The Right to be Free

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  5 - immediately after Beast of Burden
Spoilers:  Beast of Burden, The First Ones, and extremely minor ones for Fire and Water, Need, and The Other Side
Size:  78kb
Written:  March 23-24, April 17,22-23,28, May 2-4,7-11,13, 2006
Summary:  Jack and Daniel clash over how to handle Chaka's abduction, then their battles continue back on Earth as they fight over Daniel's decision to provide arms to the Unas.  Will the lover's relationship 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) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Bernadette, Jodi, QuinGem, Linda!

The Right to be Free
by Orrymain

====
--Current Time
====

General Hammond stood in the control room, awaiting the return of the SGC's flagship team.  He had a suspicion that things had taken a wrong turn since SG-1 hadn't returned on schedule nor made their scheduled check-in.  For a brief moment, he questioned his decision to give the team a 'go' on the unusual mission to P3X-888.

The mission had been at the request of Doctor Daniel Jackson, who had befriended an Unas named Chaka the year before.

~Befriended?~ Hammond thought, shaking his head.  ~I've heard some crazy tales in my time, but that was one of the strangest.~

It had been a long and emotional debriefing after that mission.  Daniel had been on a dig with SG-11, along with Doctor Robert Rothman, another highly respected archaeologist at the SGC who, while intelligent, lacked Daniel's ability to think outside of the box.  Sadly, Rothman had been killed during the subsequent rescue mission, shot by Colonel Jack O'Neill after the archaeologist had been taken over by a parasitic creature known as the Goa'uld.

~We almost lost Daniel, too,~ the major general thought as he heard the klaxons blaring, signaling that the wormhole was engaged.

While working on the dig, Daniel had been knocked unconscious and dragged away by a creature he later determined to be an Unas.  The Unas had, in fact, been the original hosts to the Goa'uld before the invasive symbiotes moved on to other lifeforms.  Though being held captive, the compassionate and inquisitive explorer had managed to form a bond with the Unas, so much so that by the time the rescue teams from the SGC had located Daniel, the Unas known as Chaka was no longer thinking of the human as his next meal or as a sacrifice to his tribe, but instead, as a friend.

~You had your share of injuries from that ordeal, Daniel,~ Hammond thought, watching as Major Samantha Carter walked through the Stargate, Teal'c not far behind her.  He saw her wave off the medical team he had called in as a precaution and felt relieved, though he was surprised to see the blonde make a funny face.  He tried to read her lips.  ~Major, did you just tell Doctor Frazier that if she was smart, she'd hightail it back to the infirmary and steer clear of ...~  He made a face as he processed the words.  ~Did you say Sylvester and Tweety?~

Hammond's confusion was short-lived as moments later, Daniel walked through the Stargate, Jack on his tail, the colonel's displeasure over something highly evident.

~Oh, I see,~ Hammond thought as he realized what Sam had meant after briefly getting a glimpse at the other half of SG-1.  Looking at Sergeant Davis, he ordered, “Tell SG-1 we'll debrief tomorrow morning at 0700.”

“Yes, Sir,” Davis acknowledged as he prepared to communicate the order.

~I think I have some paperwork to do,~ Hammond told himself, deciding a bit of distance from his flagship team wouldn't be a bad idea at the moment.

====

Down in the gate room, Daniel walked quickly down the ramp and past the military personnel, uncharacteristically pushing his Beretta into the weapons sergeant's hands.

Jack was equally brusque as he held out his P-90, not even looking at the woman standing there to take the powerful gun.

“I see what you mean,” Janet whispered to Sam.  “Coffee?”

“Yeah,” Sam replied emphatically, the two immediately heading towards the commissary, seemingly completely unnoticed by Jack and Daniel, who began their fast trek through the SGC corridors.

“Jack, if you had a problem with it, you should have said so while we were there,” Daniel rebutted, speaking rapidly as they walked.

“I did!” Jack exclaimed.  “You ignored me, spouting off some mumbo jumbo about rights.”

“And I was right!”

“No, you weren't,” Jack challenged as SGC personnel automatically began to clear the hallways, not wanting to be caught in the crossfire.  ~You were right in theory, maybe, but your method was questionable.~

“Stop whining after the fact, Jack,” Daniel retorted.

“I whined when you were doing it,” Jack spat back, groaning when he realized what he had said.

“You didn't tell me not to do it,” the younger man argued, his arm thrown out in front of him as he talked.

“Well, I wasn't going to tell you to shut up,” Jack barked.  He quickly noted in a light though slightly sarcastic voice, “Been there, done that.”

“Very funny, Colonel O'Neill,” Daniel wryly responded as he rolled his eyes.

Extending his right arm out as he spoke, Jack asked, “What did you want me to do, Daniel -- turn you over my knee and *spank* you?”

Daniel froze in his tracks, then slowly turned around, gaping like a guppy at the older man.  As he did so, three Marines watched with curious delight, smirks on their faces.  Passersby Tracey O'Connor and Casey Hemmings, on their way to the commissary, each reacted as well, Tracey by giggling and Casey by silently thinking, ~Oh, I'd like to try that.  Yeah, baby.  'Come' to me, Daniel.  I'll gladly put you over my knee and spank you.~

Sternly, Daniel replied, “I'm going to forget you said that, Colonel.”

Jack cocked his head, flippantly responding, “I don't care if you do or not.  If you act like a child, *Doctor Jackson*, I'm going to treat you like one.”  Suddenly, Jack spun away and spat to the gawking Marines, “Don't you have somewhere else to be?”

“No,” one of the Marines erred in saying, backing away and widening his eyes in horror when Jack took one step towards him.  “I mean, Sir, yes, Sir.”

Jack watched as the Marines went on their way and then turned back to his lover, taking a deep breath.

Daniel said quietly, “I wasn't wrong, Jack.”

“You gave a zat gun to an Unas, Daniel!” Jack accused forcefully.  “He killed, right in front of us, with you standing there shouting at him not to.  He killed a man in cold blood.”

“A man who had killed countless Unas in his lifetime and one who treated the Unas like slaves, with no thought to their needs or wants.  He treated them like things.  You saw that, Jack, even after we told him that Chaka belonged to us.  Cold blood?  We were in a battle, and Chaka came face to face with a ... a demon who ...”

“He was a man, Daniel,” Jack quickly interjected.  “He was lying on the ground, completely helpless.  The Unas knew exactly what he was doing.”

“So, I guess that makes him almost human then, doesn't it, Jack?” Daniel asked a bit coldly.  “Read the paper.  Watch the news.  How many people die that way every day on Earth?”

Jack sighed in disgust, shaking his head at the comparison.

Daniel continued, “Chaka acted independently, making that choice himself, fighting for survival.  It was a 'kill or be killed' situation, one that we've been in countless times.  If Burrock had managed to get his hands on another weapon, he would not have hesitated to kill, Chaka, and you know it, Jack!”

“Fine,” Jack reluctantly gave in.  “But that doesn't change the fact that you armed them with a zat!”

Daniel let out a snort, replying, “He already had the staff weapon.  We saw villagers with staff weapons all over the place, and Burrock's men had zats.  Somehow, I think the Unas could have gotten one on their own without my zat.”

Raising his shoulders in frustration, Jack shouted, “Then why did you give them *yours*?”

“He's *my* friend.  Gawd,” Daniel spat in complete frustration as he turned away for a minute.  Then, looking back at Jack, he responded, “I have news for you, Jack.  An Unas is a living being.  Stop acting like Chaka is some sort of monster,” Daniel requested.

“He looks like one,” Jack replied a bit flippantly.

After staring in amazement for a moment, Daniel shook his head, turned around, and kept walking.

“DANIEL!” Jack called out, then jogging a few steps to catch up with his rather annoyed lover.

“I can't believe you said that,” Daniel snapped as he stepped onto the already-open elevator, giving the airman who was already inside a quick smile before turning and glaring at Jack.

“Well, it's between Chaka and Nem for the Creature from the Black Lagoon Makeup Award.”

“Gawd, now you're acting like a *child*!” Daniel exclaimed as Jack entered the elevator and stood beside him.  “Maybe I should put *you* over *my* knee and spank you.”

