Unas, Go Home

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Partial POV - Various, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  4
Spoilers:  The First Ones
Size:  118kb
Written:  June 24, September 24-27, October 1-4,7-8,10,26, November 1-2, 2004
Summary:  Chaka abducts Daniel, resulting in both angst and some loving comfort for our heroes.
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) A follow-up piece for this, written quite a while ago, is “Because You're Mine” and discusses the issue of Robert Rothman more closely.
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Brandy, QuinGem, Sue P., Linda, Pepi, Sue B.! ... and to those who answered a medical question or two:  Becky, Sheila, Kat.

Unas, Go Home
by Orrymain

Oh, I just hate days like this.  Daniel only left five days ago to join SG-11, but already it seems like a lifetime.  I'm sure *he's* having a great time.  Someone should be.  He needs to learn to think about those of us left behind.  You know, the poor suffering and abused, courtesy of Daniel's lover ... oh, gawd, did I just use that word?  Still don't like to think about it that way, but anyway, we're left here to the not-so-tender mercies of one Colonel Jack O'Neill.

Now, the Colonel has an edge about him anyway.  His reputation is well-earned, but when Daniel's gone, it's time to seek shelter.  As Daniel would say, he goes from teddy bear to grizzly bear ... times two.

The thing is, at first Daniel went with SG-11 for three days during the first week of the mission, just to see first-hand what kind of finds they really had.  The Colonel wasn't much better then than he is now.  We, the unfortunate folks left behind, had barely recovered when Daniel somehow convinced Colonel O'Neill to let him go off with SG-11 for a full week.  I don't even want to think about what Daniel did to get him to agree.  Nope, don't want to think about it, not even for ...

Oh, no, here he comes.  Maybe I can hide under my worktable.

--

“Carter, I know you're in here,” Jack said, closing the door behind him.

~Crap!~  “Uh, here, Sir,” Sam responded.

Ignoring the fact that Sam had appeared from under the worktable, Jack asked, “Where's that blasted report on 997?”

“On your desk ... Sir.”

“It is NOT on my desk, Carter.”

“But I ... I put it there this morning, Colonel.”

“You did?”

“Of course, I can understand why maybe you couldn't find it.  There were, uh, a lot of other ... papers there.”

“I'm a busy man, Carter.  Of course, there were papers!”

“Tic-Tac-Toe ... Sir?”  ~Oh, gawd, he's going to kill me.  Shut up, Sam, you need to learn when to shut up.~

“Dismissed, Carter!”

“Um, Sir, you're in my lab.”

“I said *dismissed*!”

Sam looked around, but decided to find shelter elsewhere.

“Yes, Sir.”  Quickly, she exited her lab.  ~Lunch, this is a good time for lunch.  Geez, I'm running for my life here.  Hurry home, Daniel.~

JACK:

Tic-Tac-Toe, my foot.  It's ... strategy!  I have to keep my skills sharp while Daniel is off PLAYING with that nerd Rothman.  I knew I didn't like that guy.  A whole week: SEVEN LONG DAYS.  Who said that was okay?  Oh, yeah, me.

I take it back!  I rescind my permission.  Besides, he didn't play fair.  He asked me when we were, uh, when I was ... geez, I didn't even know my name at the time.  Sneaky little archaeologist!  Geez, I miss him.

ROBERT:

This is going to be another great day.  With Daniel here this week, we'll really be able to drive these military-types crazy.  They just hate it, doing our errands.  It's terrific fun, though Daniel doesn't seem to be enjoying it as much as I am.  Strange.

Daniel's changed a little since we first met.  He used to be as into this as I am.  Nothing mattered but the work.  People are ... odd, complicated, not worth the time.  The dead don't laugh at us.

He's still involved, still loves the work, but he seems distracted; keeps talking about O'Neill a lot.  Daniel likes that guy; not sure why.  If you ask me, O'Neill's the typical military goon.

Oh, well.  Time to get to work!

