Odyssey of the Mind

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Major Angst, Major H/C (Danny Whumping), Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17 for torture sequence
Season:  7 - January 20 - February 8, 2004
Spoilers:  Need
Size:  195kb
Written:  September 17-21,23,26-27, October 1,10 2003  Tweaked: October 27-29, November 3-5, December 19, 2004  Revised for consistency:  February 28, 2007
Summary:  Daniel is abducted, beaten, tortured, and drugged.  Then he does the unthinkable to Jack.  Will their love survive?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Hanky Warning!
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fic(s), “Stay Awake,” “For Better or Worse,” and “Remember This Warning”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Suzanna, Tina, MamaBeast, Drdjlover, QuinGem, Sue B., Linda; also to Brynn and GSister for help with the medical parts of the story; and to Stacy for the recon of Memorial Park!

Odyssey of the Mind
by Orrymain

“I don't know, Daniel.  Maybe if we expanded the parameters of the ...” Sam began.

“Carter, dismissed,” Jack barked as he entered Daniel's office.

Sam and Daniel were working on deciphering a scroll brought back by SG-12 on a visit to PCX-154.  Daniel had asked for her assistance because while translating it, he sensed a mathematical element to the language and felt that Sam might be able to help him hone in on the pattern that would lead to a quicker translation of the scroll.

“Sir?”

Sam was surprised at her CO's tone.  It wasn't normal for Jack to be so snappy when things were normal, and as far as the major was concerned, things were pretty status quo at the moment.

“Jack!”

Daniel was perturbed at his spouse for being so blunt.  Jack may be the leader of SG-1, but to barge into Daniel's office without even a “hello” and to order Sam out so bluntly upset the archaeologist.

“Major, what part of the word 'dismissed' don't you understand?”

“Uh, nothing, Sir,” the blonde responded as she slid up off the stool she had been sitting on.  “Excuse me.  Daniel, I'll talk to you later,” she said and then quickly scurried out of the office, concerned at what might be happening.

“Jack, that was rude, and I really don't care what your excuse is.”

“Daniel, let's go.”  **Don't argue, Daniel.  This is important.**

Jack grabbed Daniel's left elbow to pull him up, but Daniel yanked free of his lover's hand, holding his ground as he sat on the stool next to his lab table.  Being manhandled and ordered around was not one of his favorite things, regardless of whom was doing it.

“Jack, what's going on?”

The stern Air Force colonel wanted to take his lover in his arms and explain on the spot, but he couldn't.  He didn't even feel free enough to tell Daniel the cover story he had set up to explain their sudden exit from the SGC in the middle of a work day.  He couldn't say anything of worth in Daniel's office, so he continued to bark out commands instead.

“You heard me, Daniel.  Let's go, now.”  **Now, Daniel.**

**Talk to me.**

**Not here.  Let's go.**

Daniel looked deeply into Jack's eyes.  The chocolate brown eyes were intense, focused, and concerned.  Daniel flinched internally, thinking he even detected a hint of fear in his Love's gaze, and that disturbed him.  His Jack wasn't afraid of much.  Reluctantly, Daniel stood and walked to Jack who quickly led him into the corridor and over to the elevator.

“Jack?”

“Not now, Daniel,” Jack said, his tone distant as he looked anywhere but at his lover.

Alarm bells were blaring in the younger man's mind.  Something was definitely wrong.

**Jack, what's wrong?**

**Daniel, please; just go along.  I have to stay focused.**

====

In the SGC parking lot, Daniel figured he'd finally get some answers.

“Okay, so ...”

Jack cut off his spouse's words angrily as he interrupted, “I told you, not now.  Just ... get in the truck.”

Daniel's alarms were no longer blaring, they were deafening, a chill running up his spine from the many perils he was imagining in his mind, and he didn't like it one bit.

As Jack drove the truck down the winding road that led to Cheyenne Mountain, Daniel again started to say something, but Jack shook his head and looked away.

**Jack ...**

**Daniel, stop.**

Jack's refusal to communicate even silently was disquieting to the younger man.  He couldn't imagine what was so terribly wrong that Jack wouldn't talk to him at all.

When they got to a stoplight, Jack took a quick look around the truck, and then turned to Daniel.  He took hold of Daniel's left hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing the palm.  He smiled warmly for a split second, and as he moved his partner's hand back down below the dash, Jack squeezed Daniel's hand.  Then, Jack's smile was gone, and the colder persona he had been displaying once again took control.

Daniel's eyes blinked, and he looked straight ahead as the light changed.  Jack put his hand back on the wheel and continued driving.

Jack and Daniel were very intimate people together.  One thing they often did when they wanted to convey their love and togetherness, but didn't have the time or were surrounded by people, was to kiss the other's palm.  They could usually find a place for that quick affirmation of their union without too much difficulty.

Because of that one small action, Jack kissing his lover's palm, Daniel knew for certain that they were in big trouble, and he just had to wait until Jack felt it was safe to talk.  He felt relieved that whatever it was had nothing to do with their relationship.  Jack had just reassured him of that, but Daniel's thoughts ran wild about what could cause Jack to be acting as he was.

====

Jack slipped the key into the lock of Daniel's apartment.  He hadn't said a word during the trip from the SGC, and Daniel had stopped asking, even silently.  He was sure once inside he'd get answers, but once again, Jack cut him off.

“Jack, why are we here?”

“Because you *live* here, Daniel,” Jack said, again shaking his head at his lover as he walked towards the bedroom.

Daniel followed, watching in confusion as Jack opened a drawer and threw him his old pair of gray sweats.  The older man also took out his pair of gray sweats that he kept at the apartment and began to change, nodding at his soulmate to do the same.

The archaeologist was so confused.  Why on Earth would they have to change clothes?  He knew there had to be a reason, so he did as Jack wished.  He then took his wallet from his BDUs to put it in the pocket of his sweats and was shocked when Jack grabbed it and carefully began to rifle through it.

Daniel noticed Jack wasn't looking at the details of what was in his wallet, but seemed to be ... well, in all honesty, Daniel wasn't sure what Jack was looking for.

Jack paused for just a moment, his fingers lovingly tracing the outline of the gold wedding band Daniel kept in his wallet.  It was wrapped in a small velvet cloth to keep it safe.  He thought about the writing engraved inside the ring, “Jack and Daniel, always and forever.”  His ring said the exact same thing.  As the words echoed through his mind, he knew that somehow they'd get through this latest nightmare, just like they'd gotten through so many others before, because they were an unbeatable combination.

Daniel saw Jack's demeanor temporarily soften and smiled, knowing what his husband was doing.  The two exchanged a quick look, before Jack finished his search, handing the wallet back to his lover, a look of apology sweeping across the colonel's face.

Daniel put the wallet in its place and turned to face Jack again.  His eyes widened.  Jack was carrying a pistol beneath his sweatshirt.  Daniel's heartbeat increased rapidly.  Jack saw the change and walked to his lover, and put a hand on Daniel's left cheek, caressing it for a moment, hoping to convey a sense of calm.

**I love you, but we can't talk now, and not here.  Please, Danny.  Just be patient a little bit longer.**

Jack nodded towards the door, and Daniel followed him out.  They didn't go back to the truck, but walked a few blocks in silence to a park where Jack picked a relatively clear area to finally take a deep breath.

“Jack?”

This time, Daniel's voice was soft.  Jack turned and looked at the man he loved.

“I'm sorry, Danny.  I've scared you, but I didn't know what else to do.”

“What's going on?”

Daniel noticed his soulmate was in alert mode, not the least bit relaxed. He was very much aware of where they were and who or what was around them.  He was constantly reacting to noises and passersby, making sure the sounds and people weren't threatening.

“I got a message.  Geez, Danny, it was in the middle of my reports, the ones I was supposed to review for Hammond.  Five teams worth of mission reports, and there, in between SG-11 and SG-8, was the message.  I was right, Daniel; there is someone on the inside.”

“Jack ...”

“Danny, you're not safe.  I suspected it before, when they took you, and now I know it.  We can't trust anyone.”

Daniel looked around, trying to piece together the puzzle.

“Who could it be?  Everyone is checked out routinely.”

“I don't know, and the real kicker is that it could very well be someone we consider a friend.  It might even be someone on the general's personal staff, or maybe it's just someone with access to the key areas.”

“Jack, what was the message?”

Jack looked down, as he ran his left hand through his silver-gray hair.  It was a momentary emotion of despair, quickly replaced by another round of surveying the area.  He wasn't still as he talked, and his eyes never locked onto Daniel.  His right hand was ready to pull out his gun in an instant.

Daniel fidgeted.  He didn't like seeing Jack so tense.  Whatever this was, it had shaken up his soulmate, and that made Daniel angry.

~I don't like seeing you like this.  It can't be that bad, can it?~  “Jack?”

Jack shook his head in disbelief.  He sighed, then said, “It's a friggin' test.  They want to make sure I got their blasted warning.”

Daniel breathed deeply, crossing his arms across his chest as he inquired, “What did the note say?”

Jack reached into his pocket, pulled out the note, and handed it to Daniel, their hands touching briefly, and their eyes speaking of their love during the tenseness of the moment.

Daniel opened, then read the message silently:

“Time to see if you've gotten the message.  An SG team just brought back a liquid material that is a potential new power source.  We want a sample of that material.  You have twenty-four hours to acquire the sample.  Instructions on how to deliver the sample will be forthcoming closer to the deadline.  We mean business and hope you remember our all-too-kind warning.  It won't be repeated.”

Daniel looked up at Jack and saw the fear, not for himself, but for Daniel.

“You know you can't do this.”  Daniel again folded his arms, the paper hanging out of his right hand.  He saw Jack nod, their eyes locked onto each other's.  “We have to tell the general, Jack.”

Again, Jack nodded as he gazed into his Love's cerulean blue eyes, eyes that made Jack feel special and wanted.

“Okay,” Jack said as he exhaled a breath of calm.  “We're having a party tonight:  you, me, Carter, Teal'c, Ferretti, and Hammond.  Who else can we trust, absolutely, positively trust?”

“I assume you're leaving Janet out because of Cassie?”

“Yes.  Unless we have no choice but to bring her in, it's best to not include the Doc.  Cass would be a prime target,” the Special Ops colonel confirmed.

“Sergeant Siler?”

Jack thought for a moment and nodded, adding, “And Jeff.  We can count on him.  He might know something about Rittenhouse, though I don't know if he'd spill, and I won't force him, Daniel, but ... he'll help.”

“Jack, wouldn't it be advantageous to have someone ... outside the SGC?”  Jack grunted, knowing whom Daniel meant.  He so didn't need this, even if it did make sense.  “He's in a good place.  He has access to information.”

“He's career military, Daniel.”

Daniel looked away, frustrated, and then argued, “I trust him, Jack.  He could be useful, now ... and later.”

“Daniel ...”  Jack paused.  He looked deeply into Daniel's eyes and walked toward him slowly, stopping just outside Daniel's personal space.  “Listen to me, Daniel.  The people I listed, with each one, I've asked myself how much I trust them; how much I believe in them; how far I think they'd risk their careers and their lives; not for me, Danny, for you.  I've asked myself if I trust them with your life, because at this party, that is exactly what I'll be doing.  So, let me ask you, do you trust him with my life?  See, I know you'd believe anyone, risk yourself, but what about me, Danny?  Do you trust the major with my life?”

~Gawd.  Be sure, Jackson.  This is important.  You can't let naivete play a part in this.  You have to be absolutely sure.~  Still with folded arms, Daniel's fingers pinched his skin as he tensed.  He fidgeted a little, and then looked at Jack, moving his lips in false starts two or three times.  Finally, he nodded.  “Yes, Jack, I trust Paul with your life.”

Jack looked intently at Daniel for a few moments, and smiled as he said, “Okay, then.  That's good enough for me.”  ~I don't like it, but you trust him, and I trust you, and we need manpower.~  He walked away, his head lowered, but still searching their surroundings.  “One more thing, Danny,” he said as he turned.  “We  have things we can do to try and get through this without revealing that we're married, but we may not be able to hide it.  I'm not worried about Teal'c, but the general's pension is at stake.  I'm pretty sure that, all things considered, he'd probably get an out, too, and would retire, just like I would, but we're putting Siler and Davis in a very awkward situation.”

“You're worried about what happens when this is over.”

“Yes, I am.  When we're done, if we get through this, it means asking them to lie.  Danny, honesty is so close to your soul.  I know we've had to cover up our relationship in the past, but what we've done, has never involved more than the two of us, and Carter.  Lou knows now, too.  He can't afford for us to be caught and have an investigation done.  Besides that, we're potentially involving two more in the game now.  We're not that close to either of those two, Daniel, and yet, we'd be asking a lot of them.  Are you willing to do that?”

“We need them, Jack.  Siler has eyes that can see things and events that we don't, and Paul has the Pentagon and access to a wealth of information that might help.  We need them, both of them.”

“I know that, but that doesn't answer the question.  Look, Danny, I could just retire, and that would take care of it.  We're no good to them if we're away from the SGC.”

Daniel twisted his body as his face scrunched in a body language that said the usual, “We can't do that yet.”

Jack reacted to Daniel's facial expression, saying, “Don't look like that, Daniel.”  He paused, then asked, “Danny, can you ask them to lie?  Or, if necessary, can you lie if they don't, and it's a face off?”

~Lie?  Gawd, accuse them of ... lying?  They're our friends.  I don't know if ... I don't like this.~

Daniel looked stunned, like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of a car. He hadn't considered things could get that rough on a personal level, but he knew Jack was right.  It could get ugly.  They would work hard to keep it under control, but they couldn't guarantee the outcome with an absolute certainty.

The couple had already decided when the time was right, they'd both get out.  Daniel had no desire to stay with the program if Jack left.  He didn't take orders from his lover, and no way would he take them from anyone else.  As for Jack, he didn't think he could stand to watch Daniel going off-world without him, even if he, too, was asked to stay on board as some kind of civilian consultant, too.  In the end, they knew they either stayed in together or retired together.  They would not split up, ever.

Besides, they'd seen some awesome things together, and once Jack retired, they had decided they wanted a normal life, or as close as they could get to it.  The hard part of Daniel's current dilemma was that they wanted to leave on their time plan, not someone else's.

~We have a future to live.  There isn't a choice to be made here.  It's obvious.~  Having worked out his dilemma, the younger man spoke, “I love you, Jack, and I will protect you every bit as much as you protect me.  I'll do what I have to; I may not like it, but I'll do it.”

Jack laughed a small sarcastic sound and shook his head violently as he questioned, “What am I doing to you, Danny?  I don't have a right to do this.”

“Yes, you do, Love.  We're married and that means sometimes we do or say things for the other.  We make our decisions as one mind, so that does give you a right, Jack, to ask things of me.  But still, in the end, it is my choice.  Maybe ... maybe it won't be an issue.  Maybe retiring isn't such a bad thing.”  He paused and sighed.  “Jack, can we just wait and see?  I mean, you're still active because of me, right?  Maybe ...”

Daniel's breaths were becoming more rapid.  He knew asking people they cared about and respected to lie was selfish.  He would protect Jack, though, no matter what.

Jack watched the battle waging inside his lover.  He wanted to hold him, but they were in a public park in the Springs, and he was sure they were being watched.

“Danny?”

Daniel folded up the note, putting it in his pocket with his wallet.  He looked back at his lover, wishing they could just go away somewhere and make love all day and all night.

“Jack, if it comes to that, let's ... go.  I mean, just leave it all, go to the cabin with the girls, and be hermits.  Can we do that?”

Daniel's voice had cracked at the end, and Jack's heart broke.  Daniel needed to stay in the program for a while longer, but he wouldn't do it without Jack, and they both knew that it would kill Daniel to ask friends to lie.  They could try to get through this without those people, but their chance for success would be less.

“We can do whatever you want, Love,” Jack answered truthfully, knowing he would do whatever Daniel needed.

“I'll protect you, Jack.  No one will hurt you.  I know you always say that to me, but it does work both ways.  I won't let you be hurt just so we can find the Lost City.  We do what we can, and try to beat this together, with our friends, without having to put them in a bad position.  If we can't do that, we make the decision for them.  We go.”

“You going to be okay with that?”

“We'd only do it if we had to, if there was no other choice.  It would be the last resort when we had no other recourse, but I love you, Jack.  None of this, the SGC, the program, the Lost City, none of it, means anything to me without you.  You know that!”

Jack smiled.  He did know.  Their nation of two was stronger than anything else in the universe.  It might not be easy, maybe it wasn't what they had been planning, but all they truly needed was each other, and their girls.  They'd be fine, better than fine, as long as they were alive and together.

“Okay.  So, we arrange the party.”

As he approached Daniel again, Jack lifted his shirt just slightly and covertly pulled out a cell phone.

“Geez, Jack, what else do you have under there?”

“When this is over, I'll show you,” Jack said with a leer, allowing himself one moment of personal happiness before jumping back into the game.  Daniel smiled in response.

“You'd better.”

Jack took a careful look around the park.  They seemed to be alone, but he knew they weren't.  They would have to put on a show as a distraction for what they were actually doing.  He didn't want their trackers to know he was making a phone call, and the only way to cover that up was to give them something else to watch.

It was one of the craziest things Jack had ever done, but it was also necessary, and the right thing to do under their current circumstances, even though it was contrary to everything they had done in the past. Now, though, on this occasion, being 'outed' was preferable to Daniel being killed.

“Okay, game time.  Danny hit the button.”

“They'll see.”

“They already know, Danny.  They knew when you left the SGC that day that you were going home.  They knew home was our house.  They brought you back there for the same reason.  Press the button,” Jack instructed as he leaned in and kissed Daniel in the middle of the community park.

Daniel pressed the speed dial for Sam's cell phone, his hand and Jack's both cradling it in between them, shielding it from sight of anyone watching.

“I love you, Danny.”

“Um, Sir?”

Sam had picked up the phone to hear the declaration of love from her CO to one of her dearest friends.  Jack kissed Daniel and spoke very softly, but it was audible enough for Sam to overhear.

“Carter, Boonie Bear's in distress.  Repeat of before.  Get the equipment,” Jack said kissing Daniel again, so tenderly that Daniel couldn't help himself, leaning into Jack even more and letting out a moan that made Sam cough and blush.

“Uh, yes, Sir.  When?”

“We're having a party tonight, Major.  Call it a winter barbecue. Don't write anything down.  Don't speak anything specific at the facility.  Ferretti, Hammond, Teal'c, Cornell, and Siler; no one else.  1800 hours. I don't care what you have to do or say to get them all there, just do it.  Boonie's future depends on it, Major.”

Jack choked slightly at the truth of his words.  With his left hand still helping to shield the phone, Jack raised his right hand and caressed his soulmate's cheek for a few seconds.  They gazed into each other's eyes, speaking of love and even survival.  After a moment, he regained his voice, lowered his hand to Daniel's chest, and continued, starting with another kiss, the words mumbled in between the union of their lips.

“You and Ferretti bring the specialties as soon as you can, and remotes.  You got that, Carter?”

Daniel was well into their kissing charade, and he and Jack continued to share a multitude of kisses as they shielded their cell conversation.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Goodbye, Carter,” Jack said as Daniel flipped the phone shut, and together, their hands covered the phone as they returned it to its hiding place under Jack's sweatshirt.

Jack capped their escapade by putting his arms around his lover and planting a kiss on him that made Daniel tingle from head to toe.

“Wow, Jack,” Daniel said when Jack finally backed off slightly.

“I love you, Angel.  Let's go.”

**Jack?**

**What, Love?**

**That felt, uh, I mean, it was ... nice.**

Jack took a breath and replied, **Someday, Danny, we'll come back and do it again.**

**No more hiding.**  Daniel lowered his head as he walked.  He knew he was the reason they were still having to play the game, but he just couldn't shirk the responsibility he felt deep down inside him.  **Someday soon, Jack, okay?**

**Okay.**

====

“Jack, not that your barbecue's aren't exciting, but do you mind telling me why your 2IC practically begged me to change my plans for tonight to be here?” General Hammond inquired patiently.

