Sharpshooter Secret

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  8 - July 27-28, October 14, 2004
Spoilers:  Children of the Gods
Size:  79kb
Written:  June 24-25, August 14-17, 2004, March 7-9,24, April 1-2,4-5,7,19,21, May 31, 2005 Revised for consistency: March 18, 2007
Summary:  Current events trigger a nightmare from Daniel's past.  Haunted by long ago happenings, he debates sharing the truth with Jack.
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, so I've been told!
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) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Claudia, QuinGem, Kat, Ali, Pepi, Tamara, Allexandrya! Thanks to Robin for feedback that ultimately led to clarifying a confusing patch of the fic.

Sharpshooter Secret
by Orrymain

Jack and Daniel had been home about four hours after finally leaving the SGC shortly after 10 a.m.  SG-1, along with three other teams, had just gone through a tough two-day mission, the last day turning into what could have been a bloodbath of bodies except for some great luck and an excellent shot from the SGC's Head of Archaeology.

The inhabitants of P4R-275 had been opposed to an alliance with the Tau'ri, preferring to fight the Goa'uld on their own.  At the same time, however, the dominant faction of the planet had a few internal squabbles going on.  It was one of these dissenting groups that had kidnapped the leader of SG-7 for reasons that never had been answered.

The planet's rulers had insisted that they would deal with the militants and ordered the SGC teams to leave.  It had turned into a long, nasty debate. Jack had informed the leaders that no way in Netu were they going to leave anyone behind.  Tensions had risen, and everyone held their weapons a bit more at the ready.

Then, as Jack and the planet's leader huddled closely together, arguing in quiet but determined tones, one of the militants attempted to assassinate the leader with a laser-like weapon that would kill on impact.  Fortunately for Jack and the leader, Daniel had happened to glance to his right and caught a glimpse of the assassin aiming his weapon.  Without hesitating, Daniel had fired, killing the man instantly.  He hadn't had time to think, and the threat had been all too close.

The grateful leaders had then agreed to the alliance, helped the SG teams to track down the kidnapped Marine, and all ended well.

As they sat on their sofa discussing the events of the mission, Jack commented on Daniel's shooting skills, admiring them with sparkling eyes and a bright smile as he spoke.  Jack mentioned several past missions, recalling Daniel's proficiency with his Beretta and other weapons, including MP-5's and P-90's, as they faced off with various Goa'uld, the Replicators, the Reetou rebels, and other enemies of Earth.

Of course, Daniel was now an expert at covert activities as well, Jack having taught his lover many things over the years.  However, it was specifically his expertise with various firearms that Jack was ranting about so enthusiastically.  

“Geez, I'm proud of you.  Don't get me wrong, Love.  I hate that you have to kill like this sometimes, that you have to be a soldier as much as you do, but you've come so far in your skill level that I can't help but be impressed by your progress.  Remember when we started?  I had to drag you in to go through basic, but you sure caught on fast, and my six is eternally grateful.”

“Just your six?”

“All of me!”

Jack moved forward to kiss his lover.  He felt calm and at peace as they relaxed, just enjoying each other's company.  He'd been worried that Daniel would feel guilty over killing the alien rebel, and Daniel did, as he mourned any loss of life, especially a life he had taken, even he hadn't had a choice.

The older man was pleased, though, that his lover's regret and compassion wasn't consuming the younger man as it so often did.

Daniel had done what he had to do.  It was a situation that had occurred without warning and with only one visible option - to take out the attacker, which is what the archaeologist had done.  As much as Daniel wished the event hadn't occurred, it did, and he had no intention of spending the next several days blaming himself for taking action.  His quick reaction had saved another man's life, and maybe even his husband's life.

Over the years, Jack had worked hard to teach Daniel to live in the moment and let go of the past and any guilt associated with it, and that's exactly what Daniel was trying to do.

~I hate killing, but I didn't have a choice.  He might have killed Jack, too.  No, I'm not going to let guilt eat away at me; not this time.~

The two men snuggled for a while, and then Jack remembered a conversation he'd had with Lou Ferretti before leaving the Mountain.

“Excuse me, Love.  I just remembered that I promised Lou I'd give him a call to talk about the MonsterMobile.”

“Jack, aren't you guys through with that thing yet?  It's been years.”

“That's the fun of it -- continually reinventing the beast.  There's always something new and better.”

“Oh, is there now?”

“For the MonsterMobile, but not for my DannyMobile.  He's perfect,” Jack said, taking the opportunity to caress Daniel's cheek and then kiss him again.

“Hardly, but thank you.”

“I love you, Angel, and you are perfect to me.  I meant what I said earlier.  You've come a long way.  I'm very proud of you.”

They shared yet another kiss, and then Daniel rested his head on Jack's shoulder.  Their hands were laced together, their fingers each gently massaging the other's fingers and palms.  Daniel raised Jack's hand to his mouth and kissed it, and then he traced the line that went down the center.

He whispered, “Long life.”  After another kiss, the young man said softly, “I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too ... and if I don't call Lou now, I never will.”  Jack stood up.  “What are you going to do?”

“I, ah, think I'll work on the computer for a while.”

“Tell me you didn't bring work home.”

“I didn't.  I'm just gonna ... play.”

Daniel smiled softly to backup his words.  After the intensity of this last mission, he had no intention of working during their downtime.  Instead, he just wanted to enjoy his home and family.

“Okay.  I'll be in the study.”

Daniel watched Jack walk out of their living room.  He smiled when Jack glanced over and grinned just before turning the corner that led to the study.  The archaeologist continued to sit quietly, his hands now clasped together in front of him.  He still had a partial smile on his face, almost as if it were pasted on.  His breathing had changed to an intermittent rhythm, small hitches coming between the breaths.

“Gawd, he's proud of me for learning how to ... kill.  No, that's not it.  He'd rather I never had to use a gun.  He's told me before, and I believe him.”

Daniel slid downwards, letting his head hit the top of the sofa cushions so that he faced the ceiling.

~He's proud that I learned, that I'm not the clumsy geek anymore.  He used to have to worry about me so much; that's why he always made sure I was with him whenever the team separated off-world.  He knows he doesn't have to do that anymore, and he can make the decision on how to split the team based on the specific situation.~  Daniel sighed as he looked over at a photo of Jack, Sara, and Charlie that adorned the wall.  “I know, Babe.  I understand your pride, and I'm glad you're proud of me.  The thing is, you think you taught me, and you did ... almost,  You taught me almost everything I know about being a soldier and guns ... almost.~

He exhaled loudly and finally stood up, and yet, he didn't move.  He rubbed his hands against his upper arms as if to warm them ... but he wasn't cold.  Slowly, Daniel walked to the patio door.  He smiled watching their beagles, Bijou and Katie, happily going about their business.

Bijou was chasing a squirrel, something she loved to do.  Of course, she never caught one, but that wasn't the point.  The chase was the real game.  As for Katie, she was investigating a new spot in her play yard that she'd never dug in before.

~Finally gonna find that big bone, Girl?  Jack will be disappointed.  He'll lose the bet.  I told him eventually you'd find it, but he said you'd ignore the corners.  You're too smart, Katie, to ignore any part of your playground.  There you go.  Keep digging.  Don't let that fake wall deter you.  Good girl.  You'll find it.~

Daniel took another big breath, his arms now folded across his chest.  He looked down, a piece of fuzz getting his attention.  Leaning over, he picked up the piece of offending dirt, but became mesmerized by the gold band on his finger.

He stared at it, remembering when he purchased it, and its counterpart, in Denver.

~I didn't not tell you, Jack.  It's just one of those things I tried to bury.  I didn't want to make the memory more real by saying the words out loud.  I still don't; but ... if I don't tell you now, it would be a conscious ... well, okay, not a lie, but a secret, a silly, stupid secret.  Gawd, what am I afraid of?  It doesn't matter any more.  What happened is so far removed from our life today, and Jack?  My Jack.  It won't matter.  Wait.  It'll matter because he'll get angry and want to kill another Goa'uld.~

Daniel had to smile, shaking his head slightly.  It wasn't the idea of murder, just that he knew his husband would be upset at yet another hurt that Daniel had been subjected to.

~My wonderful husband.  He wants to protect me.  Gawd, I want him to, too. I guess it balances out.  He protects me, and I protect him.~

Daniel walked over to visit with his fish for a few minutes.

~So how do I tell him?  'Oh, Jack, remember that basic training with the guns?  Well, you see, I already knew ...'~  Daniel bent down to rest on his haunches, reaching out with his right hand to track one of the more adventuresome creatures.  ~That won't work.  I can't just ... tell him.  I hate the words -- hate hearing them.  How can I?~

Daniel stood back up, an idea surfacing.  He hastily made his way to the den, powered up his laptop, and began to type.  He hoped he'd find a way to say what he needed to.