All of a sudden, Daniel felt the airman brush by him, stopping the doors from closing and whispering an urgent, “Excuse me.”

“Aren't you going up?” Daniel asked.

“No, I can wait,” the airman replied, not wanting to endure the ride up with the bickering teammates, and swiftly moved into the corridor, breathing a sigh of relief at his narrow escape.

Daniel sighed, glancing at Jack as the doors shut.

“Look what you made me say!” the archaeologist complained.

“Me?” Jack responded, pointing at himself.  “Daniel, if there's one thing I know it's that you have a big mouth, and it's full of words.”

Giving his lover a cool look, Daniel replied, “And that's all it's going to be full of for a long, long time,” and then looked straight ahead at the closed doors.

“Look, I know you think this Chaka Khan is ...”

“Just ... Chaka, Jack.  We're in the two-thousands, not the twelfth century; and what on Earth is the connection between Chaka and Genghis Khan anyway?” Daniel both asked and chastised, trying not to lose his temper again.

“Beats me.  I was talking about Chaka Khan, the singer who ... ” Jack trailed off, seeing Daniel's blank look.  It was obvious his lover had no idea who he was talking about.  “Forget it.  Look, Daniel, I know you think *Chaka* is some cool new friend that you can run outside and play with, but ...”

“Shut up, Jack,” Daniel commanded as he self-hugged.

“Excuse me?” the older man questioned incredulously, placing his right hand over his chest innocently.

“You're being condescending.  If you have something to say, say it without acting like an imbecile,” Daniel instructed.

“Name calling has never been your style, Daniel,” Jack said as the elevator came to a stop on the eighteenth floor.

“Being good at it, Jack, isn't something to be proud of,” Daniel retaliated as the doors open.  “Remember, Chaka helped us get off the planet.  An Unas died in the process.  It just as easily could have been one of us.”  As he walked out, he thought, ~I can't believe he's acting like this.~

Pausing a moment to let his lover's words sink in, Jack suddenly realized the doors were about to close.  He pushed them back just in time to get out and then hurried to catch up with the SGC's Head of Archaeology.

“Daniel, don't change the subject, and before you ask me what it is, it's Chaka and you giving him a weapon,” Jack spoke, a challenge and accusation in his tone.

“It was the right thing to do,” Daniel argued for the umpteenth time.

“It was an asinine thing to do,” Jack barked as they rounded the corner, Daniel entering the door to his office.

“And you would certainly know about being an ...” Daniel began.

“Colonel O'Neill, I was ...” a female airman interrupted, having caught a glimpse of Jack on the eighteenth floor and needing to discuss something with him.  However, she hadn't realized the severity of the current Jack and Daniel 'discussion' when she interrupted the two men.  ~Not a good decision,~ she instantly told herself as she felt the tenseness of the room.

“WHAT?” Jack shouted as he twisted around, his eyes glaring at the airman, who backed away two steps.

“It can wait, Colonel.  Excuse me, please,” the airman said, quickly turning and not even looking back.  Looking back, Jack continued, “Dan...iel.”  He walked in a few steps.  “Daniel?”

The colonel grunted.  His lover had just given him the slip, exiting his office through the other door.

~Conniving little archaeologist,~ Jack said to himself before heading to the locker room.  ~How'd we get into this mess anyway?~

====
--Two Days Earlier
====

~No,~ Daniel bewailed as he rewatched the image in front of him in horror.  He'd been reviewing tapes from P3X-888, studying the Unas.  ~What have I done?~  Feeling overwhelmed with guilt, Daniel made a beeline for Jack's office.  ~Jack will help.~

The archaeologist reached Jack's office and was met with a welcoming smile.

“Daniel!  You've come to save me from paperwork,” Jack eagerly spoke, a huge grin on his face.  His happy expression quickly turned into a frown when he took a closer look at his fretting lover.  “What's wrong, Danny?”

“It's Chaka,” Daniel answered softly.  He was looking at his feet and missed the involuntary shudder that ran through Jack.  ~My fault.  Gawd, I should have known better.~

~I hate that Unas,~ Jack thought viciously.  ~He kidnapped you, Danny, and intended to serve you up to his buddies as dinner.  How in Netu can you forgive him for that?~

“He's been captured, Jack,” Daniel continued, looking up at his lover and feeling dismayed to see the indifferent expression on Jack's face.
 
~Couldn't happen to a more deserving Unas,~ Jack thought, but wisely refrained from voicing, settling for shrugging in response to the younger man's statement.  “So?”

“So?  *SO*?” Daniel asked with a raised voice.  He glared at Jack, searching for any indication that his lover was actually more concerned than he appeared.  Finding none, he shook his head.  “Forget it, Jack,” Daniel said, stalking out of his soulmate's office and slamming the door behind him.

Jack looked at the closed door and shook his head as he thought, ~You can't save everyone, Danny.~

====

Pacing around in his office, Daniel alternated between cursing himself, Jack, and the military attitude.

“This is all my fault,” the scientist spoke aloud as he fidgeted with a rubber band that he held in his hands.  “Okay, stop thinking like me and ... think like Jack.  What would make General Hammond authorize a rescue mission?”  After a moment, he took a calming breath and picked up the phone.  ~I can fix this.  I *have* to fix this.~

====

A short time later, Daniel was in the SGC briefing room with General Hammond and the rest of SG-1.

~Okay, make this work, Jackson.  The facts are on your side.  Just because you have an emotional tie to this ... mission, don't blow it,~ Daniel told himself as he stood up and turned down the lights.

General Hammond and the rest of SG-1 stood and followed Daniel over to the large screen that one of the technical sergeants had set up in the briefing room.

“As you know, over the past year, I have been studying the Unas of P3X-888, and I've made some *amazing* discoveries about their social structure and their culture,” Daniel explained.  “I've also been able to categorize over seventy different words from their ... language, but, during a review of the latest batch of digital images, I came across this.”  Daniel paused to turn on the digital video, then continued, “These men, whoever they are, abducted the Unas I refer to as Chaka.”

~I remember him,~ Sam thought.  “That's the one that kidnapped you?”

“Same one,” Daniel acknowledged.  ~Keep going.~  “Their dress indicates preindustrialization, but they don't seem to have any Jaffa tattoos, so the presence of Goa'uld weapons seems contradictory.”

“Indeed,” Teal'c confirmed strongly.

“What would they want with an Unas?” Jack inquired.  ~Better question:  what makes you think I'm going to let you go anywhere near that Unas after the last time?~

“I don't know ... but I'd like to find out,” the archaeologist answered.

~Over my dead body,~ the colonel silently vowed.

“What are you suggesting?” Hammond asked.  ~I think I know, Son, but I'm hoping this doesn't lead to a hornet's nest.~

“Well, like I said, I'd like to find out what they want with an Unas,” Daniel answered.  ~He wants something more concrete.~

Jack interjected, “For the record ... I don't ... care.”  ~I really don't.~  He saw the stares of his teammates.  ~Oh, come on.  Fine.~  He relented, saying, “I care.”  ~I care that Daniel doesn't become dessert for anyone but me, and I'm not anxious to be an Unas' main course, either.~

Daniel added, “I also think it might be relevant to investigate how they got Goa'uld weapons and from where.”  He looked at Hammond, thinking, ~That should do it.  Please, General.~

Teal'c concurred, stating, “They may have other Goa'uld technology as well.”

~Thanks, Teal'c,~ Daniel silently spoke.

“Now see? *That* I really care about,” Jack replied.  ~Only because he's now got Hammond on the edge of his fishing hook.  Nice bait there, Dannyboy.~

“And, if possible, I'd like to make every effort to *rescue* ... Chaka,” Daniel admitted.

~I knew it,~ Jack thought.  “The Unas?”

Walking slowly towards his lover, Daniel responded, “Remember, most of the Unas we've encountered have had Goa'uld symbiotes controlling them.  Chaka is an un-Goa'ulded Unas, ah, an intelligent being who learned to *trust humans* because of me.”