Jack looked at the friends gathered in his living room.  Lou, Daniel, and Sam were seated on the couch.  The general was in Jack's favorite chair.  Siler was seated in the other similarly-styled chair across from it. Jack stood in front of the coffee table facing all of them, while Teal'c and Jeff Cornell were seated in two of the dining room chairs near the kitchen.

“Last fall, a former associate, a Special Ops teammate, sent me a message.  He said only that someone viewed me as a threat, that I was an obstacle.  He didn't say who was behind it or why they were after me specifically, or anything else except that whomever it was would use Daniel to get to me so that I'd go along with their plans.”

Daniel's head was bowed low.  Sam placed her right hand on his left thigh in support.

“We will protect DanielJackson, O'Neill.”

Jack smiled in appreciation of Teal'c's words.  He knew Teal'c would back those words with his life.

“There's more,” Jack said, as he fidgeted slightly and crossed his arms in a pose normally relegated to his lover.  He closed his eyes for a moment and then took a deep breath before going on with the facts.  “A few weeks after that message was received, Daniel came ... Daniel ...”  He looked into the eyes of his husband.  He loved him so much, and he hated the cover up.  He swallowed hard.  “Daniel was kidnapped.”

“What?  Colonel, why wasn't I told?” Hammond asked sharply, a hint of outrage in his voice.

The general didn't like being excluded from important matters, and the SGC's 2IC had better have ~a mighty good reason~ for the deception by omission.

“It's complicated, Sir.  I'm sorry.  We didn't think we needed to involve the SGC at the time.”

The general stood up and faced his 2IC, reprimanding, “The Head of my Archaeology Department, the man who opened up the Stargate, is taken by force, and you don't think I need to know that, Colonel?”

“General, it was my fault really.”

Hammond briefly glanced over at Daniel as he spoke, “Doctor Jackson, no disrespect, but my question was addressed to Colonel O'Neill, and I'd like an answer ... NOW!”

It was times like this when Jack remembered why George Hammond had made it to the rank of major general.  He was used to the 'teddy bear' general who so often was his friend.  Sometimes, he forgot that the 'teddy bear' was more of a hungry 'grizzly'.

“Sir, if I could explain what else happened, maybe it'll make more sense.”

“What happened, Colonel, does not excuse your failure to communicate to me a severe threat to a key member of our team,” the general maintained brusquely.

“No, Sir, it doesn't,” Jack acknowledged matter-of-factly.

“Okay, Jack, finish your story, but we *will* discuss this in more detail later,” the general stated sternly as he returned to his seat.

“Daniel was drugged and held for about eight hours.  When they brought him back, he was incoherent but otherwise fine.  A note was sent back with him that said the kidnapping had been a warning, to me, Sir, and that it would be the only such warning.  Next time, it would be worse.”

“Colonel, you say that whomever is doing this, they are going to use Doctor Jackson to try and coerce you to do whatever it is they want?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“How did they contact you originally when they took him?”

Jack looked at Daniel, feeling uneasy.

“Daniel was coming here, Sir, for dinner.  He had left the SGC and he has a key to the house.  I knew when I got home something was wrong.  Daniel's car was in the driveway, but there was no sign of him.  I,” Jack paused, blowing out what felt like a bag of wind.  He was getting in deeper and deeper, and he hated it.  The general was really not going to like the next part.  Jack had already talked to Sam and Lou privately, and both had refused to let Jack keep their part in the event quiet.  “... I called Carter and Ferretti.  They swept the house, found some bugs and a camera.  Sir, they did the same thing before you arrived here tonight.  We ... I have a security system now so apparently that helped, but they still turned up two bugs and a tracking device on my truck.”

The general frowned at Carter and Ferretti, but both held their heads high, facing Jack, and Hammond chose not to address them at this time.

“Doctor Jackson was returned here?”

“Yes, Sir, later that night.  There was no sign, no clue about who had taken him. We had downtime the next day, so I was able to ... I mean, Daniel was fine, Sir.”

“And did Doctor Fraiser examine him, Colonel?”

“No, Sir.”

“Why not?”

“As I said, Sir, we had the day off, and it was just a message to me.  They got their point across.”

“Okay, Jack, you aren't telling me this now because you want to come clean.  What's going on?”

Jack was considered an expert at intimidation.  He had a reputation for being a hard-nosed colonel in the United States Air Force.  He loved the ability to put fear into the minds of recruits and trainees, but right now, he was on the other end of a George Hammond 'special', and being on the other side of being intimated was definitely not Jack's idea of fun.  He braced himself mentally, and continued on.

“I received a message today, amid some reports, General.  It said it is a test, to make sure I understand the stakes.  They want me to acquire a sample of some ... whatever it is that one of the teams brought back recently.”

“Some what, Colonel?”

“Sir, if I may?” Sam chimed in, leaning forward as she sat.  Seeing the nods from both Jack and Hammond, she explained, “SG-14 was doing a recon of PR2-979 and met with some locals of that planet.  They claimed to have a substance that was the source of their energy.  It looks promising, Sir.  It's a liquid, and we've been running tests on it for the past few days.  I believe this is the material to which the note that Colonel O'Neill received is referring.”

“How are you supposed to deliver the material?”

“They said they'd let me know before the twenty-four hours was up.  I don't know how or when.”

“Jack, why not tell me this in my office?  Why the subterfuge about this ... party?”

“Because I believe there is someone on the inside.  The way the message was delivered today; the fact they knew when Daniel was leaving that day; and ... I just have a hunch, Sir.”

“Next question, Jack.  This is an interesting group you've thrown together.  Why this group?”

“Because Daniel and I trust everyone here; we trust all of you with our lives, in many ways,” Jack acknowledged as he again glanced at Daniel who nodded in agreement.

“So, what do we do, Jack?” Lou Ferretti asked as he leaned forward on the sofa.

“We need a plan.  Obviously, I can't do what they ask.  We can't risk letting someone we don't even know get hold of an alien technology.”

“Jack, I shouldn't ask this,” Jeff Cornell began hesitantly, “but what about whomever gave you the warning about ... whomever?  Maybe he knows more.”

Jack fidgeted, and answered cautiously, “It was Mike, Jeff -- Michael Rittenhouse.  Carter's been trying to find him, but you know Mike, he's very good at what he does.”

“You know this Rittenhouse, Colonel?” the general asked Jeff.

“Yes, Sir.  We all went to the Academy together.  I haven't seen him since though.”

“I have.  We were frequently asked to work together after ... in the late eighties and early nineties.  I haven't seen him since '94, though, when we did a rescue mission in Pakistan, but obviously, he knows where to find me.  I doubt we'll find him, but we have to try.”

“I've been searching as many databases as I can to try and track him down, but so far nothing more than a few sketchy biographical details,” Sam noted.

Hammond nodded at the information he was hearing, then ordered, “We need a guard on Doctor Jackson and your apartment.”

“Oh, Sir, I don't think ...”

“I shall be your bodyguard, DanielJackson,” Teal'c proclaimed.

“Teal'c, it's really not necessary.”

The general interjected, “I think it is, Doctor.  Teal'c can and will accompany you.  You have room at your apartment, don't you?”

Daniel looked at Jack.  There was no way they were going to be separated.

“Uh, actually, General, Daniel is going to be staying here.”

“Are you sure that's wise, Jack?”

“Wise?” Jack laughed a tired refrain, looked down at the carpet and then back up, and faced Daniel.  “Probably not, Sir, but he's staying here.”

“Doctor Jackson?”

“I ... it won't matter, General.  They obviously know where to find me if they really want me.”

“Okay, People, let's get a plan together.”

====

Later that night, Daniel sat in his den, engrossed in studying an artifact he had brought home from the SGC a few days earlier.  Jack stood in the doorway, watching quietly.  Minutes passed as Daniel scribbled notes, and Jack continued his watch.

“Jack, you've been standing there for the last fifteen minutes.  I'm fine.”

Daniel put the artifact down, and turned his chair to face the sliding doors.

“You were glued to that rock, Daniel.”

“Artifact, and you've been standing there for exactly sixteen minutes and ... twenty seconds,” Daniel said as he glanced at his watch.

Jack fidgeted, his arms folded, but he didn't say anything.  Daniel sighed as he stood up and walked to Jack, putting his right hand over Jack's heart as he kissed him.

Rubbing gently against the cotton fabric that covered his lover's heart, Daniel said softly, “You can't watch me twenty-four/seven.”

“Oh, yes I can.”  Seeing Daniel's glare, Jack softened.  “Ah, Danny, what do I have to do to get you to understand that you are the single most precious ... artifact ... in my life?  Don't ask me to do something I can't, and risking your life is something I *so* cannot do!”

The silver-haired man nibbled Daniel's upper lip and then devoured his mouth.  Daniel moaned softly as he leaned into the kiss, his arms going under Jack's as they wrapped around his waist.

Jack pressed Daniel into him as his lover's hands pulled Jack's black shirt out from his pants, his hands roaming the bare skin of his lover's lower back and waist.

Daniel's hands went all the way up Jack's back as he tried to push them even closer together.  The fire inside both had gone from flickering to flaming.

“I want you, Danny,” Jack gasped between their kisses.

“Hmm ... gawd, yes,” Daniel said on an exhale as they slid against the wall of the hallway until Daniel stopped them, halfway between the den and their bedroom.

“Jack, maybe we shouldn't?”

“Why not?” Jack asked incredulously, as he kissed Daniel again.

“Jack,” Daniel pushed back slightly.  “Teal'c and Sam are downstairs.”

“They can use the couch.”

“Jaaaack!”

“Danny, stop thinking.”

“Is that an order, Jack?”

“Oh yeah, definitely an order,” Jack said as they bumped into their bedroom door, causing it to bang loudly against the wall.

Jack already had Daniel's pants down as they lay languidly on the bed when he heard the concerned call from downstairs.

“O'Neill, DanielJackson, are you all right?” Teal'c yelled as he approached the bottom of the stairs.

“Stay right here,” Jack said softly as he hurried to the hallway and looked down the stairs.

“We're just fine, Teal'c.  Daniel's ... tired.  We're gonna hit the hay.”

“Hay?  Why would you wish to hit hay?” the Jaffa questioned curiously.

Jack shook his head and looked down at Sam, requesting, “Carter, you explain it to him.  Goodnight.”

Sam laughed as she watched Jack prance away from the stairway railing and close the door to the master bedroom.  She didn't have to hear it to know the door lock had been clicked to the locked position.

“It's just an expression; it means going to bed, to sleep.”  She chuckled as Teal'c raised an eyebrow, still not making the connection.  “Come on, Teal'c, I need a cup of coffee, and then we should check the neighborhood again.”

“Do you not think it is early for O'Neill and DanielJackson to ... hit the hay, MajorCarter?  They did not seem tired.”

Sam giggled as she replied, “Well, I'm sure they will be soon.”

Teal'c cocked his head at Sam's funny face, but she said nothing more as she headed for the kitchen, signaling for the Jaffa to follow.  

====

“General, you're needed on Level 18, Sir,” Sergeant Siler spoke dryly.

Hammond acknowledged the Sergeant, knowing what it meant, and together they made their way to Daniel's office.  As he and Siler walked inside, the general surveyed the other personnel assembled -- all of SG-1 plus Ferretti and Siler, of course.  Ferretti secured the door and nodded to the general.

“The room is clean?” Hammond asked.

“Found two bugs in the sweep, but it's clean again, for now,” Ferretti stated.

“I don't like this, People, not one bit,” the general said with frustration. “We have a spy in our midst, and that's unacceptable.  I want him or her discovered as soon as possible.  Jack?”

Holding out a small piece of white paper, Jack explained, “This came in with the last batch of memos delivered to my office, about forty-five minutes ago.”

Hammond read the note:

“Drop off 1600 hours, northwest corner of Memorial Park near the Fallen Firefighters' Memorial, under the stone bench closest to the street.”

Memorial Park was one of the most used recreational facilities in the Springs.  In the afternoons, it was frequented by parents and their children, teenagers, and joggers, as well as those just passing through from one location to another. The stone bench mentioned was only about fifty-feet from the busy street.

The Firefighters' tribute was a statue of a firefighter climbing a ladder.  Near it stood a black granite wall that listed the names of firefighters from across the country who had given their lives in the line of duty.  The memorial was surrounded by grass, flower beds, a few trees, and some white stone benches for visitors to sit on.

“Major Carter, any progress on Rittenhouse?”

“No, General, nothing yet.”

“Sergeant, you've mentioned abnormalities in the procedures and some deviation from normal protocol.  Have you nailed anything down yet?”

“No, Sir.  I do have a few ideas, but it's going to take more time to determine if it's a coincidence or something being done intentionally.”

“Siler,” Jack interjected, “is there anyone specific who has attracted your attention?”

“No, Colonel, not at this time.”

Jack fidgeted uncomfortably.  His soulmate's life was at risk, and they still had nothing.

The general thought for a moment before speaking again.

“Teal'c, I want you to coordinate with Colonels Ferretti and Cornell, and with Major Carter.  I'm holding all of you personally responsible for safeguarding Doctor Jackson.”

“General, I really don't think ...”

“I'm sorry, Doctor, but this is not open to debate.  You are too valuable to the program and this facility, and,” the general paused, “too good a friend, to not do all we can to make sure your wellbeing is assured.  Teal'c, I expect protection in both the front and back of Colonel O'Neill's home at all times when Doctor Jackson is there, and he is to have an escort while on base, no exceptions.  Is that clear?”

Teal'c bowed his head as he spoke in his usual understated tone, “It is, GeneralHammond.”

“Doctor Jackson, I assume you are still staying at Colonel O'Neill's home?”

“Yes, Sir, he is,” Jack again jumped in, not allowing Daniel to speak.

“Very well.  It'll make it easier to cover you both.”  Turning his attention to Sam, the general continued his directives.  “Major, we need to find this Rittenhouse now.  Pull out all the stops.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Okay, where are we with the substitute?”

“It's ready, Sir.  It matches the color, odor, and density of the liquid as much as possible, but it's essentially just water.  It's not going to fool anyone for very long.”

“How long, Major?”

“Not long.  It's an aesthetic duplication.  We don't know that much about the real thing ourselves yet.”

“General, all we need is a moment to grab the pick up men.  We can get 'em,” Lou offered enthusiastically.

~It won't happen.~  Jack shook his head.  “It's not going to fool anyone except the pickup man who is probably nothing more than a messenger.”

“Jack, it's all we can do.”

“I know, Dan...iel.”

Jack flinched slightly.  He'd almost forgotten where he was and who else was in the room when his gaze looked into Daniel's eyes.  Jack wanted to snatch Daniel up, hold him close, and stay locked up somewhere forever.  He could deal with anything, just as long as he had Daniel.

“Make sure you're properly outfitted, Colonel, and no deviations from the plan.”

“Don't worry, Sir.”

“Worry about you disobeying an order, Jack?  Would I do that?”  The general smiled briefly and exited with a brisk, “Good luck, People.”

Siler followed the general out.

Daniel and Sam began to look over the fake sample Jack would be dropping off at the firefighters' memorial.  Teal'c and Ferretti huddled near Jack.

“Who's guarding Daniel while I do this?”

“He said he wished to accompany us, O'Neill.”

“Oh, I don't think so.”

“Jack, I know you want to keep the Doc safe, but we have to watch your six.  We don't have the manpower in our elite group to divide ourselves too much.  The Doc knows his stuff.  He's come a long way since Abydos.  He'll be safer with us, and so will you.”

Lou gave a smile towards Daniel, an acknowledgement of their own friendship and how much Daniel had learned over the years about protecting himself and those around him.

Jack didn't like it, not at all.

“Do not worry, O'Neill, DanielJackson will be fine.  I will see to his safety at the park.”

“Thank you, Teal'c.”  ~I'm counting on you more than you know.~

“I *can* take care of myself,” Daniel interjected, having become aware that he was the topic of conversation from people who seemed to have forgotten he was standing right there with them.

“Daniel, please.”  **Don't fight me on this, Danny.**

Daniel wanted to argue, to stand up for himself, but more than Jack's silent words, he saw something in his lover's eyes -- a plea to stay alive and a plea to give Jack some level of peace he wouldn't have otherwise. Reluctantly, Daniel nodded.

**You win, O'Neill ... this time.**

**Hey, that’s Jackson-O’Neill, Love**  Daniel's eyes told his husband just how much he loved him.  **Thanks, Danny.**

**You just stay alive, too, Jack.**

**That's the plan.**

====

“Hey,” Jack said as he walked into their study.

It was 8 p.m.  The drop had gone off without incident, but their plan to follow the pickup man had failed.  There were too many citizens making use of the park, and too few of their 'elite' group as they called themselves to properly surveil the area, especially when both Jack and Teal'c had divided attentions, only partially paying attention to the pick up, and the rest of the time making sure no one had approached Daniel.

The tracking device installed in the container of the fake sample led them away from the park for only a few blocks before it was found, discarded in a trash can.  Sam had taken it to run tests on, but again, Jack knew they would turn up nothing.

At the moment, Teal'c was in the backyard, learning the fine art of pooper-scooping for the beagles while guarding the rear of the home.  Ferretti was in the front, supposedly reading a book as he held his post on the porch.

They weren't trying to hide the fact that Daniel was being guarded.  In fact, if Jack had his way, he'd lock his lover away in the bedroom and finish out eternity with him there, but that was a fantasy, and reality was sometimes cold and about as far away from Jack's daydreams as they it get.

Neither being particularly hungry, Jack and Daniel had eaten a light supper, consisting of nothing more than a salad and a few Doritos.  Then, Daniel had gone to the study to do some research while Jack made some phone calls.

The latest sweep of the house had turned up nothing on the inside, but a small camera had been found imbedded into the backyard lighting.  Jack had fumed.  They'd been close.  The lighting wasn't part of the security system, but Jack would rectify that soon.

“Hey,” Daniel acknowledged without looking at Jack as he scrolled down the page of his document and kept working.

Jack sat on the sofa and watched.  He smiled as he silently watched his lover.

~Geez, Danny, you really don't have a clue how gorgeous you are.  Look at you, all hunched over the keyboard, your eyes focused on whatever rock has your attention on that screen.  Ah, there go your fingers.  I love your fingers and how they feel on my skin.  I have to keep you safe, Danny.  You have to stay alive for me, for us.  Uh oh, found something you didn't like.  Whatever it is must not be what you were considering.  Ha!  Love your scrunched up nose.~

Jack chuckled, but Daniel didn't respond, being totally consumed by his work.

~I can't see your eyes when you're all bent over like that.  It's not healthy, Daniel.  Besides, your eyes are your soul.  You should never hide them.~  Jack took a deep breath as he remembered back a few days.  ~That was risky at the park the other day, kissing like that out in the open, but I loved it.  I can't wait for us to be free.  I want the world to know how much you mean to me.  I want them to know you're mine, all mine, and that miraculously you claim me as yours, that you are as possessive about me as I am about you.~

Jack shook his head, loving that little fact.  He still couldn't believe it, even after all these years.  Daniel loved him, and Jack found that incredibly awesome.

~I need you, Danny.  I wish you weren't so wrapped up in that ...  whatever you're working on.  I don't have the heart to interrupt.  You're too focused, and you've done everything I've asked to try and keep you safe.  You're humoring me, and I thank you for that, Love, but I need you, Danny, need to touch you.  I wish you were over here, Angel.~

Jack looked away from Daniel for just a second, about to lose himself in his inward thoughts of love.  When he looked up, Daniel had gotten up and was walking over to him.  The younger man sat down and leaned his head on Jack's shoulder.

“I need you, too, Jack.”

“Did you 'hear' all of that, Daniel?” Jack asked in amazement.

Verbal communication was a third language to the couple.  Their first language was that of their bodies in unison, and the second was their near-telepathic-like connection that still surprised Jack.  It was uncanny, but so often they 'heard' the other's silent thoughts.  This left the spoken word as their third means of speaking.

Daniel looked up and kissed Jack.

“I heard the important part,” Daniel spoke as his left hand reached around Jack's neck, and his tongue slid into Jack's mouth, a duel of love ensuing as they locked lips for several minutes.

====

“You ready to go?” Daniel asked at the end of a rather long day at the SGC.