//Beginning of Daniel's Diary//
People sometimes have a hard time believing that some cliches and some old adages are really true.  One that comes to mind is the tried and true, 'you can't judge a book by its cover'.

When I first joined the SGC, everyone thought I was a geek.  Okay, so maybe I was ... am, even.  I had long hair then, and I sneezed a lot.  I tripped over everything.  It kills me to admit this, but yes, I did sometimes trip over my own shoelaces, and the terrain of Chulak still gets me every time we go there.  I don't know what it is about the rocks on that planet, but even to this day, I seem to find one to step on that planet gets me off balance.

I wore glasses, too.  Still do.  I never really liked contact lenses, and as an archaeologist, when I'm digging in a hole and dirt gets in my eye, it's easier to wash out the grit if I'm not wearing contacts.  Allergies?  Yes, lots of them, which is why I used to sneeze all the time.  Fortunately, Janet finally found something to cure all those pesky things that make me sneeze, and I rarely get affected by anything now as long as I've taken the concoction she's made for me.

Yes, I was the epitome of the word 'geek'.  Who knew then that the man of my dreams would, well, be a man, and that he'd be a military man?  More than that, a Special Operations-trained, shoot-em-up, kill first, ask questions later, colonel in the United States Air Force?

That's my Jack, in the simplest of terms, as he was on the day I met him -- cold and hardened by a cruel twist of fate.  He wasn't exactly Mister Regulation, but he didn't question his orders.  He rarely tried to see things from the other side, to see what factors might be motivating the opposition.  Now, he does, but back then, it wasn't something he allowed himself to do.

Somehow, our two very different personalities bonded, and instantly, in spite of ourselves, we were best friends.  In the beginning, when Jack looked at me, he made certain assumptions, ones that were associated with me being the proverbial geek.

One mistake he made was in assuming I didn't know how to fight.  He wasn't totally sure, either, that I would, if I had to, fight to protect myself and others.  It's not that I was an expert.  Far from it, my hand-to-hand skills and covert abilities were nothing compared to what Jack has taught me over the years.  I've learned military strategy from watching him and others at the SGC, and I'm now an expert with several different weapons.

But ... there was one weapon I was good with long before meeting Jack.  When we came back from Abydos after Sha're was abducted, General Hammond told me I had to go through a more extensive basic training.  I was on the flagship team; they had to be able to depend on me, to know I could protect my teammates.

“You'll be covering my six a lot, Daniel,” Jack had told me, “so we need to make sure you can hit the target.”

“Uh, but, Jack ...”

“No arguments, Daniel, not if you want to be on SG-1.”

You see his assumption?  He thought I was going to argue about the training.  In actuality, I had intended to tell him that hitting the target hadn't been a problem for me in several years.

“You'll need to carry a weapon,” Jack had told me.

“But, Jack ...”

“No 'buts', Daniel.  Look, Teal'c wants to keep his staff weapon.  Carter and I are using MP-5's.  I assume that's a little too much fire power for you ...”

“Jack, I'm an archaeologist, not a Marine.  I don't need an MP-5, but ...”

“Right, that's what I thought, but you'll need to be trained on it.  You might have to use it sometime.  We can't afford to be in a tight situation and have you trying to figure out where the safety is.  You ... do know what a safety is?”

“Jack!”  I became exasperated.  I didn't want to carry a weapon, but clearly, in retrospect, it was, and is, necessary.  No one should go through the Stargate unarmed.  It's just not smart.  So, I took a deep breath and tried to talk with my friend a bit more calmly.  “Yes, I know what a safety is.”

“Good.  We'll set up a time for a thorough review of the MP-5 and other weapons, and we'll get you qualified on this.  You'll be carrying this as part of your standard equipment.  No arguments.”

Jack had pulled out a Beretta.  While I wasn't acquainted with this specific model, I was no stranger to small firearms.  Before I could say another word, the colonel had continued on, in full lecture-mode (and trust me, when Jack decides to talk, he can give me a run for the money as to who is the real 'lecture mode' champion).

“Now, this baby was designed just for the military.  It's reliable, safe with a triple safety, with excellent firing capacity, single or double load.  She even has a rear sight for impromptu aiming.  It's precise and powerful.  I think you can handle it.”

“Gee, thanks, Colonel.”

“Daniel, this is serious.  Look, I want you on my team.  You know that, but I won't let you go through that Gate without making sure you can handle this thing.”

“Jack, you don't understand.”

“I don't want to hear it, Daniel, all that peaceful, fluffy, 'we have to be nice' stuff.  It has its place, but when we go through that Gate, we have to depend on each other.”

“Jack, will you please ...?”

“Teach you how to use this nifty weapon?  Of course, I will.  Now ...”

I gave up.  He was determined to assume I didn't know anything about guns, and, right or wrong, by that point, I didn't care anymore, so I let Jack teach me how to fire a pistol properly and tell me all about the finer points of the Beretta model he'd assigned me.  Back then, we were friends, or learning to be friends, or ... maybe more.  We've never really figured that out, and I'm not sure it's important, but as much as we argued, and we still argue, at that time, our relationship and our arguments were a bit more edgy and pointed.

To Jack, I was still a bumbling scientist, i.e., the geek.  I'd earned a measure of his respect and some loyalty from him, but it was a far cry from the unity we now share.  He was beyond shocked when I used that staff weapon to save his life on Abydos.  I think part of it was that back then he thought I was a pacifist and wouldn't fight.  I hate fighting.  I detest it, but I will fight for what's right, and to protect innocent lives.  He knows that now, and he learned it fairly quickly, but when Ra had ordered me to kill Jack, the brave Air Force colonel standing on the desert sand hadn't a clue that I'd be able to turn and fire on our enemy.

So, there we were.  Mister Military teaching the geek about firearms, specifically the Beretta, a small but effective hand weapon.  The thing is that I knew all-too-well how to use that gun, not the Beretta specifically, but pistols.  I was a very good shot.  I had to be, or ... I don't want to think about the 'or' except that I have to because that's the entire point of this diary entry.

Normally, I write about our adventures and how they affected our lives as we hide in plain sight from a world full of prejudice and misguided regulations, but this time, I'm writing about something more opaque.  Looking back, Jack was always so impressed when I hit my mark.  I saved his life and Sam's both right off the bat.  He never questioned my skill or marksmanship; rather, he just patted himself on the back for a job well done.

My poor colonel.  He gets most of the credit for nearly everything I've learned: the tactical and strategizing knowledge, the Special Ops and covert moves and operations, the hand-to-hand skills, and all the other firearms and weapons training and usage.  He's taught me things that have allowed me to save both of us, and our friends, over and over again.  I'm grateful for that, even though I fought it at first, but Jack, My Jack -- he didn't teach me how to use a pistol or how to hit a target.

That distinction goes to two people and two events in my life that I would really love to wish away and have plucked from my mind.  You'd think it would be just one defining moment, but no, there were two nightmares, two crazed moments in time, that are responsible for my able use of a gun, and both of those I'd like to forget.

Monsters.  They're both monsters.  Howard Donovan: now there was a sad excuse for a foster parent.  He loved no one, and he got his kicks from abusing animals and children.  He was a drunkard and a miserable excuse for a human being.  I know.  I'm normally more understanding, but when you hear my story, maybe you'll understand why I'd just as soon forgive Apophis, Yu, Ba'al, and every other System Lord, for their abuses, than this man.

Donovan is the one who taught me how to use a pistol.  He was a hunter; had guns everywhere.  His attic was a land mine of weaponry.  I tried to forget.  I'd almost done it, too, and then, then there was Ron.

Ron Zeidinger -- a name Jack has never heard from my lips, and I hope never will.  He was the one who insisted I be proficient with a pistol.  I hadn't wanted to have anything to do with guns, but he wouldn't let me out of it.  Hours.  Endless hours that felt like days, first on a firing range, and then out in the country.  Gawd, I hated it, but I didn't have a choice, either.

I had just turned eighteen and was finally free of that joke they call foster care in New York.  Well, technically, thanks to early graduations, I had actually managed to get out from under the system earlier since I went away to college, but by then, it became official.  Anyway, every penny I earned in any job I could get went into furthering my education.  Yes, I had scholarships coming out of my ear, but I still had to eat, pay rent, and handle all those other incidentals that scholarships don't cover.

In addition, with my chosen fields of archaeology and anthropology, focusing on ancient civilizations, I wanted, no needed, to be able to travel the globe to go on digs and surveys.  It was as much a part of me as any book I read.  Again, even with grants and scholarships, it took money.

