge one inch from that table, and I'll make you sorry you were born.”

“Missed me, huh?” Daniel said with a grin.

Janet sighed and shook her head.

“I could murder you, and I *may* just follow through on that with you, Colonel.”

Jack considered retaliating with a wisecrack, but seeing that the infirmary was empty except for the three of them, he closed the gap between them, walking to the edge of the bed.  He looked at Daniel, then at Janet.

“Janet, I'm sorry you don't approve of the way things went down, but what I did was the right thing to do, this time, for Daniel, and for me.  I don't expect you to understand that, but know this, if I had to do it all over again, I'd do it exactly the same way.  You want payback?  I'll take it, but I won't be sorry for what I did.”

“Jack, what I can't seem to get through to you is the enormous risk you took in taking Daniel away from proper medical care; that's what bothers me.”

“I did know the risk.”

“So did I,” Daniel added.

“You're both full of it.  It's over and done with now.  Colonel, General Hammond wants to see you ASAP.”

**You'll be okay?**

**I'll be fine.  Jack, don't yell at the general.**

**I'll try not to.**  “I'll be back.”

====

“Sit down, Colonel,” Hammond ordered his second-in-command.  Near the door, Hammond handed a file to Sergeant Davis, then turned back to look at the fidgeting man waiting for him.

Jack was leaning forward, rubbing the palms of his hands together.  He was looking down at the carpet, biting his lip.  It very possibly was the most nervous Hammond had ever witnessed Jack being.

Hammond sat down in his chair, leaned back, and clasped his hands together.  He stared at Jack, not saying a word for two minutes.

“You know, Sir, you're very good at this.”

“I wasn't born yesterday, Colonel.”

“No, Sir.”

“Jack, why?  Why did you do something so stupid, something you knew could get you court-martialed?  I realize that you Doctor Jackson are good friends, but ...”

Jack sighed, then responded, “It was worth it.  Daniel is my best friend and a member of my team.  He was injured and put in the sarc the first time because of a mistake I made.”

Hammond shook his head.

“There's more to it.  Guilt didn't drive you to do this, Jack.”

~I wish I could tell him the truth.~  “Guilt couldn't, gratitude could.  You didn't see me before that first mission to Abydos, Sir.  Daniel saved me on that mission, in more ways than one.  I owe him my life, General.”

“We all owe him our lives, Colonel.”

“Yes, but he wasn't asking anyone else for help.  He did ask me.”

Hammond sighed.

“Jack, I'm going to make this easy on both of us.  I can't let your little escapade go by unpunished.  Your position on this base makes you, more than anyone else, except for me, subject to scrutiny.  If it had been anyone else, *anyone* else, they'd be locked up.”

“I understand, General.”

“Do you, Jack?  I'm not sure you do.”  Hammond leaned forward, opening Jack's official file that sat on his desk.  “Nevertheless, you're too valuable to sacrifice.  The Pentagon wants you here, and frankly, I need you here, too.”  Hammond picked up a piece of paper and held it out for Jack's review.  “This is an official reprimand for disobeying a direct order.  Don't make me have to do this again, Colonel.”

Jack nodded.

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Now, let's talk about your little adventure.  Security indicates Major Ferretti arrived at the same time you did, and left just a couple of minutes later than you and Doctor Jackson.”

“Really?”

“Jack ...”

“Sir, I did see Major Ferretti a few times that night.  We talked, passed the time together for a while.  What happened, Daniel's being taken from the SGC -- that was me.  I made the decision.  I led Daniel out.  I took him to my house, and that's pretty much all that matters.”

Hammond stared at Jack.  It was obvious to the major general that Ferretti had assisted his 2IC, but Jack wasn't going to implicate him, and it wouldn't do any good to prolong the situation with an investigation.

“All right, Jack.  I'll let it go.”

“Sir, if I may, the two Airmen on duty that night ...”  For the next several minutes, the two discussed the laxity of the men involved.  “What it boils down to, General, is that had either or both of these two been performing their duties properly, I wouldn't have been able to ... extricate Daniel so easily.  As it was, it was pretty much in and out.”