It was two days later after the fake sample had been dropped off.  There hadn't been any messages from the mysterious person or group responsible for the threats against Daniel, and while Sam felt she was making progress in finding Rittenhouse, nothing concrete had been discovered.  A lead that had pointed towards him being in the Middle East had been fruitless.

The general had insisted that Daniel continue to be escorted, and none of the 'elite' had objected.  Tonight, Sam and Jeff would be 'on duty'.

“No, Hammond wants these reports before I leave, and where's Teal'c?”

Teal'c was supposed to be 'babysitting' as Daniel called it, serving as Daniel's bodyguard inside the SGC on this day.

“Calm down, Jack.  He watched me come in here and went to pick up a message in the Communication Center that came through from Rya'c.  He thinks it's just routine, but it's his son, so he wants to make sure, okay?  He figured I'd be safe enough with you mother-henning me to death in here.”

Daniel sounded 'put out' in Jack's view, but a bit of inconvenience was worth keeping his lover alive.

“I didn't mean to sound snippy, Daniel. It's just ...”  Jack decided it was best to switch modes of communication.  **I love you.**

“I know, and I'm sorry, too.  Jack, I have a headache.  I'm going to go, maybe take a nap before you get home, okay?”

“You sure you're okay?”

“I'll be better as soon as you get home.  You can give me one of those O'Neill Family Rubdowns I love so much.”

“Now that sounds like a plan.”

“Hurry home.  I'll see you later.”

“Make sure Carter or Jeff go with you.”

Daniel nodded, rubbing his head slightly, as he started to exit Jack's office.

“Daniel?  Promise me.  Carter or Jeff.”

“I promise, Jack.  I'll go get Sam.”

“No, wait for Teal'c, then go get Sam.”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he exited the office.  Jack smiled as he watched his lover leave, and then he continued to work on the reports.

“Oh, by the way,” Daniel said popping his head back into Jack’s office.

Waiting until Jack looked up at him, he mouthed silently, “I love you, too,” and treated Jack to a loving smile. Then the younger man turned and left once again.

**Love you, Angel.**  ~Geez, I *hate* paperwork.  Who invented this anyway?~

====

~He rubbed his head.  Headache, just like ...~

It was an hour later when something that had been nagging at Jack as he fought his way through the reports finally made it from the nagging stage to the comprehension stage.  Urgently, Jack picked up his cell and dialed home.

“Pick up the phone, Danny.”  Ending the call, Jack dialed Sam's cell.  “Carter.”

“Carter, how's Daniel?”

“Daniel?  Sir, I haven't seen him since lunch.”

“Where are you?”

“In my office, Sir.”

~Daniel, you promised me!~  Frustrated and concerned, Jack hung up and dialed Jeff's cell phone.  ~Crap!  No, I don't want to leave a message!~

The concerned colonel raced to the elevator, dialing Sam's number again, but as he approached the elevator, he saw her when the doors opened.

“Sir?”

“He went home, Major, over an hour ago.  He PROMISED me he'd get you or Cornell to go with him.  He told me he was going to your office.”

Jack dialed the security entrance as the elevator moved.  He learned from the guard on duty that Daniel had left one hour and fifteen minutes ago, while Jeff had departed the base ten minutes later.

“Dang him,” Jack said, running to the security exit, Sam on his heels, calling after him.

“Carter, you know what to do.  I can't wait.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Sam wanted to go with her CO.  She loved Daniel and something told her a new nightmare had begun for all of them.

====

Jack made the forty-minute drive to their house in twenty-five minutes. He jerked the truck to a stop in the driveway.  Daniel's car was there, as was Jeff's. The front door was locked.  He jiggled his keys as fast as he could to find the door key and ran inside.

His heart racing, Jack breezed through the entranceway to the living room.  His pulse throbbed rapidly as he turned in a circle to survey the house.

“DANIEL?” Jack yelled.  **Daniel!  Answer me, Daniel.**  “Crap!”  Suddenly, he stopped.  ~The girls!~

Jack's heart almost stopped.  Where were the dogs?  His worry became frantic when he saw that the patio door was open slightly.  He took a calming breath as he carefully and slowly walked to the backyard patio.  He pulled out the pistol he had taken with him from his office and held it near his head as he inched his way out.  Then he heard the scratching.

~They'd better be all right.~

The colonel proceeded cautiously, worried someone might be on the roof deck. He decided to check the yard first, but noticed nothing unusual.  Then he walked back to the ladder that led to the roof deck and climbed it, but again, there was nothing unusual there.

Back on the patio, Jack heard the scratching again, only now it was louder.

“BIJOU?  KATIE?  WHERE ARE YOU?”  A myriad of “woofs” ensued, and Jack finally clued into the rather large doghouse he had personally built for their beagles.  He noticed the door had been nailed shut.  He ran to the doghouse, and called out, “Don't worry, Girls.  I'll get you out in just a minute.”


Jack looked around for something to use quickly to pry open the door, but didn't see anything that would do the trick, so he carefully made his way to the garage and brought both a hammer and a screwdriver with him to the doghouse.  Using the tools, he pried open the door.

“Girls, are you all right?”

Bijou licked Jack and looked over at Katie.

“Katie?”  Jack picked the beagle up and grew angry at what he saw:  a cut on her nose with a blob of red around the cut.  The blood was dry, but she was shaking in fear.  His heart ached.  Daniel was gone, and one of their girls had been hurt.  ~Just one minute: that's all I need -- sixty seconds alone with the person who did this.~

“Ah.”

A noise came from the far side of the dogs' house.  Jack couldn't see the other side from where he stood.  He put Katie down, and crawled in, and over to the other side of the partition that divided the dog house.

“Jeff!” Jack called out.

Jeff Cornell had been gagged, and both his hands and feet were tied.  His face was swollen from being hit with some type of blunt object.  As quickly as he could, Jack released Jeff from his ties and pulled him out of the doghouse.

“Jeff, I'll call Fraiser.  Hang on.”

“Jack, I tried. I'm sorry.  They came out of nowhere.  They must have been here when Daniel got home.”

“You did your best.”

“Jack?  I told him to wait for me, but he ... ”

“I know, Jeff,” Jack spoke.  “That's ... Daniel.  He tends to follow his own drummer.”

Jeff shook his head, flinching from the pain to his face, and refuted, “No, Jack.  He left the checkpoint before me, but he waited at the parking lot.  We left together.  I followed him here.  We came in together.  He's quite a fighter.”

Jack's heart suddenly stopped.  He felt momentarily numb.

“What do you mean?”

Jeff explained, “He saw them first.  He stopped them from killing me.  He ran in front of me.  He was a real fighter, Jack; didn't know Daniel was so tough.  He tried, but I saw them inject him with something, and he collapsed.  I couldn't believe it; even with that stuff in him, he kept getting back up and fighting them.”

“Jeff?  Was he hurt? I mean, more than the drugs?”

“He got hit ... a lot, Jack.  You've taught him some moves, haven't you?”  Jack nodded.  “If they hadn't drugged him, he might just have fought hard enough to get them to go away, but they had to keep me down, and him.  There were six of them.  Six.  It was a dang commando team, Jack.”

“I'll get help.”

“Jack, you know something crazy?”

“What?”

“Daniel.  He started the fight for me, but once it calmed, he saw one of the men leering at Bij.  I think he ... I think he was protecting her.  The dogs were barking.  One of them hit Katie.  I thought I was watching the Incredible Hulk on TV.  I swear, Daniel turned into the Hulk, really hurt that guy before they all went down on him.”  Jeff coughed.  “They finally got him down, kicking him, but he wouldn't quit.  You sure he's not Special Ops?”

“I ... I've trained him.”

“It showed, Jack, but with the guys guarding me, it was four to one, and it took the drugs and all four of them to get him.  He was a bloody pulp the last time I saw him.  They kicked him everywhere.”  Jeff coughed again, blood flowing down the side of his mouth.  “They knocked me out when I tried to get loose from the two holding me.  I don't know what happened after that, but when I came to, I guess I was here.  Are the girls all right, Jack?”

“They will be.  Those ... commandos won't be.  Be right back, Jeff.”  Jack looked at the mama beagle.  “Bij, stay with Jeff.”

Jack reached down and picked up the little puppy and held her close.  He had to fight to stay the colonel, his anger and rage at an all-time high.

~They'll pay for this, Katie.  They beat up Danny, and then they took him; and they've hurt you.  They are *so* going to pay.~

====

“This is quite a flurry of activity, Jack.  Is everything all right?” Pam Lawrence asked, observing the unusual group of personnel at the home and their actions.

The woman was their vet, and Jack had asked her to come by and examine Katie.  To some, it might have been an inconvenience, but Pam had grown fond of Jack and Daniel since meeting them, and the two had donated to a free clinic she ran for low-income families so that they could properly care for their pets, so she dropped by just as soon as she could in her mobile vet unit; in fact, she had arrived just after Janet and her medical team.  This is where she and Jack currently were.

“No.”

“Where's Daniel?” Pam inquired, genuine concern in her voice.

“That's the million dollar question, Pam.  Listen, I don't mean to be abrupt, but I need to get back.  How is she?”

Pam was touched by the gentleness of Jack's voice, and she noticed how dearly he was holding the young beagle to him.

“Nothing's broken.  She's just frightened, but I'm glad you called.”

“Thanks for coming by, Pam; they ... hurt her.”

“Jack, if there's anything I can do,” the animal doctor offered.

Jack shook his head and stepped out of the mobile van.  He said good-bye to Pam, but just before reaching the front steps, he turned and called out to her.

“Pam, there is something.”  Jack saw his friend nod in expectation.  “Pray.”

Pam smiled, saying, “Consider it done.”

====

Several minutes later, Janet concluded her examination of Jeff Cornell and reported, “He'll be fine in a couple of days.  Fortunately, I don't think anything's broken, but we'll make sure when we get back to the SGC.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” the general said.

“Not yet,” Jeff called out, coughing.

“Colonel ...”

“General, please.  We need to go over everything.”  He coughed again.  “I'm not going anywhere until we have a course of action.”

Hammond sighed, but gave in to the request, though Janet, as usual, wasn't happy about it.

====

Minutes later, the 'elite' were once again assembled in Jack's living room.  Jeff was lying on the sofa, Janet remaining close by, though her medical staff were waiting outside.

Sam looked at her CO.  On the outside, he was calm, passive, and silent. On the inside, she knew he was seething, his anger high, his frustration massive, and his heart beating in fear for Daniel's life.  She wished she could help, and she knew she could, if only she could find Michael Rittenhouse.

“How's the puppy, Jack?” Lou asked.

“She's fine.  It was just a scratch, but she was scared.  I cleaned her up with some peroxide; the vet gave her an antibiotic just in case.”  He paused, looking down as he shook his head.  “She was shaking so much, Lou.  Daniel would hate that.  *I* hate that.”

As they discussed all that happened, Jack's voice became detached, distant.  Everyone knew the colonel was being replaced by the Special Ops expert, that cold and distant being focused solely on his mission, which was to find Daniel and bring him home.

“I wish you'd brought me in on this earlier,” Janet said.  “I could have helped.”

“Janet, Jack and Daniel were concerned about Cassie.”

Janet nodded at Sam, but she still didn't like being excluded, even if the reason was to protect her daughter.  She was sporting her Little Napoleon expression, making her displeasure known to all.

“Sir, I've got something,” Sam spoke urgently as she looked up from her laptop.  “And you aren't going to believe this.”

“Carter, I don't have time for games.”

“Sorry, Sir, I didn't mean ...”

“I'm sorry, Carter.  What did you find?”

“It's Colonel Maybourne, Sir.”

“Harry?”

“I found a document where Colonel Maybourne listed Michael Rittenhouse as a source for the NID.”

“Jack, Mike wouldn't go rogue?”

“No, I don't think so, Jeff.”  Jack paused, deep in thought.  “No, he wouldn't.”

“Then maybe he's working for someone ... higher up?”

~Crap.~  Knowing he had no choice, Jack picked up the cell phone and dialed.  When a groggy voice answered, he informed, “Davis, Rock Lover has been compromised.  We need you here, now, with everything, and I mean everything, you have on the artifacts.”

“Yes, Sir, I understand.  I'll make arrangements.”

“Is that Major Davis, Colonel?” General Hammond inquired.

“Yes, Sir.  Daniel ... thought we should keep him as a wildcard, have him check on things from the Pentagon.”

“And you didn't tell me this because ...?”

Jack took a breath, looked at the room of friends, and answered, “Because Daniel's life is on the line, and I wanted an Ace in the Hole, just in case.”

Hammond didn't like the sound of that, but he knew there was nothing his 2IC wouldn't do to protect his best friend.  He chose not to pursue the matter, knowing that Daniel Jackson was much more than Jack O'Neill's best friend, but that was something he couldn't afford to think about, not even casually.

“Doctor Fraiser, take Colonel Cornell to the SGC.  No arguments, Colonel.  You've told us everything you know, and I think now, we need to wait for Major Davis to see what he's turned up.”

====

“You really should try and get some sleep, Sir,” Sam said walking out onto the patio deck.  Most of the 'elite' were still gathered at Jack and Daniel's home.  No one wanted to leave Jack alone, and since they still weren't sure who was the mole at the SGC, the house was the safest place to meet.

“I got a couple of hours.”

“It would be a beautiful night if ... ”

Jack nodded, as he bowed his head and leaned forward, his hands clenched together as they sat on his knees.

“Carter, do you think I was wrong?”

“Wrong, Sir?”

“Drop the 'Sir' ... Sam.”

“Yes ... Jack.”

“I started it.  I fell in love with my best friend.  I tried to hide it.  I guess I did, until we found that second Stargate.  Danny ... I said things in that hospital when I was out of it, and he figured it out.”

“He's a smart guy.  No one can deny that.”

Jack laughed as he replied, “In some ways; in a lot of ways, but you know, he knew I was in love with ... a man, but he was too dense to realize it was him.”

“Well, Daniel ... for a genius, Sir ... Jack, he can be very insecure.”

“Maybe I shouldn't have told him.  It started this circus.  I mean, nothing happened for a long time.  We kept up the friendship thing, and then one night, I got my greatest wish.  I got Daniel.”

Sam was a bit uneasy.  She'd finally had a handful of conversations with Daniel about his relationship with Jack, and of course, she had been the 'Best Gal' at the wedding, giving them away to each other, but she had never really talked to her CO about his feelings or about anything emotional where Daniel was concerned ... at least nothing that had gone beyond the friendship factor.

She raised up and down on her toes a few times as she listened, standing a couple of feet behind Jack who continued to sit.

“Jack, Daniel ... he loves you.  If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have helped you two all these years.”

“But look at the cost.  How many times has Daniel suffered because of me?  How many times has he had to pay for my past?  He's innocent, Sam.  He's ...”

Jack lowered his head for a moment, a small laugh of amazement sounding from his throat.  He looked up towards the sky as he continued.

“Sam, he's such a dreamer: high ideals, ethics, and morals that eclipse anything I've ever seen.  You know how he is.  He'd die for a stranger, always putting everyone before himself.  He doesn't deserve the crap the universe throws at him, and he certainly doesn't deserve the nightmares that come with me.”

Sam considered her response.  She was still a bit uncomfortable, but she couldn't not say something.

“Jack, when I first met Daniel, I knew immediately how brilliant he was.  I envied his intelligence, and I still do.  Even now, he has an ability I'll never have.  He's a free thinker.  He ... thinks outside the box.  He knows his stuff, but back then, he was hesitant.  He fought for what he believed, but always did it ... with a ... a hesitancy.”

Sam walked down the steps to the yard, going a few feet in front of her CO, and then turned to look him square in the eye.

“He was a geek, Sir ... Jack, and yet he was a contradiction, both confident in his knowledge and his theories in his own way, and yet unsure about himself and his ability to affect change or even just to get people to listen to him.

“He was also miserable.  I realize a lot of that was Sha're, but regardless, Daniel's eyes were dim, his face tired.  He functioned on caffeine fumes.  More importantly, he was never truly happy.  He never felt like he made a difference or mattered to those of us who love him.  His idea of fun was being locked away in his office with artifacts and books.”

Sam cleared her throat in nervousness.  She wasn't used to lecturing her CO on personal matters, but she had to do this, not only for him, but for Daniel.  She'd do most anything for him, and she knew Daniel needed her to reassure Jack during this unexpected scene.

“Sir, Daniel isn't that dichotomy anymore.  He may still hesitate, but it's nothing like it was before.  He knows now how admired and respected he is, but what matters more to me ... Jack ... is that Daniel's eyes sparkle now.  His face is so free; his voice is lighter than it's ever been.  Haven't you noticed how much he smiles now?  My gosh, Sir, he ... laughs now.  I've heard him laugh more in the last few months than in the entire scope of years I've known him.

“He's happy ... Jack.  We've ... talked a little.  This house, the dogs ... my goodness, Sir, that nightmare day of his when you fixed everything. You have no idea how that affected him, and he positively beamed telling me about the den.  I could have sworn he was talking about an artifact, but he was talking about this house, and the room you made for him, and then he was talking about you.

“You know ... Jack ... when you brought Bijou and Katie home, that single act gave him permanence, the one thing he's always wanted but never had.”

Jack looked at his 2IC and noticed her misty eyes.  

“You have blue eyes, Major,” Jack said as if he had never noticed it before.

“Yes, Sir.  Colonel, this is Daniel's home, and it's more than the four walls.  You two may have ... challenges, but if I had the power to change it, I wouldn't, not any of it, because I consider both of you to be part of my family, and each of you brings out the best in the other, and what I can't get away from, is how happy you make each other.

“Don't devalue yourself, Sir, and don't sell Daniel short.  He could have his pick of most anyone I know.”

Jack's eyes raised to meet his 2IC's as she spoke that line.

“All the nurses, all the unmarried personnel, not to mention half of the married ones, and, dare I say, even a lot of the men, would do anything to be in your position.  He chose you.  I'd say that being chosen by someone as good as Daniel must mean you're pretty darn good yourself, wouldn't you agree ... Jack?”

Jack fought off the lump in his throat.  When the heck did his 2IC get so dang emotional and develop such insight anyway?

~Geez, Carter.  How do I get out of this gracefully?  I know -- say thanks.  Danny says a 'thank you' goes a long way.  Okay.~  “Thank you, Sam.”

“You're welcome, Sir.”

Jack took a breath.  It was time to focus again on the hunt for his soulmate.  He slowly began to withdraw Jack, the colonel re-emerging.

“Carter, Daniel had a headache when he left the SGC; it's why he didn't wait for me.  The first time he was taken, he had also come home early with a headache.  Could there be a connection?”

“Daniel lives on coffee and junk food unless we drag him to the commissary for lunch or a break.”

“His office is usually open.”

“The tapes, Sir.  If someone drugged him with something ... light ... to get him to go home, it would have to be the day of the abductions.  They couldn't calculate it for sure otherwise.”

“Check it out, Major.”

“Yes, Sir.  I'll be back.”

Sam moved towards the patio door when she heard her CO call out.  He didn't make eye contact with her, but looked out into the distance.  Yet, his voice was tender and full of emotion.

“Carter?  Sam, I love him.”

“He'll be home soon.”

====

“So, Doctor Jackson, you think you can smart mouth us into making a mistake?  Well, you're wrong.”

The man who had spoken the words was dressed totally in black and wore a black mask over his face.  He nodded to a second man who was similarly dressed.

Daniel was strapped in leather bindings near a wall.  His arms were held high above his head with his wrists tightly wrapped in the straps that were affixed to the ceiling.  His ankles were chained to the floor, his legs spread apart.  From a distance, Daniel looked like a human 'x'.

Daniel's shirt had been removed, but he was still wearing his stonewash jeans.

The second man approached Daniel and injected him with something.  He then moved behind Daniel, out of the young man's range of vision.

“No,” Daniel said weakly.

The first man stood directly in front of Daniel as he spoke.

“Yes, Doctor Jackson, and you will listen carefully.”  The man paused and stared at Daniel, and then he began the torment.  “Your Colonel O'Neill is evil, Doctor Jackson.  He is trying to hurt you.  Jack O'Neill is an evil man.  He wants to hurt you.  He will stop at nothing to hurt you.  Colonel O'Neill is bad.  He lives to destroy you.”