An opportunity had presented itself for a dig in Egypt.  I wanted to go desperately.  Ron was a volunteer at the museum sponsoring the excavation, or so he claimed.  It's where I had met him.  He looked very official, had the credentials, and certainly was knowledgeable, and he liked me.  Looking back, I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.  I was so naive, even after all the agony of growing up in foster care.

Howard Donovan, a name that means abuse and death, and Ron Zeidinger, a name I don't want to remember, but I have to right now, just for a while.  Both of them might as well have been Apophis or Ba'al.  With or without a Goa'uld inside them, they were snakes.

With Donovan, I was too young to see it coming.  With Zeidinger, age wasn't an excuse: I should have seen it coming.

I should have seen it coming.
//End of Daniel's Diary//

“DANIEL!”

The archaeologist heard the bellow from the study.  He shook his head; that was quite a bellow for it to be heard so clearly up in his den.

~Geez, Jack, I think they heard that in Egypt.~

Saving his work and lowering the cover to his laptop, Daniel quickly headed downstairs to check on his lover.  He would have run, but he recognized that bellow as being borne of frustration rather than injury or danger.

~Wonder what he did now?~  Daniel entered the study and laughed out loud.  “Gawd, Jack, what happened to you?”

“I swear, Daniel, I'm going to throw this computer into the river!”

Jack's hair looked like he had been trying to tear it all out.  It was spiked in several directions.  His eyes were wide as if looking at some space creature.

“I thought you were talking to Lou.”

“I was, but then I decided to do something on the computer for a minute.  Friggin' machine,” Jack said, hitting the monitor with the palm of his hand.

“Jack, that won't help.  Now, what were you trying to do?” Daniel asked as he moved to the chair where the older man was sitting.  Jack mumbled something Daniel couldn't make out.  “I can't hear you.”

“It was supposed to be a surprise.”

“What was?”

“Flowers.  I ordered flowers, BUT THE FRIGGIN' COMPUTER FROZE UP.”

“Jack, that's so sweet,” Daniel said, leaning forward from behind Jack's chair and sliding his hands down Jack's chest.  He kissed the side of Jack's neck and whispered in his ear, “I love you.  You're so wonderfully romantic.  I don't need the flowers, though.  I just need you.”

Jack swung the chair around, mindful of Daniel's position.  Then, he grabbed his soulmate and pulled him down to sit on his lap.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel said, reacting to the movement, but then putting his arms around his lover's neck.

They spent the next several minutes kissing, enjoying the feel of each other's lips on their own.

“Danny, tonight, let's have some wine and make a fire.”

“You talked me into it,” Daniel said.  “We can cuddle up and, uh, well ...”

“You know,” Jack said with a gleam in his eye.  “No one you knows like you, Angel.”

“Jack, how would you know?”

“What?”

“Are you you-knowing with anyone else?”

“Are you trying to pick a fight with me, Danny?”

“I love you, Jack.  Tonight we cuddle; right now, I have a project I'm working on.”  Daniel kissed his lover.  “Make sure we have some strawberries, and, uh, whipped cream,” Daniel said, kissing his lover again.

“Count on it,” Jack said, already highly aroused and wishing Daniel hadn't just gotten up and left the room.  “Strawberries and whipped cream,” Jack said, practically drooling.  “And chocolate.  Oh, yeah, definitely have to make sure we have chocolate, too.”

Jack stared at the computer, suddenly remember his problem.

“Dan ...”

He let the name fade on his lips.  He'd skip the flowers for now, but his Daniel was worth all the patience and effort in the world, and soon, he'd make good on his idea.

====

Daniel returned to the den and settled in, preparing himself to write about unhappy and unwanted memories.  As his fingers lightly touched the keyboard, he hesitated, wondering if maybe he should just forget about the whole thing.

~No, if I let it scare me, then it will always control me.  It's time.~

He opened the file and began to expound about two men who were synonymous with the word 'pain' for him:  Howard Donovan and Ron Zeidinger.

//Beginning of Daniel's Dairy//
My Jack teases me about how I won't swat a fly.  He exaggerates, but there's a reason for my benevolent attitude toward the animal nation.  First, I don't believe that just by being, humans are superior to any creature, and that includes animals.  Animals give life, learn, play, fight, die; in short, do all the things we do, so who's to say whether one species is better than another?  Not me.

When we go to the cabin, and Jack fishes in the lake that doesn't have any fish, we laugh and joke about that, but more than once, he's caught a fish, a big fish, too, and my sentimental lover will put him back.  Unless that fish is needed to provide sustenance that night, most of the time, Jack admires his catch and then tosses the fish back.  I don't think I've ever seen him carrying a bucket full of fish just for the sport of it.

When we've been in perilous situations, Jack doesn't hesitate to do whatever is necessary to ensure our survival.  I admit that I've convinced him to hold off killing animals, but yet, he doesn't argue, not really.  We both know that we'll do what we have to when the time dictates it, but as long as My Jack has one of his infamous 'ors', we'll hold off on taking an animal life.  Still, Jack thinks I go a little overboard for someone who eats meat and enjoys a good steak just as much as he does.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I abhor murder, especially murder for sport, and when someone goes out with the intent of killing for no reason other than to kill, that's sport, and that I can't condone.

I suppose Howard Donovan gets much of the credit for my views.  What he made me do still makes my skin crawl.  I still remember the eyes: the eyes of a doe or an eagle or a rabbit.  Eyes, looking at me in a silent plea.

I was eleven-years-old and in my twelfth foster home.  Jonelle Donovan was afraid of her husband, and with good reason.  He hit her, every night.  I know because I saw it.  They had one child of their own when I was taken to their home to live with them.  The child was a baby, just ten-months-old.  Nellie was her name.  He slapped her sometimes, too.  

Babies are fragile.  Slapping Nellie like that could have killed her or caused brain damage, but he didn't care.  He risked her being injured just to get some sick point across to his wife when he was unhappy with her for something.  I think the only reason he got away with that for so long is that he had restraint with Nellie.  He never hit her more than once or twice at a time, and it was never a hard blow, but just a strong enough slap to get her crying.  Still, Mrs. Donovan wouldn't do anything about it.  I guess she was scared.  We were all punching bags for the so-called man-of-the-house.

As best I could, I avoided him, but he didn't make it easy.  He stared at me a lot, and when he wasn't staring, he was touching me, or hitting me.  The man drank a lot, and he had a violent temper.  He was out of work most of the time I was there.

Mister Donovan was a hunter.

“To be a man, you must be a hunter; you must seek out your prey, and fire, before they can react.”

Those words he repeated over and over again from the moment I moved in.  He kept wanting to take me hunting, and I kept trying to get out of it, but I couldn't.  He'd slap me around until I gave in.

He took me to the woods.  Funny, I don't remember where anymore.  We lived in New York, but all I remember is getting in his old, beat-up Chevy and wishing I was in Egypt.  Maybe that's why I don't remember; I daydreamed for as long as I could.

When we got there, he'd pull out his arsenal and decide which guns to use.  He had rifles.  For me, he gave me a pistol.  What's an eleven-year-old doing with a pistol?  It made no sense.  You don't hunt with a pistol.

“Shoot!”

“No.”

“I said, 'shoot'!”

“It's just a rabbit.”

“I don't care.  Be a man!”

“I don't need to kill that rabbit to be a man.”

“No, you're not a man.  Look at that hair.”

That's when he escalated how he touched me.  He told me that I looked like a girl, that if I couldn't prove I was a man, then he'd treat me like a girl.  I didn't know what to do, but back away.

He let me, that time.  The next time, he found a group of young ducklings in a pond.  He ordered me to kill the mother.  I couldn't, so he shot all the ducklings.  Every one of them, and when I cried, he hit me and told me I was no good sissy.

When he took me there again, he upped the ante.  He brought Nellie with us. He sat her on the ground, and then he waited until a deer came into range.  When one did, he told me to shoot, but I refused.  That's when I saw a funny expression appear on his face.  It was taunting and dark.

“Show me you're a man,” he said just as he twisted Nellie's arm behind her back.

“Don't!”

“Kill it.”

“NO!”

Just then, he began to pull on Nellie's fingers, pulling them back.  She screamed.

“NO!  STOP!”

He just laughed.  She wasn't his child; she was a prop, a plaything to be used and abused.  I didn't have a choice.  The deer had heard the noise, but didn't run off.  I wish he had.  He moved slightly, but that's all, and then the deer looked right at me.  I'll never forget those eyes.

“I'm so sorry.”

I fired, but only wounded it.  I wish the deer had gotten away, but it was too badly injured.  It couldn't move.