“We can't have that kind of nonchalant attitude on the base, not with the kind of situations that happen on a daily basis around here.”

“That's my feeling, too.”

Hammond eventually decided against punishment for the two men, though he did make the proper notations in the personnel files of both men and then arranged for their transfer to other Air Force military bases.  He grinned to himself.  He'd order them to see Janet for a checkup before they left.  That, by itself, even without the transfer, would be punishment enough for the two men.

~I wonder how long it will take Doctor Fraiser to stop aiming that killer glare of hers at us?~

====

Daniel was placed on light duty for a few days and would miss at least one, possibly two missions with SG-1; at least, that's what Janet had ordered.

It was the next day, their first official day back on the job.  Daniel had been catching up on recent mission findings dealing with his department, while Jack did some unwelcome paperwork before his scheduled meeting with Hammond and the other members of SG-1, sans Daniel.

Jack checked his watch.

~Better get over there.~

Several minutes later, outside the briefing room, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were reviewing their mission options with General Hammond.

“Probe’s data indicates P3H-826 is a viable next mission for SG-1, Sir,” Sam stated.

Daniel heard the words as he climbed the steps to the briefing room level.

“I have another suggestion,” Daniel said.  **Jack, please don't argue.**  As he approached the group, he continued, “I think we should go back to P3R-636, and before you say anything, just hear me out.  There are thousands of innocent human beings there who we could free from slavery.”

Worried, Jack listened without arguing, but his mind raced with doubts and concerns about Daniel and his suggestion.

~I don't know about this.  Listen to you, Danny.  You want to go back, but your words are forced.  It's an obligation, and I'm not sure you're ready.  You're still recovering.  I should have kept you home longer.~

“Shyla cannot free her people without putting their world at great risk,” Teal'c stated.

“Well, we have to offer her alternatives, new ways to mine the naquadah.  I mean, we don't even know that the Goa’uld will notice if the shipments stop,” Daniel replied.

Sam added, “Our preliminary tests do indicate potentially countless military and scientific applications for the raw ore; might be a compelling reason to try, Sir.”

“Try what?” Hammond asked in disbelief.  “The last time you were captured and enslaved in that mine.”

Daniel responded, “Look, you want access to the mine, but you don't want to send troops in. I’m offering you a shot at a diplomatic solution.”  Daniel's focus shifted from Hammond to his lover.  “Please, Jack, we need to take the chance.”  **Please.**

Jack looked at his lover.  He wanted to grab him and run to the Bahamas, like he had originally planned, but Daniel had nixed the idea of a vacation.  Jack hadn't even been able to make a pitch for his destination of choice.  All he had said was “Let's get away from here for a few days,” but Daniel's response had been “Jack, I need to get things back to normal first; please understand.”

Daniel had agreed to discuss taking a trip in a few weeks, but only after he was caught up with his backlog of work, and, Jack suspected, had made this return trip to Shyla's planet.

~Okay, Danny.  We'll do it your way.~  **Stubborn, but I love you anyway.**  Solemnly, Jack faced Hammond and said, “We can back him up, Sir.  I’d like Daniel back on the team.”  **But so help me, Danny, you try to rescue that witch from ... from anything, and I'll shoot you myself.**

Hammond shook his head, saying, “Doctor Jackson, it was my impression that you're on light duty for at least another three days.”

“Yes, well, I thought ... maybe ... you could ...”

A bit frustrated, Hammond responded, “You two are impossible.  Excuse me.”

“Uh, General,” Jack called out as Hammond reached the stairs.  “The mission?”

“You have a go, Colonel, all of you.  You leave at 1400, and Doctor Jackson, I'll want a copy of Doctor Fraiser's release on my desk before then, or you won't be accompanying the team.  Understood?”

“Yes.  Thank you, Sir.”

“Daniel, are you sure you're up to this?” Sam asked after Hammond had gone.

“I'm fine, Sam.”

Daniel looked at Jack who didn't say anything.

“It is good to see you looking well again, DanielJackson,” Teal'c stated.

“Thank you, Teal'c.  Um, I'd better go talk to Janet.”

Daniel glanced at his silent lover, then left.

“Sir?”

“Watch his back, Carter.  Just ... watch his back.”