“And ...?” Jack prompted.  ~If you think I'm going to make this easy, you're wrong.~

Daniel turned back to the screen, reversing it to a spot near the beginning, and then explaining, “These images were taken just prior to the abduction. See, every time I went back with SG-11 to retrieve the video footage, I would leave Chaka a gift.”  Daniel froze the image to the point where Chaka held out something to the off-worlders who were about to abduct him.  “It's uh ... it's an energy bar ... it's something that helped me ... *break through* when we first met.”  More emotionally, he confided the guilt he felt when he added, “I left the bait for their trap.”

~And that's why nothing we say is going to get through your thick skull,~ Jack thought.  ~You feel guilty, Danny.  Geez, it's just an Unas.  Okay, right to life and all that, but this Unas dragged you halfway across that planet intending to make you the evening meal.  I can't forget that.~

~DanielJackson feels a need to help this Unas.  He is my friend.  I owe him my support,~ Teal'c silently vowed.

~A hornet's nest,~ Hammond inwardly sighed.

~Okay, Daniel, I'm game,~ Sam thought.  Breaking the silence that had filled the room for a few seconds, she asked, “How do we find out where these men took him?”

Daniel fast-forwarded the footage, focusing in on the DHD and the Gate address which the off-worlders had used lit up.

~You won't take 'no' for an answer,~ Jack inwardly realized.  “Well, General, if they've got Goa'uld weapons, you gotta wonder what else they got.”  Using the non-verbal communication between he and his lover, he said, **Nice touch with the weapons angle.**

“You have a go,” Hammond announced and then walked away.

“Thank you,” Daniel responded, to both Hammond and Jack's private thought.  ~I could have used more support from you, Jack.~

Jack checked his watch, ordering, “We'll leave in one hour.  Carter, I want zats for everyone on this mission.”

“Yes, Sir,” the major responded before heading towards the armory.

“You have reservations, O'Neill,” Teal'c asked as he stood, hands clasped together behind his back, facing Jack.

“Come on, Teal'c,” Jack pleaded.  “You know better than anyone how dangerous those ... things are.”

“Indeed, the Unas can be dangerous,” Teal'c agreed as he looked over at Daniel, who lowered his head.  Then he looked back at Jack and stated, “It is also true that Chaka is not the Unas we killed on Cimmeria.  They are of separate origins, O'Neill.  I have no fear of DanielJackson's Unas.”

“Daniel's Unas?” Jack asked incredulously.  Then he sighed, shaking his head for a moment.  “Go on, get ready,” he ordered.

Daniel put down the remote control and began to head out the door when he felt Jack's hand tug on his right arm.

“You could have told me what you were thinking,” Jack stated sternly.

“Jack, I told you Chaka had been captured.  Your response was, 'So?'.  I knew then I'd have to fight for this mission,” Daniel admitted.

“He almost killed you,” Jack reminded.

“We've been through that, over and over again,” Daniel pointed out.

Jack sighed, frustration filling every pore in his body.

“Excuse me,” Daniel said, walking away before Jack could say anything more.

====

“The UAV shows the nearest of the surrounding towns to be three clicks in that direction.  Evidence of a substantial population, lots of cultivated fields,”
Sam reported just after SG-1 arrived on the planet where they believed Chaka had been abducted to.

“Farmers?” Daniel asked, a bit surprised to hear about the fields.

“Farmers with staff weapons,” Jack noted as he led the way, looking around and taking in their surroundings.  ~Okay, so they aren't ordinary farmers -- cultivating something more than corn, I'd say.~

====

From their spot atop a hill, with the town visible in the distance below them, all four members of SG-1 kneeled down to the ground to avoid being seen.  Daniel looked through his binoculars, spying an Unas pulling a log.  He was dismayed to see a man holding a whip behind the Unas.

~He's a ... slave,~ Daniel thought.  “Domestication,” he spoke aloud.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  He looked at his 2IC and, motioning with his left hand towards Daniel, stated, “We'll check things out down there.  Carter, you and Teal'c hang back, cover us in case these folks don't like visitors.”  Turning his back to Sam to allow her to remove his backpack, he faced Daniel, who had already removed his own pack, and asked, “Any ideas?”

“Well, let's ... see how far honesty gets us,” the archaeologist proposed earnestly.

“Okay,” Jack agreed.  ~That'll be a first,~ he thought as he stood and began the trek down the hill.

“You're skeptical,” Daniel said, feeling his lover's hesitancy as they moved down the hill.

“Daniel, I'm always skeptical, but, hey, you want to try playing this the Honest Abe way, I'm game,” Jack replied.

“There's nothing wrong with being open,” Daniel responded, jumping over a clump of bushes that was in his path.

“Of course, there isn't, but what we saw of those folks down there makes me wonder if that's advisable in this situation,” the colonel observed.

“Well, it's worth a shot, Jack,” Daniel argued.

“I'm not arguing, Daniel.  We'll be honest.  I'll even let you do all the talking. That's what your good at,” Jack noted.

Daniel paused for a moment, watching his lover continuing to go down the hill.

~I'm not sure I like that line, but ...~

“You coming?” Jack asked, looking upwards towards his lover.

“Oh, uh, yeah,” Daniel replied, moving quickly to catch up.

====

Entering the center of town, Jack and Daniel witnessed the murder of an Unas as he attempted to escape from an auction block.  The Unas was felled just a few feet in front of them.

**Jack, did you see that?** Daniel asked, shocked by what he'd just seen.

**It's hard to miss, Daniel.  There's a dead Unas at our feet,** Jack replied.

**They were auctioning him off, like ... like ...**

**Daniel, we don't know what's going on here.  Let's stay calm until we can find out what they're doing and why,** Jack suggested, maintaining a firm grip on his P-90.

A big, burly man wearing a black hat and carrying a staff weapon calmly told the newcomers, “Do not fear, it's dead.”

Jack replied antagonistically, “Yeah.  Shoot something like that in the back a couple times, it's ...”

“Who are you?” the burly man inquired as he stood regally while holding his staff weapon still aimed in the direction of the two men he was addressing.

Daniel responded, “We're travelers ... *peaceful* travelers.”

“Where do you come from?  I've not seen your kind before,” the man asked as he studied the two men, not yet sure of their intent.

“Well, actually, we came through the ... the Stargate,” Daniel answered, pointing behind him in the direction of the object.  Then he stuttered, “The, um ...” and began making a circle in the air in front of him and then pointing behind him again.

~What happens to him when it comes to these introductions anyway?~ Jack thought.  ~It's like he short circuits.  I wonder if it's strategy, and he's never admitted it.  Hmmm, makes him seem less sharp.  Actually, gives him an advantage.  Sly, Danny, very sly.~

“Chaapa'ai?” the man finished.

“Chaapa'ai,” Daniel acknowledged firmly, nodding his head in affirmation as well.

“Really?” the man asked.

“Yes,” Daniel confirmed, noticing the villagers whispering.

The man replied, “No one has come through the chaapa'ai for as long as anyone can remember.”

Jack quipped, “Well, now you'll have a story to tell your grandkids.”

Daniel added, “We come from a planet called Earth.”

“What do you want?” the large man inquired.

~Okay, skip the honesty,~ Daniel decided.  “Actually we came to ... trade.”

“ Hmm?” Jack responded subtly.  **What happened to honesty?**

**Stuff it, Jack,** Daniel replied.

“Really?” the man asked with intrigue, seeing the visitors in a new light.

Nodding, Daniel informatively spoke, “We're looking for an Unas.”

“Well, then, you've come to the right place,” the man stated, finally relaxing a little and moving his staff weapon to his side.  “I'm the most respected dealer of Unas in this land.  My name is Burrock.”

Daniel replied, “I'm Daniel Jackson; this is Colonel Jack O'Neill.”

“Colonel?” Burrock asked, unfamiliar with the word.

The archaeologist explained, “Yes, it means he's our head ... trader.”

Jack glanced at Daniel in disbelief as he repeated, “*Head* trader?”  **Well, I have a few ideas about ...**

Jack's non-verbal thoughts were spurred on by a grinning Daniel, but silenced by the reality of the situation when Burrock opined, “I like that, and you can call me Colonel Burrock.  It is our custom to welcome visitors with a drink.  Will you join me?”

Lightheartedly, Jack responded in an upbeat tone, “It is our custom *to* drink.  Of course!”