Daniel shook his head and mouthed “No” over and over, but each time he spoke, he was stabbed in the back by an object similar to a fireplace poker.  It was a third man, dressed the same as the other two, who jabbed Daniel, each poke puncturing a piece of his skin.

The first man was the leader.  When he nodded again, the second man pounded Daniel's abdomen as if it were a punching bag, continuing his attack for two minutes.

Between the jabs, the drug, and the beating, Daniel fell unconscious.  Again, the man nodded at the two men, who placed chairs behind Daniel in preparation for the next phase of their torture.  Then, the leader grabbed Daniel's face and shook it, as he spoke firmly.

“Listen up, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel groaned as his eyelids slowly opened, only to be hit twice in the face.  The force of the blow caused Daniel's left cheek to slam against his cheek, cutting it.  As a result, blood leaked from his mouth.  His left eye was already swollen from the kicking he had received in his backyard.

“Now that I have your attention, you will listen.  That's all you have to do ... just listen.”

The two men behind Daniel then repeated, in several variations, the words of the leader, over and over again.

“Jack O'Neill is evil.  He only lives to hurt you.”

“Colonel O'Neill laughs at you.  He despises you.”

Daniel shook his head, over and over, but each time he did, the leader would jab him in the back with the poker.  Daniel flinched in pain with each contact, and his back began to look like a polka dot apron, small dabs of red blood popping out wherever he was poked.

“You must pay attention, Doctor Jackson,” the leader said when Daniel started to slip into unconsciousness.

“Feel this,” Daniel's captor repeated, almost seductively, taking the poker and putting it in front of Daniel's face.

Daniel saw for the first time that it was indeed a fireplace poker, but now he understood the pain more.  The tip of the poker had been honed sharply, its pointy edge like that of a dagger.  He swallowed hard.

~What do they want from me.  Gawd, it hurts.  Bij?  Katie?  Are you okay?  I tried.  I swear I tried.  Oh, please, be all right.~  **Jack, help me!**

“Learn fast and your pain will lessen,” the leader said rhythmically, almost calmly, but then he jabbed the poker into Daniel's flesh, causing blood to seep from his forearm where the villainous man had stabbed him.

Then, he returned to his place behind Daniel, and nodded for the two others to continue their taunts about Jack O'Neill being evil.

Three hours passed.  Daniel had slipped in and out of consciousness, aided by his captors who revived Daniel no more than fifteen minutes after he had fallen unconscious.  They used a variety of tactics to wake Daniel, ranging from smelling salts to physical force.

“Why?” he asked weakly.

His answer was the continuing mantra of the two men, and then the leader grabbed Daniel's short hair from behind and yanked his head back.

“Say it, Doctor Jackson.  Say 'Colonel O'Neill is evil'.”

“No, I won't,” Daniel gasped.

The leader nodded to the second man who injected more drugs into Daniel's system.

“Say it, Doctor Jackson.  You know it's the truth.  Colonel O'Neill is evil. He only wants to hurt you.  He causes you pain, great pain.  He is the source of everything bad in your life.”

“No.”  ~He's good.  He is my life.~  **Jack, help me!**

The leader brandished a knife at Daniel's neck, and then ran the blade up and down Daniel's left cheek.

“He's bad.  Colonel O'Neill laughs at you;, taunts you.  He is using you.  Jack O'Neill is evil.”

The leader nodded at the number two man, who repeated the slamming blows to Daniel's bruised abdomen until Daniel passed out.  The process would be repeated over and over for the next several hours during which time Daniel was given only a minimal amount of water. To add to their torture, Daniel was no longer allowed to sleep, either.

The lights in the room were darkened, the heat turned off, and an air conditioner turned to high.  Daniel's jeans were removed, and freezing cold water was poured on him every twenty minutes.

Daniel had attempted to speak to Jack via their silent communication, though he knew Jack was too far away, but he had to try, so he did, but as his torture played out, his messages lost their focus.

**Jack, I love you.  Gawd, you can't hear me, can you?  I love you.  Not bad.  Love you, Jack.**  And then later.  **Jack, love you.  You wouldn't hurt me ... would you?**  And eventually.  **Love you, Jack, even if you are ... no, you're not.  *No*!**  ~Help me.  Please, help me.~

====

“Davis, have you found out anything?” Jack asked anxiously as Major Paul Davis joined the 'elite' in the early morning hours of the day following Daniel's abduction.

“Possibly.  There's an old associate of Colonel Simmons that seems to have his hands in some questionable activities.  I haven't been able to tie him into anything specific yet, but it may go back to the treason case several years ago.”

“Harry Maybourne?” Jack asked.

“Hard to say, Colonel O'Neill.”

“Major, I found a link last night between Michael Rittenhouse and Colonel Maybourne that went back to when Maybourne was still in charge of the NID,” Sam said.

“So, do you think Rittenhouse is part of this?” Davis asked.

“No,” Jack answered quickly, adding, “He may be working on something; he may have been involved somehow, but I know Mike.  He wouldn't turn.”

“Are you willing to bet Doctor Jackson's life on that, Colonel?” the general asked calmly.

Jack answered quickly, having thought about little else since Sam had mentioned it last night.

“Yes, General.”

“Good enough.  We go on the assumption that Rittenhouse is clean, but that still doesn't tell us how to find him.”

“We need Harry.”

“Sir, Colonel Maybourne is ... who knows where.”

“We need Jacob,” Jack said matter-of-factly.

“Go, Major,” the general ordered Sam.

“I'll be in touch as soon as I find out anything.”

“Major Davis, accompany Major Carter and assist in any way possible.”

“Yes, General.”

The two majors departed, leaving Ferretti, Teal'c, the general, and Jack remaining.

The last time Harry Maybourne had been seen, Jack had arranged for the Tok'ra to find him a nice planet to hide out on.  To Jack, Harry wasn't exactly a friend, but he wasn't exactly the traitor he had been convicted as either.  Somehow, Jack had a small affinity for the wayward ex-NID member.

====

The general had refused to leave Jack's home and was resting in Jack's chair.  Teal'c was more or less standing guard over the 'elite'.  Lou Ferretti had stayed near Jack, but they hadn't talked much.

Lou looked over at the dogs and couldn't help but smile.  They were asleep on their beanbag.  His smile faltered when he focused on the injured nose of Bijou's littlest puppy.

“Jack,” Lou nudged.  “The pup, she was cut, scratched?”

Jack nodded.

“Yeah, but she's fine, just scared.”

“You cleaned her up?”

“Once I got Jeff out of the doghouse and called Fraiser and Hammond.”

“Jack, this isn't my bailiwick, but are you sure all the blood on the pup was hers?”

“Sure, Jeff said ...”  Jack looked up at his long time friend and back over to Katie.  “I don't know.”

Jack rose and went outside to the bucket near the hose.  In the haste to get things organized with the 'elite', he had barely had time to tend to the puppy properly and no time to clean up the area.

Taking hold of each, at their edges only, Jack carefully picked up the paper towels and the handkerchief he had initially used to clean Katie's wound.  He walked into the house and put each into a plastic bag.

“You've been watching those forensics shows, Jack.”

“Daniel makes me.  He's ... into this crime stuff.”  He finished his task, then directed, “Take these to Fraiser.”

“Maybe you should take the pup.”

“No.”

“You know how these science-types can pull things from hairs and stuff, Jack.”

Jack walked over to his girls and sat down.  Bijou looked up him, sad eyes of longing.  Jack smiled as he picked Katie up and held her to him.
 
“Danny's coming home ... soon.  We'll find him,” he told the girls.  “No, Lou, I'm not taking the girls out of this house, but tell Fraiser she can come and do that swab thing or whatever if she wants to, but no one, NO ONE, touches my girls but me.  Tell her, Lou.”

“I'll be back, Jack.”

As Lou exited, the general spoke, “Jack.”  The colonel continued to pet his beagles as he looked up to acknowledge the general.  “We need to bring more people in on this.  This is looking more like a major operation every second.”

Jack didn't say anything, but he watched as Bijou went over to the general, who smiled at her.  The next thing Hammond knew, he had a lap full of Mama Beagle.  He laughed for a moment.

Jack smiled as he stated, “She trusts you, or she wouldn't have done that.”

There was an unspoken communication in Jack's comment, one of trust, faith, and friendship, between the two men, and neither needed to speak it verbally.  Hammond refocused on the situation.

“Sergeant Siler is still looking for the tapes from Doctor Jackson's office.  He'll find them, and that should give us ... something.”

When Sam had returned to the SGC the night before, she had discovered the last three days' worth of security tapes from Levels 18 through 20 were missing.  She hoped it was just an internal foul-up.  Siler had been assigned to track them down.

Jack had been frustrated by the news.  He didn't think it was an accident.  Instead, he was sure their enemies were closer and more powerful than he had first imagined.

“That's if the tapes are still on the base, Sir, and I'm not convinced of that.”

Hammond saw the concern.  He let the conversation about the tapes go by and instead focused on the deeper issue.

“We'll get him back, Jack.”

Jack looked at the general and saw a look in his eyes that for the first time made him think that his lover was right.  Daniel had believed General Hammond had known about their relationship ever since Thor had beamed Jack up unannounced the last time.  The archaeologist hadn't done his best acting job and hadn't done well in explaining his presence at Jack's house.  He was convinced Hammond knew the truth.

“Yes, we will.”

====

Daniel had been abducted at approximately 4:30 p.m.  As Jack stood silently on the roof deck the following night, he glanced at his watch and saw it was 11 p.m.  His lover had been gone for just under thirty hours.

Jack was at the end of his rope, either pacing whatever room he was in or looking for someone to kill.  When he wasn't doing either of those, he was longing to feel his lover in his arms again.

**I need you, Danny.  You're everything to me.  Fight, Love.  I *will* find you!**

Jeff Cornell was on seventy-two hours downtime with orders to stay home or be held under lock and key at the infirmary.

~I'm fine; dang Little Napoleon.  She's earned her reputation, that's for sure.  Okay, I'll behave ... for a while, but then I have to go help my buddies out.~

Sam and Paul Davis were scouring every computer database they could to find a more solid link between Maybourne and Rittenhouse.  Sam had successfully contacted her father, Jacob, but he was unable to help.  It seemed Harry had fled the planet they had originally taken him to; still, Jacob promised he'd try to track him down.

Siler had told Hammond he was convinced someone was manipulating the office paperwork, but he still had no idea who it was.  They all felt this person was the insider, the link to the men who had taken Daniel.  In the meantime, Siler was still searching for the missing security tapes.  He tended to agree with Jack, that the tapes had been stolen and had probably been destroyed.

--

“It would be too hard to take that many tapes out of the SGC, General,” Siler had stated to the general.  “And it's too many tapes for us to lose, but I think that's what they intended for us to think.”

“That we misplaced some of the tapes?” Hammond had responded.

“Yes, Sir.  It's not unusual for things to be misfiled from time to time, but we're talking a large number of videotapes, General.  I think they miscalculated.”

--

The general had reluctantly gone home for the evening, feeling the need to be near his young granddaughters.

~At times like this, I want to make sure Tessa and Kayla are okay.  They like Doctor Jackson.  It will be hard on them if the worst happens. It'll be hard on all of us, I'm afraid.~

Janet was busy running tests on the samples she took from the items Ferretti had given her, and she had come to the house and instructed Jack on how to take the samples she wanted from the puppy.  Jack had refused to let her touch the young beagle, who seemed only to want to be held in his arms.  Daniel had been protecting this pup when he had been taken, and no way was Jack going to let anyone touch her but him or Daniel, especially with Katie acting the way she was.

~It's okay, Girl.  Nothing else is going to happen to you.  I'm here.~

Teal'c and Lou were in the living room.  They'd gone over the backyard and every inch of the downstairs portion of the house with a fine-tooth comb, looking for anything that they could have missed.

~We must find DanielJackson.  I do not like this waiting; it is not the Jaffa way.~

Jack, too, was tired of being patient.  The man he loved was out there, counting on him.

~I can't wait any longer.  I'm sorry, General, but I've tried to do this the military way, but, geez, I can feel my chest constricting.  My muscles are so tight, and I don't even want to think what my blood pressure is right now, but I'm sure it would break the gauge at this point.  I have to do something.  Geez, O'Neill, you know what you have to do; I just ... never wanted to do this again.~

His decision made, Jack picked up his cell phone and placed a call, informing the man who answered, “This is Jack O'Neill.  I need to see you. Now.”

Jack hung up the phone and placed it back in his pocket.  He checked the pistol he still carried, making sure it was loaded.  He reached down to his boot, and made sure the knife he had stowed there was also properly placed and easily removable.

“Soon, Danny,” Jack said to the night sky.

The stars were shining extra brightly on this night, and it was clear out, almost picture perfect.  He wanted to think about how much he loved Daniel, how the moonlight bounced off his silky hair, and how his smile out-twinkled the stars.  Jack wished he could get lost in thinking about the beauty and perfection that was his spouse, but he couldn't, not now.  What he was about to do required that cold-as-steel exterior that his Daniel had first witnessed the day they had met.

Jack didn't like what he was about to do, either, but he felt choiceless.  He climbed down the ladder, went to the kitchen, and grabbed a beer.

“Want one?” the well-trained officer asked his two friends calmly.  Both shook their heads.  Jack opened his and took a swig ~For luck,~ he told himself.  “Lou, did you check the corner of the yard?  I thought I saw some loose boards in the far corner.”

“I didn't notice anything, Jack.”

“Nor I, O'Neill.”

“It could be new.  Better check it out ... or maybe I was just seeing things,” Jack said as nonchalantly as he could.

“No sweat, Jack; better safe than sorry.  Come on, Big Guy, let's check this out.”

As soon as his two friends were out of sight, Jack slipped out of the house.

“Sorry, Lou,” Jack said as he quickly slit all four of Lou's tires.  Jack hopped in his truck and sped away just as Lou ran out at the front, swearing into the night.

“Jack, wait up.  JACK!”  ~What's the idea, Jack?  We're here to help.  Where are you going?  Why are you going?~

“ColonelFerretti?” Teal'c called out urgently.  “Where did O'Neill go?” he asked as he joined Lou in the front yard.

“Jack's got a plan, Teal'c, and it doesn't include us.”

“I do not understand.”

“I think Jack's doing something he thinks only he can do.  Come on.  Let's make sure this house stays secure, and we'd better check on the pups.”

Teal'c and Lou returned to the inside of the house, checked on the girls, and waited, which was the only thing they could do at the moment.

====

Two hours and fifty minutes later, Jack quietly maneuvered into the backyard of an old acquaintance.  As he reached the patio door, the lights went on.

“Hello, Jack.  You look horrible, like you've been driving for hours.”

“I have been.  This isn't exactly the Springs.”

“No, it's nice and ... exclusive.  So, what's so important that you'd contact me after all these years, and in the middle of the night?”

“Information, and I need it fast.”

“What kind of information?”

“For starters, I need to get in touch with Rittenhouse.”

“Impossible, Jack.  He's ... occupied.”

Jack walked by the man, his hand wringing through his hair, as he spoke calmly, “But it's important.”

“Sorry, Jack.”

Like a slithering snake, Jack moved behind the man and put a chokehold on him, restricting the man's air intake.

“Jack, what ... are ... you ... doing?” the man asked, as he raised his hands to Jack's arm.

“I mean business.  I'm not here for my health.  Someone I care about is being hurt, and understand this, I won't hesitate to break your friggin' neck right now if you don't tell me what I need to know.”

“Jack,” the man gasped, his fingers pressing into Jack's arm as he tried to loosen the grip.

“Rittenhouse.  Where is he?”

Jack tightened the grip.  Another notch, and the man would die.

“Okay,” the man wheezed.

Jack eased up only slightly, questioning, “Where is Rittenhouse?”

“Honduras.”

“Right.”  Jack snapped the man back to him, and this time, he brandished his knife.  “I was recently in Honduras.  If Rittenhouse had been there, I would have known it.”

“Jack, calm down.”

“This is calm.”

“He was there, Jack.  How do you think he found you after all these years?  He saw you there, searching for your friend.  It's how he knew how to find you.”

“Okay,” Jack spoke as he released the man again, moving away a few steps, but never losing sight of him.  He asked, “How do you know Rittenhouse contacted me?”

“Because I ordered him to.”

“You?”

“Yes, Jack, me.  I have no desire to see you turned into a pancake, nor to have your ... 'friend' ... disappear.  You saved my life once, Jack.  I owed you.  I was paying back an old debt.”

“Who's after me?”

“Can't tell you that, Jack.”  The man stood firm as Jack walked up to him, staring him down with eyes that grew in intensity.  He repeated, “I can't tell you, Jack.  You want to kill me, then do it, but I can't tell you this.”

“Then tell me where they took Daniel.”

The man hesitated as he backed away and walked around slowly.  Jack grabbed him and pinned him at the wall, holding his hand around the man's neck.

“You listen to me.  You know where he is or you wouldn't have hesitated.  You don't want to tell me who, fine.  I'll find out myself, but you are going to tell me where Daniel is, right now, or you will die, right here, right now.”

“I thought you were over that killer stage?”

Jack didn't say a word, but the man saw cold hatred in his acquaintance's eyes.  He'd seen Jack O'Neill cold and unfeeling, but never like this.  He was detached, but passionately so, and he knew for a certainty he was dead if he didn't cooperate.

The man also knew that this Daniel Jackson was the only man alive who had been able to get through the hard edge that had personified Jack for so many years.  For that reason alone, the man determined Daniel Jackson to be an extraordinary human being.

“There's an abandoned warehouse, off Highway 24, about an hour east of COS.  Nice secluded, quiet area.  You've been there, a long time ago, remember?  He's alive, Jack.  They want him alive, for now.”

Jack backed off, the knife still pointed towards the man.  He remembered the place from a training exercise.  Ironically, he had been the pawn in that exercise, the abductee supposedly taken upon arrival at COS, the Colorado Springs Airport, and held at the warehouse as others tried to rescue him.

“You didn't cooperate with them, Jack.  You ignored their warning.  This test didn't mean a thing.  It was exactly what they said it was ... a test.  Your Doctor Jackson will be alive, but beyond that, I don't know.  And next time, Jack, if you don't do what they say, they will kill him, or maybe something worse.”  The man saw the look of hatred and contempt on Jack's face.  “Don't shoot the messenger, Jack.  It's not me.  It's not Rittenhouse.  It's none of my people.”

“If you have the chance,” Jack spoke calmly, “you can give them my promise.  I will hunt them down, one by one, and slit their throats if they ever come near my ...”

“Husband, Jack?  Isn't that the word?  Had a nice time in Canada, did you?”

Jack's face didn't give away a thing.  He simply glared a look of death towards the man.

“Why do you think they picked the archaeologist?  Because he was good with rocks?  Come on, Jack.  Who do you think you're fooling?  Heck, Hammond knows.  I'd bet my house on it.  I don't care what you do, or who you do it with, but your secret isn't as big a secret as you think it is.”

“I'll kill them if they touch him, or any member of my family, ever again.  Tell them.”

The man turned as he laughed and was about to say something, when Jack landed a right hook that was a dead hit, knocking the man to the ground unconscious, and then Jack silently departed and returned to the house to gather the 'elite'.  He would need their help to get Daniel back safely.

====

“One more time, Doctor Jackson.”

As had happened so many times before, Daniel was again injected with a drug.  The archaeologist's torso and face were bruised, his skin looking the color of a purple plum, his back bloodied.  Since he hadn't had anything to drink for sixteen hours, his lips and throat were incredibly dry.  He was shivering from the cold, on the verge of hypothermia, if not suffering from it already.  His wrists and ankles were throbbing.  He wanted the pain to go away.

~Help me.  Gawd.  Jack?  Where are you?  No, stay 'way.~

The archaeologist had been held in the darkened room of the warehouse for thirty-six hours, beaten and tortured.  At a minimum, there had always been two men there who repeated the dialogue that Jack O'Neill was evil and out to hurt the young man.  The beat of their words was very specific, patterned to a certain rhythm designed to enhance their power of suggestion.