What happened next makes me want to throw up, even today.  Using Nellie as a pawn, he made me fire bullet after bullet to practice my aim.  I wanted to throw up then, and I did.

“Weak; you're so weak,” he told me right before knocking me down to the ground.  “But maybe one day you'll be a man; maybe.”

He took me out three more times, and each time he used Nellie as leverage.  My aim improved, because I couldn't stand to see the deer suffering.  I had to kill them with the first shot, for their sake.  I hated myself.  I hated him.
//End of Daniel's Diary//

Daniel sat back in his chair.  He hadn't realized it, but he had started to cry. He felt angry and sad.  He was still trying to process his emotions and find the strength to continue his diary when the phone rang.  Without thinking, Daniel picked up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Doctor Jackson?  Uh, Daniel?”

Daniel sat up a little straighter.

“Paul?”  It was Major Paul Davis.  ~Calling Jack?  Is he out of his mind?~

“I was trying to get in touch with Colonel O'Neill.”

“Jack?”  Daniel hesitated.  “He's, uh, around here ... somewhere.”  ~Gawd, I'm an idiot.~  “I mean, we were having pizza.”

“I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner, but Senator Kinsey insisted on getting some background on the last mission.  He's not happy.”

“He's never happy.”

“I'd like to comment on that, but I probably shouldn't.”

Daniel laughed.

“Hold on.  I'll get Jack.”

Daniel left the phone off the hook and headed downstairs, finding Jack outside, playing with their beagles.

“Hey,” Daniel said, holding the downstairs cordless phone in his hand, having pressed the 'mute' button on the phone.

“Is someone on the phone?  I didn't hear it.”

“Well, I, uh, picked it up in a hurry.”

“Danny, are you okay?”

“Yeah, it's Paul Davis; Kinsey wants more information about the mission.”

“Paul Davis.”

“Jack!”

“Sorry, it's automatic.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and handed Jack the phone.

“I'm going back upstairs.  Oh, I told him we were having pizza.”

“Standard cover-up.”

Daniel shrugged, then went back inside the house.

====

~Nellie.  I wonder what happened to her?~

Eventually, the eleven-year-old Daniel had found the courage to tell a social worker about what he had witnessed.  Though the worker seemed unfeeling at the time, five days later, Daniel had been removed from the home and placed elsewhere.  He never knew if it was because of what he had said or something else.  Unfortunately, moving from home to home had become normal to him.  He was just grateful to be out of there, and he hoped he'd never again have to use a pistol, or any weapon.

~No such luck.~

Daniel finished up his entry about Donovan, and then moved to the next painful chapter he needed to rehash.

//Beginning of Daniel's Diary//
So, fast forward a few years.  I had been chosen to be an intern on a dig in Egypt, if I could pay my way.  I had three months to come up with the funds, and I was dead broke.

As I said, Ron looked like he belonged at the museum, and he represented himself as a member of the group going.  I had no reason not to believe him.  He was a few years older than me, and he was well-versed in archaeology and ancient cultures.  We had many detailed discussions, and there was nothing to indicate he wasn't exactly who he said.  He'd even given me his card with the museum logo on it the first time I met him.  I'd also seen him interacting with other museum officials and even the leader of the dig.  He appeared to be authentic and on the level.

I needed money, and Ron liked me, so I accepted his offer to help out; I moved into his apartment.  He only asked me to pay half the utilities, plus my food and any phone calls I had made.  Basically, I was staying there rent free, but in return, I agreed to help him with his thesis which dealt with the Egyptian influence on modern art.

At the same time, I was working two jobs in between classes and tutoring as much as I could.  It helped that I was too busy to eat much, which meant my food bill was minimal.

Ron's apartment was pretty small, just a one bedroom with a bathroom, kitchenette, and a living area.  Like I said, I should have seen it coming; I should have known something was wrong, but I wanted to go on this dig, and Ron was my only chance.  I guess I ignored the signs because I wanted to.

I realized after a couple of weeks that Ron was actually a bit intimidating, not because of his size, but because of his rather domineering nature.  He was intense, and he could be very focused at times.  He was very self-assured; nothing seemed to phase him.

I slept on the sofa, of course, but one weekend, Ron was supposed to be out of town, and he told me to use his bed, so I did; but on the second night ... I was asleep on my left side when I woke up suddenly.  He was pressed against me, sniffing me, and running his hand along the side of my body.

“Don...don't do that,” I told him, getting up from the bed.

“Come on, Daniel; you want it as much as I do.”

“No, I don't.”

I walked into the living area and started to pack, but he stopped me.

“Daniel, don't go.  So I ... misread some signals.  I apologize.”

“I think I should go.”

“No,” he said a bit forcefully, but then he used a logic I couldn't deny.  “If you leave, you'll never save enough money for the dig.”  He paused for effect, and then dealt another hand.  “Of course, even if you can get the money together, there are a lot of other students anxious to take your place.  I could ... call one of them.”  After another pause, he confidently said, “Or you could stay here.  I won't touch you.  Like I said, I misread the signals.”

He had sounded a bit more apologetic with his last comments, or maybe that's how I wanted to hear it.

I should have seen it coming.  I hadn't sent any signals.  I wasn't interested in him, or in anyone, romantically, or otherwise.  What I wanted, though, was to go on the dig, desperately, so I stayed.  I knew of at least five others who were as anxious to go on the dig as I was, and three of those already had enough money to pay their way.  What choice did I have?  At the moment, the answer was none, at least in my unthinking brain.

From that moment on, Ron did his best to intimidate me with the threat of losing the trip.  He did it slyly, but he never let me forget his affiliation with the museum.  Like a fool, I found myself being led around on a leash, just to keep him from tossing me out and replacing me on the dig.  I was young, and for once, I think I wanted something so desperately, that I let my naivete rule over common sense.

It was a silly, stupid thing to do, but I was eighteen, if that's any excuse.

Ron was a gun nut.  Why is it I attract those people?  Maybe it's because everyone thinks I'm a pacifist to the point of letting them walk all over me?  Maybe they think a show of firepower, that they can create this havoc in the natural order of the world, will somehow let them control me?  I don't know, and I guess it's neither here nor there anyway, but the point was, he loved guns.

At his insistence, we began going to the firing range every night.  On the surface, we talked about his thesis.  Again, he was very knowledgeable.  His outline was thought out and detailed, and together, we worked through his project.  Underneath, though, something else was going on.

Ron held a gun like it was an appendage; no, like it was his baby.  It was different from anything else I've seen.  Jack keeps his weapon close; he taps on it, and has it at the ready, but he's always aware that it's a lethal weapon, and while he enjoys the firepower and what he can do with a P-90, it's hardly a baby to him.  He doesn't stroke it and talk to it.  Ron did.  It was frightening.

“Ron, I know how to shoot.  Let's go.”

“No, Daniel, do it again.  Aim your weapon so it's dead on.  Feel it; be a part of it.”  Ron actually stood behind me, putting his arms around me to put me in the exact position he wanted.  It made me sick to have him that close.  Looking back, I think I was selling my soul for that dig to Egypt.  “See how sleek the barrel is.  Be one with it.”  His hands went over mine.  I thought I might just turn and run.  I wanted to.  “Now fire, and keep firing, bull's-eye after bull's-eye.”

I fired, but I don't know what I saw: the black target of a head or a deer's eyes.

Finally, we left, and I prayed again that I'd never have to hold a pistol again. It was an unanswered prayer; then again, at that point in my life, I wasn't sure if there really was anything to pray to.
//End of Daniel's Diary//

“Danny, I ...”  Seeing Daniel jump in his chair, Jack moved forward with concern.  “Danny, are you okay?”

Quickly, Daniel closed the laptop and turned his chair towards Jack.

“Yes, you just scared me.  I was ... concentrating,” he said as light-heartedly as he could.

“You look pale, and earlier, you looked ... well, your eyes were ...”

“No, Jack; I mean, I'm fine.”

“You're fine?”

“Yes, Jack, I'm fine.  Um, did you need something?”

~Trying to get rid of me.~  “You.  I always need you.”

The archaeologist smiled, stood up, and kissed his husband.

“You always know the right thing to say.”

“Just speaking the truth,” Jack stated softly.  “Are you sure you're okay?”  ~You'll say 'no' now, but later, you are *so* going to tell me what's wrong!~

“Jack, stop worrying so much.  Did you need me for something?”

For a moment, Jack considered distracting his lover with some serious early evening lovemaking, but Daniel obviously was in the middle of something he wanted to finish, and Jack, too, had some business to take care of.  Later, he'd get to the bottom of whatever was going on.

“Actually, Love, I came in to let you know I'm going out for a while; I have some errands to run.”