Jack turned, leaving Sam and Teal'c alone.

“O'Neill does not seem to have confidence in DanielJackson.”

“You're wrong, Teal'c.  He's just ... worried.  You know how close they are.”

“Indeed.”

====

“Jack, I have to do this alone.”

“Why?”

“Because ... because I owe it to her.”

“Oh, no, that fish won't fly, Dannyboy.  You don't owe that little witch anything.  Try again.”

The two were in Daniel's office.  Jack had locked the door and turned off the security equipment.  Daniel had told Jack he wanted to talk to Shyla alone when they got to the planet.  It was bad enough they were going back, but this just added to Jack's frustration.

The two had gone round and round about returning to the planet since Daniel had first brought it up.  They had discussed it at the house, at Daniel's apartment, and even while doing some grocery shopping.  Jack was sick of discussing it.  He had known the very first time Daniel had brought it up that they'd go back.  Daniel was a strong and determined man, and emotionally, he needed to return to face the demon, to prove he could walk out on his own.  Jack just hadn't counted on it being so soon after Daniel's recovery, nor on his insistence at talking with Shyla alone.

“I need to do this.”

“You don't need to do anything but live.”

“I am living, Jack.”  Daniel walked to his lover and kissed him.  His hands caressed Jack's neck gently as he spoke.  “I'm living because of you.  Please, Jack, don't fight me on this.  I need to see her, to try and help her people, and maybe most of all, to close the door on what's happened.  I need to ... say goodbye and ... walk away, on my own.  Please.”

“I don't like it, Danny.”

“You'll be right outside the door,” Daniel reminded, leaning in for another kiss.

Jack sighed and reluctantly gave in.

====

“Five minutes, Daniel, and, if you don't come out, I'm coming in,” the older man warned sternly.

“Jack ...”

“Five minutes,” Jack reiterated, tapping his MP-5.  ~And I'll be counting off every tick.~

Jack, Sam, and Teal'c waited just outside the palace as Daniel walked inside.  He saw the Princess leaning against the sarcophagus and felt sorrow for her.  SG-1 had talked with some of the inhabitants of the planet when they arrived and had learned that Pyrus, Shyla's father, had recently died.  The young woman now ruled her world.

As Daniel dropped his pack, Shyla realized he was there.  She said nothing until he stood behind her.

“I did not believe you would ever return,” she said.

“I’m sorry … about your father … about everything.”

“The sarcophagus could not help him anymore,” Shyla sniffled.  She stood to face Daniel and accused, “You never did love me, did you?”

“I wouldn't be here if I didn't care.”  ~Please don't make me be blunt.~

“I don't deserve to live after what I’ve done to you.”

~That's what Jack says, but he's wrong.~  “Yes, you do.  Your people need you, and you may still be able to lead them without turning into what your father became.”

“How?”

Daniel looked at the sarcophagus, his body telling him to run, but his mind forcing him to stay.

“You can't use this anymore.  It’s going to be bad; trust me, but you don't have to do this alone.”

On some level, Shyla knew Daniel was right, but she was afraid.  Part of her didn't want to part with the ways of her people; another part of her thought if she went along with Daniel's wishes, maybe, just maybe, she'd have a chance to win his heart.  Another part of her acknowledged the changes of behavior in her father over the years, and she knew those changes were from the continued use of the Goa'uld device.  She didn't want to be like that.

Her decision made, she walked to the throne, picked up the staff weapon that stood there, and fired, destroying the sarcophagus forever.

Daniel moved to her, took the weapon, and placed it on the ground.  Then, he hugged the Princess who was now a Queen.

“It'll be okay, Shyla.”

“You will stay and help?”

“No, I mean, yes.  I mean ...”

Shyla pulled out of Daniel's embrace.

“You mean you do not love me, and you cannot stay.”

“My people will stay.  I mean, we'll send teams back.  We'll help you get through this.”

“But you will not.”

“Shyla, I'm married.  I have a wife.  I ... I love her, and I'm sorry, but there's ... well, the truth is ...”

“What is the truth, Daniel?”

“I love my wife, and there's ...”