--

“I could stay here for a month.  Daniel, let's ask Hammond for an extended stay.”

“Uh, no, I ... I don't think I can.”

“Come on.  What could be better than this?  We've got some interesting discoveries here.  Who knows what else we might uncover with a few more weeks.”

“Um, you can request a stay for SG-11, but I have to go back.”

“Why?  Daniel, this is fabulous stuff.  Why do you want to go back and fight with guns and things?  You're becoming a G.I. Joe or something.”

“No, I'm ... I'm not.  I mean, I do more than that,” Daniel said, though he had to admit that archaeology was taking a backseat to political and military pressures and obligations at the SGC these days.

“I think you're crazy.  We could run this place, you and me; keep those military types busy and do what we do best.  Come on, Daniel.  Just like the old days.”

“This isn't exactly the old days, Robert.  We'd better get started.”

~He has changed.  Since when did the military aspect of Gate travel become so fascinating to him?  It certainly wasn't high on his list when he recruited me to work for the SGC.~

====

“Look at this,” Daniel said from his spot beside Rothman in a shallow pit where they were working as he looked at a partially uncovered skeleton.

“I know,” Robert responded.

“It's beautiful.”

“Female; queen,” Rothman noted.

“I think so.  Look at the dorsal structure.”  Daniel picked up his tape recorder and began recording his observations.  “Uh, SG-11, Archaeological survey, uh, P3X-888, dig site four ...”

“Five!” the other archaeologist corrected.

Daniel continued, “... Five.  Subject: queen, Primordial Goa'uld as evidenced by the enlarged pectoral musculature and dorsal structure. This Goa'uld ancestor appears to have been a ...”

“Cleopatra!” Rothman exclaimed, interrupting Daniel's recording.  Seeing Daniel's stare, Rothman explained, “Well, I found her I get to name her.  No ... Cleo.”  ~He isn't as excited as I am.  Why?~

Daniel continued his recording as Rothman returned to digging.

“Cleo, as she has been so colorfully named by Robert Rothman, appears to have been a predator, not parasitical, confirming my theory that the Goa'uld evolved for millions of years in the prehistoric oceans of this planet before ever taking on hosts.”

Taking a small sample from the skeletal remains of the Goa'uld, Rothman cautioned, “Let's get a sedimentary timeline before we jump to conclusions here, please.”  ~What's going on with him?  He's leaping ahead.  It's like he doesn't really want to be here.~

Daniel went on, “Uh, testing for naquadah levels.”

Rothman placed the sample in a clear container that already had liquid in it.  He handed it to Daniel who shook the tube slightly.  Both scientists observed the results carefully.

“Wow, nothing, not even trace amounts,” Daniel reported.

Rothman added, “We didn't find any naquadah in Brutus or Julius, either.”

“It must have became part of their Goa'uld makeup later in their evolution; that's significant.”

“How so?” Rothman asked.

Still staring at the liquid, Daniel answered, “I have no idea.  Uh, let's crate this one.”

Daniel called out to Loder, one of the Marines assigned to assist with the excavation.  As Loder made his way over to them, Rothman offered Daniel a drink from his flask, but Daniel refused.

Rothman urged, “Go ahead, Hawkins can make a water run.  I love ordering those military-types around.  Hawkins!”

Rothman was almost as excited at shouting out Hawkins' name and ordering him to fetch water as he was at the discoveries SG-11 was making on the dig.  Daniel stared at him, wondering what was so thrilling about ordering people around.

~I guess I understand.  It's hard to be ... different, but I ... There's more to life now than ... dirt.  Gawd ... just focus on your work, Jackson, but ... Geez, I miss him.~

Robert climbed out of the pit and walked away with Hawkins, telling him what needed to be done next.  When Loder reached him, Daniel told him to mark the spot where he'd been working “Cleo.”  Then he picked up the sample they had placed in a plastic bag, climbed out of the pit, and made his way to a table to make some notes.