“Okay, Babe.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

One kiss later, Jack headed downstairs while Daniel returned to his diary.

//Beginning of Daniel's Diary//
“Where are we going, Ron?”

We were supposed to be going to a museum warehouse in upstate New York where some special artifacts were being held for an exhibit that wouldn't start until after the trip to Egypt.  Ron had said he could get me in for a quick look.

I was intrigued by what I'd heard about the new finds, so I was anxious to see them and readily agreed.  It wasn't long, though, before I realized we were far from any warehouse.  He'd driven into the country.  It was pretty, and the weather was warm, but I was anything but calm.

“You'll see.  I have a surprise for you, Daniel.”

“I thought we were going to the warehouse.”

“We will ... after.”

“After what?”

“The surprise.  Just be patient,” he said, reaching over to rub my shoulder.

I cringed.  Why hadn't I separated myself from this man in the beginning?  Desire, not for him, but for Egypt: that was the answer.  He was my ticket to returning to a place I longed to be, the only place I had really ever been happy.  Looking back, I feel more stupid than ever.  I could have checked Ron's status at the museum; I could have done so many things, but I didn't.  Even with the horrors of the foster care system, I let myself fall into Ron's trap.  Dumb, dumb, and dumber.

After another hour, he stopped the rental car.  It was in the middle of nowhere.  He'd gone off several side roads, and where we now were, there was only one small building that looked like a run-down shack.

Hesitantly, I followed Ron inside, staying several steps behind him.

“I want to show you something,” he said, going to the corner where a trunk was.  He opened it, pulling out more weapons than I'd ever seen at one time before.  “Look at these babies: perfection, every one.”

“If you say so,” I said, nervously looking around at the simple shack.

There was a tiny, wooden rectangular table in the center of the shack with a chair on each end.  There was a wood stove, two other storage lockers, and a twin bed.

“This one is special,” Ron said, moving towards me with the pistol he'd pulled out of the trunk.

“Yeah, it's, uh, great,” I stuttered, wondering if I could just walk out the door.

 At this point, I really wasn't sure what he'd do.

I listened to him ramble on about the gun for ten minutes.  It was some collector's piece, but I don't remember the details now.  It was a gun, and that was something I didn't care about.  Finally, he put it away.

“I think I'd like to go now,” I said, moving towards the door.

“No, not yet.  We have a lot to do.”

“Ron, I'd like to get to the warehouse.”

Wrong thing to say. It was like a light switch turned off.

“One track mind.  You and artifacts.  Is that all you care about?”

The words were spoken in anger, Ron's face and eyes intense and dark as he spoke.

“No, of ... of course, not, but ... but the only reason I'm here is to see the artifacts.”

“That's right; that's all that matters to you.”

At that moment, I knew for sure I didn't want to be there.  I didn't know how I'd get back to the city, but anything was better than being there.  I moved toward the door, but then I heard the sound of a pistol being cocked.  Slowly, I turned around to see Ron aiming a gun at me.

“This one isn't a collector's piece.  It's a super compact: looks like something you would have seen in 1911.  These babies are going away, though.  Star's making a new model, but I like this one: easily concealed, a favorite of gun writer's; yep, this one's been the subject of many fictional stories. I guess it's the idea of it, but I like it.  Doesn't last long, though; probably why the new model is coming out, but that's okay.  I use one of these for practice, and the other, this one, I carry for ... occasions like this.”

“Wh...what, uh, are ... are you going to do?”

“You owe me, Daniel.  I'm tired of the tease; it's time to pay up.”

I didn't like what I saw in his eyes.  I'd been in similar positions before, but never with a gun pointed at me.  I knew what he wanted, but I wasn't about to give it.

“No,” I said defiantly.

He walked towards me and ran the barrel of the gun through my hair.

“But you will.”

“No, I won't,” I refuted, kicking him in the groin and then turning and running from the old shack as fast as I could.
//End of Daniel's Diary//

Daniel felt an evil chill running through him.  He didn't want to think about this anymore.  Why was telling Jack so important anyway?

~He'll never know.  He doesn't need to know.  It doesn't mean anything.  It was so long ago.  It doesn't affect us.  I don't need to be doing this.~

His internal war raged on for a while.  The archaeologist just didn't want to think about what had happened.

====

A while later, Jack returned home.  He checked on Daniel, who shooed him away, so he went downstairs to put on their dinner.  Setting the oven to the proper temperature for the small turkey he had bought, Jack went into the living room and watched the news.

Not long after that, Daniel appeared at the foot of the stairs, self-hugging.  Jack saw the reddened eyes and the signs of tears.

“Jack, I need you to read something.”

The older man looked up from his spot on the sofa and noticed how uneasy his lover seemed.

“Danny ...” he spoke as he began to move, but Daniel held out his arms and shook his head in a move that told Jack to stay put and listen.

“I just ... I need you to go read.  It's on the laptop in the den; the file's open.  Please, just go upstairs.”

Jack turned off the TV with the remote control and stood up.  He walked to Daniel and started to touch him, but the younger man shied away.

“I'm okay, but I really need to get this over with.  Please.”

“I love you.”

Daniel smiled and responded, “That's why I wrote it; it's why I want you to read it.  I'm okay,” Daniel said again.

It was a stretch of the truth, but what he was trying to say is that this was just a minor stop at the Nightmare Cafe.  As soon as Jack had read the diary, and they moved on, all would be well again.

Jack wanted to take Daniel into his arms, but he, too, knew that he needed to follow Daniel's wishes.  Something was wrong, and the sooner he found out what, the sooner he could make it all better.

“Okay, Love,” Jack said, moving upstairs.  “Better put the turkey on hold,” he said, glancing back at Daniel.

====

Thirty minutes later, Jack was gritting his teeth, wishing there was a Goa'uld handy that he could kill.  It just never seemed to end, it being the amount of pain his lover had suffered as a young child and even as a young adult.

~Well, that explains why he was such a crack shot from the beginning.~

Jack stood and walked around the den, staring at artifacts and precious mementos from their life together.  He grunted, trying to get rid of his anger, something he wanted to do before talking to Daniel, but he wasn't having much luck.

Finally, he gave up.  He'd try to keep his anger in check while he comforted his lover, something Jack knew he needed to do.

~Calm; be calm; that's what Danny needs.~

Jack found his husband studying a bush in the backyard; or rather, he was staring at it, his right hand flipping the branches of the bush back and forth.

“Hey,” Jack said as he approached and then wrapped his arms around Daniel who immediately leaned back into his embrace.  “I love you.”

“I know, and I love you, too.  Jack, I want you to do something before we talk.”

Jack chuckled very lightly.  Things sure had changed from their early beginnings.  They still had a ways to go, but their trust in each other was infinite, and both knew what the other needed.

“What?”

Daniel turned around and placed a quick kiss on his soulmate's lips.

“I want you to take a minute and remember that this is the present, and the future is all good.  What I wrote about was a very long time ago.”

“Danny ...”

“I know you're angry; I can feel it.  Just ... try to remember that we can't change what happened.”

“You're too calm, Danny.”

“What?”

“That Donovan jerk did a number on you, but I want you to tell me about that Zeidinger creep.”

Daniel turned around and walked several steps away from Jack.

“You read it.  I didn't leave anything out.”

“You need to say it.”

“No, I don't,” Daniel said harshly, spinning around to face Jack.

In a split second, Daniel had begun to self-hug and fidgeted slightly as he stood.  He was looking down, no longer wanting to stare into his lover's eyes.

Jack closed the gap and, with his hands, forced Daniel to stop the self-hug.  Jack took hold of his lover's hands and held tightly.

“Danny, it's good that you wrote them, but you need to say the words; you need to let the feelings out.”

“I did that,” he said, trying to back away, but Jack's grip was tight, and he couldn't break loose.  “Jack ...”

“Come on, Love.  Let's give the girls a biscuit and go up to the roof deck.”

“You're not going to let me say 'no', are you?”

“No, I'm not.”

Resigned to what was about to happen, Daniel went inside to get Bijou and Katie a treat.  The lovers played with the dogs for a few minutes.  It was a buffer, moments of unity and love, and it provided time for Daniel to prepare himself a bit more.

Soon enough, they climbed the ladder to the roof deck.  Daniel had gone first, and when Jack followed, he found Daniel self-hugging again as he leaned back against the house at the corner of the railing.

Daniel watched with a bit of trepidation as Jack walked towards him.

“You scared, Love?”

“Jack, why do we have so many demons in our closet?  I get tired of them.”

Jack reached out with his left hand and caressed Daniel's cheek.  He shook his head, shrugged, and had a closed smile on his face.