Shyla saw the nervousness in the young man's eyes and tone of voice.  Sadly, she deduced what he was having difficulty saying.

“There is someone else besides your wife?”

“Um, well, gawd.  It's a long story, and I can't talk about it.”

“Why did you not tell me this at the beginning?”

Daniel sighed, “Well, I guess because I was trying to get my friends out of the mines, and you seemed ...”

Daniel didn't want to say it.  It went against his nature to say harsh and cruel things.  Shyla looked at him, waiting for an answer.  “Shyla, you made it pretty clear from the start that you wanted me.  I'm no prize package, but you seemed ... I mean, I had to get my friends out of here, so I did what I had to.  If I had told you I was married, would you have helped us?”

Indignantly, Shyla responded, “I was right.  You never loved me.”

The new Queen sounded like a spoiled child who hadn't gotten her way, but still, Daniel felt a need to help her and the thousands who were living like slaves on the planet.  He just couldn't walk away.

“No, I didn't.  Whatever happened between us happened only because of the sarcophagus.  I'm sorry.  You'll find someone.  I'm sure of it.”

The new Queen nodded and walked to the stairs that led to her chambers.  She paused, looking back at the young man whom she had fallen in love with.

“I do not believe that, but I will do my best to lead my people.  Will you help me, Daniel?” she asked, extending out her hand.

It was an offer and an invitation as she ignored what Daniel had already said to her.  She loved him; she wanted him; she continued to hope.

“No, I don't think so,” Jack barked as he entered the palace.

“Jack!”

“It's been more than five minutes, Daniel,” Jack said tensely.  “Princess,” he acknowledged snarkily.

Daniel moved towards the stairs, but stopped short.

“I'm sorry, Shyla.  We'll send a team through to help you, but I can't.  I'll ... come back later to check on you, but I can't be here now.”

Shyla looked at Jack, and said in a royal tone, “Your people are welcome.”

“Swell.”  ~I'll do a jig.~

“Jack.”

The Colonel took a deep breath and asked, “Are you ready to go?”

Daniel nodded and, looking at Shyla, said, “Goodbye, Shyla.  I hope you find what you're looking for.  If you need anything, just tell one of the personnel, and they'll get a message to me.”

“You will not return.”

Jack growled from his spot by the door, inwardly promising, ~Not if I have anything to say about it.~

“I ... don't know.  I'll try.”

~Over my dead body,~ Jack vowed.  “Daniel, let's go.”

“I wish you well, Daniel.”

“Thank you.”

Slowly, Daniel walked to the entrance where Jack stood.  He picked up his pack and looked back at Shyla.  He smiled, then turned, and walked away.

Shyla stared at Jack whose glare was strong and intense.  Jack looked out towards the grounds where Daniel was walking over to Teal'c, and then refocused on the woman.  He walked three steps towards her and warned, “You hurt him again, and you'll pay the price.  That's not a threat, Your Highness; that's a promise.”

Jack turned and gathered his team together for the walk back to the Stargate.

**What did you say to her?**

**Exactly what you think I said.**

Daniel sighed and continued the trek in silence.

====

“This place feels so strange.  It seems like forever since we've been here.”

“We were here last week and a couple of days ago,” Jack responded.

Daniel chuckled, “Yeah, to feed my fish, although we did eat breakfast here.”

“Are you complaining?”

“No.  I love your house.”

“Our house,” Jack said without thinking.  Daniel stared at him, and Jack shrugged.  “It's how I think of it, Danny. I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry.”

Daniel nodded as he walked over to his fish tank and watched his fish swim around.

“It doesn't matter where we are, Jack, just as long as ... we are.”

“You're right,” Jack agreed as he walked over behind Daniel and wrapped his arms around him.

Daniel's hands covered Jack's, and he leaned back into the embrace, briefly rubbing his forehead against Jack's cheek.

“Don't be angry at me.”

“Angry?  Why would I be angry?”

“Because I can't hate her, Jack.  I ... don't like what she did, and it was wrong, but she didn't understand.  I can't hate her like ...”

“Like I do?”

“Don't be angry with me.”

“I won't, as long as you understand that I can't change how I feel, either, and Danny, she's not exactly on my top ten list of people I ever want to see again.”