As he marked the site, Loder heard a noise.  He stood and saw a strange creature approaching.  It didn't look friendly, and he immediately opened fire with his handgun.  Daniel looked up as the rest of SG-11 turned, hearing the gunshots explode.

With one blow, the creature knocked Loder down, the force of the blow killing the Marine instantly.  Before Daniel could react, the alien being hit him, knocking him backwards.  Daniel's head hit the hard ground, knocking him unconscious.  Within seconds, the creature had dragged him away while Robert futilely shouted his name from a distance and the remainder of SG-11 gave chase.

~Daniel!  That O'Neill guy is going to blame me.  I just know it.  He hates me.  Besides, I've heard the stories about how he threatens Majors, even Colonels about bringing Daniel back safely.  Gawd, I’ve seen him do it.  He's ... going to kill me!~

--

What the heck happened here?  One minute we're running the show and then that creature ... what was that?  Actually, it looked like an Unas.  I wonder if that's what it was?  It fits the description.  Interesting behavior.

Robert, what are you doing.  Analyze the Unas later.  Where is everyone anyway?  Daniel.  We have to find Daniel.

Oh, no ... O'Neill.  I wonder if he really broke that Colonel’s leg because he brought Daniel back with concussion.  He's going to kill me.  Have to get back to the Stargate.

HAMMOND:

Another report.  Jack, what am I going to do with you?  I'm all for intimidating the new recruits, that's routine.  I can also see the merit in having them do self-evaluations, even though I know you are just trying to get out of paperwork, but Jack, having them do their reports over and over again because they aren't done to the same standard as Doctor Jackson's is a bit much.  I mean really, circulating one of Daniel's reports as an example to which people should aspire to?  No one on this base does their reports with the care and detail that Daniel does, including you, Colonel.

What now?  The klaxons are going off, but no one is scheduled to return.  It's always something around here.  A man could lose his hair from the worry.  I'm glad I didn't say that out loud or I’d never hear the end of it.

Why am I not surprised to see SG-1 already in the control room? They probably think it's SG-11, and something has happened to Doctor Jackson.  I hope not.  He's a good man; I really would hate to lose him.

--

“It's SG-11, Sir,” Sergeant Davis reported.

“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered as the members of SG-1 hovered nearby.  ~Of course, it's SG-11.  Let's all hope Doctor Jackson is okay or Jack is going to hit the roof.~

“Yes, Sir.”

Sam asked, “Daniel's with them, isn't he?”

Jack looked at Sam, but said nothing.

~Yes, he's with them.  So help me, Daniel, if you've broken anything, I'll ... kiss you forever.~

~Major Carter, I know you know that.  Nice try.~  “They're not due to check in for two more days,” Hammond answered and then headed for the gate room, followed quickly by Sam, Jack, and Teal'c.

Rothman emerged from the event horizon, looking exhausted and out of breath.  He sat down at the edge of the ramp as Hammond and SG-1 entered the gate room.

Urgently, the Major General asked, “Doctor Rothman, what is it?  What happened?”

“Where's the rest of your team?” Jack asked, really wanting to ask about Daniel.

“Loder's dead: some sort of indigenous lifeform.  It killed Loder.  The rest of my team went after it.”

~I don't want to hear this.~  “Daniel?” Jack asked, his heart racing.

Excitedly, the archaeologist responded, “No, no, no.  It took Daniel. That's why the others went after it.”

Sam asked, “How long ago?”

Breathing laboriously, he answered, “I don't know, maybe three hours. I ... Daniel is still alive.  That thing was dragging him!”

“You saw it?” Jack asked, almost angrily.  ~So help me, Rothman, if you just stood there and let ...~

“Just for a second.”

Looking at Hammond, Jack said, “Request permission to lead search and rescue, Sir?”

Hammond gave his permission, and then Rothman managed to shock the people in the gate room even further:  “... I'd say it was an Unas!”

Jack was stunned, and since Hammond couldn't recall the creature, the Colonel summed it up for him: “Basically, we're talking about a Goa'uld with teeth and claws, Sir.”