“Maybe that's why we need each other so much.  We've both gone through crap that isn't fit for scum, let alone people.  I guess we understand each other.”

Daniel nodded slightly as he leaned into Jack's loving caress.

“I thought when I got out of foster care that life would get better.  It didn't, not until you.  Every day was just another kind of torture.  The pain was still there; just ... different.”

“Tell me about Zeidinger.”

Daniel nodded and moved away.  He needed distance, and that was okay.  Jack knew the distance would end soon enough, when the ache had exploded and the emotion raw.  It would be the healing.  Right now, the story had to be spoken.

“I accepted him at face value, that he was who he said.”

“You're too trusting, Danny.”

“No, I just ... maybe I am,” he reluctantly agreed after a moment.  “Anyway, I had no reason to doubt him.  He was knowledgeable, knew his way around the museum, and he even had business cards.  It was fine at first, after I moved in, but once he made that first move, everything changed.  I should have left, but I wanted to go to Egypt.  It was a need, Jack, a need that went down so deep inside my soul that I couldn't see anything but ... but getting there.  That dig was going to be my first chance to find something on my own, to really prove myself, and ... and I think I needed to be in a place that was happy for me.”

“Your parents,” Jack said, understanding Daniel's desire.

“Yes.  I had to get there, no matter what.”

“So you let that creep con you.”

“I guess so.”  Daniel turned around.  “It was a juvenile thing to do, wasn't it?”

“Danny, who am I to judge you for wanting something so much that you'd sacrifice yourself a little to get there?  Your problem was that you came a little too close to sacrificing more of you than you wanted to.”

After a moment, Daniel continued his story.

“I learned pretty quickly that Ron's ... passion for guns was, uh, well, he, uh, couldn't get enough.  I was helping him on his thesis ... I mean, I ... I thought I was, and he'd insist we talk things out on the firing range.  I mean, gawd, Jack, you can't even hear there, but we'd go.  He, uh, liked to show me how to aim.”

Daniel's eyes were dim.

“You mean he liked to touch you.”  Jack saw the guilt in Daniel's eyes.  “And you let him, just that much.”

“Gawd, I feel so stupid.  I just thought I could keep it under control.  I didn't like it.  I asked him not to touch me, but I guess on the range, when he was showing me how to shoot, he could ...”

“Touch you and have it be okay.”

“Then came the trip to the warehouse.  I should have seen that one coming, too.  I mean it was getting close to when Ron's secret would have come out.  If he was going to, uh ... if ...”

“If he was going to make a move on you, he had to act.  At that point, he had nothing much to lose, right?”

“I would have moved out.  I already had about two-thirds of the money, but I still needed him.”  Daniel sighed, shaking his head.  “Sometimes I don't like myself, Jack.”

“Daniel,” Jack said, moving into his lover's personal space.  “We all have good and bad points.  You have so much good, more good than most.  You weren't sponging off that guy; you paid your way.  Even if the thesis was bogus, you were doing something that you thought was helpful.  You paid for the electricity you used, the food you ate, the tools you needed to study.  All that guy was doing was giving you a place to sleep, and considering it was all a crock, you don't have one thing to feel guilty about.”

“Maybe; maybe not.”

Jack put his hand under Daniel's chin to lift it so the younger man was looking into his eyes.

“Not; definitely not.”

Daniel smiled, feeling Jack's love and belief in him.

“Go on.  You got to that shack.  Then what?”

“After I kicked him, I ran, but like the ... the geek that I was, I tripped.  I didn't get far, and the next thing I knew he was on top of me, playing with that gun like it was a ... a ... I don't know, some kind of weird sex toy.  Jack, he put the barrel in his mouth and ... sucked on it.  I think that scared me more than anything else at that point.  I mean, that was ... it was nuts.”

“Sick is what it was.”

Daniel walked around for a minute.  His hands were across his chest, but it wasn't a self-hug, at least not yet.

“He, uh, pointed the gun at me, run...running the barrel along my lips.  He told me to suck on it.  Gawd, it was sick.”  Daniel turned around, facing Jack, and began to shiver as he recalled the nightmare.  “I shook my head.  I wasn't going to do that, but he cocked the trigger.  I ... I didn't want to die, so I did it.  I wanted to gag.”

Daniel looked down at the wooden deck and shook his head back and forth.  He mumbled several things in rapid succession that Jack could barely make out.

“Sick ... just sick; no one should do that to someone else; not fair; why always me?  Why do I keep asking that?  Doesn't matter; over; long time ago.  Sick; it was sick.”

As he listened, Jack was working on keeping his anger in check, something that wasn't easy for him.  When Daniel looked over at Jack again, he immediately noticed his lover's struggle, especially when Jack crossed his own arms.  Daniel could see his husband's face tighten.  The older man's eyes were cold from what he was hearing and what he had read in the diary.

Daniel smiled softly, as if to tell Jack that is was okay, or more specifically, that he was okay.

“How'd you get out of it?” Jack asked, though he knew the answer from reading the diary.

“He became ... fascinated by the gun.  He was looking at it like it was ... I don't know.  It was almost like he was in a trance.  I pushed him off, got up, and ran.  He followed me.  Jack, we came to this spot, and down this hillside, there was this family.  They were having a picnic.  It wasn't a picnic area.  I think they just pulled down a side road and drove.  I mean, no one would be where they were.  It was a mother and a father, a little boy and a little girl, and their two dogs.  They were basset hounds.  Ron, he like, changed, right in front of me.  He took the gun and he aimed it at those dogs.  I thought my heart was going to stop.”

“So what did you do?”

“If he could shoot the dogs, he could shoot the kids.  He was ... laughing, and he started mumbling about target practice: live target practice.  He aimed at the dogs, but then at the little girl.  I jumped him, and we struggled, but I wasn't very strong.  He got away from me, but I had managed to get the gun.  He headed back for the cabin, and I thought it was over.”

“If he had been sane, it would been over.”

Daniel nodded, but he felt sick to his stomach.

“I watched the family.  I'm not sure why I didn't just leave, but I, uh, gawd, Jack, they were having such a good time.  Maybe that's why I didn't leave.  It felt good to see happiness like that.  Anyway, they were just getting ready to leave when I heard a noise.  It was Ron.  He'd gotten a rifle. He was going to kill them, Jack.  He'd gone over the edge.”

“Danny, it was a long time ago.  Back away from it.”

Jack was concerned about his soulmate, the faded memory becoming too fresh in Daniel's mind.  He knew his husband needed to exorcise this demon and yet worried that it was becoming too much.

“I called out his name.  He told me to leave, and he fired at me.  I don't know how it missed me, but it did.  He said he was going for a multiple kill; that it was a challenge.  I shot him in the arm.  He just ... gawd, he just laughed.  It was like he didn't even feel it.”

Slowly, with tears streaming down his face, Daniel looked over at his lover.

“I didn't have a choice.  I hate guns.  He laughed at me, said I was coward, that I'd have to kill him.  After his first shot had missed me, he'd decided to make me watch.  He dared me to kill him.  The family had heard the shots, but I don't know if they knew what it was, or how much at risk they were.  The father grabbed the children, and the mother herded the two dogs towards their car as quickly as she could, but it wasn't going to be quick enough.  He counted down.  I fired again, hit him in the leg.  Gawd, Jack, it was like he was a machine.  His body flinched, but he didn't move.  He let out this ... this hollow sound.  The family was hurrying, and he wa...was loving it.  I told him to stop; he wouldn't.  I aimed the gun again.  I had to make a choice, but I couldn't kill him.  Jack, I hate to kill.  I've done it now, but it makes me sick every time.”

Jack pulled Daniel into his embrace.

“I don't want you to kill, Danny.”

“Gawd, it's easier now, and that makes me ill, too.”

“It's a self-defense mechanism.”

“I know.”

“But you didn't kill him.”

“No.”  Daniel looked up into Jack's eyes.  “I'd become a sharpshooter.  I blew his hand off, Jack.  With one, exact shot, his hand exploded, and the rifle fell to the ground.  He just looked at me.  He didn't even shout.  I had to, Jack.  I mean, I thought about just shooting him again in the leg or shoulder, but the first shot hadn't phased him.  He was acting like a madman, and if he regained control, I was afraid of what he might do next.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes, but I had to go to the road to do that.  By the time they got there, he was gone.  He had three shots in him, and no more hand, but somehow, he got away.”

“Didn't they find him?”

Daniel shook his head.

“He just disappeared.  He never went back to his apartment.  He wasn't hurt bad enough to have died; at least, I don't think he was.”

“What about the guns?”