“It felt so weird after I'd used the sarcophagus a few times.  I felt you slipping away from me, and I was scared.  I remember getting in it and telling myself to dream about you, but when I woke up, I think ... that's when you were gone.  I mean, us.  It was like we'd never watched that falling star.  Jack, you're still my best friend.”

“You're mine, too.”

“Guilt's an evil thing, Jack.”

“You have too much of it, Love.  You need to let it go.”

“I know.  I ... worked through a lot of it before, about Sha're, but I guess ... I guess I didn't really.”

“Time, Danny.”

Daniel sighed, but he wasn't sad.  Jack was holding him, and that filled him with pleasure.

“I shouldn't feel guilty about Sha're, and it wasn't my fault that Shyla put me in the sarcophagus, and ... Hathor ... not my fault.  She drugged me and raped me.  I shouldn't feel guilty about any of it.”

“No, you shouldn't.”

“Say it, Jack.”

“Danny ...”

“Say it.”

Jack swallowed as he looked up towards the ceiling.  He couldn't lie or walk his way through this.  His arms tightened around Daniel.  He had to try.  For Daniel, he could and would try.

“Okay, it ... I was drugged and weak from lack of food and water, and it ...”

“Say it, Jack.  Just say it.”

“It wasn't my fault.  I did all I could do to survive.”

Daniel turned around and cupped Jack's face.

“I needed you to survive.  I'd be so lost without you.  It wasn't your fault.  Say it again.”

“It wasn't my fault,” Jack whispered.

Daniel inched forward until their lips touched, and suddenly, their passion, fueled by their own needs, took over.  They sank down to the carpet and made love.

“We're all sticky,” Daniel laughed later as he rested his head on Jack's chest.

“Sticky is good,” Jack spoke happily.

“We're good, Jack.”

“We're the best, Danny.”

Daniel paused thoughtfully, then suggested, “Maybe someday, we'll both believe what we say.”

“Someday.  I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

====

“Daniel!”

“Hi, Sam.  I hope you don't mind my dropping in like this.”

“No, it's fine.  Come on in,” Sam invited, opening her door to let Daniel enter her home.

When she closed the door, Daniel handed her the bouquet of flowers and box of candy he had brought for her.

“Wow!” the blonde exclaimed, sniffing the beautiful wildflowers.  “What's the occasion?”

“I owe you an apology.”

“Apology?  For what?”

“Come on, Sam.  I ... I frightened you, and I'm sorry.  Wait,” he threw up his hand to try and stop Sam from speaking.  “I'm working really hard on not blaming myself for ... for certain things that ... well, that I ...” Daniel folded his arms across his chest, needing the comfort of his own private hug.  He took a breath and began again.  “Sam, a lot of stuff has happened in my life, and good or bad, right or wrong, I tend to blame myself for it.  I'm working on not doing that so much, but I don't know; I mean, it's how I feel.  What I'm trying to say is that I know I was under the influence of the sarcophagus drug, but still, you're my friend, Sam, and I hurt you, and it doesn't matter that I couldn't control it.  I still hurt you, and for that, I'm very, very sorry.”

“Oh, Daniel,” Sam said, unable to stop a few tears from falling.

Sam moved in for a hug, but after a few moments, Daniel backed away.  He just wasn't comfortable touching anyone, except for Jack.

“Well, I'm gonna go.”

“You could stay and share some leftover stew with me,” Sam offered, smiling at her friend.

“No, I can't.”

“Oh, come on,” the woman urged.  “We don't hang out enough.”

“I, uh, well, Jack, he ...”

~Oops,~ Sam giggled.  “Pizza and hockey?”

Daniel shrugged and answered, “Yeah.  I guess it's hockey.  It's always some sport, usually hockey; sometimes baseball or ... I don't know.  I ... gawd, I'm sorry.  I'm rambling.”

“No, you go have a good time with the colonel.”

“Actually, I have to go see Janet first.”

“Flowers?”

“Roses and ...”

“Two pounds of chocolate?”

“Yeah.”

“What is the SF getting?”