Burrock smiled and walked by the visitors.  Daniel smiled in return, while Jack simply stood for a moment processing it all.

When Burrock was far enough away, Jack challenged his lover, asking, “Honesty, huh?”

“We're traders,” the younger man claimed, not with the greatest of confidence.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, walking away.  **But we usually play traders when we're in the bathtub, not dealing with full-of-themselves, Unas-killing farmers.**

“We traded.  We trade.  Traders ...” Daniel spoke, trying to convince himself, finally turning around to follow Jack to the building where Burrock had gone. Hearing his lover's silent message, Daniel retorted, **Jack, not here.**

It was a brief moment of lightheartedness between the two, but both had a hunch it wouldn't last long.  The situation they were in was much too serious and dangerous to allow many moments of levity, spoken or unspoken.

--

Jack and Daniel followed Burrock to what amounted to a saloon where all the drinks were served by domesticated Unas.  Jack and Daniel both looked upon this negatively, and Burrock was taken aback when Daniel actually thanked one of the creatures for serving them.

“You thank a beast?” Burrock asked in amusement.

“Yes, uh ... positive reinforcement,” Daniel explained.  “We find it a successful method of training.”

“I'm curious to learn more about your methods and to learn more about where you came from,” Burrock stated.

As the conversation continued, Burrock revealed that they'd never understood why there were so many symbols on the pedestal, which was actually the DHD.  He had randomly tried many combinations, but never had any success.  Seeing Jack and Daniel here, though, he suspected he was right.

“The chaapa'ai goes *many* places, does it not?” Burrock asked.

“Haven't you traveled to other worlds?” Daniel inquired in response.

The large man explained he had been to only one other place, which Daniel knew was Chaka's planet.

**Danny, this is the worst beer I've ever had,** Jack expressed silently as he grimaced at his drink.

**Who says it's beer?** Daniel responded, grinning for a moment at Jack's horrified expression before returning his attention to Burrock's comments.

Burrock had paid a heavy price for the address, which had been passed down through certain families since “The Beast Wars.”

“Beast Wars?” Jack questioned.

Burrock explained, “Generations ago, the beasts enslaved our forefathers through terror and oppression.  They served the one with the glowing eyes.”

“And, what happened to him, her?” Daniel asked.

“No one knows,” Burrock answered.  “One day he went away, did not return. Our forefathers -- they learned how the beast weapons worked and led an
uprising.  The war was bloody, waged for many years, but, eventually, the slaves triumphed, and the masters became the slaves.  Since then, the beasts have served us.”

--

Eventually, Burrock led Jack and Daniel to an area outside where an Unas was caged and being taught obedience through torture.  Burrock claimed the fault was generations of in-breeding and that the Unas would have to be put down.

Daniel felt ill at what he saw and thought, ~I'm so sorry, Chaka.  I never imagined this would happen.  I just wanted to be your friend.~  He sighed and communicated, **Jack, they treat the Unas like they're nothing.**

**I can see that, Daniel,** Jack replied as both followed Burrock, who was now talking about the solution being the addition of “new blood.”

They passed other Unas being treated in the same manner, farmers using sticks to tease and  torture the creatures in an effort to train them.

Burrock took Jack and Daniel inside a barn where yet more of the Unas were kept.

Approaching one very frisky beast, Burrock proudly noted, “This one ... will make me the wealthiest beastmaster in the land.”

The Unas attempted to get to Burrock, but then he saw Jack and Daniel and stopped, recognition setting in.  He stared at Daniel, the two exchanging a look of friendship.

“Dan'el,” the Unas spoke.

“He speaks?” the large man inquired, shocked by what he had heard.

Having approached the cage where Chaka was, Daniel admitted that the Unas in question belonged to him and that's why he knew his name.  Burrock was outraged by the information, believing he'd been deceived by the visitors.  He angrily told Jack and Daniel that the beasts bore his mark and no others.

Chaka, meanwhile, rattled the cell doors, wanting Daniel to free him.

“You heard him say my name,” Daniel responded, holding his ground and ready to fight for Chaka's freedom.

“I caught him in the wild at the other place,” Burrock pointed out agitatedly, not succumbing to Daniel's claim.

Speaking rapidly, the archaeologist explained, “Well, it was part of an experiment I was conducting.  I'm sorry, but I ... really need him back.”

“I am sorry,” Burrock replied, his insincerity obvious.  “You cannot have him,” he stated forcefully as two armed men entered the barn, having heard the raised voices inside.

Jack let out a groan as he glanced at his lover and communicated, **Daniel, we can't do this now.**

**I know, Jack,** Daniel reluctantly agreed, though still not wanting to leave his friend in the control of a tyrant like Burrock.  **But ... we have to do something.  We can't let him keep Chaka like this.  You saw ...**

**Yes, Daniel, I saw, but I also know we're a long way from home, and Colonel Head Trader over there isn't about to give up an Unas without a fight,** Jack replied forcefully.

Burrock offered another Unas in Chaka's place, but Daniel refused, saying firmly, even aggressively, “You don't understand.  This ones name is Chaka, and he is coming with me.”

Angered, Burrock began to walk towards them.  The tenseness of the situation had just escalated immensely.

“Daniel,” Jack spoke.  **Listen to me.**

“Jack,” Daniel replied.  **Get Chaka out of here, and I will.**

Jack suggested, “Why don't we discuss what we can offer the man in return.”  **Don't argue with me, or we may die right here.**  “Shall we?  Let's go outside.”

Having little choice at the moment, Daniel signaled to Chaka, then reluctantly went outside with Jack.

Quietly but forcefully, Jack told his lover, “Daniel, we're *not* gonna get into a fire fight over this right now.”

From behind them, Burrock commented, “If you expect to trade for that Unas, do not think it will come cheap.”

The lovers stopped, turning to face their current adversary.

“So, what's your price?” Jack inquired, figuring they had nothing to lose in asking.

“Two Unas of equally pure lineage,” the man answered.

“Two for one, eh,” Jack retorted.

“Your Unas is worth it, or you would not have traveled all this way.  Besides, you obviously have more sophisticated methods for capturing and training them,” Burrock replied.

“We'll ... think about it,” Jack told Burrock.  He motioned to his lover, plucking at his vest, and said, “Come on,” heading back out of town.

--

Feeling a bit confused, Daniel trailed after his lover, calling out, “Excuse me. You, uh, have some sort of plan to do something about this, or ...”

“Well, right now, I'm not sure I'm gonna do anything,” Jack confessed reluctantly, knowing how well his response would be taken.  He alternated between looking at his lover and keeping an eye on the villagers, well aware that they were in a precarious situation.  ~We need to get out of here.~

Incredulously, Daniel asked, “How can you say that?”

Jack answered, “Daniel, you wanna go out and catch a couple Unas, trade 'em for Chaka -- is that it?”

Daniel replied with an edge in his tone, “I think you're missing the point here.”

“Am I?” the older man asked sharply.

“You saw how they keep them, how they treat them,” Daniel pointed out.  ~I know you're not blind.~

“Daniel, I'm not saying any of this is right.  I'm saying I don't know what to do about it,” Jack admitted.  ~And, this isn't the place to discuss it.  Let's get the heck out of here.~

Daniel responded bluntly, “I'm not asking you to change their way of life, but ... Chaka wasn't born in this kind of ... domestication.  He's known freedom his whole life.  The Unas of his planet live together in families.  They love their children; they have art.”

“Oh, yes, I've seen the cave drawings,” Jack mused sarcastically.  ~As I recall, your blood was a featured part of one of them.~

Point blank, Daniel stated, “I will not leave him here like this.”

“Even if it means risking human lives?” Jack asked, staring intently into his soulmate's eyes.  ~Come on, Danny.  Give me a break here.~

Daniel replied, “We should be able to avoid that, shouldn't we?”

Jack grimaced and headed back up the hill, away from the town, where they would rendezvous with Sam and Teal'c.

“There may not be a way to avoid it, Daniel,” Jack stated as they walked.  “And, I'm not sure that's something we want to do.”

“Jack, we don't have a choice.  We *have* to help them,” Daniel claimed.  “If we leave them here, like this, we are as guilty as Burrock and his people are.”