“Say it, Doctor Jackson.”

~Help ... please ... help.~

“I said, say it, Doctor Jackson.  NOW!”

“Jack ... bad ... hurt me.”

“Very good, Doctor Jackson.”  The leader nodded and another man injected Daniel, but this time with a different fluid.  “You see, the pain will lessen for now.  What I have given you now will help you to relax.  You will see, Doctor Jackson, that cooperating is the best thing.”

====

The 'elite' surrounded the warehouse as the clock ticked to 9 a.m.  There were four entrances to the building, one on each side.  Hammond and Siler covered the front, with Janet and a medical team standing by, Lou and Sam took the door on the right, Teal'c the left, and Jack went in through the back.

Jack found one man alone in a small storage room.  He surprised the man from behind, grabbing his mouth.

“Where's Doctor Jackson?” he whispered.

The man ignored the question and tried to wiggle free.  He then began to shout.  In an instant, Jack slit his throat.  He closed his eyes for a moment as he moved the man out of sight of the door, and continued his search.

Lou and Sam came across another man, who also tried to call out, but they were able to restrain him, knocking him out.

**Daniel?**

**Stay 'way; bad.**

Jack's heart was beating fast.  He knew Daniel was here, but the warehouse was huge.  Daniel's response to their near-telepathic-like communication was erratic and made no sense to the older man.

All of a sudden, a shot rang out.  The leader had seen Teal'c and fired, though fortunately, his shot had missed his mark by an inch.  The battle was on.  Jack's pulse raced as he saw a man backing into a smaller room.  He was afraid they'd kill Daniel now that they knew they weren't alone in the warehouse.

**Daniel, I'm coming.  Can you tell me where you are?**

**Bad.  Hurt me.**

**Danny, they won't hurt you anymore.  Where are you?**  There was no response.  **DANIEL?**  ~Oh, for crying out loud.~

The leader disappeared from Jack's view, so Jack quickened his pace as he followed.  Meanwhile, Lou, Sam, and Teal'c were shooting it out with the two other men.

“Sorry to do this, Doctor Jackson.  You had come along so well.”

The leader held a gun to Daniel's head, and in the silence of the room, the cocking of the trigger thundered.

====

In the other area of the warehouse, Sam fired the last shot, felling the last of the guards.  Lou, Sam, and Teal'c had won their round, but it had been a bloody affair, leaving no survivors.  Even the man they had originally knocked out had been shot by one of his own commando cohorts as he had tried to escape the building.  That man had been downed by one of Lou's bullets before reaching the exit door.

~We needed survivors.  This isn't good.  Where's the colonel?~

Sam stood from checking the last of the men and looked around.  Lou and Teal'c joined her, and a moment later, Hammond and Siler entered the area.

“Where are Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson?” the general asked.

“I don...”

Just then, a single shot echoed through the warehouse.  They all looked at each other, and double-timed it towards the room the shot seemed to have come from.

“It's okay, Danny,” Jack said as he put his right hand on Daniel's left cheek.

Daniel's response was practically nil.  He looked at Jack blankly, his eyes totally unfocused.

On the ground lay the dead body of the leader.  It was a direct hit, through the head.  He had died instantly.

“Oh my!  Daniel,” Sam cried in horror as she and Lou ran to help Jack untie Daniel's arms and legs.  If she weren't military, the Air Force major would be in tears at the sight of her friend's torture.  ~What did they do to you, Daniel?  Crap!  We have to get him down.  Daniel!~

She held back her emotions as much as possible, but right now Major Carter was having a hard time keeping control over Samantha Carter who wanted only to cry and comfort her friend.  She worked frantically to remove the bindings, her breathing labored.  She couldn't look at Daniel, or she knew she'd lose it on the spot.  Finally, they lowered Daniel to the floor.  In spite of her best resolve, Sam looked at Daniel and cried inside.

“Colonel?” General Hammond called, intent on getting the facts of what had happened.

“Can it not wait, GeneralHammond?” Teal'c asked in a tone that was amazingly sharp for the Jaffa.

~You're right, Teal'c.  What a bloody mess.~  “I suppose it can, Teal'c.”

“Danny?” Jack said softly, wanting desperately to hear his lover's voice.

“J'ck?”

~There you go.~  “It's okay now, Danny.  We're going home.”

“Sergeant, get Doctor Fraiser and her team in here stat,” the general ordered.

With Jack at Daniel's side as the injured man lay supine on the cold floor, Sam examined the items she saw in the room, covertly walking to Daniel's discarded clothing.  With everyone focused on Daniel, Sam reached into Daniel's pockets, and finding his wallet, removed it, slipping it into one of her BDU pockets.

Looking around the area, she saw several syringes and more of the unused drug with which Daniel had apparently been injected.

“He's been drugged, Sir,” Sam stated as she continued to peruse the few pieces of paraphernalia she found scattered around the room.

“Make sure you give that to Doctor Fraiser, Major,” the general ordered.

Jack didn't care who saw.  As they waited, he held Daniel's hand and continued to stroke his cheek, speaking reassurances softly and calmly.

“We're going home soon.  You're safe now.  You did good, Danny.  You're alive.”

“Who are you?” Daniel asked weakly, staring at his lover and not recognizing him.

Jack's heart stopped again, and a lump formed in his throat, but he smiled softly, and with understanding, spoke, “It's okay.  You're going to be just fine; I promise.”

“Jack?”

Jack smiled at the recognition that suddenly appeared on Daniel's voice and in his voice.

“I'm here.  You're safe now.”

At that moment, Janet rushed in with her team, forcing everyone else back, including Jack.

“We need to find out what they gave him,” she said as she examined Daniel.

====

Several minutes later, Janet rose and approached the general and the rest of the 'elite' team.

“He's done it again,” she said with amazement.  “I don't think he's hurt too severely.  We need to do X-rays, but I think the withdrawal from whatever they gave him will be the worst of it.  Other than that, he may have fractured a rib or two from the beatings he obviously underwent.  There's a danger of infection from the wounds on his back and forearm. I've cleaned them the best I can here, but I can do more at the SGC.

“He's dehydrated, and in the early stages of hypothermia.  I've started an IV and we've wrapped him up as warmly as we could for the moment.  I have him on Oxygen beca...”

“Oxygen?” Jack asked, glancing over at his lover.  “He's ... breathing; I mean, he ...”

“Colonel, it's just a precaution  He's breathing on his own, but it's a bit labored, and until I can get those X-rays and make sure his ribs are okay, and he hasn't punctured his lung, this should make it more comfortable for him.”

“Punctured his lung?” Jack asked, looking horrified at the thought.

“Jack, pre-cau-tion.  Okay?”  She watched Jack nod, and then continued with her report.  “His bruises will leave him sore and tender for several days, assuming nothing is broken.  We need to test his eye because it's swollen, but again, I don't anticipate anything negative.”  Janet saw the incredulous looks she was getting from everyone as she listed Daniel's injuries.  “Look, he's obviously been beaten badly, but he looks worse than he actually is.  We need to get him to the base so I can do a more complete examination and start treating some of these injuries.”

“For X-rays, and you can do whatever testing you need to do, Janet, but then Daniel is coming home,” Jack stated firmly.

“Sir, Daniel is injured and beyond that, he will be needing a lot of help.  You remember ...”

“Exactly, *Major*,” Jack said sternly.  He didn't often use Janet's rank.  In fact, no one ever used her rank, except for Jack, when trying to make a point about Daniel's care.  “Do your X-rays and whatever tests you want, but then Daniel is coming home.  MacKenzie is NOT getting his hands on him this time.  Do you understand?”

Jack's voice had raised considerably and his tone had been unduly harsh.

“Colonel, stand down,” the general ordered earning a glare from his 2IC.  “Let's get Doctor Jackson back to the SGC, and then we'll decide.”

“MacKenzie is not getting his hands on Daniel, Sir.”

“I know that, Jack.”

“Do you, Sir?”

Hammond glared down his 2IC in an eye lock that ended only by the sound of Janet asking Jack if he was planning on riding in the ambulance, which she knew he was.

“Excuse me, General.”

~We're on your side, Jack, or we wouldn't be here.  Calm down.  Let Doctor Fraiser do her job, and then you ... can do yours.~

Hammond sighed.  He knew the truth, but couldn't think about it, not even now, and he had to balance the opinions of everyone.  Still, his number one concern at the moment was making sure Daniel was taken care of.

====

The testing was complete, and Jack stood watch over his spouse.  Janet had poked and prodded Daniel for hours, making sure her initial diagnosis had been correct.

In the end, somehow miraculously, Daniel didn't even have a single fractured rib.  His muscles, however, would be sore for days from the abuse.  He needed fluids and food.  His wrists and ankles had cuts that would take time to heal, but would be easily treated with ointments and medications.  Janet breathed a sigh of relief upon reviewing the results of the eye tests, which indicated there had been no optic nerve or any other eye damage.

They had warmed Daniel's body sufficiently so that the hypothermia was thwarted before it did any real damage.  The dehydration and food intake was being remedied with IVs.

When all was said and done, Janet knew that within twenty-four hours, Daniel would be fine, except for the soreness and bruising of his body; yet, those would all heal with time.  What worried her, though, was the drug intake.  She had been unable to identify the substance in Daniel's bloodstream, and thus was unsure about its long-term effects on the archaeologist.

From Daniel's physical responses and trace elements of the drug, she deduced it was some kind of mind-altering substance, perhaps an hallucinogenic, but she'd never seen this particular drug before.

Janet had sedated Daniel against Jack's wishes.  In fact, she did it when Jack had been forcibly hauled to Hammond's office to quickly relay exactly what had happened in the warehouse.  Jack had been furious when he got back and discovered his lover unconscious.

“What do you think you're doing?  You know how he feels about this,” Jack had barked angrily.

“Colonel, he was getting violent.  I had no choice,” the redheaded physician had claimed.

“You always have a choice, Doctor Fraiser, and so do I.”

At that point, Janet had huffed out, her own worry for Daniel getting the best of her.

====

“Jack?”

“I'm right here, Danny.”  The young man shook visibly.  “Home, Jack.  Please take me home.  Don't want to be here.  'Member how it was?  Home.”

Jack dried the tear that escaped from Daniel's eye.  This was Daniel's first truly lucid moment.

“We're going home, Danny, I promise.”

“Take me home,” Daniel pleaded.  “Jack, please take me home.  Home.”

“Shhhh.  Quiet, Danny.  We're going home now.”

“No, Colonel.  I can't allow it,” Janet said from behind the colonel.

“Jack, home.”

“Trust me, Danny.”  Turning to face Janet, Jack stated insistently, “I'm taking him home.”

“Colonel ... Jack, I know you think you are helping him, but you know what the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours is going to be like.”

“Which is exactly why I'm taking him home.  I can take care of him.”

“Colonel.”

“I did it before, Major, and I'm doing it again, now.”

“Colonel O'Neill.”

Jack turned upon hearing the sound of General Hammond's voice.  The general was coming to check on Daniel, whom he thought of as a son.

“I think it's best, Jack, if Doctor Jackson remain here for the next few days as Doctor Fraiser has ordered.”

“General, I need to speak with you.”

Jack was not in the mood to waste time.  The issue was not debatable in his mind.  He knew his spouse.  He, and only he, knew what was best.  It might sound conceited, almost arrogant, but the connection between Jack and Daniel exceeded normal boundaries.

Being drugged was one of Daniel's biggest fears in the universe.  He had barely survived the withdrawal from the sarcophagus a few years earlier, the mental ramifications almost destroying his wonder of the world.

Daniel was Jack's responsibility, and Jack was determined that the Air Force with all its outdated policies and regulations could be hanged if they tried to keep him from caring for his husband now.

“Doctor Fraiser, may we use your office?”

“Certainly, General.”

Jack turned to Daniel and said, “Daniel, I'll be right back, and then we're going home.”

Still breathing hard from his physical and emotional trauma, Daniel nodded his understanding and watched Jack follow the general to Janet's office and close the door.

“Jack ...”

“General, I'm sorry ... but I'm not sorry.  Daniel's injuries are miraculously minor; the withdrawal will be the worst part of his recovery.  I'm taking Daniel home.  I ... know what's best for him, Sir, and being here, and even having the slightest possibility of that quack MacKenzie going near him is so not what he needs.”

“Jack, are you sure you're thinking clearly?”

“With all due respect, General, you don't understand.”

“I think I do, Son.”  General Hammond took a breath and walked around Janet's office as Jack's eyes faced the wall.  “Let me tell you a story, Jack, of a ... top security base with an amazing flagship team, headed by a sometimes thick-headed fighter and someone that many might label a mild-mannered geek.”

Jack's eyes blinked, but he continued to face the wall, standing 'at ease' even though he hadn't been requested to do so.

“There was a time when this geek almost died.  Of course, that's happened more than once, but a few weeks after this particular occasion, that geek and the thick-headed fighter were riding around that top-level facility on a bicycle built for two, totally unaware that the leader of said facility was watching.”

Jack closed his eyes as he remembered that night.  It had been a crazy thing to do, but as Daniel had lay dying in his arms on some strange planet, Jack had promised him that they'd ride around the corridors of the SGC on a bicycle built for two, and when a miracle had occurred, and Daniel had survived, that's exactly what they did, but he had no idea Hammond had even been at the Mountain that night.

“I think I understand perfectly, Jack.  I don't need to ask, do I?”

Jack took a deep breath and shook his head, not trusting his mouth to speak.

~He does know.  Daniel was right ... again.~

“We still need you here, Jack.  I can't afford for you to tell me anything.”

“I need to take Daniel home, Sir, and I intend to do just that, now.” Jack finally looked at Hammond.  “I will do whatever I have to do, and without telling you anything, you might want to know that legally, that thick-headed fighter, has the authority to do whatever he wants where that ... geek ... is concerned, and, by the way, vice versa ... Sir.”

Hammond sighed.  He had known they were involved, but obviously, they were even closer than he had thought.  He headed for the door and Jack followed him out.  He was in a difficult position, but had to go with what his gut told him.

“Doctor Fraiser, you will release Doctor Jackson into the care of Colonel O'Neill immediately, without question, and see to it that he has whatever you think is necessary to care for Doctor Jackson at home.  Your report on Doctor Jackson's injury is to be coded and hand delivered only to me or Sergeant Siler.  There will be no record of it in the computer.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir, but with protest.”

“Understood, Doctor.  Colonel, do you need anything?”

“Major Carter ... and ...”

“Take anyone you need, Jack, and all the time you need.  Keep our boy safe.”

Jack nodded, grateful for Hammond's cooperation.  He knew it was risky for the major General, and that made Jack even more thankful for the man's friendship.

“Thank you, General.”

General Hammond walked out, glad that he didn't often have to do battle with his 2IC.

====

Jack sat next to Daniel who lay restlessly, shaking and sweating, on the bed.  He had gone through a series of convulsions, and went in and out of coherency, totally aware of his situation one minute, and the next being confused and saying strange things Jack couldn't make out or understand.

Daniel had tried to leave several times, but what bothered Jack the most were those moments when Daniel looked at him with hate and hurt, accusing Jack of being evil and not caring about him.  Someone had played with his spouse's mind, and Jack knew he had a tough battle ahead of him.

~We'll make it, though.  I love you, Daniel, and I'm not giving up on you ever.~

Jack stood up to put a few things away.  He picked up Daniel's wallet, which he had placed on the dresser earlier, and smiled gratefully as he remembered the actions of his 2IC.

Sam had quietly picked up Daniel's discarded clothes at the warehouse, and knowing he kept his ring in his wallet, she had taken it from the jeans before his clothes had been taken to the SGC to be tested and cleaned.

“I thought you might like this, Sir,” she had said with a smile.

Jack kissed the wallet he held now and placed it back on the dresser. Just then Daniel bolted from the bed.  Reacting instantly, he managed to grab hold and pull him down to floor, facing him.

It was an all too familiar pose from the nightmare with Shyla on P3R-636 after Daniel had held a gun on Jack in the storeroom at the SGC.  The irony of that pose sent a shudder through Jack's body.

“Let me go,” Daniel begged.  “Evil.  Let me go.”

“I love you, Danny,” Jack said desperately.  “You're my life.  I love you.”

Daniel was shaking severely and sweating profusely, but he finally looked up at Jack and recognized his love.

“Jack?”

“Right here, Babe.”

“Hold me,” Daniel said, his eyes begging, and his hands clenching Jack's brown shirt, as he leaned into his soulmate.

Jack said quietly, “You don't need to ask me, My Love; holding you is my favorite thing to do in the world.”

Jack rocked Daniel, again, so reminiscent of the experience in the storeroom.  Daniel sobbed into Jack's neck.  His soul felt shattered because he knew Daniel's soul was fighting for survival.

“I can't do this again, Jack.”

“Yes, you can.  I'm here.  Remember, Love, together, we're unbeatable.”

“I can't,” Daniel sobbed, his voice cracking.  “Too hard.”

“I'll help you, just like before.  It's okay, Danny.  We're going to be fine.”  Jack's hand caressed Daniel's back and neck, and the other now brushed the tears away on Daniel's face as he looked into Daniel's blood-shot eyes.  “Forever and always, Love.  You and me; the circle of our love.  Remember?”

Daniel nodded as he sank back into Jack's embrace, both of them moving to a sitting position, where they remained for quite a while, Jack reassuring Daniel over and over again with warm touches and soft words.

“Jack, what happened?”

“They took you, drugged you, and beat you up, but you're home now, and you're safe.  I love you.”

It was a line Jack had memorized over the last several hours, as Daniel had asked the question at least once every sixty minutes.

“Want to go back to bed?”

Daniel shook his head, still shaking.  Jack didn't move.  He'd let Daniel say when, and that didn't happen for a couple of hours.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Rescue?”

“Yes, we rescued you.”

“The men -- what happened to them?”

“They're dead, Danny.”

“All?”

“Yes.”

“You?”

“I'm fine, Danny.”

“No, did you ... kill them?”

“Two of them.”

====

Daniel hadn't said anything for the last thirty minutes.  Jack's knees were about to rebel, but just as he was about to suggest they move, the younger man again became disoriented, pulling away from Jack.  He jumped up and ran out of their room, leaping down the stairs two and three at a time, leaving Jack cursing the fact that his lover was such a fast runner when he put his mind to it.

“Danny,” Jack called out as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

Alert to what had happened, Teal'c had moved to cover the front door in case Daniel tried to exit.  He stood on watch outside on the porch.

“You're evil.  They said you were evil.”

“Daniel, look at me.”

Daniel shook his head and then jerked towards the door when he heard the two “woofs” coming from the patio.  He stopped cold, staring, his eyes wide open.  His body weakened in a flash, his legs becoming like jelly.

“Jack.  Jack,” Daniel spoke, vulnerability evident in his voice.

Jack hurried to Daniel's side, taking Daniel into his arms just as the younger man was about to fall to the floor.

“They were going to hurt the girls.  Jack, the girls,” Daniel cried again into Jack's shoulder.

“It's all right.  The girls are fine.  Shhh, Love.  Bij and Katie are just fine.  Come here, Angel.”  Jack led Daniel to the sofa and sat down next to him.  He wrapped his arms around his spouse and nodded to Sam who stood by the patio door.  “Carter, let the girls in.”

With tears in her own eyes, Sam let the two beagles in.  They immediately ran to Daniel, jumping up on the sofa.  Jack had nodded to Sam to move close.  He couldn't risk Daniel accidentally hurting their dogs, so he wanted her prepared to act quickly.  Sam stood ready as Daniel hugged Bijou and then held their tiny baby in his arms.

“Jack, she's hurt.”

Jack kissed Daniel's nape, and gently caressed his still bruised abdomen.

“Just a little scratch.  You saved her, and Bijou.”

“Why would they do that?” Daniel sniffed.

“Because they don't have hearts or souls, and the girls were making noise, protecting you.”

“I had to protect them, Jack.”

“You did good, Danny.  The girls are safe, and you're alive, and soon, we'll all be good as new.”

Daniel held Katie to his cheek and rubbed her against it.

“I'm so sorry, Katie, so sorry.”