“They found his car and the arsenal at the shack, but the gun I'd fired and dropped on the ground, that gun, and the rifle, were never found.  The police carried out an investigation, but they couldn't even find a record of him.  He was a total fraud.  When I went to the director of the museum to tell him about it, he didn't know what I was talking about.  I'd been on the list for the dig all along, with offers of financial assistance because of my scholarships.  Jack, I never saw that mail.”

“Having you move in gave him control over your mail and phone calls.”

“I guess so.  They told me they assumed I didn't need help.”  Daniel shook his head.  “They had no idea who I was talking about.  The leader of the dig remembered talking to a man matching Ron's description, but he said the man had just asked about an artifact on display.  Gawd, how stupid was I anyway?”

“Angel, you were young.”

“Yeah, right.  Anyway, after a while, the police closed the investigation.  They never found him, not even a record that he existed.  I'm lucky the leader of the dig even remembered talking to Ron, or they probably would have thought I was nuts or something.  I mean, there wasn't even anything at the apartment to say who he really was.  They did find some phoney ID cards.  Jack, he looked so different on those; even his hair and weight.  He was like a Chameleon.”

“Fingerprints?  There had to be something,” Jack said.

“No, nothing.  They have no clue what he really looked like or what his name really was.  There was no weapon, and the family never reported the incident.  They just had ... nothing, except for the blood on the scene.  Aside from my having shot Ron, what was the crime?  As far as they were concerned, even the weapons they had found could have been left there by anyone.”

“So your name may or may not appear on some dusty record somewhere.”

Daniel shrugged, saying, “Maybe, but I doubt it.  It was a tiny town that had final jurisdiction over the case.  Jack, their idea of a crime was someone stealing a cow.  I remember calling them once just after it happened, and they had my name wrong.  I told them I was Daniel Jackson, and they finally found it under Daniel Johnson.”

“Hick town?”

“I guess so, if you can even call it a town; you know, just a few buildings in the middle of lots and lots of land; and since the family never reported anything, I guess they just ... let it go.”

“Went back to cows?”

Daniel shrugged again as he responded, “All I know is I ... I hate guns.”

“Sometimes, Danny, so do I.  I wish you had told me.”

Jack again took Daniel into his arms.

“Jack, I buried it, so deep.  I tried to tell you at first, and then, it just didn't matter because we were on missions, and ki...killing was ... it was ...”

“A twice-weekly occurrence?”

“Sometimes.”

“I thought I was just a good teacher,” Jack lamented as he kissed Daniel's nape.

“You were, just not about how to use a pistol.  All I needed was the specifics on the Beretta, not how to aim it or use it.”

“I wasn't a very good listener back then, was I?” Jack asked, unhappy with his lack of perception and his assumptions and preconceived notions about his lover.

“Well, you've learned a lot.”

“Yeah, like how not to judge a geek by his cover.”

“Funny, Jack.”

“Not really, but I'm sorry I didn't pay better attention.  It's still not always my strong point.”

“You're wrong, Babe.  You listen with your heart.  I always know you're there; it's how I was able to finally tell you about this.  Once I thought about it today, I knew I couldn't keep it a secret anymore.  If I did, it would have been a wall between us for nothing.”

“Secrets are nasty things, but we both have things in our pasts that we don't want to think about.”

“I know.”

Daniel took a big breath, releasing the tension that had built up inside him.

“You feel better, Danny?”

“Yes.”

“How about we go snuggle for a while?”

“I'd like that.”

“Let's go upstairs.”  As they left their roof deck and headed up the stairs, Jack commented, “Thinking about it, Danny, I don't think there is a report out there.  It would have come up in your background check.  I've seen your file; there's nothing there.”

“That doesn't surprise me.  Like I said, it's probably under the wrong name, or ... I don't know, Jack.  Ron ... who knows who he really was or what his ties were.”

“Maybe we should find out.”

Daniel stopped abruptly his motion just a few steps shy of the second floor.  He reached out and grabbed Jack's shirt.  Taking a nervous breath, he shook his head.

“Jack, don't; please don't.  Let this die.  I don't want to think about this again.  Ron disappeared into the darkness; please let him stay there.”

“Danny ...”

“Jack, please.”

“I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

====

The next morning, Daniel awoke to the scent of roses.  He blinked several times as the aroma filtered through his senses.  When he finally opened his eyes all the way, he saw his husband, holding a bouquet of red roses, which he immediately handed to Daniel as the younger man sat upright.

“Flow...flowers?  Why?”

“Because I love you, and the only things your hands should be holding are flowers and archaeological tools, and I'm making you a promise, Danny.”

“A promise?  What promise?”

“Someday soon, you'll never have to hold a gun again.”

Daniel ran his hand down Jack's cheek and leaned forward for a kiss.

“Thank you for the flowers.”

“Thank you for ... being you,” Jack said lovingly.

With another kiss, the lovers began a new round of lovemaking, having survived another revelation of a dark moment from their past.  Each secret or hidden nightmare became easier to share as the years passed, because with the dawn of every day, Jack and Daniel knew their love was stronger and brighter than any foe, or any blackness in their history.  Lost in the bliss of their nation of two, the lovers moved forward in the haven of each other's arms.

====
--Epilogue - Three Months Later
====

It was a rainy day in Philadelphia as Daniel entered the large bank.  He removed his raincoat, thankful it had just been a light rain.  He looked around and saw the woman who matched the description he'd been given.  A bit hesitantly, but with a small smile, he approached the 'New Account' desk where she sat.

“Hello.  Can I help you?” the woman asked politely as she looked up at the man standing in front of her desk.

“Um, yes.”

“Please, sit down.  I'm Nellie Montgomery.  Did you want to open a new account?”

The woman was just shy of thirty now, but she had a friendly smile.  She was about five-feet, six-inches tall, had long, black hair, brown eyes, and a nice figure.  Her tone was airy and bright.

~She looks happy.~

“Sir?  Did you want to open an account?” she asked again.

“I'm sorry.  I was just, uh, remembering.”

“Well, uh ...”

She really didn't know what to say to Daniel, who was just staring at her.  She didn't feel threatened, but she was a bit uneasy, unsure what to do next.

“I'm sorry,” Daniel said again.  “I'm Daniel Jackson.”  He waited to see if there was any recognition, but there wasn't.  “Actually ...”

“Mister Jackson, have you banked with us before?”

“I should have called first.”

“No, really, that's unnecessary.  We don't require appointments.”

“No, I mean ... gawd, I'm sorry,” Daniel said, leaning forward and shaking his head slightly.  “You know, you'd never know it, but I'm a linguist.”  He sighed.  “Sometimes, though, I make a mess out of the English language.”

She chuckled and said, “I think we all do that sometimes.”

“I, uh, was hoping you might recognize my name, but I realize that's pretty silly.”

“Have we met?”

“Yes, but it was a very long time ago.”

“I'm sorry I don't remember, and I hope you don't mind my saying this, but, uh, I'm pretty sure I'd remember you,” she said, smiling as she spoke.

Daniel tried to stop the blush from forming and looked off towards the tellers for a minute.  Then he took a larger breath and looked at Nellie again.

“When I knew you, you were Nellie Donovan, and you were ten-months-old.  I was eleven.”

Nellie sat back, trying to work through something in her mind.  Then she gasped, and a look of delight crossed her face.

“You're him.  Oh my gosh!  You're *him*!”

“I'm ... me.”

“No, it's just ... oh my ...”

Nellie stood up, so Daniel did, too.  She came around to the other side of her desk and hugged the unsuspecting archaeologist.

“You saved my life.”

“I ... what?”

With her hands still on Daniel, she said, “You're the foster child who told social services about my parents and how my father treated me.  You're him, aren't you?”

“Yes.”

Nellie smiled brightly.

“Do you have some time?”

“Yes,” he said, knowing he'd come to Philadelphia with only one thing to do: meeting Nellie again and making sure she was okay.

“Wait here.  I'll be right back.”

Daniel watched as Nellie went to an older woman, working on the teller side of the building.  He noticed Nellie motioning towards him, obviously talking about him.  Then the woman nodded, and Nellie quickly returned to Daniel.

“There's a little bistro down the street,” Nellie stated.  Looking out the large bank windows, she saw that the rain had stopped, though it was clearly still overcast.  “We could go there and talk, or take a taxi, if you'd prefer.”

“Walking is fine,” Daniel replied with a warm smile.

====

“So you look happy, Nellie,” Daniel said as they waited for their lunch to be served.

“I am.  Life has its bumps, but I can't complain.  I love my job, have some super friends, have a wonderful boyfriend, and great parents.”

“Great ... parents?”

“The Montgomerys.  Of course, I was too young to remember what happened first-hand, but later I learned some things from my mother; I mean my birth mother.”