Jack glanced back at Daniel, shaking his head, saying, “We're not the ones forcing the Unas to live like ... trained pets.”

“No, but if we leave here, fully aware that this is happening, *knowing* that the Unas are *not* pets, then we *are* as bad as Burrock.  We have to do something, Jack,” Daniel maintained forcefully.

Jack stopped, turning to face his stubborn soulmate, and said, “What exactly do you want us to do -- start a war?”

“No, of course not,” Daniel answered.

“Then what?” Jack questioned harshly.

“Find ... find an 'or',” the younger man requested.  He felt angry, hurt, disgusted, and, more than anything else, responsible for Chaka's fate.  He didn't feel like he could ask his soulmate directly to push the boundaries on this mission, but he couldn't help silently hoping for it.  ~Please, Jack.  I know its not fair to ask this of you, but ... it's my fault they were able to capture Chaka.  I need you to come through for me.~

“Daniel ... oh, for crying out loud,” Jack groaned, continuing the trek up the hill and this time not planning on saying anything more.  He had no clue about his lover's silent plea.  ~Why won't he let this go?~

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, we'll do our best, but we're not going to lose human life because of ... of ...”

“Because of what?” Daniel asked angrily, frustrated when Jack refused to answer.  “Jack, I won't leave Chaka here,” he reiterated, his determination coming through loud and clear.

“I heard you the first time, Daniel,” Jack snapped.

====

When they reached their teammates, Jack and Daniel filled them in on what was happening in the town, and then Jack announced that after nightfall, he and Daniel would attempt to extract Chaka.  From their perch on the top of the hill, they watched Burrock using a firestick to torture an Unas in his ill conceived attempt at training him.

Daniel still felt sick inside.  As far as he was concerned, it was like watching a fellow human being suffer.

**Jack, please, we have to get Chaka out of here,** he pleaded.

**Daniel, I said we'll try,** Jack replied, hating the look of anguish and despair he saw on Daniel's face.  He watched anxiously as the younger man turned and walked away.  ~Crap!~ Jack thought as he, too, felt sick, though his reason was different than Daniel's.

The lovers were at odds.  For Daniel, it hurt as much to be on opposite sides of the fence from Jack as it did for him to see Chaka treated like a slave.  For Jack, it bothered him to see any creature mistreated, but he couldn't reconcile losing human life to save Chaka, either.  At the same time, he knew how passionately his lover felt about the situation.  This left the two men fighting each other in the middle of fighting the situation, and neither was very fond of that reality.

====

Finally, nightfall came under the cover of darkness.  Jack and Daniel stealthily made their way inside the barn where Chaka and other Unas were locked inside their cages.  As he rigged the door to blow up the lock, Jack urged Daniel to warn Chaka to move back.

When the younger man used English to tell Chaka to move, Jack mused, “I could have said that.”  As Daniel switched languages, Jack finished setting the small explosive, thinking, ~Sometimes, he amazes me.~

Finally, Jack lit the fuse, causing some of the other Unas to growl and shake their bars, having not seen bright light and hearing the crackling burning of the fuse like that before.

“Oh, Crap!” Jack exclaimed, having looked at the agitated Unas.  He quickly opened the door and stated, “Come on, we gotta go!”

Jack moved towards the front of the barn as Daniel cajoled Chaka to leave, but the Unas kept pointing to the others of his kind.  Despite the increasing urgency in Daniel's cajoling, Chaka still refused to go, telling Daniel that the others were marked for death.
 
~Gawd!~  Daniel immediately relayed the information to his lover and continued to try and persuade Chaka to come with them.  ~I don't like it, either, Chaka, but we don't have time to rescue all of them.~

Jack glanced back, definitively saying, “Daniel, with or without him, we gotta *go*.”

At that point, Sam alerted Jack over the radio that the villagers were coming. A moment later, Teal'c fired his weapon with Sam joining the battle immediately after that.

“At least ten men heading your way.  We're laying down cover fire,” Sam called out over the radio.

Unfortunately, that was the last thing the lovers heard for quite some time as Burrock and his men overtook them with the use of zat guns, leaving Sam and Teal'c to regroup up on the hill.

====

**Jack, are you going to talk to me or not?** Daniel asked the next morning. He and his lover were separated, held in their own cages with Chaka and another Unas in cages between them.  **Jack?  Please!**

Sitting beneath a tiny window, with his face in his hands, Jack responded, **Right at this minute, Daniel, I have nothing to say.**

**I'm sorry.**

**So, what else is new?** Jack responded.

**I didn't know Chaka wouldn't come with us,** Daniel retaliated.  ~I screwed up, but ...~ he sighed, silently wondering why Jack couldn't forgive him this one time when he'd forgiven Jack so many times for one thing or another.

**Better brush up on your communication skills then, shouldn't you?** Jack bitterly replied.

**He's just trying to save his friends,** Daniel responded.  ~Come on, Jack.  You've done the same thing as Chaka, refusing to go and leave others behind.~

**His friends?**  Jack groaned.  **Daniel, I have a headache.**

Frustrated, Daniel said nothing more, just lingered in his despair and guilt while trying to figure a way out of their current predicament.  At the same time, he was trying not to wonder if this would be the straw that broke the camel's back in his relationship with Jack.

~One of these days, he won't be able to forgive you these stunts, Jackson,~ Daniel silently berated himself.

All of a sudden, the silence ended when they heard  Sam's voice over the radio.  Standing up, Daniel deduced Chaka must have taken the radio from his vest before Burrock took it.  After all, Chaka had seen Daniel use the radio before and knew it was important to the archaeologist.

Jack watched, not having moved much, but thinking, ~How does he communicate with these aliens all the time?  I'm missing 'The Simpsons'.~

Chaka gave the radio to Daniel who sat back down on the hay and, with a little urgent coaxing from his lover, finally spoke, “Sam, it's Daniel.  Do you read?”

Walking through the woods with Teal'c, the major responded, “Daniel, are you okay?”

Glancing at Jack and then looking down, Daniel replied, “Uh, I've been better.”

“Colonel O'Neill?” Sam inquired.

Daniel answered, “Uh, physically, fine, but, uh ... I'm not expecting a
birthday present anytime soon.”

Sarcastically, Jack beckoned for the radio, using the Unas word for 'give'.  Once Jack had the radio, Sam informed him Jack that she and Teal'c had been outnumbered during the fire fight the night before and so had been unable to reach Jack and Daniel to help them.

“We're currently being pursued by search parties,” Sam continued, adding, “We're attempting to get to the Gate for reinforcements.”

After the radio conversation concluded, Chaka talked to Daniel for a moment about something.  Jack was curious because it seemed to be an intense discussion.

Chaka eventually looked over at the older man and spoke earnestly, “Chak'ka.”

“What's he saying?” a confused Jack asked.

Bowing his head, Daniel answered, “Well, actually it means a lot of different things.  In this particular case, I'd say, 'Thank you for trying to free me, sorry for ... getting you into this mess'.”  ~Kinda like I feel, too.~

Chaka repeated his expression of thanks to Jack.

Confused and unsure about it all, Jack replied, “Chaka ... full of nuts ... whatever.”

Frustrated by his soulmate's response, Daniel responded sharply, “Jack, it's not his fault.”

“Daniel,” Jack began.  “I'm chained up in a madman's barn with a bunch of Unas.  Who's to blame is not at the top of my list of concerns ... just yet.”  ~We have got to get out of here,~ he said to himself, looking around and searching for options.

Daniel watched the colonel for a moment, still feeling guilty as he lamented, ~I'm sorry, Jack, and ... and I'm really sorry that I'd do it all again.  It was the right thing to do, but ... maybe ... I don't know of another way, but I am sorry I got you into this.~
 
Daniel's internal debate was interrupted when another Unas spoke to Chaka, capturing the archeologist's attention.  He continued to watch as all of the Unas in the barn seemed to suddenly communicate with one another.  When Jack inquired what was so amazing, Daniel explained that language is a learned behavior, and so Chaka must have taught the other Unas his own language.  As the Unas continued to communicate, he realized that Chaka was now perceived to be the leader of the caged Unas.  Apparently, the others had understood that Chaka could have had his freedom with Jack and Daniel, but refused to leave the barn without them.