Daniel chuckled, then said, “Tickets to the hockey game.  It's a big play off or something; I don't know, but Jack made a big deal out of it, and ...”

Daniel shrugged.

“Daniel, seriously, we all know you couldn't control what happened.  It's okay.”

“Thanks, Sam.  I'll see you tomorrow.”

Sam watched her friend leave and took another whiff of the flowers she still held in her hand.

“Daniel and the colonel ... wow.”

====

“Daniel, this wasn't necessary.  You've apologized to me a hundred times, and each time, Sweetie, I've told you it's okay.”

“I know, but I had to do something, Janet.  I just ... please forgive me.”

“Okay, if that's what you need to let this go, I forgive you.  Now let it go.”

“Okay, then I guess I get to keep the chocolates,” Daniel teased.

“Oh, no, you don't.  Cassie would kill me.”

“Where is she?”

“Spending a night with a friend.  You know, teenagers and their sleepovers.”

Daniel shrugged, admitting, “It's not something I know a lot about.”

Warmly, Janet suggested, “Well, maybe you will someday.”

“Maybe.  Janet, about Jack ...”

“He's already apologized, in his own way, of course.”

“He has?  He did?” a surprised Daniel asked.

“Surprised me, too,” the fiery redhead admitted.  “I wanted to stay angry at him, but it's hard to stay mad at someone who makes your daughter happy.”

“Cassie?  What did he do?”

“She's been wanting to go to Disneyland.  One of her friends has never been, either, and she's been asking me to take both of them.  I've wanted to, but I couldn't get the time off.  We're a bit short-handed, or we were.  Daniel, I've been trying to get them to assign another doctor to the SGC for a year.  We keep growing, but they aren't keeping up in the medical department.”

“Believe me, Janet, I know what you mean.”

“Well, Colonel O'Neill made a phone call; said he cashed in a favor.  He showed up in my office a couple of days ago with the personnel jacket for the new staffer, approved and ready to go.  She starts Monday, and the week after that, we're off to Los Angeles.  As if that weren't enough, he insisted on buying the tickets for the park, and some goodies for the girls.  It's really too much, but he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, and Cassie's been wanting this for so long that I just can't stay mad at him.”

“I'm glad.”

“I don't like what he did, Daniel.  He put your life at risk.”

“He did what I asked him to.  It was my choice, Janet.”  Daniel crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked down.  “I ... I needed him, Janet.  We're close, you know, and ... I just ...”  He couldn't say what he wanted, that Jack was the only person in the world he felt like he could really rely on, and that if it hadn't have been for his lover, he'd probably be dead.  Instead, his eyes pleading, he said, “Please don't take my choices out on Jack.”

Janet saw the emotional struggle in Daniel's eyes and melted.

~I don't understand it.  I've seen best friends before, but this is real dedication.~  “Okay, you two win,” she replied, a warm smile on her face to reassure her friend.

“We did, Janet.  I'm here.”

Janet smiled, placed a kiss on Daniel's cheek, and said, “And that's the most important thing.”

Embarrassed, Daniel smiled shyly.

“Thanks, Janet.  Goodnight.”

“Night, Daniel, and thank you.  It really was sweet of you, but *no* more guilt.”

“Okay.”

Daniel smiled and headed for his car.  He had made his rounds, and now, he could go home, home to his lover, and get some much-needed loving.

====

“Mmm,” Jack moaned contently after welcoming home his soulmate.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“How'd the 'I'm sorries' go?”

Daniel chuckled at the phrase.  Arms wrapped around each other's waists, the lovers walked into the living room and settled onto the sofa. They held hands and leaned their foreheads together as they sat.

“Good, I think.  Everyone told me they forgave me and that I didn't need to do anything.”

“But you had to.”

“I had to.  Maybe it's just acknowledging the nightmare and trying to take a little control over it.”

“You did good, Danny.”

“I'm not so sure about that.  I mean, Jack, in the end, this was all my fault because I chased after Shyla, saved her from ...”

“From killing herself.  Look, Daniel, I'm not sure what I would have done, but you can't second guess yourself.  You saw someone about to jump off of a cliff, and you did the only thing that you knew to do.  You saved her.”