Katie kissed the cheek several times, trying to tell Daniel not to worry so much.  Bijou was again standing watch, something she had done since they had brought Daniel home, never relaxing.

“Bijou,” Daniel motioned for her to climb up closer to him, which she did, ravishing him with a slew of kisses, making Daniel smile for the first time since his rescue.

====

Twenty minutes later, Jack felt Daniel tense and immediately reacted, “Major, the girls.”

Moving quickly, but gently, Sam grabbed Katie from Daniel's hold and called to Bijou to come.  Bijou hesitated, looking at Daniel with a questioning expression.

“Go on, Bij,” Jack ordered, so the older dog followed Sam outside.

“Jack?  What happened?”
 
Jack leaned his chin on Daniel's shoulder, and repeated the short tale he had memorized.

“They took you, drugged you, and beat you up, but you're home now, and you're safe.  I love you.”

====

“How's he doing, Jack?”

Jack shook his head and sighed, never taking his eyes off his anxious lover as he talked with Jeff, now recovered from his own nightmare.  They were both standing in the doorway of the master bedroom where Daniel restlessly slept.

Daniel had been home for almost two full days.  Normally, his withdrawal should be subsiding, but Janet had explained that this drug was alien to her.  It had become clear to the 'elite' that it may be exactly that an alien drug, especially since the canister in which they had found samples of the drug in at the warehouse had unrecognizable symbols on it.

“He's scared.  This is something he never wanted to go through again.  He's afraid he won't make it.  He goes back and forth between knowing what's happened and being coherent to a state of confusion and wondering who the heck I am.”  Jack paused, then scowled, “That witch.  These monsters are one thing, but that witch started this.”

“Who are you talking about, Jack?”

“Some ... 'princess' on another planet.  She was a spoiled, self-centered thing, and she decided she wanted Daniel.  She stuck him in a sarcophagus, over and over again.  It was a drug, being in that box so much when he didn't need it.  Daniel felt sorry for her, still does, but what bugs me is that she never showed a true ounce of remorse.”

“You mean she knew what it was doing to him?”

“Withdrawal?  Not exactly, but she knew her control over him increased after each use.  How could anyone have missed the change in his personality?  She practically raped him, the little ...”  Jack groaned, shook his head, and tried to calm himself.  ~That's the past, O'Neill, and getting angry over that again is not helping Daniel now.~

Jack's blood pressure had risen suddenly, his heart felt like it was going to explode, and his voice was about to reach three times its normal volume.  If Shyla were on Earth, Jack would hunt her down and strangle her with his bare hands.

“Sorry, Jeff, it's just ... that princess kept Carter, Teal'c, and me sweating away in a mine, starving, chained up like animals to do slave labor.  Meanwhile, she's brainwashing Daniel.  We almost lost him.  He'd never gone through anything like that, and the nightmares ... he still gets them sometimes, and now, he'll have nightmares about this.”

Jack flinched, thinking maybe he shouldn't have said that last bit, but he shook it off.  Jeff hadn't reacted, and frankly, if Jeff figured out the truth, Jack didn't care.

“Jack, we're going to figure this out.  Siler's making some headway tracking the tapes.  It's strange, but it's at time like these when you realize just how big the Mountain is, and just how many places there are to hide things.”

“I don't think they're there.”

“I thought you were Mister Positive, Jack,” Jeff commented.

“Who, me?  Jeff, doesn't it make sense to you that whoever took those tapes, destroyed them?”

“Maybe, but then again, moving the tapes, taking them from Point A to Point B is a helluva lot easier than walking out of the base with them.  Think about it, Jack.  Most personnel are searched; very few just walk through the security gate.”

“You're right,” Jack sighed, lowering his head and shaking it.  “It's just been so long since they turned up missing.”

“Too many cubbyholes to look in, but Siler's doing his best.”

Jack nodded, then added, “Carter's making some progress on finding Rittenhouse, too.  He may still be in Honduras, but I don't know if he can be any help after what I found out from my contact.  I don't like that we're looking for him, or that when we find him, we may have to flush him out in order to make contact.”

“Mike's a good guy, Jack.  He'll understand.”

“Will he?  I'm not sure I would.  I try to do a guy a favor and he ... calls me out.  No, I'm not sure I'd understand that at all.”

“Jack, Mike wouldn't have taken the risk if he didn't want you to get through this.  A part of him must have known that there would be a chance that you might need him in the future.  Have you thought of that?  Maybe he's prepared.”

Jack shook his head, remembering his conversation with the man he had met in the night, the man who said he had ordered Rittenhouse to make the contact.

“Jack?”  Jeff saw Jack was lost in thought, and knew he'd rather be with Daniel than talking.  “I'll let myself out, Jack.  I'll come back later and take the girls for a walk.”

“Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate that; so does Daniel.”

Jeff nodded, and left as Jack walked over to the bed.  He sat on the side of it, his left hand going to caress Daniel's sweaty face.  Daniel's eyes opened, blinking several times, and Jack could swear Daniel was batting his long eyelashes in an attempt to flirt.

“Hey, Beautiful.”

“Jack, what happened?” Daniel asked.

Jack felt like he had answered this question at least one-hundred times, but he responded now as if it was the first time, changing the spiel around just slightly.

“They took you, Love, took you from me again.  They drugged you, and they hurt you, but you're home now, and you're safe again.  We'll get through this.”

Daniel closed his eyes.  Jack leaned down and placed a sweet kiss on his lover's lips.  He was unsure just how much of what he had just said  Daniel had actually heard.  A minute later, Jack got up and stretched, but he never took his eyes off his soulmate.  He saw Daniel, tossing, turning, mumbling, and wished that he could suffer the pain for him.

Then, Jack looked at some memorabilia in their bedroom, just remembering some of their past.  To Jack, their lives were perfect, because no matter what, they had each other and their nation of two.

He hadn't changed clothes since the day before so Jack quickly picked up his brown sweats and changed into them, only briefly letting Daniel out of his sight as he entered the bathroom to relieve himself after changing.

“Danny?  Crap,” Jack said as he raced out of their bedroom.  “Daniel?” Jack shouted.  

The door to the den was still closed and locked.  Jack hadn't wanted to chance Daniel harming his precious artifacts so he had locked it when they had first arrived home.

Jack leaped down the stairs, three at a time, jarring his knees slightly.  A noise drew him to the study.

“Stay away from me,” a quivering voice said.

“Danny, it's me -- Jack.  Let's go back upstairs.”

“I don't know you.”

“Daniel, look at me.  It's Jack.”

“Jack?”  Daniel focused on his lover, but in an instant, the softness in his voice turned cold.  “Get away!  You're ... trying to hurt me.  Jack hurts me.  They said you'd do that.”

“Do what?  Hurt you?  No, Danny.  You know I'd never do that.  I love you.  Remember, you and me, together, forever.”

Daniel shook his head violently as he brandished the letter opener on the stranger who was his lover.

“Daniel, listen to me.”  Jack spoke calmly as he stepped slowly towards the younger man.  “Think Danny.  We've been together for over five years.  We're married; we danced at our wedding reception, and I ... I sang to you.  Remember?” He paused, but Daniel wasn't giving in any, still holding the letter opener in a threatening way.  “We have the girls, Bijou and Katie, our precious beagles, and in a couple years, we're going to adopt -- human kids,” he tried to tease.  He was trying to reach deep down inside Daniel's soul by using words and phrases that were special to them both.  “You and me, Danny; think about our circle of love that has no end.”

“Cir...cle?  No, I ... I ... Sha're is my wife.”

“Sha're's dead, Daniel.  You loved her, but she's dead.  Danny, I love you.  Give me the letter opener.”

“No!”  Daniel shouted and moved back, his arms swinging wildly in all directions, his eyes not able to stay focused on Jack.  “You want to hurt me.  YOU'RE LYING!  You ... you're just using me.”

“You know better, Daniel.  Come on; we need to go back upstairs.”

“You just want to drug me some more.  NOOOOOOO ...”

Daniel tried to run out of the room, but Jack tackled him at the entranceway to the door.  The two men struggled.

“Daniel, stop!  Why would I drug you?  It was them, Daniel.”

“No, nooooooo!”

Daniel was strong, his violence increased by the mind-altering drugs, and enhanced by the strength of his withdrawal.  Jack had trained his lover well in fighting techniques, and Daniel was proving he had paid attention as they struggled.

“You're bad; they said you were bad,” Daniel lashed out as they rolled over on the floor slamming against the door.

Then Daniel hit his target, the letter opener ripping through the fabric of Jack's brown sweatshirt and cutting into his abdomen.

“Ah, Danny,” Jack gasped from the pain he felt from the jab.  He reached down with his right hand to check the wound, his hand coming away with blood.  “Crap!”

Daniel had scooted away and started to run, but something in Jack's exclamation cut through him.  He looked back and saw Jack on the ground, blood oozing from his wound.

The archaeologist's eyes widened in a fear unlike that of minute's earlier.  His heart was about to come up in his throat.  It pounded and throbbed and was so deafening he brought both his hands to his ears to try and cover the noise of the thundering of his heart.

“Jack?  What did I do?” Daniel cried, sinking to the floor of the hallway.

Jack slowly stood and walked gingerly to his lover.  His right hand held his sweatshirt close to the wound.  He sank down very carefully to the floor, almost sliding down the wall.  He put his left arm around Daniel and brought his sobbing lover to his chest.

“I love you, Danny.  Everything is going to be okay.  Shhh! Love, it's okay.  We're going to get through this.”  Daniel's left arm had wrapped around Jack's neck as he cried unabashedly into Jack's chest.  Jack continued to speak as calmly as he could, trying to reassure Daniel. “We're going to get through this.  We're forever, Danny.  You and me.  It's okay.  It's just the withdrawal.  I love you.”

Daniel's hand slipped down from Jack's neck and landed on Jack's right hand causing Jack to wince.  Daniel felt the reaction, and it drew him back to the reality of the moment and the horror of what he'd done.  He saw the blood and felt frozen in time.  He stopped crying but was transfixed on the leaking blood.

“Danny, it was an accident.  Everything's okay.”

“You're hurt, Jack.”

“I'll be okay.”

Daniel's watery eyes looked in the loving, forgiving eyes of his lover.

“J'ck,” Daniel sobbed again.  Jack reached out and pulled Daniel into him, and he didn't intend to let go, but Daniel bolted away, causing Jack to be alarmed again.  “Help.  You need ... heeelp,” Daniel sniffled.

“Danny, Teal'c is out front.  Open the door and get him.”

Jack hadn't wanted Daniel to know that their friends were surrounding them, a rotation having been set up to guard them and the premises.  Their friends were giving the lovers a wide berth, but someone was always there, just in case.  It was Teal'c's watch, and at the moment, he had chosen to study the comings and goings of the neighborhood from the front porch.

Daniel walked to the door, shaking like a leaf.  Teal'c heard the door open and saw a glimpse of his teammate, quickly rising and walking to block his exit.

“DanielJackson, you must stay inside.”

“Teal'c ... Jack, he's ... he's ...”

“Teal'c, get in here,” Jack called out.

Daniel lowered his head and ran back to Jack's side.  Teal'c entered the house, locked the front door, and followed his friend to the hallway where Jack still sat on the floor.

“O'Neill?”

“Teal'c,” Jack spoke in his command voice, keeping his eyes on his skittish lover.  “Call Carter.  Tell her to ... we need Janet, but she has to come here.”

“Do you not think it would be better if you went to the infirmary?” the Jaffa asked with concern.

“No, I do not,” Jack said, his eyes looking towards Daniel.

“I understand, O'Neill.”

“Help me up, Danny.”

“I can assist ...”

“Teal'c, Danny can do it.  You make that call.”

Jack didn't care squat about his injury.  It would heal.  He was more worried about his soulmate healing.  Daniel would take care of Jack just as Jack would take care of Daniel.

Daniel's guilty eyes tried hard to focus on Jack.

“Help me, Danny.  I need you.”  Daniel was still shaking, but he stood, and helped Jack up.  He led his lover to the sofa in the living room.  He started to back off, but Jack grabbed his hand.  “I need you, Danny.  You're the only one who can help me.  Come here, Angel” Jack urged, pulling Daniel down to sit next to him on the sofa.

Jack again put his arm around his way-too-quiet linguist.  Daniel's recovery had now been complicated.  It was going to take a lot of work to get him over this.  Jack sighed; his heart was heavy.  His physical wound would be healed in a couple of weeks, but he feared Daniel's mental wound would take much longer to mend.

====

“Understood, Carter.  See you in five.”  Jack hung up his cell phone.  Daniel was still compliantly nestled into his shoulder.  He hated what he had to do now, but protecting Daniel was first and foremost in his mind.  “Teal'c, I want you to take Daniel upstairs to the bedroom, and close the door.  Stay with him.  Do not take your eyes off of him ... and lock the door.”

“Jack?”

“Fraiser will be here soon.  I don't want her to see you, Danny.”

Daniel blinked several times trying to think why Jack was sending him away, and in his drugged and frightened state, that's all he knew -- that Jack was making him go away.

“Danny, Fraiser will want to call MacKenzie.  We've already gone through this, and I've told her emphatically no, but if she sees you like this now, she'll start another round.  Please, Daniel.  Go upstairs with Teal'c.”

Daniel's eyes widened again, full of fear and anxiety, but Jack caressed his partner's cheek to calm him.

“Jack?  M'enzie ... he ... no ...”

“Shhh.  I won't let her call MacKenzie or take you away.  No one will ever take you away from me.  I need you to go with Teal'c, just for a little while, and be as quiet as you can.  I'll come and get you when she's gone.  Okay?”

Daniel nodded.  He couldn't think, and he didn't understand, except he knew he wanted no part of MacKenzie.  To Daniel, drugs and MacKenzie were the same thing -- something bad and to be avoided.

“We must hurry, DanielJackson,” Teal'c said, hearing activity from outside.

~Well, Big Guy. I guess if you didn't know before, you do now.  You haven't said a word.  You haven't even raised an eyebrow.  Thanks.~

====

“It's a good thing you're up to date with your tetanus shot, Colonel,” Janet said as she tended to Jack's wound.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I don't suppose you're going to tell me how this happened?”

“Good assumption, Doc.”

“And I don't suppose you're going to let me take you to the infirmary, or check on Daniel while I'm here.”

“Right again, on both counts.”

“Alright, Colonel.  I've done the best I can in this environment.  It was a clean cut, no muscle tearing, and only required a few stitches.  You've lost some blood, though, and you should get some rest, give yourself time to rejuvenate.”

“That I can do.”

“How is Daniel?”

“He'll be okay.”

Janet easily read between the lines.  Daniel was not okay, and neither was the colonel, but Janet's assistance wasn't going to be tolerated beyond treating Jack's injury, which Janet feared came from the hands of Daniel Jackson.

“Call me if you need me, Jack.”

“I will.”  Janet headed for the door.  “Hey, Doc?”  He saw the redheaded doctor turn around.  “I know you don't agree with any of this, but thanks for coming.”

Janet nodded and added, “I just wish you trusted me, Jack.”

“Janet, if I didn't trust you, you wouldn't be here.”

The doctor smiled, turned, and left, with Sam on her heels.

====

“Sir, what did happen?” Sam asked after walking Janet out to her car and returning to the house.

“Just a little accident, Carter, that's all.”

“Daniel ... he's, uh, going to be feel guilty for a long time, isn't he?”

It was the closest Sam could come to asking the question directly.  Like Janet, she knew what the truth had to be, that Daniel had caused Jack's injury, meaning Daniel had stabbed Jack.  The colonel looked at his 2IC, his eyes a bit watery, and then he looked away.  It was all the confirmation Sam needed, and the most Jack could give her.

“Do you want me to get Daniel for you, Sir?”

Jack nodded and watched the major head up the stairs.  He heard her knock on the door and call out for Daniel, telling him that Jack wanted him.

Daniel practically bounced down the stairs and over to Jack on the sofa.

“Miss me?” Jack asked, his head against the sofa cushion.

“Yes,” Daniel responded in a small voice, as Jack pulled him close.  Daniel rested his head on Jack's shoulder, and Jack placed a kiss on his head.  “We're going to be fine, Danny.”

~Oh, Daniel.  The guilt is going to eat you up alive if the colonel can't fix this.  He has to, though.  Look at you; scared stiff.  The guilt is written all over your face.~

Sam looked over at Teal'c who had followed Daniel down the stairs.  He was expressionless, and she wondered if he really understood the nature of Jack and Daniel's relationship, or if he thought this was just a symbol of a very unique and close Tau'ri friendship.  She wanted to ask, but it wasn't her place.

“Teal'c, let's, um ...” Sam began as she motioned toward the door.

Teal'c nodded, and the two walked outside, leaving the lovers alone.

====

“Let's go ... no ... Let's ... move, have to go now ... LET'S GO, DANIEL ... coming ... he's coming ... GO ... Danny ... gawd, Danny.  LET'S GO DANIEL ... DANIEL!”

“Jack ... Jack, wake up.  Everything's okay.  Jack, I'm right here.”

“Danny?”

“Here,” Daniel said his left hand caressing the sweating face of his partner.  “I thought it was my turn for the nightmares,” Daniel tried to tease.

“Danny,” Jack whispered, both his hands raising to cup his lover's face just before he arched up to kiss the lips he longed to touch.

“It's okay,” Daniel spoke softly to his trembling husband.  “Must have been quite a nightmare, Jack.”

Jack was actually trembling, something he didn't often do.  Daniel's insecurities got the best of him.  He was sure Jack had dreamed about the moment when Daniel had stabbed him.

It was a few days after the incident with the letter opener.  Daniel had been getting better every day, but they still battled the effects of the alien drug.  Now, though, it was Daniel who was the comforter.

“Oh, Danny,” Jack said as he sat up on the edge of the bed.

Jack had on only his white boxer shorts.  He leaned his sweaty forehead against his moist hands as he hunched over his knees.

Daniel moved to sit on the bed behind Jack.  He slipped his arms around Jack's waist, and kissed his back and then laid his head against Jack's shoulder.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Love you, too, Danny.”  Jack was sincere, but his thoughts were still in the nightmare.  He was distant.  “I need some air, Danny.  I'll ... be back in a bit,” Jack said as he rose and pulled on his khaki pants, zipping them up as he headed for the door.

“Wait, Jack.  I'll go with you.”

“No!” Jack's tone was sharp, stunning Daniel who sat back against the headboard of the bed.  Jack shuddered at what had just happened, Daniel retreating like a scolded child, but right now, he was still too lost to make it better.  “I just need to get this out of my head.  Stay here where it's warm.  I won't be long.”

Jack quickly walked out of the room, leaving Daniel alone and feeling guiltier than ever.

~He's mad at me.  I attacked him, and he's ...~  Daniel pulled his knees up and folded his arms around them, leaning his head completely in to his hands, as if to hide.  “I'm so sorry, Jack,” Daniel whispered sadly, adding as he closed his eyes, “Gawd, we were so happy.  I've ruined it.  I'm so sorry.”

Daniel lay back down in the bed and pulled the covers over himself, but he couldn't rest.  He was miserable.  The drugs were still in him, and he knew they were exaggerating his emotions, but even so, the disquiet within him was overwhelming.  The young man was sure he had used up his quota of happiness for his lifetime.

The archaeologist had worn his black flannel pajamas to bed.  These were the ones with the white Egyptian hieroglyphs on them that Jack had given him for Christmas several years ago.

~I love wearing these.  It's like having you around me all the time.~

Daniel wallowed in his sorrow for thirty minutes before he couldn't stand it anymore and went in search of his soulmate.

Jack wasn't in any of the usual places, which probably meant he didn't want Daniel to find him, at least, that's what Daniel thought as he sank into the armchair Jack loved so much, his head lowered in his own pain of feeling helpless.

Suddenly, the front door opened and he heard Jeff say, “Thanks, Jack.”

“No problem, Jeff.  Wish my problem was as easily solved.”

“Don't be so hard on yourself.”

Jack nodded and closed the door and headed for the living room, watching the floor as he walked, so he didn't notice Daniel until he finally looked up as he approached the sofa.  He saw the despair in his lover.