Jack attempted to argue the point, but Daniel held firm, saying, “Chaka made a choice.  The choice is freedom.  These Unas have pledged their allegiance to him *because* of that.”

“What are you saying?” Jack asked.

Daniel answered, “I'm saying that they want to be free, they ... they recognize what that means.”  As he continued to study the Unas interacting with one another, he amended his thoughts a few moments later.  “I was wrong.  Chaka isn't different.  These Unas may have been born into domestication, but they still know what freedom means.  They *know* it enough to *want* it.”

“You said yourself this is their way of life here,” Jack countered.  ~Crap, he's going to want to free all of them.~

“Well, it has to change,” Daniel spoke decisively.  ~We can't leave any of them behind.~

“How?” the older man questioned.  ~I knew it!~

“Well, we've meddled in other planet's cultures before ...” Daniel answered.

“Well, now you're talking about moving in an army,” Jack interjected.  ~Daniel, use your brain for something more than Unas 101.~

Thoughtfully, the younger man replied, “I'd like to think that there was another way.”

Sternly, Jack opined, “Look.  In principle, I agree with you ...”  ~What now?~

At that moment, an Unas entered the barn, bringing in a young boy.

~Or do I want to know?~ Jack wondered.  When the boy accused Jack of hurting his father, he thought, ~Nope, didn't want to know.~

Jack stared at the youngster, his mind automatically recalling his own young son who had died so tragically.  Finally, though, he answered by simply apologizing to the boy.

Daniel added, “We were just trying to take back an Unas that's rightfully
ours.”

“Stealing is wrong,” the boy replied, his gaze on Jack as he spoke.

“Yes, it is,” Jack agreed, confusing the youngster who left right after that.  With a sigh, Jack looked at his lover and proclaimed quietly, “Trust me, Daniel, a whole lot of people are gonna have to die around here before one Unas goes free.”

~Gawd, I know that,~ Daniel thought.  He didn't want to admit it verbally, though he gave a tiny nod.  ~But there are some wars that need to be fought, like the Civil War,~ he rationalized.  ~That was over slavery, too, in part, anyway.  Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with the human race.~

About then, Sam checked in over the radio, reporting, “We're at the Gate, Sir, but it's heavily guarded.  We can attempt to get through, but it's gonna get ugly.”

Jack ordered, “All right, hold your position,” then paused, hearing a noise.  “Radio silence.  Gotta go!”

Burrock entered the barn, stating, “Beast stealing is punishable by death.”  Then, strutting like a king towards the center of the barn, he pronounced, “But it is my hope that *that* will not be necessary, but that will be up to you.  I also know that there were others with you, and that they may try to rescue you.  That will not be wise.  I will not hesitate to kill you.”

“What do you want?” Daniel asked, perturbed.

Burrock walked to stand in front of Daniel's cage and with an awe in his tone demanded, “Tell me of the places where the Chaapa'ai can go.”  He paused, seeing that his prisoner was not going to answer.  “I do not understand why you take such risks for this beast.  He's very valuable to me, but certainly, you can replace him with one of equal lineage.”

The archaeologist answered, “Because they're not beasts.  They're self-aware, intelligent beings, and you have no right ... to use them as slaves or treat them like you do.”

The large man defended, “They used our forefathers as slaves and treated them much worse than we treat our Unas.”

“And that makes you right?” Daniel challenged.

“What would you have us do?” Burrock asked.

“Free them,” Daniel answered without hesitation.  ~It's really not a hard question to answer.~

After laughing at the archaeologist, Burrock responded, “Untrained, uncontrolled?  A beast would rip me limb from limb; eat me alive.”

Daniel suggested, “Then, send them to their home world.”

“Our forefathers could have slaughtered them all, wiped them from the face of the planet, but instead, they saw a way to use their strength to our advantage, a way to co-exist.  For that, we thank them,” Burrock responded.

“You don't co-exist,” Daniel challenged, his voice as steady, even, and low as it had been at the beginning of the discussion.  He was working hard to remain calm and diplomatic as he hoped for a peaceful solution to the problem at hand.  “You use them as slaves.”

Jack interjected, “Look, we're not gonna tell you anything, so you might as well just let us go.  We'll go back where we came from.  You can go on doing what you do so well.”

As Burrock walked over to Jack's cell, he made it clear that was not going to happen, “Because now I know for certain, there is more out there.”

Jack quipped, “Yeah, I know, the grass always looks cleaner.  Fact is, there's
a whole bunch of guys with glowing eyes out there.  You *really*don't wanna mess with them.”

Not giving an inch and wanting to prove he was in control, Burrock took a firestick and placed it against the lock of the cell, causing an electrical charge to go through the cage.  It filled Jack with a jolt of electricity and caused him to feel a great deal of pain as he fell backwards, screaming.  Light came out of his eyes and mouth, frightening Daniel in a way he'd never been before.  Even more guilt began crashing down on the archaeologist.

~NOOOOOO!~  Daniel stood up and shouted, “STOP!  HE'S NOT GOING TO TELL YOU ANYTHING!”

Calmly, Burrock removed the stick, leaving Jack gasping in pain on the floor of the cage.  He walked over to Daniel and put the firestick against the lock of his cage.  Immediately, Daniel fell down to the ground, pain radiating through him as the light came through his eyes and mouth as it had done to Jack a minute earlier.

Seeing what was happening, Chaka began to scream.  The Unas became enraged, all of them growling loudly and shaking the bars of their cages.  Burrock yelled for them to be quiet, but they would not stop.  Finally, the burly man used Jack's P-90 to kill one of the Unas.  He then aimed it at Chaka, intending to pull the trigger.

Daniel rose quickly, still trembling from the effects of the firestick, and shouted, “NO,” relieved when the gun would not fire, either jammed or out of bullets.

Jack had raised his head slightly to see what was happening, quickly lowering his head to the hay when he realized the situation.  The firestick had taken more of a toll on him than Daniel, perhaps because he had suffered the pain longer.

“Impressive weapon, but not as efficient as a firestick,” Burrock calmly commented as he walked to the front of Jack's cage.  “It seems to stop working after it's been fired for a while.  I assume ... that's what these are for,” he said, pulling out clips.  “Tell me how to make it work again.”

Still holding his head in pain as he lay on the ground, Jack instantly responded, “Give it to me.  I'll show you.”

Burrock chuckled and then made his biggest threat yet, saying, “It was simple enough to learn how to ... shoot it.  I will learn this part on my own as well.  In the meantime, hunger and thirst will weaken you.  Perhaps tomorrow, you will tell me what I want to know.”  He paused, glancing over at an Unas.  Then, as he talked, he moved back over in front of Daniel's cage to look at him as he delivered his threat.  “I do not understand why, but it seems that you care for beasts more than you care for your own well being.  So be it.  Every morning and every night, I will come in here to learn what you know.  If you do not tell me, I will kill a beast.  It may cost me, but I believe it may be worth it.”

**Danny, are you okay?** Jack asked, still trying to regain his strength as he lay on the ground.

Sitting up, Daniel replied, **Yes.  Are ... are you?**

**Just peachy,** Jack responded.

**Jack, you're still lying down.**

**I like it here,** Jack groused.  He sighed, **Danny, we're in a mess.  I hope you realize that.**

**How could I forget?** Daniel replied.  **You keep reminding me that it's all my fault.**  ~And it is,~ he sighed.

**Daniel, I don't mean to be condescending.  I know you're doing what you believe you have to do, but it's just not black and white,** Jack replied.

**Nothing ever is.  I just wish you ...**

**What?** Jack asked.

**Nothing.**

Jack sighed, knowing he had a rift to repair.  Part of him knew he was being harsh with his lover, but at the same time, it was Daniel's stubbornness, in Jack's mind, that had put them in this situation in the first place.

“Daniel, we're just having a bad day,” Jack sighed, hoping Daniel would get the message as, at the moment, that was the closest thing to an apology that he could muster at the moment.

“Yeah, just a ... bad day,” Daniel said, smiling briefly at his lover, who looked up for a second and smiled briefly in return before plopping his head back down on the hay-covered barn floor.