What it boiled down to was that Daniel believed the planet was the place from which all the Goa'uld symbiotes originated, and it was possible there were Unas there that had never been taken as hosts. What's more, the Unas on the planet could be, according to Teal'c, “more primitive and lack the regenerative powers of Unas we have previously encountered.”

“So what would a primitive Unas want with Daniel?” Sam asked curiously.

~I don't friggin' care what they want with him.  They CAN'T have him.~ Jack considered his options.  ~We need manpower, and the best, most powerful weapons available.  Scrap the MP-5's.  I want a P-90.~  “Recommend units one and two, P-90's.  I also recommend we take off *right* now, Sir.”

“You have a go.”  ~As if I could stop you, Colonel?~

DANIEL:

Mmm.  Okay, bad nightmare.  Jack made me watch another one of those horror films, right?  Must be it.

Open your eyes, Jackson.  You're home, safe.  You have to be.  Um, well, no, this isn't home.  Definitely not safe.  Ouch!  Oh, my hands are tied.  What am I tied to?  Oh, not what, but who ... or maybe what.

Um, who, or what, are you?

Okaaaay, I’m on the ground.  Yep, that's definitely the ground.  Wish it was a nightmare.  I could wake up, and Jack could make it all better.  He's good at that, My Jack.

A growl?  He looks ... nasty.  Um, an Unas, like that thing on Cimmeria.  That's what I think you are.  Jack won't be very happy to see you.  He's not very fond of Unas.  Can't say I am, either.

Have to get away.  Jack.  Need Jack.  Dang.  He's not here.  Me and my bright ideas. 'Don't worry, Jack; it's just a dig.  Nothing's going to happen to me.'  I talk too much.

Geez, he's still growling at me.  Well, it's not my fault.  You're the one who hog-tied me.

What the heck:  nothing ventured, nothing gained.

**Jack?  JACK!**

Oh, crap.  I really want to go home.

OUCH!  For crying out loud, that hurts!  Try asking next time!

Jack, I swear, next time I'll listen.  Okay, so I won't.  I have to do my job, but maybe next time, I'll ... yeah, I know: next time, I'll make you come along, too.  My ... protector!  Gawd, I'm sappy.  Ouch!  So much for sappiness.  WILL YOU PLEASE STOP TUGGING ON ME!  Can't you see I'm trying to have a moment here, thinking about my lover?

You don't care?  I do.  I care a lot.   Oh, all right, I'm coming.

Gawd, wish I were.  I mean, with Jack.  Oh just shut up, Jackson.  Stay alive.  Just ... stay alive.  That's your job now.

JACK:

Okay, everyone's here.  They're the best, O'Neill, so just give them the short speech.  No time to waste.  The UAV has already gone through.  Maybe we'll get a read on Daniel right away.

“All right, listen up!  We're a little pressed for time here so this is going to have to serve as your mission briefing.  Daniel Jackson has been dragged off by a creature called an Unas.  This is a search and rescue. Any questions?”

Rothman?  What the heck does he think he's doing?  No, you are not coming with us.  Just what I don't need: a sniffling archaeologist ... unless his name is Daniel Jackson, and trust me, you aren't him.  Okay, you can come along.  Maybe you'll know something that will help us once we get there, but so help me, Rothman, you slow us down, and I'll feed you to one of those things myself!

“Move out!”

Danny, I'm coming after you.  You just be alive.  That's your job now, to stay alive.

HAMMOND:

I hope for your sake, Jack, that you find him.  No, I hope for all our sakes that you find Doctor Jackson.  He is the true heart and soul of this place.  We need him to remind us of why we're here.  Besides, Colonel, you're scaring the recruits quite enough now, and I really don't want to think what you'll be like if something happens to him.

Bless you all, SG-1 and SG-2.  Be safe.  Bring our boy home.

JACK:

Okay, we're here.  Coburn can stay by the Gate, and keep it secure.  The rest of SG-2 can cover our six.