“Jonelle,” Daniel said.

“Yes.  Mom, she ... well, she was a victim.  It really wasn't her fault.  Her mother had been the victim of abuse as well.  She lived the life she had been raised to live.  It's sad really.”

“Nellie, what happened?”

“Well, the way I understand it is that after you told the social worker about my father, they pulled you out of the house.  They told my parents to get their act together, or they'd take me away as well.  Well, you know the system, it took a while, but maybe because I was a baby, they didn't hesitate too long.  The next time my father hit my mother, she took me and went to social services for help.”  Nellie sighed.  “She tried to take care of me, and I was in and out of foster homes for over a year in between living with her.”

“Did they get a divorce?”

Nellie took a drink of her tea and then let out a heavy sigh.

“I think one of my first memories is when I was three-years-old.  Most kids would remember a favorite doll, a pet, a bedtime story, or something like that.  I remember hiding behind my mother.  My father had shown up at the house.  He was drunk and angry.  He wouldn't listen to her.  I think he wanted her back, but she said no.  He almost beat her to death that night, and he did a pretty good job on me, too.”

“Nellie ...”

“Daniel, I remember the event, not the hurt.  It's like a dream.  I don't feel anything; but after that, even though he was arrested and convicted of assault and battery, Mom just couldn't get it together.  I think he beat the spirit out of her.  She looked at me and told me about you.  She said you had the bluest eyes, that you were a good little boy, and it hurt her heart that you were in so much pain.”

“Pain.”

“Mom may have been a victim, Daniel, but she was intuitive.  She blamed herself for being weak and not standing up to my father.  She, uh, wasn't sure what he did to you.”  Nellie paused.  “I'm not asking, I'm just saying, she didn't know.  Mom said she didn't want me to be in the position you were in: a little boy who had been in more foster homes than he had years on this Earth.  So, you see, you saved my life because my mother remembered you.  She cared about you, Daniel; she just couldn't fight, until she found some hidden strength to take me away when I was three, and then again when she put me up for adoption.  I really don't know how they convinced my father to sign over his rights, but he did.”

“So you were adopted right away?”

“Yes, by the Montgomerys.  They've treated me like a princess, and they never put down my birth parents.”

“Do you see them?  I mean, your birth parents?”

“Dad spent several years in prison, and then he got drunk one night and ran his car into a tree.  I see Mom every now and then.  She still lives in New York.”

“I'm glad.  I, uh, wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“You didn't forget me then?”

Daniel shook his hand and whispered, “No.”

“Mom was right, wasn't she?”

“About what?”

“You were in a lot of pain.”

Daniel considered the question and then answered, “Yes.  My, uh, parents were wonderful people.  They loved me, but they died in an accident, so ... um, after they died, things kinda went downhill for a ... a very long time.”

“Now?”

Daniel grew a big smile.

“Now, uh, things are ... they're good.”

“Are you married?”  She saw the hesitation on his face.  “Is that an unfair question?”

“No.  It's just, uh, well, it's ... sort of a secret.”

“You are married then?”

“Yes.”

“What's she like?”

Daniel sighed and looked down at the salad that had just been placed in front of him by the waitress.

“She's a he.”

Daniel waited for the shoe to drop.  He stared Nellie in the eye, sure lunch was over before it began.

Nellie smiled, then asked, “Okay, what's he like?”

Daniel's smile was broader than it had been all day.

“He, uh, is the best.  We have a lot of differences, but, at the end of the day, the differences don't matter.”

“You two need to meet my boyfriend then.  I swear, Colin thinks you have to be joined at the hip in everything.”

“Colin?  Sounds very 'old school'.”

“Yes, and old money, but I don't care about that.  He's a great guy, but the one issue we have is that we fight all the time about nonsense.  I'm really afraid it'll do us in.”

“Not if you really love each other.  I mean, you don't have to solve all the problems and convince him to think like you, or vice versa, you just have to accept the other for who they are, respect their opinions, and listen to them as you want them to listen to you.  I think, uh, if you do that, then the differences are still there, but they are just part of you, not a wall between you.”

Nellie smiled again.

“I'm so glad you came to Philadelphia.”

“Me, too.”

====

“Welcome home, Love.”

“I missed you, Jack, even though we were only separated for two-thirds of the day.”

The lovers kissed, said hello for a few minutes, and then settled onto the sofa.

“How'd it go?”

“Great.  She's happy, Jack, and ... going to social services was the right thing to do.”

“They listened to you?”

“Yeah, how about that?” Daniel said incredulously.

Jack smiled and kissed his husband again.  Then he said, “See, Angel, you weren't as ignored as you thought.”

“Well, at least I made a difference for Nellie.   So, tell me the truth, Jack.  What have you found out about Ron?”

“What?” Jack asked, acting confused.

“I know you, Babe; you've been looking for him, even though I asked you not to.”

Jack sighed and nodded, then answered, “But no luck.  Like you said, he disappeared, and we still haven't figured out what his real name was.”

“You could let it go; it was a long time ago.”

“Danny, you don't sound angry.”

Jack was surprised at Daniel's easy acceptance of his confession.

“I'm not.  Protecting me is part of you.”  Daniel let out a sound of frustration, but not at Jack, at the menace named Ron Zeidinger.  “Jack, I don't want to find him.  I don't ever want to see him again.  I don't care what hole in the ground he disappeared into.  I just want him away from me.  I know that probably sounds odd.  I have this ... image, and I do care about people and what happens to them and why, even ... even Ron; maybe there's a reason why Ron was the way he was, but I don't want to relive that ever again.  So, I wish you wouldn't, but I know you will, because you love me, and instinctively, you want to make sure he doesn't ever pop up again.”

“You know me so well, Love.”

“It's like you said a while back, Jack.  We all have good and bad points, and, uh, we are who we are.  I told Nellie that at the end of the day, it's not about having differences, but about accepting those differences.”

“My genius,” Jack uttered just before kissing the man who owned his heart.  Then he continued, “Zeidinger's a loose end, and I don't like loose ends.”

“And what happens if you find him?”  Daniel saw Jack tilt his head and then stare him deeply in the eye.  It was a Special Ops look, one of eliminating danger and threat.  “Jack, if you find him, don't tell me.  I don't want to know what you do to him; just ... gawd, just don't let him near me ever again.”

Jack drew Daniel into arms.  This was just about the most, if not the most, vulnerable he'd ever seen Daniel.  He knew it related back to a time of transition.  Daniel was a brain, a genius, and yet, with all his smarts, with all common sense, and even with layers of protective defenses, he had wanted something so much that he let himself be drawn into a nightmare, one that he never should have let happen.

For one of the few times in his life, Daniel had made some poor choices and decisions as he prepared to go on that first dig.  Had it been youth?  Naivete?  Something else?  It didn't matter, but the result had been a terrifying experience that Daniel wanted to erase from his brain.  He didn't want to face Ron again.  He only wanted Ron to disappear.

Daniel's first adult dig in Egypt had come at a costly price.  Jack wanted to make sure that Daniel would never have to pay it again.  He didn't want any 'due bills' appearing in their future.  Silently, he vowed to make sure Ron Zeidinger was a name Daniel would never have to hear again.  The details would be private.

Tomorrow, he'd place another phone call, and Jack was sure that it would provide the solution to the problem.  Daniel had made it clear that he didn't want to know, so Jack wouldn't tell him.  He wouldn't tell him of the continued search; he wouldn't tell him of the subsequent find; and he wouldn't tell him of the fatal outcome.  He'd keep it away of the SGC and their family of friends; not even Sam, Teal'c, and Lou Ferretti would know.  On this, he'd use a very special old contact:  Carlton.  One call; that's all it would take.

“Can we forget about this, at least for a while?” Daniel asked with a tired and soft voice.

Kissing his nape, Jack held onto his heart tightly.

“We do have better things to do, don't we?”  Jack kissed Daniel on the lips.  ~I am going to rid you, and the world, of this menace.  That creep is not going to reappear in our lives, ever.  No one hurts you, Danny; no one.~

“Why don't we get to it?” Daniel asked, wanting to lose himself in the safety of Jack's love.

“I love the way you think,” Jack said as they walked into their bedroom.

“And I love you, Jack,” Daniel said, feeling just a little freer now that he knew Nellie had had a happy ending, too.

Daniel didn't want to think about what Jack would do; he knew it would happen, but this time, Daniel wasn't going to play the protector and defender of the guilty.  This time, he wanted peace of mind.  He wanted his forever.  He wanted Jack, and in the end, on this day, that's all he cared about.  He'd made another choice -- to ignore the obvious.

Amid the softness of the sheets, Jack and Daniel made love, happy and secure in their nation of two.

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