====

Meanwhile, Sam and Teal'c decided not to wait any longer.  After Teal'c suggested a diversion, Sam again contacted her CO over the radio.  Jack sat back up and told her what had transpired, then questioned her choice.

“I thought I told you to hold your position at the Gate,” Jack slightly reprimanded.

Sam responded, “Yes, Sir.  However, Teal'c thinks we might be able to create a big enough distraction to attempt a rescue, and I agree, but we can't guarantee zero casualties.  If that's still your concern, please advise.  Over.”

Jack looked over at his soulmate, his annoyance having returned after hearing Sam's comments, saying, “I don't think we're gonna talk our way out of this one.”

Upset, Daniel replied, “Well, for once, I'm not asking us to.”  He knew his lover was annoyed with him, and the truth was, Daniel was a lot annoyed at himself, too, and the situation.  “Let's get out of here, all of us,” he requested.

“Sir, still awaiting your orders,” Sam said over the radio.

Jack intoned, “Yeah.  We've got three Unas that are gonna be joining us.  Do what ya have to do, Carter.”

**I'm sorry, Jack.**

**So am I,** the older man replied, though even via there silent communication, his anger came through loud and clear.

**If we had another option ...**

**Daniel, there are no other options, not if we want to live another day.  Sometimes ...**

**What?** Daniel asked, a cold sinking feeling taking root in the pit of his stomach.  He was trying to fight it, but a part of him was certain Jack had been about to say he'd had enough and wanted out of their relationship; or, at least, that he wanted Daniel off SG-1.  ~How many times can I push it?  I keep getting him into trouble.~

**Nothing,** Jack sighed, just wanting to get off the planet.  “Get ready; it won't be long.”

====

Sam and Teal'c proceeded with their plan, setting fire to a cart near some buildings.  As the villagers ran towards the water barrel, it also exploded.  Teal'c opened fire, trying to draw the attention of the townspeople.  As the battle began, Sam entered the barn and quickly rigged the cages with a small amount of explosive, triggering them with a remote device that blew all the cage doors at the same time.  Soon, Jack, Daniel, and the three Unas were freed.

The group headed outside, getting their first look at the chaotic diversion Sam and Teal'c had created.  As the villagers continued to try and put out the fire, the group headed into the woods.  Eventually, they caught up with Teal'c and continued en route to their destination.  Jack groaned as it began to rain, grateful, however, when it didn't last longer than a few minutes.

Arriving at the Stargate, Jack and his teammates were surprised to find no guards protecting it.

“I thought you said the Gate was heavily guarded,” Jack stated quietly.

Teal'c theorized, “The men may have gone to town to help put out the fire.”

“Or we got an ambush here,” Jack intoned.  Seeing the Unas running ahead, he called out, “Hey!  Hey!”  He waved at Daniel, ordering, “Stop them!”

From his crouched position, Daniel rose, moving out in front of Jack by several feet and calling for Chaka to stop.

**No further, Danny,** Jack advised his lover.

Chaka nodded at Daniel, but then continued towards the Gate, having a plan of his own.

The archaeologist stated, “I think he understands why we stopped.”

Going with it, Jack responded, “All right, fan out.  Cover em!” as he and the team headed in different directions to try and protect the Unas.

The Unas successfully drew out the ambushers, which included Burrock.  One Unas was immediately killed by a staff blast.  Teal'c saw the ambusher, hiding in a tree, and fired his staff weapon at him, killing the man.  Quickly, Jack took out another by physical force while Sam zatted yet another of the attackers.

As Chaka fought another man, Burrock came up from behind.  Seeing this, Daniel called out a warning and fired his zat, though Burrock ducked, missing the impact.  Burrock then fired a blast at Chaka, but his shot missed as well.  As Burrock stalked towards Chaka, another Unas jumped on him from behind.

Burrock flipped him over and was about to shoot when Chaka picked up a staff weapon and successfully shot the slave owner in the back.  Calculatingly, the Unas walked over to the overseer while both Jack and Daniel approached the area as well.

Burrock stared up at the Unas, who made noises as he circled him and then primed the staff weapon.

Realizing what Chaka was intending to do, Daniel yelled, “Chaka, nooooo!”

Still, Chaka fired a point blank shot, killing Burrock instantly.  Daniel was stunned, arriving at the scene after the blast killed the burly man.

The fire fight now over, Chaka helped the other Unas up, handing him the staff weapon.

At the same time, Sam reported, “We're all clear, Sir. Teal'c's dialing the Gate.  We should hurry.  There might be more men coming.”

Daniel turned to Chaka, saying, “Come on, Chaka.  We're taking you home.”

“No na,” the Unas responded, not moving an inch.

~Oh, for crying out loud.  We go through all this and that Unas wants to stay on this planet and start a war?~ Jack angrily said to himself.  Sternly, he told his archaeologist, “Daniel, we didn't come here to arm them.”

“Well, they did that themselves,” Daniel responded, his body and green BDUs soaking wet from the downpour of rain they'd just endured.  “I don't think we're going to stop them.”

~I don't believe this,~ the colonel silently bemoaned.  ~He's giving that beast his zat.  Great, just great.~  He watched as Chaka and the other Unas began to leave the area, then chided, “You sent them out to start a war.”

Watching the aliens walk away as well, Daniel replied, “Well, it was his choice.  I told them they didn't have to kill.”

“You think he understands that?” Jack questioned.

Turning back to look at Jack, the younger man answered, “They know what freedom is, and they're willing to fight for it.  They deserve a chance.”

Jack glanced over Daniel's shoulder, watching as the Unas disappeared from sight.  He shook his head in frustration.

“Sir, we need to get back,” Sam warned, more concerned that the humans on the planet might try to stop their departure than about the Unas starting a war.

“Go,” Jack ordered.

Sam looked at Daniel, waiting for him to move.  When he didn't, she obeyed her CO's orders and headed for the Stargate.

“Daniel, it was a bad move,” Jack stated once Sam was on her way.

“It was the only move to make, Jack,” Daniel refuted, his hands on his hips as he spoke.

Jack shook his head, saying, “You think Hammond is going to buy it?”

Daniel stared into his lover's chocolate brown eyes and responded, “I think it's raining again, and I don't feel like standing here any longer.”

As Daniel brushed by him, Jack grimaced, saying, “Right,” before turning and following the other man to the Gate.

====
--Current Time
====

~Oh, yeah, that's how,~ Jack said, having replayed the last couple of days in his mind.  He was fairly confident that his lover had been doing the same thing.  ~Neither one of us lets go of things easily.  Okay, I give you that without Chaka and his buddies, things might have been even messier, but an Unas is an Unas,~ he decided.

The colonel entered the locker room, noticing that it was empty at the moment, except for Daniel, who had already changed out of his uniform and was just slipping on his gray plaid shirt.  Giving his lover a glance which wasn't returned, Jack walked to his locker and opened it.  He took off his green jacket, holding it in his hand as he looked at Daniel.

“Look, Daniel, I'm just not sure I approve of us arming a group of ...” Jack began, pausing as he struggled to find the correct word he wanted.


Artwork by Maureen Middleton

“Beasts?  Is that the word you're looking for?” Daniel asked accusingly while buttoning his shirt.

“You said it, not me,” Jack challenged.

“No, Burrock said it,” the archaeologist corrected, referring to the leader of the humans who had abducted Chaka from the Unas' planet.  “You didn't even want to help me rescue Chaka in the first place,” he reminded, recalling the moment when he had made his request of General Hammond and SG-1.

“I knew what *you* wanted, Daniel, and it had nothing to do with finding Goa'uld weapons,” Jack challenged as he, too, recalled the discussion.

Daniel sighed, “Jack, I know you're holding a grudge against Chaka because he kidnapped me.  That's, uh, well ...  but he's not evil.  I wish you'd come to terms with that.”

“Beauty and the beast,” Jack griped.  “He's an Unas, Daniel, and just like I'll never trust a Goa'uld, I'll never trust an Unas.”

“That's ignorant, Jack, and it's beneath you,” Daniel argued.

“It's the friggin' truth.  You're lucky I allowed this mission in the first place,” Jack spat.