Let's see if we get any response over the radio.

Nothing, not even static.  Let's try this.

**Danny?  Danny, I'm here.  Can you hear me?  DANIEL?**

Crap!  Nothing.  I'm going to find you, Daniel, and so help me, when I do, I'm taking you home, and this'll be the last time you go off-world without me.

We need to get going.  Carter has the UAV up on automatic.  Don't suppose some of this marvelous technology could actually pay off?  Not yet, eh?  Sweet. Just love doohickeys that don't doohick worth squat.

~I suppose I don't have a choice.  He might just trip over his own feet and shoot himself.~  “Rothman, you're with me.”

**Danny?**

I'll keep trying.  Sooner or later, you're going to respond.  I need you, Daniel.  I knew I shouldn't have let you go with SG-11.  Nothing good ever happens to that team.

DANIEL:

This is ridiculous.  My wrists hurt.  My feet hurt.  I'm freakin' tired.  I need a break here.  Something tells me my friend here doesn't care, but I practically fell down just now.  That's it.  I draw the line at falling on my face.

“Okay, I know it seems completely unlikely that you understand a word that I'm saying, but, uh, I've gone about as far as I can go at this particular pace so, with your permission, I'm going to fall down now!”

Ah, that's better.   Oh, he doesn't like that.  I don't care.  I'm tired.  I couldn't have gone another step.

“Rest!  This is, uh, a thing you should become familiar with!  Rest.  It means, uh, rest.”

Stop growling at me.  I'm trying to communicate here.  Hey, I've still got my radio.  Reach ... ah, yes, there we go.  Don't worry, growling guy, it's just a radio.  He does look concerned.

“This, this is, uh, nothing you need to be worried about.  This is a radio. It's, uh, so my friends can find me and shoot you.”

And boy am I hoping.  Come on, Jack.  Be here.

“Uh, this is Daniel Jackson.  If anyone can hear me ...”

Hey, you don't have to get violent and swipe it out of my hand.  You could have just asked politely.  Didn't your mother teach you any manners?  It probably doesn't work now, not that I could reach it since it crashed up against that tree over there.  I understand.  You don't like the radio.

I wonder what that necklace is for.  Did you make that?  It shows signs of some intelligence.  Might be more reassuring if it wasn't made of teeth?  Bone?  Hopefully not from your last meal.  My, uh, teeth wouldn't do much for that little decoration.

Oh, what now?  We're supposed to be resting.  Fine, just fine!  Hey, wait up; it hurts my wrists when you pull like that.

“Ah, yeah.  Yep, that was refreshing, thank you.  I'm good for another ten miles.”

That is, if I don't collapse first.  You know dragging me around like this doesn't help in the trust department.  It's just not a nice thing to do.  Oh, you don't care: just my luck.

**Jack?  Can you hear me?  Jack, I know you have to be here.  Jack?**

You have to be here.  What if ... gawd, what if everyone died?  I don't even know what happened.

**Jack?  I love you.**

You can't hear me.  They're dead.  SG-11 is dead, aren't they?  Stop.  Jack would come looking for me anyway.  How long has it been?  Signs. I need to leave signs along the way so he can find me.  Thanks, Jack, for making me learn this stuff.  It keeps coming in handy.  Why did I ever fight you on that anyway?

JACK:

Great.  Just great.  Blasted radio signal didn't last long enough to get a reading.  I know it was you, Daniel.  No, I can't prove it, but I know.

Blasted Rothman keeps yammering away.  He doesn't understand anything.  Why did I let him come on this rescue mission anyway?

Now the blasted UAV picked up something, but died out.  It wasn't on long enough to do any good.  Doesn't anything work like it's supposed to?  We're lagging.  Have to find Daniel soon.  Who knows what that blasted monster is doing to him.

“All right, let's pick it up.”

Daniel's life is at stake.  I don't like this.  I don't like it at all.

DANIEL:

A river.  Can we stop now?  I really am exhausted.