“And doing that almost cost you, Sam, and Teal'c your lives,” Daniel stated sadly.

“I don't want you to change, Danny.  You have to follow your heart.”

“Okay, well, I still have to take responsibility for it.”

“I'll buy that, but there's a difference between taking responsibility for an action, and feeling guilty about it.”

“Fine line, Jack.”

“Maybe, but it's the truth, and besides, nothing will change the fact that this whole mess was Shyla's fault in the first place.  Nothing either of us did was responsible for what happened on 636.  You were the victim, Danny.  She wanted you, and was willing to sacrifice us to get you.”

Daniel sighed, considering Jack's words.

“I guess you're right, about responsibility and guilt, but it's easier to conceptualize than to do.”

“I understand that, but you have to try.”

“Okay, I'll try.  By the way, Jack, you're a fraud.”

“A fraud?  What did I do now?”

“Mister Tough Guy, my foot.  Janet told me about Disneyland.”

“Oh, well, it's Cassie.”

“No, it's more than that.  You didn't like going around her or General Hammond any more than I did.”

“No, you're right, I didn't.  I guess I had to ease my conscience a little, too,” Jack admitted.  “But, Danny, when it's a choice between letting them down or letting you down, they lose, every time.”

“I'm sorry I put you in that position.”

Jack shook his head.

“You didn't; the witch did.”

“Jack, how about you and the general?”

“We're fine.”

“Are you sure?  He wasn't very thrilled with any of this.”

“No, but he understands, as best he can.”  Jack looked down at their interlaced fingers and then leaned down to kiss Daniel's, one by one.  “But he can't understand.  No one can, because no one knows that this,” Jack lifted up their joined hands, “is my life now.”

“Mine, too.  I need this, Jack.  I've never been good at saying what I want or need, and maybe I won't be able to say it again, but right now, I want you to know that I need this, you and I, more than I need ... air to breathe.”

“I love you, Danny, and I need you, too.”  The lovers kissed and held each other close.  “Danny ...”

“Let's ... now!”

The two laughed and hurried upstairs where they shared their need for their nation of two.  It had been a tough few weeks, but for Jack and Daniel, their cup was running over with love, and their need to share that love physically was exploding inside them.

====

“Danny,” Jack said as their bodies calmed sometime later.  “How'd you like to go to the Bahamas?”

“Mmm ... nice and warm there,” Daniel acknowledged, letting out a happy sigh at the thought.

“We're going there soon, okay?”

“Why?” Daniel asked as he kissed Jack's sweat-soaked chest.  “I mean, I don't really need a reason, but ... why now?”

“Because I love you.”

“Oh, works for me,” Daniel chuckled.  “Um, Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Let's go back to Disneyland like we talked about, okay?” Daniel questioned.

“You know how I feel about Mickey and the gang; you don't have to ask me twice,” Jack answered.

“It's just ...  I, no, we both need to be somewhere that's young and innocent for a little while, and that's the best place I know of for that.”

“Tell you what: let's plan a trip.  We'll start out with Mickey's place and then hit the beach in the Bahamas.  Hey, your still on the Doc's watchdog list.  This is an easy week coming up.  Maybe I can call Hammond and get us this week off.  I know you're behind in all the rock translations ...”  He paused, waiting for Daniel to complain, but when it didn't happen, he shrugged lightly and then continued on.  “But now's a good time.  It's not really a vacation; it's a ... rehab, therapy, even,” Jack offered, proud of himself for coming up with the idea.  “What do you think?”

“I think ... I think I ...”

~He likes it; gotta call Hammond before he remembers just how much work is sitting on his desk,~ Jack thought.  “I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack, so much.”  Daniel raised his head and looked down into Jack's luscious chocolate brown eyes.  “So very much, Jack.”

“Forever and always, Danny.”

The soulmates kissed and made love again.  Things were definitely on the upswing for the couple, and being 'up' was something Jack and Daniel enjoyed often, frequently, regularly; make that daily; okay, sometimes several times a day, as much as possible yet!  The lovers scoffed at the commercials and ads for male enhancement and performance substances.  For Jack and Daniel, they had each other, and they were each other's best and only drug of choice.

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