Angry, Daniel reached back and grabbed his jacket, holding it in his left hand.  Walking across the room, he picked up his lover's jacket that Jack had let drop to the bench below during their argument.

“I'm only speaking the truth,” Jack maintained.

“Colonel, you couldn't handle the truth,” Daniel said, slamming the jacket into his lover's mid-section, his hand making direct contact with Jack's most sensitive area, causing the older man to double over slightly, let out a groan, and widen his eyes.  “Have the balls to admit it when you're wrong, Jack,” he said aggressively.  “Because you are!”

Jack's eyes were still wide from the contact as he watched his lover exit the locker room.  Slowly he straightened up, shaking his head as the door closed.

~Now he gets ... ballsy.  Geez!~

====

Turning off the winding road that led up to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex entrance, Jack put on his headset and pressed the appropriate buttons.

“Answer the dang phone, Daniel,” the colonel spoke aloud.  “Daniel, I said answer the ...”

There was a click as the phone on the other end was picked up, and Daniel's angry voice came over the line, forcefully saying, “Go home, Jack.”  He quickly added, “Don't follow me.”

“I'm not following you, and I *assume* you are on your way home,” Jack replied.  There was a long silence, prompting Jack to strongly prod, “Daniel?”

“Yes, Jack, I am going ... home, to ... to *my* apartment,” the younger man replied, holding his cell phone to his right ear as he neared his apartment building.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack bellowed.  “Daniel, I can't believe we're still arguing over this.”

“I'm so sorry you're upset, Jack, but I'm not the one causing this.  You're the one who won't let it go, who keeps insisting Chaka is some kind of monster, who is as stubborn as a mule, who won't admit he's wrong, who ...”

“I get it,” Jack interrupted his rambling lover.  “You know it wasn't my idea to go after Chaka,” he said, almost stumbling over the name.  “Head trader?  That wasn't my lie, Daniel.”

“I know that,” the younger man acknowledged sharply.

Jack's anger at their discord caused him to begin ranting about everything that had happened.  He went on and on about their arrival on the planet, Daniel's quest for honesty that had quickly turned into a lie, his apparent willingness to get Earth involved in a war, and his being coerced into a rescue mission for an Unas, a mission he only half-heartedly believed in.

Daniel, though, had essentially spaced out, lost in his sadness of not only what had happened to Chaka, but of how close his lover had come to being killed.  The firestick had been used on him for such a short time, and, yet, a part of him still ached from its effects.  He could only imagine the pain that Jack felt and, indeed, might still be feeling.  He was finally drawn away from his anguish by his soulmate's words.

“... and it wasn't exactly a picnic, if you recall,” Jack concluded, ending his other, unheard commentary.

Daniel blinked several times, swallowing hard as he fought to stay in control of his emotions, and then replied very slowly, as if trying to make sure he got the words out:  “Yes, Jack, I know I almost got you killed ... again.  Please don't come to the apartment.  I ... I really want to be alone,” he said, disconnecting the call.

~Got me killed?~  Jack heard the connection end and shook his head in amazement, speaking angrily, “O'Neill, you are still a blasted idiot.  Geez, Daniel, I was upset about Earth, about war, not about ... Crap!”

Suddenly, Jack realized that what was bothering his soulmate was much more than their disagreement.  It was his guilt over the torment Jack had gone through while they'd been captured.

~Yeah, yeah, so it wasn't the tingling sensation of you and me ...~ Jack trailed off in his mind, automatically smiling at the thought of making love with the younger man.  Then he sighed, ~Danger happens, Danny.  That ole firestick just woke me up.~  Shaking his head, he thought, ~I should have known that's what's bothering you.~

After berating himself for not coming to that conclusion earlier, Jack went to work on how to make things right.

--

~Danny, none of it was your fault.~  Pulling into the parking lot of his partner's apartment, Jack exited the truck and stared up at the balcony, glad to see that the large door leading to the balcony was closed.  ~Bedroom.  Good choice.~

====

Jack looked back at the unchained door behind him.  He smiled, shaking off his first inclination to be angry that Daniel wasn't securing his door.  Still, there was a hidden message there, and Jack wasn't about to upset that apple cart.

With a casual glance to the balcony, ensuring there had been no change, Jack made his way to Daniel's bedroom.  He wasn't the least bit surprised to see his anguished soulmate sitting at the head of the bed, his knees drawn up to his chest with his chin atop his hands as he stared blankly forward.

Without saying anything, Jack hopped onto the bed, taking the spot next to his lover.  He was close, but they weren't touching.

Minutes passed, the minutes turning into a half-hour before Jack finally said, “You know, Danny, there are a lot of things we could be doing on this bed besides just sitting here.”

Daniel whispered, “I know.”

Jack smiled and said, “By the way, I do plan on buying you a birthday present this year *and* every year.  In fact, I'll buy you a present when it's not your birthday, tonight even.”

The archaeologist couldn't help but let out a tiny smile, though he said nothing in response, his thoughts still controlled by the recent events on the planet.

Jack reached out, daring to briefly touch his lover's forehead, then letting his fingers run through the soft hair he loved so much.

“Angel, what happened there wasn't your fault.  We're SG-1.  We got into a mess.  We got out of it.  Just another day at the office,” Jack lightly jested.

“You almost died,” Daniel replied softly, not moving an inch as he admitted his inner turmoil.

“Wasn't even close,” Jack refuted, his voice still light.  More seriously, he added, “And, you saved us, like always.  You stayed calm and helped us to get home in one piece.”  He could see he wasn't making much headway, Daniel's guilt still riding high.  ~Have to change that.~  “Danny, I called Hammond before I got here,” he revealed a moment later.

Daniel turned his head to look at Jack, a bit surprised by the comment.

With a bit of a smile, Jack explained, “I gave him a brief overview of what happened out there.  He doesn't want us in the middle of a war, Daniel, and neither do I, but ...”

Daniel's lips parted slightly as he listened to Jack speak, and he blinked a couple of times, not quite sure what was coming, and yet knowing that his lover was always full of surprises.  This moment felt like it could be one of those surprising times.

“... there is a right to be free that applies to everyone, human or otherwise,” Jack continued, fully aware he had much more of Daniel's attention now.  “The Unas have a right to fight for their freedom, just like we do.  I don't hate Chaka, Danny.  I felt about him the same way I felt about Nem and Apophis and Shyla and ...” He paused, smiling.  “I hate anyone who hurts you in any way.  Okay, I accept that the Unas have moved forward, and that's because of you and your passion for life.  I don't figure I'll ever want to invite Chaka over for pizza and beer, but he's not a monstrous beast.”

“No, he's not,” Daniel agreed calmly.

“SG-3 is going to arrange to *lose* a case of zats as well as a few staff weapons, assuming Chaka still likes those energy bars,” Jack spoke, a tiny smile on his face.  “We may need you to play emissary if there's trouble.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Daniel replied quietly, raising his head up for the first time.  He knew that had been difficult for his lover to agree to, to allow him to approach Chaka again with weapons in tow.  The archaeologist didn't need Jack's permission, but having his support and his blessing made his soul smile.  Moving closer, he said, “I, uh, know what I want for my ... un...birthday present.”

“What's that?” the older man softly asked, shivering slightly from the touch of Daniel's fingers against his skin.

“The moon,” Daniel answered.

Jack chuckled, “I'll contact Thor and ...”

Before he could finish, Jack was being devoured by his lover, whose hands were roaming his face and neck, and then Jack's back.

In between kisses, Daniel expounded, “You are the moon ... <kiss> ... the sun ... <kiss> ... the stars ... <kiss> ... the ocean ... <kiss> ... the sky ... <kiss> ... the ...”

“Forever?” Jack asked, stopping the current kiss.

Daniel smiled and softly agreed, “Forever.”

“I love you, Angel,” Jack crooned.

“I love you, too, my Silver Fox, and, uh, if you don't mind, I'd like to get to some of those ... ideas you had for the ... bed,” Daniel replied alluringly.

“That's my genius,” Jack quipped as the two began to forge together in their nation of two, their love and awareness of each other getting them through yet another crisis, the couple once again discovering that they really weren't so far apart in their thinking after all.

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