~Crap!  Look at your eyes.  You think I was talking about you.  Angel, stop that.~  “Ah, Danny, it's not you.  I swear it's not,” Jack said darting over to kneel in front of the chair.  “I'm sorry, Angel.  I said the wrong things and gave you the wrong impression.”

Daniel didn't say anything.  He thought Jack was just covering up, worried he'd freak out again.

“No big deal, Jack,” Daniel said, moving from Jack's reach.  He stood up and walked to the stairs.  He had climbed two when Jack caught up to him, his left hand grabbing onto Daniel's left arm.  “What?”

“Daniel, please.  Sit down.”

Reluctantly, Daniel turned to face Jack.  He was going to say something snarky, except he saw Jack's tired eyes, and there was something there that he hadn't seen before ... guilt, Jack's guilt.

Daniel felt stunned.  Jack had nothing to feel guilty about.  Daniel was the one who had stabbed him.  The young man stared and stared at his lover.

“Danny, sit.”

Jack lightly tugged on Daniel's hand, well aware of the soreness that still plagued his lover's body from his torture.  Some of the bruising was still evident, and the punctures in Daniel's back still caused him some pain when he moved.

Daniel sat down quietly on the stairs next to Jack, their forearms touching.

“Danny, I've always blamed her.  It was so easy.  To this day, I could wring her neck and not feel a twinge of remorse, and I'm sorry because I know you still give her the benefit of the doubt, but I can't.”

“Jack, who are you talking about?”

“The sarc princess,” Jack said with attitude.  Jack was amazed how strong his feelings still were about Shyla.  “Oh, for crying out loud, Danny, I hate her.  I'm sorry, but I do, but ...” Jack sighed.  “I can't blame her for everything anymore.”

“I don't understand.  Jack, there's no blame for what happened there.”

“That's my Danny, always willing to see the other side, but I'm not as good as you are.”

“Jack, I hate it when you say that because it's not true.  We see things differently sometimes, and ... maybe our priorities aren't always the same, but ... you are good.  Your heart is beautiful, full of love and caring, and your soul fills mine with warmth.  You want to do all the good stuff, too, Jack.  You just have more regulations to get around than I do.”

Jack looked at Daniel and saw the sincerity in his eyes.  How he loved Daniel's blue eyes.

“Thank you, Love,” Jack said, looking forward into the living room.

Jack's held his clasped hands out in front of him, and let out what sounded like a gust of wind from his lungs.

“Jack, what do you mean about blame?”

“Geez, Danny, I just wanted out of that mine so friggin' much.  That jerk of a guard had been on my case all day.  I wanted to smack him one.  I didn't think, Danny.  I let my emotions get the best of me.  Ah, Danny,” Jack said resting his forehead on his hands as he leaned over his knees.

Daniel was startled.  This wasn't what he had expected.  He placed his right hand on Jack's nape, and massaged it gently, and then leaned over slightly to put his left hand under Jack's chin to turn him to face him.

“Jack, you did what you had to do to save us.  You saw a chance, and you took it.”

“You were still in those leg irons, Danny.  I didn't check.  I reacted to my anger at that cocky S.O.B., and you almost died as a result.”

“I didn't die, Jack.  I'm right here.”

“No, Love, you didn't, but I gave you to that witch.  I didn't protect you, didn't watch out for you.  It doesn't even relate to our being lovers.  I failed my team.  We weren't all in the clear.  Crap, Daniel, you had just said you couldn't move.  You were exhausted.  I wasn't listening to you, just to my ego, and as a result, I made a bad command decision.  It's my fault, Danny, mine.”

Jack's eyes were misting, and he swallowed hard several times as he tried to talk.  Daniel leaned forward and kissed him, his hand moving to caress Jack's right cheek.

“No, Jack.  I couldn't keep up.  That wasn't your fault.”

“You're a member of my team -- MY team.  I can't believe it.  I'm Mister We-Don't-Leave-Anyone-Behind, and yet I keep leaving you.  Gawd, Danny, those rocks could have killed you.”

“They didn't, Jack.  It was just an accident.  You had to go while you had the chance.”

“Daniel, I was wrong.  You weren't in a condition to go.  I let my ego make the decision.”

Jack shook his head in frustration, but Daniel's right hand held its ground, still caressing his spouse's nape and extending to finger Jack's gray hairs.  His left hand now rested against Jack's heart, rubbing small circles, trying to comfort his love.

“Jack, all you can ever do is your best, and if ... *if* you did make a mistake, well, just shows you're human, that's all.”

Jack winced from his emotional distress.

“I'm the leader, Daniel.  I'm not supposed to make those kind of mistakes.”

“You're a man first, Jack.”

Jack looked at Daniel and saw an abundance of faith being ushered his way, but he didn't feel worthy of it.

“Daniel, don't you get it?  If I hadn't made that mistake, she wouldn't have had a chance to do what she did.  The sarc addiction was my fault.  It's so easy to blame her, but it was my mistake that gave that witch her chance.  *I* am to blame for that nightmare; no one else.  It *was* my fault, and so is...”

“Stop it, Jack, and I mean it.  You're wrong, so wrong.”

Jack repeatedly shook his head, breaking away from Daniel's touches, standing and taking long strides to the other end of the room, stopping only when he couldn't go any further.

Daniel stood and followed him, his arms sliding around Jack's waist, and his head against Jack's as he leaned it slightly forward.

“Jack, how many times have you told me we can't play what if's?  How many times have you reminded me that we make the call and move forward?  There's always an 'or', always a third choice.  Jack ...” Daniel placed a kiss on the side of his lover's neck before continuing.  “Maybe the motivation was off a little, but SG-1 is a team of four, and you had a shot that might not have come up again for a long time.  You took the chance.”

“You got hurt, Danny.”

“I get hurt all the time.  It's ... prestigious.  Who else has their own bed in the infirmary?”

Jack had to laugh.  It wasn't exactly true, but Daniel did have a favorite spot and one of the beds he insisted was “more comfy“ than the others, so Janet always made sure Daniel had “his” bed and location of choice.

“Danny,” Jack sighed, “that nightmare made this one worse than it might have been had it not happened.  I can't escape my part, my responsibility.”

“Jack, look at me.”  Jack closed his eyes, still facing the fireplace. “Look at me, Love.”

Jack turned, unable to resist Daniel, and instead of moving back, Daniel simply slid his arms around his lover, never allowing the two to be separated.  The younger man moved his hands so he again had one hand over Jack's heart, and was caressing Jack's cheek with the other.

These two independent heroes were mush in each other's hands; their intimate connections of devotion, awareness, and need transcending the actual feeling, and soaring instead through their veins like the blood that ran through them, giving them life, spirit, and hope, just as their beating hearts sustained them.

“You blame yourself because you made a choice based on ... emotion, right?”

“Yes.”

“You think if you hadn't done that, then I wouldn't have been hurt by the falling rocks, and if that hadn't happened, then I wouldn't have been addicted to the sarcophagus, right?”

“Yes.”

“And ... if that hadn't happened, then maybe my reaction now to ... what they did ... and the ... mental difficulty of going through withdrawal again ... wouldn't be so bad, right?”

“Danny ...”

Jack's whole body hurt listening to Daniel try and say what he just had about the withdrawal.  The young man still had the drugs in his system. He was better now, but they'd had a nasty episode before they went to bed, and the nightmares were frequent.

Daniel still shook a lot, and Janet really had no clue about possible long-term effects.  The problem was that the alien drug didn't follow the rules of withdrawal like a regular narcotic.

“Colonel,” Janet had continually reminded Jack, “You have to realize that this is an alien drug, a foreign substance that we know nothing about.  There is no way to predict how Daniel's body will react as the drug dissipates, or for that fact, what the drug was really intended to do.  How much of this is normal for the drug?  How much is affected by human physiology?  The answer is: we don't know.  All I can do is treat the symptoms, and then all we can do is hope that once the drug is out of Daniel's system, that he's still the man we know ... and that he stays that way.”

“Right, Jack?”

“Right.”

“Jack, why were we in the mine?”

Jack's eyes grew wide, an alarm shooting through him as if he had just been punched in the gut.

“No, Daniel.”

“Yes, Jack.  Think about it.  I didn't walk, I ran off, on my own, without saying a word.  I didn't listen to you, Jack, when you called for me to stop.  I let my ... moral right guide my emotions to try to stop something I had no business stopping.  I didn't think ahead.  I didn't think about you or Sam or Teal'c and the consequences of my actions.  I ... me, the so-called genius, didn't use that supposed intelligence to see what I was doing.”

“Danny, you did what you thought was right, what you felt you had to do.  You can't blame yourself for that.”

“Why not?  What's the difference?  I didn't consider all the options.  I didn't remember the rules and regulations I may not like, but I've agreed to follow.  I didn't listen to you, my heart and my soul.  Instead, I did what *I* wanted to do, and to Netu with the fall-out.  It's the truth, Jack.  So, in the end, it's all my fault, and the blame is my own.”

“No!  You didn't have time to weigh all the options.  Ten more seconds and she would have jumped, not that I wouldn't help her jump myself today, but in your eyes, you had to move when you did.  It's not your fault, Danny.”

Daniel felt his body weakening.  Something strange was happening, but he had to make sure Jack was okay.  He would not cave in to the drugs and the withdrawal, not yet.  Jack needed him, and Daniel tapped into his heart for the strength to continue, even as his breaths became more difficult to take and his head began to feel like a knife had been encased in it.

“I'll make you a deal, Jack.  I promise you that I won't feel guilty, and I won't blame myself for anything that happened on Shyla's planet, if you promise me that you won't feel guilty or blame yourself either ... for anything that happened there, or in the last few days because of what happened on that planet.”

Jack closed his eyes, and he didn't realize it, but he had leaned into Daniel and rested his forehead on his soulmate's.  He didn't say anything as he tried to fuse himself into his lover's energy and strength.

Jack was constantly amazed at Daniel's capacity to forgive and his ability to not just survive, but thrive because of any diversity that came his way.  He could feel Daniel trembling, fighting to hold on, and that startled Jack back to the reality of their more recent nightmare.

He felt a shudder go through him realizing they were focusing on some old regret that couldn't be changed and had been virtually forgotten, except for the occasional nightmare, until this commando thing.

“Danny ... you promise?”

“Yes, Jack.  Do you?”

Daniel's eyes bore deep into Jack's soul.  He would know if Jack tried to lie or 'fudge' the situation.  Jack's soul warmed, a smile on his face emerging.

“I promise.”

Jack started to kiss his love, but Daniel suddenly hesitated, and with trepidation asked, almost as a whisper, “Is that ... ”

Daniel wanted to know for sure about the nightmare, and yet, he didn't want to know.  He couldn't finish the question, and so he just looked at his love and asked, “Jack?”

Jack felt Daniel's body shake.  He wanted to get him back upstairs, but he also knew there was something stirring deep inside his lover that needed to be resolved first.

“What did you want to ask me, Love?”

“The nightmare.  Jack, did you dream of me ...”

“Danny, no,” Jack said pulling Daniel tightly to his chest.

He hadn't realized Daniel had thought Jack might dream about the incident with the letter opener.  Jack wasn't the least bit concerned about that.  It had been the drugs.  Daniel was a part of him.  He trusted him beyond words.  He held his love, trying to say with his body what the spoken language couldn't achieve.

“I dreamed about the mine, watching you fall as the rocks fell.  I was so close, but not close enough.  I had to stand by and watch you die ... again.  Danny, it just kept replaying over and over from different angles like instant replay of a ... goal in hockey.  I'd see it from where I actually stood.  Then, I'd be with you, looking up, or with you after you were covered by them.  I kept yelling for you to come, and you'd say 'I'm coming.  I'm coming,' but you never made it.  I'm sorry, Danny.  Not guilty, not blaming;  I'm just sorry, okay?”

Daniel nodded against Jack's strong shoulder.  He was shivering, and yet he felt like his blood was boiling.  His head throbbed.

“Danny?”

“Jack, something's wrong.  I don't feel so good, which I guess sounds kinda funny.”

“Tell me.”

“I don't know.  I'm cold, but I'm hot, like on the inside, like I want to shed my skin.  Jack, my head hurts.  Oh gawd, JACK!”

Daniel screamed as he collapsed to the ground, his shout alerting Jeff who ran in and saw Jack kneeling over the archaeologist.

“Jack, what's wrong?”

“Jeff, help me take him upstairs, and then call Fraiser, and tell her to get here as soon as she can.”

====

“How long has he been like this, Colonel?”

“It happened right before Jeff called you.  He had an episode before we went to bed, convulsions and sweats, but it didn't last that long, Doc.  He's been getting better.  I had a nightmare that woke us up, and I went downstairs for a while.  He came down after a while, and we talked.  He was totally lucid, Janet.  Everything was fine until he started to shake again, but even that wasn't much.

“We were about done talking, and I was going to bring him up here, but all of a sudden he started shaking pretty bad.  He said he was cold, but hot inside, burning up, and he said he had a headache, and then he collapsed.  That's it.”

“Colonel, this is out of my expertise.  We're talking about a substance that is foreign to us.  We don't know what exactly it is, or what harm it can ultimately cause.  I don't know how to treat something I can't define by any known standard.”

“So, what do we do?”

Jack almost hit himself for asking the question.  He knew the answer.  How many times had they had this discussion?  Still, he couldn't help himself.  He didn't have the answer, and he kept praying that one of these days, he'd ask the question, and then, miraculously, Janet would have the answer.

“Well, we treat the symptoms, and to do that, I need to know what's wrong, and that means the infirmary.”

Jack silently considered his options.  Daniel was slipping in and out of consciousness, sweating profusely, and yet his skin was cool to the touch.

“Testing, Doctor, and then we'll see, and no MacKenzie, no anyone, but you.”

“Jack, don't you think ...”

“Janet, there's someone inside the SGC who is part of this.  Do you understand what I'm saying?  It could be anyone.  It's why Hammond insisted your medical report on Daniel be coded and handed directly to him, and it's why Daniel won't be staying there long, and while he's there, I'll be with him, and guards will be posted.”

“I'll call the attendants.”

Janet stood and accidentally brushed Daniel's arm with her hand.  Her head jolted up.

“What the ...”

“What?”

“He's burning up.”  Janet took Daniel's temperature and found it had shot up to one-hundred five degrees in less than two minutes.  His pulse was rapid, and his breaths were labored.  “This is impossible.  Jack, go start the tub.  Lukewarm water.  NOW!”  Jack was stunned, until Janet shouted at him again.  “MOVE!”

Janet unbuttoned Daniel's pajama top as she shouted out, “Colonel Cornell.  Come quickly.”  Jack ran back to the bed as the tub filled and saw Janet undressing Daniel.  “We need to cool him down, now.  Let's move.”

Jack and Jeff carried Daniel to the tub and finished undressing him, lowering him into the water.

“We need to get his temperature down.  This water needs to stay as close to room temperature as possible, Colonel Cornell.”

Jeff was near the faucets and kept a constant watch on the water temperature, while Jack was on the other end, holding Daniel securely in place to make sure he didn't slip under the water.  Jack was unable to think about what was happening, his mind blurred by the image of Daniel's unconscious body in the tub.  Janet carefully monitored Daniel's condition.

“Colonel, wash him down with this,” Janet instructed, handing Jack a washcloth to sponge Daniel with.  As he did what Janet asked, Jack cried out to his lover silently in his soul.

**I need you, Danny.  You have to hear me, Love.  We're just beginning: you, me, and the girls; and our future human kids.  Don't leave us, Daniel.  Come on.  Wake up, My Love.  Danny!**

“Jack?”

Jack's heart skipped a beat as he listened again for the voice that sounded sweeter than any symphony ever could.

“Jack?”

Daniel blinked his eyes, swallowing hard as he tried to focus.

“Everything's going to be okay, Danny,” Jack said as he kneeled over the side of the tub making sure Daniel's head stayed above water.

Jack's knees were killing him.  They ached on the hard tiled floor, but he wasn't about to move until Janet said they could take Daniel back to the bed.

“What happened?”

“Your body temperature rose dangerously high, Daniel,” Janet spoke from behind Jack.

Daniel blinked at her a few times and looked back at Jack.

“It's cold in here.”

Jack touched Daniel's skin.

“Janet, his skin is cool.  I mean, really cool.”

Jack scooted back to allow Janet to get closer.

“I don't get it.  How do you feel Daniel?”

“Tired ... and cold.  Jack, I want to sleep.”

“Colonel, I still think we should take him to the infirmary and run those tests.”

“No, Jack.  Don't want to go anywhere,” Daniel had moved his hand to hold on to Jack's arm.

Jack ran his hand across his lover's forehead, his fingers then gently lacing his hair with caresses.  Daniel leaned into the warmth of Jack's hand.

“Sleepy, Jack.  Want to go back to bed.”

Daniel closed his eyes and fell asleep.

“Janet?” Jack asked with a weariness and deep-rooted concern in his voice.

“He's just asleep,” the woman answered after a quick check.

“Doc, Jeff, do you mind?” Jack asked as he nodded towards the door.

“Really, Colonel, I've seen it all,” the petite doctor commented as Jeff Cornell exited the room.

Jack glared, thinking, ~Doc, there's a big difference between a medical emergency and a basic change of location.  Out, before I have to shoot you.~

Janet sighed, “You can't blame a gal for trying, Colonel.”

~Over my dead body, Doctor Fraiser,~ Jack threatened as he continued to glare, his Mr. Jealousy alive and kicking inside of him.

“Sorry, Colonel.  It's been a long night,” Janet said as she walked out.

====

Five minutes later, Jack had Daniel dried off and a new pair of pajamas put on.  Jack selected the burgundy flannels that pictured camels on them.  Daniel looked good in burgundy.

~Danny looks good in anything; of course, he looks good without anything on, too!~

Gently, Jack pulled the comforter to rest on top of his husband's torso. His heart still cried over his lover's bruises, which were now a dark blue and purple, and no longer red from the initial injuries.

Janet had gone to make a phone call, ordering some medication to be delivered.  When she returned, she shooed Jack away to sit down and examine Daniel again.  When she was done, she filled Jack in on the little they knew about the alien drug.  It was fairly technical, and Jack mostly tuned her out, preferring to watch his lover breathe.

~Who knew such a simple thing as breathing could be such a work of art?~

“Jack?” Daniel said as he awoke only fifteen minutes after falling asleep in the tub.

Janet moved from Daniel's bedside to allow Jack access to his spouse.

“Hey, you scared me.”

“Sorry.  I felt like I was going to explode, Jack.”

“In the tub?”

“T...tub?”

“Yeah, when we cooled you down.”

Daniel looked confused.

“I don't ... remember.”

“Danny, how do you feel right now?”

“Fine.”

“Daniel,” Janet interrupted, surprising the younger man as he hadn't realized she was there, “earlier, you said your head hurt.  Does it still?”

“No.  When did you get here, Janet?”

“A while ago.  You don't remember talking to me?”  Daniel shook his head.  “What's the last thing you remember?” the diminutive doctor asked.

“Did I pass out?”

“You sure did.”

Janet was concerned that Daniel hadn't answered her question.

“You must have been scared, Jack.”

“Didn't I just tell you that,” Jack said as he held Daniel's hand and kissed it gently.

“Daniel, tell me the last thing you remember.  Do you remember being downstairs with Colonel O'Neill?” Janet asked again.

“Yes, he had a .. we were talking.  He held ... we ...” Daniel's breathing became erratic.  “Jack?”

“Right here.  It's okay.  It's only Janet.  She knows, remember?”

“It's okay?”

“Yes, Love.  I had a nightmare, and we went downstairs, and you were taking care of me, like you always do, and then I held you in my arms.”

“I like it when you do that.”

“Me, too.”

“What else do you remember?” Janet asked softly.

Daniel's eyes stayed on Jack, as if looking at his lover sustained his lungs and heart.  He didn't look at Janet at all.

“I was cold on the outside, but it felt like fire was in my veins, and my heart pounded.  So did my head.  It ... hurt ... a lot.  I don't remember anything more.”

Janet sat on the other side of the king-sized bed as she asked, “How do you feel now, Daniel, and please don't say you're fine?”

“But ... I feel fine, Janet.  It's  ... it's like it never happened.  I'm just ... tired.”

“Colonel, I still think those tests would be a good idea.  We just don't know what we're dealing with, and there's nothing to say this same thing won't happen again.”

Seeing Jack's indecision, Janet added as forcibly as she could, “Jack, I can't bring all the equipment here, and if you want to give Daniel every chance to get through this, you have to let me do my job.  There's only so much I can do here.”

“No, Jack.”

“Danny.  Listen to me, okay.  Let's go to the SGC ...”

Daniel shook his head violently.

“No, no, no ... Jack.”

Jack reached out and gently put his hand against Daniel’s cheek and caressed it.

“Shh, trust me, Danny.  We'll only go so Janet can run the tests, and then we'll come right back home.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Don't leave me, Jack.”

“Won't happen, will it Janet?  Not for one minute.”

Jack's brown eyes hardened as he looked at Janet.  She knew that look. If she didn't agree, Daniel wasn't budging an inch from the bed.

“Agreed, Colonel.”

Janet nodded towards the door, and Jack followed her, after telling his lover he'd be right back.

“What is it, Doc?”

“I just wanted to remind you of how scary this is.”

“Scary?  You think I wasn't just scared to death?”

“Jack, one more time, we don't know what we're dealing with.  I just want you to be aware.  What just happened is unheard of, almost a medical impossibility to have body temperature rise so rapidly and then fall, and have the patient be so ... fine just a minute later.  This alien drug could effect Daniel for years; I'm not sure we'll know when it's really gone or not.”

“Doc, you're not thinking about washing him out, are you?  That would kill him.”

“No, not as long as the tests come back okay, but it's something we have to watch, and that's all I'm saying.  Be aware, Colonel; just ... be aware.”

====

“Danny?”

Jack walked out to the patio where Daniel stood watching Bijou and Katie romping on the grass.  It had been a grueling two weeks since Jack had first received the message at the SGC, the worst being the eight very long and agonizing days it had taken for the drug to drain from hi soulmates's system.

The trip to the SGC infirmary had lasted twelve hours with Little Napoleon, as Janet was nicknamed, running every test possible on her favorite archaeologist.

True to his word, Jack hadn't left Daniel alone, except for a couple of bathroom breaks during which either Sam or Teal'c stood watch.  The tests revealed nothing.  Daniel was fine.

In the end, Janet determined they'd never know for sure if Daniel's rise in body temperature was normal for that drug, or if it was caused by something else.  She again reminded Daniel, and Jack as well, that she couldn't guarantee there would be no other side effects.

The potent substance had been given to Daniel several times during his captivity, and once the drug finally wore off, the guilt had begun in full force.  The nightmares were frequent, and for the first time in the last few years, Daniel was once again afraid to go to sleep.

Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel's waist, and kissed his shoulder, and then snuggled his head next to Daniel's.

“I love you.”

“Why, Jack?”

“Why do I love you?”

“No, why all of ... why?”  

“I wish I knew.  We're closer, but we still don't have the answers.”

“We were so happy, Jack.  Canada was perfect.  Our honeymoon was perfect.  We were so happy.  I've never been happy like that before.”

“We're still happy, Love.  We just got dented on the exterior a little.  Our interior is as strong as ever.”

“I tried to kill you ... again.”

“No, Danny, that was the drug.  They brainwashed you.”

Jack kissed Daniel's nape and sighed, knowing Daniel was in an emotional stress he hadn't been in for many years.  He wanted to murder someone, again.  He had worked so hard to get Daniel free of old wounds, and now the monsters had resurfaced.

Jack closed his eyes.  He was determined.  Daniel would not relapse back to that lost soul.  They'd come too far together, and that's exactly how they'd go on.  They needed time, that's all.  Jack was sure of it.

“Time for a second honeymoon, Love,” the older man intoned lovingly.

“We just got back from the first one.”

“Nah, that was, wow, two months ago,” Jack spoke in awe of how quickly time had passed.

Daniel sighed, “I don't want to leave the girls, Jack.”

“We can take them with us.”

“Where?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Home,” the younger man answered simply.

Jack was confused, responding, “Danny?”

Daniel turned and cupped Jack's face with his hands.  He caressed his lover gently, and looked deeply into Jack's eyes, as if searching for something.

“I want to go home, Jack.  Take me home,” Daniel requested softly, leaning his head against Jack's right shoulder, his arms around Jack's body.

Jack kissed his forehead and rubbed his back as he replied, “Home is where your heart is,” while suppressing a sniffle from the lump that already formed in his throat.

“You're my heart, Jack, and my home.  I don't need to go anywhere. I just need this.”  Daniel seemed to press himself even closer to Jack, trying to get under his skin, and Jack responded by holding him firmly in his arms.  “I can think of somewhere we should go.”

“Where?” Jack questioned.

“Upstairs.”  Daniel moved his hand to Jack's cheek and looked in his eyes which for the first time since the nightmare had begun had a shine in them.  “Take me home, Jack.”

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you so much,” Daniel said, almost breaking down from the emotion.

Jack braced him up.  They still had a long road ahead, but it was time to start the healing again.  They had learned more this time around about the men after Jack.  It wasn't much, but it was something.

The couple walked slowly upstairs.  Jack's wound had healed, and Daniel's bruises had gone away, except for the ones on his wrists and ankles, which while fading were still visible.  They had kissed and snuggled, but they hadn't made love since Daniel's return.  They were about to change that.  Daniel was ready to go home, and Jack was more than ready to take him there.

====

Jack awoke, the sun shining through their bedroom window, but his spouse was conspicuously absent from Jack's embrace.  The last couple of days had been pretty good.  The newlyweds had made love several times, and Daniel's remaining bruises had mostly disappeared.  He had even laughed a few times, though softly and not the hearty laugh he had been doing in recent months.

While granting the colonel's request for some time away from the Mountain, Hammond had persuaded Jack to go ahead with three days of scheduled training for new recruits next week by making it a personal favor.  While Jack would be doing that, Daniel would be cataloging some new artifacts brought back over the last few weeks that needed his review and final disposition on handling of where the item would be stored or the SGC, or if it would be passed on to Area 51.

Jack refused to let Daniel get bogged down in translations, but handling the “rocks” he loved so much was another story.  Sam would be “archaeologist sitting,” which was the only way Jack agreed to the personal favor.

They'd get back to normal soon, but Jack was determined to get his Heart whole again.  That was his number one priority, and he wasn't going to let him out of his sight, SGC-wise, until his Daniel was back.

Jack felt no guilt about their extended time away.  After all, they'd only just gotten married a couple of months ago, though the general didn't know that little tidbit, and Valentine's Day was on the horizon.  He wanted to pamper his love, get him healthy in his mind again, just as his body had healed.

Putting on his gray sweats, Jack then went downstairs to find Daniel, locating his partner in the study.  He stood at the entrance to the room, his arms folded, and watched the love of his life staring intently at the still bloodstained letter opener.

Jack had considered throwing it away, but decided that had to be Daniel's decision.  The letter opener was gold, in the image of a Pharoah, and they had purchased it during their trip to Cairo two years ago.

Daniel held the letter opener gently, his fingers tracing the dried blood.

“It was the drugs,” the young man finally said softly, aware of Jack's presence.

“Yes,” Jack responded in total confidence.

“We're okay now.”

“We're great.”

Daniel smiled, still looking down, as his still-soft voice spoke, “Soulmates.”

“The circle of our love, Danny.”

“Forever.”

“Always.”

“Jack -- the girls?”

“Only because they were barking and apparently nipping at them.  They were trying to protect you and Jeff.  They were getting in the way.  It's the only reason.  They're ... small fries to those guys and not worth their time or effort unless they get in the way, and that's why our girls were in trouble; because they were trying to protect you.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.”

Daniel still hadn't looked at Jack, and he still held the letter opener, turning it over and over, as if mesmerized by it.

“Are you angry at me?”

“Angry?  Why?  For what?” Jack said, standing a little straighter in the doorway, his hands in his pockets.

“Trying to protect the girls.”

“Noooo.  No, Danny.  I would have done the same thing.  You saved them.  I wouldn't expect you to stand by and let them be hurt, any more than I could have.”

“What about ...”

“What, Danny?”

“Are you mad I didn't wait for you at the SGC?”

“No, Love.  Daniel, as you've told me a million times, you can take care of yourself, but even so, you made me a promise, and you kept it.  You got Jeff, and you waited for him, and I thank you for humoring me.”

Daniel still stared at the letter opener, and Jack hadn't moved from his position.  Jack realized they were going through a strange sort of therapy, and he knew he needed to let Daniel set the pace.  His function was to be supportive and reaffirm the answers to the questions Daniel was asking, even though the younger man already knew the answers.  

Still, it was hard to stand still in the doorway and watch Daniel be in pain.  Jack wanted to hold his lover, and he felt his chest swelling and lungs constricting as his own anxiety increased from watching him struggle to find his peace and sanity, and his happiness.

“Mad at me for anything?”

“No, Danny.  You did all I asked.  You fought for Jeff, protected the girls, and you stayed alive.  You also helped me to recover while still recovering yourself, and you've made me the happiest man in the universe.  I can't imagine why I'd be angry at you.”

Daniel smiled and finally looked at Jack, but it was just a tentative smile, and there was still a fear in his eyes that Jack hated seeing.

“Wouldn't have had to take care of you if I hadn't stabbed you.”

“Not you, the drugs.”

“The drugs?”

“Yes, Danny.”

“But I flipped out, Jack, said you were ...”

“Evil and bad ... you couldn't make up your mind.”

“And you wanted to hurt me.”

“It was the drugs.”

“You'd never hurt me, Jack.”

“Never.”

Daniel glanced at Jack again briefly.  His hands still held the letter opener, but they rested almost on top of the desk.

“Jack, if I asked you to quit, would you?  I mean, right now?”

“I'd do anything in the world for you, Angel.”

“So you'd quit, right now ... pick up the phone and tell Hammond we're done?”

Jack fidgeted and shuffled his feet slightly, as he drew a deep breath, but he hadn't spoken.

Daniel finally put the letter opener on the desk and walked towards the window, standing by the sofa in the study.  He turned back to face Jack, and went into his patented self-hugging pose, his hands tightly holding the other.

Daniel stared at Jack, searching for the answer to his question and again, gave a small smile.

“You wouldn't quit right now, would you, Jack?”

“No, Danny, not ... this second.”

“Because it would be wrong?”

“Because you'd hate yourself later, and maybe even resent me for ...”

“Doing something you've wanted to do for years, but that you don't do, because of me?”

Jack smiled and nodded.

“You'd regret it, Danny, and I just can't be that selfish.”

“How could I ever think you'd hurt me?  Geez, Jack, you've wanted to retire forever, and you stay for me, and here's your chance, and what do you do?  You sacrifice, again, for me.”

“I love you, Danny.  That's what marriage is about -- loving, compromising, and understanding.”

“One, two more years.  No more, Jack, and then we never look back, never again.”

“Not even for a second.”

“I don't want to die anymore, Jack,” Daniel said in a voice that was so small, so quiet that his words were barely audible.

That was it.  Distance therapy was over.  Jack practically ran to his heart and scooped him up as close as he could.

“I love you so friggin' much, Daniel.  No more dying.  Definitely no more dying,” Jack almost crooned into Daniel's ear as he held him securely.

Jack's mind knew that while Daniel's physical wounds were almost completely healed, the mental scars would be more difficult.  The scars from the letter opener were well on their way from being out of sight, but had a long way to go from being out of mind.

Daniel pulled back and raised both his hands to cup Jack's face, looking deeply into his eyes as he stated, “We're happy.”

“Oh, yeah, definitely happy,” the older man affirmed with happy eyes.

“I love you.”

“For which I thank my lucky stars every single day of my life,” Jack replied.

“You love me,” Daniel said with a smile.

“My Precious Angel, La Mio Bello Stella Cadente.”

Daniel chuckled as he said, “Space Monkey.”

Jack placed his left hand on Daniel's right cheek, softly caressing it, and choked out, “Space Monkey.”

The lovers kissed, slowly and tenderly, their love being spoken through their bodies.

“We'll be okay,” Daniel said, with more confidence than earlier.

“Ozzie and Harriet.”

“You're stealing my line, Love.”

“Bite me,” Jack teased enticingly.

“Okay,” and Daniel did, a tender nibble of a bite on the left side of Jack's neck, which lead to a major round of kissing, touching, fondling, and silent communication between their souls and hearts.

“Jack, anything I want?”

“Anything.”

Daniel kissed him again and queried, “Anything?”

“Absolutely,” Jack agreed, kissing his love again.

“Boston.”

Jack pulled back just a tad, surprised by the response, and asked, “Daniel, didn't we discuss this and agree that it wasn't worth the time and money to go to Boston for two fun-filled days of rock clamoring and professor boredom, especially with a snowstorm predicted for that weekend?”

Daniel nibbled on Jack's ear, which pretty much turned Jack's legs into jelly and his mind to mush, and corrected, “I didn't agree.  I just ... went along.” In between nibbles, he clarified, “And it's an exhibit and a couple of lectures and seminars.”

Jack was essentially a marshmallow in Daniel's cup of hot chocolate, dissolving with each touch of his spouse.

“Anything I want.  Anything.  Absolutely.  Isn't that what you said, Jack?” Daniel asked with a tiny smirk.

~I've been had, big time,~ Jack grumbled and groaned.  “Anything, Love.”

“Even boring lectures in stuffy rooms listening to drivel by people who may know one-eighth of the story if they even have that much of a clue?” Daniel asked, pausing to nibble on Jack's lip now.  “And, um, even hours of staring at ... rocks?”

“Artifacts, and it'll be heaven, Danny.”

“Heaven?”

“I'll be with you, holding your hand, watching you smile, listening to you rant and rave about the idiots and how they know nothing but are still pompous behinds,” Jack spoke sincerely

“Love you, Jack.  Love you so much.”

“Geez, Danny, what you do to me,” Jack said as his hands stroked Daniel's back and his mouth devoured his lovers in a deep, demanding kiss of passion.

“Anything, Jack?”

“Anything, Angel.”

“Make love to me.”

The lovers made love, then caught the first flight out to Boston.  They'd miss a lot of the opening festivities and displays, but they'd still have at least a day-and-a-half of the seminar to take in.

====

“Danny, come on, let's go,” Jack urged eagerly.

“Jack, it's freezing out there, and it's snowing.”

“Yeah, come on.”

Jack grabbed his Love and led him down the hotel corridor.  It was late afternoon, and Jack had survived a host of rock chats and Daniel rants, and he'd done it all with a smile, with no catnaps or snarky remarks.  He had loved every minute.  Daniel had forgotten, almost, about the nightmare they had left in the Springs.

Maybe it wasn't the smartest thing in the world, but Jack had insisted they wear their rings while in Boston.  Daniel hadn't fought him on it as much as Jack had anticipated, prompting the colonel to think maybe Daniel needed the extra connection and symbol of their love as much as he did.

Now, though, Jack wanted to play.  They were both in navy blue suits, having just exited the last of the seminars, and before they got caught up in one more 'rock moment', Jack tugged on his lover and led him to Boston Commons, the city's main park.

“Isn't it great, Danny?”

“I'm sort of a sunshine person, Jack.”

“You love the snow, and you know it,” Jack said tackling his lover to the ground and kissing him.

“Jack, public park.”

“People kiss in parks all the time.  Humor me, Love.”  Daniel always humored Jack, always, so he kissed him, their tongues dancing as they began to be covered in the white moisture.  Suddenly, Jack laughed, and pulled Daniel up.  “Let's make a snowman.”

“Jaaaack.”

“It'll be fun.”

The next thing Daniel knew, he and Jack had built a three-tier snowman, each level plump and round, just like Frosty the Snowman.  He wore Jack's red tie and Daniel's jacket.  Their snow creation had button eyes which Jack unabashedly ripped from his own jacket, and his nose was a pen cap from one of Daniel's ballpoint pens.

“He looks great, Jack,” Daniel said, his eyes glistening.

Jack looked at him and, for a moment,  his heart sank with sadness.  The man he was looking at was facing that snowman with awe and wonder.  He wasn't just having fun; he had just created something new.  While that was wonderful and exciting, the fact that this was new cut deep into Jack's heart.

Daniel looked over to Jack and smiled, knowing Jack had just realized this was his very first snowman ever.

“No time to build snowmen when you're a foster kid.”

“It's just become a Jackson-O'Neill holiday tradition.”

“I'd like that, Jack.”

The snow was coming down harder, and most people had gone inside to seek shelter.  In fact, Jack and Daniel were the only two people remaining in the park.

“We'd better go back, Jack.”

“One more thing we have to do.”

“What's that?”  Jack grabbed his partner's hand and they made their way to another area where mounds of fresh snow lay in wait.  “Lay down, Danny.”

Jack lay down supine on the ground.  Daniel looked like he thought Jack had lost his mind, but seeing that same “humor me” expression again, he, too, lay on the ground a few feet from his soulmate.

“Do this,” Jack said, spreading his arms and legs in the snow.  Daniel was sure Jack had gone crazy.  “Snow Angels, Danny.  You've never made a snow angel, either, have you?”  Jack saw Daniel shake his head.  ~Another new family tradition.~  “Just do this, and get up carefully.”

“Wow,” Daniel said looking at the impressions they'd left in the deep snow.  He had to admit it felt good to frolic in the snow.

“Snow Angels.”

“My Angel,” Jack said caressing Daniel's cheek with his hand.  

“My Precious Angel,” he repeated, kissing Daniel softly.

“Hey, your hands are cold!”

“What do you expect?  We've been playing in the snow.  Cold hands come with the territory.”

“Playing in the snow.  Gawd, Jack,” Daniel said softly.  The concept of play, something so basic, was sometimes so foreign to the archaeologist; but Daniel didn't get lost in the sorrow of an adult childhood.  Instead, a smile formed on his face, and it grew wide from the pleasure the last hour had given him.  His eyes shined as he looked at his lover.  “This was fun, Jack.”

“So's this,” Jack said, lowering his own personal Snow Angel to the ground.  It was even colder, but they didn't care.

“You're crazy, Jack,” Daniel laughed.

“Getting there,” Jack said as he rolled them over so that Jack's back was against the ground.  “We'll make our joint Snow Angel.  Like this.”

With Daniel on top of him, they spread their arms and legs and made the biggest Snow Angel impression in the snow that they could.  It felt so silly to Daniel, and finally, he broke out in a loud roar of laughter, and the two rolled over.

“My Precious Snow Angel,”Jack said, sneaking a quick kiss as he snaked his hand under Daniel's blue silk shirt and began to tickle him.

“Jaaaack!”

Their frolic in the snow went on for another thirty minutes.  They were alone, free, and happy.  Snowflakes covered them, and it was chilly, but they didn't care.  Daniel had broken loose of the nightmare at last, and Jack's heart sang in response.

“I love you, Jack.  I love our life, even when it's scary.”

“I love you, Danny.  Are you happy?”

“Oh yes, Jack.  I'm so happy.  I love you so freakin' much.  Let's go back to the room.”

“No time for that, you know.  Plane leaves in two hours.”

“Let's play hooky,” Daniel suggested, a seductive and devious grin on his face.

~So beautiful!  Look at you -- grinning like an old bear.  I've waited so long for that.~  “Daniel?  Hooky?”

“I'd never built a snowman before, Jack, or made Snow Angels, and I've never played hooky.  What's General Hammond going to do, make you retire and fire me?  Jack, I want to play hooky, and I want to stay and play in the snow, and make love to you.”

“I love you, Daniel Jackson.”

“Jack?  What do we name our children?”

Jack laughed, and answered, “Let's play hooky and discuss it.”

====

General Hammond walked into his office and read the message on his desk that had been placed there by his secretary.  It read simply:

“We're playing hooky.  You can punish us after recess.  Get Murray to substitute.  Be back soon.

J and D”

Major General George Hammond shook his head and smiled, his smile turning into an amused and acquiescent grin as he sat down.

“Sergeant Davis, ask Teal'c to come to my office,” Hammond requested.  ~Hooky.  Now that beats all.~
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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