Two moons.  It's pretty here.  Under other circumstances, I can see Jack and I here.  Gawd, Jack.  If I close my eyes, I can see us.  You're holding me, your arms firm around my waist.  Your hands snake up under my shirt.  No, get rid of the shirt.  Yours, too.  I'm in your arms, resting my head against your shoulder.  We're here, by the lake, just resting under the full moons, touching, kissing, and ... you know.  Definitely have to do that here.  Two beautiful moons.  Jack, My Jack.

Get with it, Jackson.  You can't afford to be daydreaming like that.  You could end up being a ... Jackson Stew if you do that again.

Okay, big guy, I have to stop.  Sorry, really, I do.  I'm going to fall down now.  Aw, that feels good.  He's looking at me again.  Wish I knew what he was thinking.  Right, Jackson, you know what he's thinking:  'Should I start with the thigh or breast.'  Gross.  Distract him, and fast.

“Yes, rest!  This is, uh, this is good; this is rest.”

Hmm.  Let me rest.  Lay down, Jackson.  Feels good; so good.  Have to close my eyes, just for a minute.  Jack.  Close my eyes and see my sexy Irish lover.

What's that sound?  Better open my eyes and find out.

That's ... interesting.  The Unas has crouched down and seems to be ... chanting.  I need to pay attention here.  Sit up; be alert.

I've got to ask.

“Is this some sort of meditation?”

Notes.  I should make notes.  Right.  My hands are tied.  Wait.  I still have my tape recorder.  Right ... there in my left jacket ... pocket.  Got it!  Hope it's still working.  Guess I'll find out in a minute.

“This is Doctor Daniel Jackson.  Uh, in case anybody finds this, I met a wonderful new friend, and he's taking me on a long journey to see his planet.”

Where I'm sure I'll be dinner, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.  Observations.  I'm an archaeologist and an anthropologist, and that comes first, right?  Well, okay, so maybe Jack wouldn't agree with that, but I'll carry on.

Oops.  He's watching me.

“I'm just making notes.”

I wonder if he understands.

“At the moment, my main concern is that my new friend is an aboriginal Unas in it's un-Goa'ulded state, and that I'm the evening meal.”

Really, you wouldn't like me.  Just flab.  No muscle.  Okay, so Jack might disagree with that, too, but I'm fighting for my life here, so it's flab, Jack!

“It, uh, or rather he, appears to have an undeveloped chin and facial horns which, uh, indicate he could be a subspecies; possibly a juvenile.”

Uh oh.  Growling is never a good sign.  He's not happy with me.

“Shut up?”

A snort.  Snorting means yes?  Has to be.

“I understood that.”

Well, it is progress.  I'll make a note of that.

“We're communicating.”

What is that sound he keeps making?  It sounds like a chant, but I don't recognize it at all.  He seems to be saying the same word over and over.  I need to get this on tape.  He doesn't seem to mind that.  Of course, his eyes are closed, and he's jutting out his neck with the chant so he hasn't noticed that I'm taping him yet.

What is that word he's saying?

“Chaka ... chaka.”

He keeps saying that word over and over.  Oh, I've got his attention now.  Is that good or bad?

“Chaka.  Is that what you call yourself?  Chaka?  Daniel.  I'm Daniel. Chaka's something else?”

Um.  Is a growl yes or no?  Maybe it's something else.  He was chanting.  Maybe, uh, something in the sky?  The two moons maybe?  That could be.  It's not unheard of.

“Chaka is the moons?  This is some sort of moon chant?”

He looks surprised.  I must be going in the right direction.

“Moons coming into alignment?”

Hmm.  He didn't like that.  That growl was angrier, kind of like Jack when he gets deprived of his Froot Loops.

Uh oh.  He's standing now.  Not happy, that's for sure.  Oh, it's the UAV.  Jack, you're here!

**Jack?  Gawd, Jack, I'm here.  Jack?**

Crap.  My little ... friend doesn't like the UAV.  He's afraid of it.  He's ... scared.

“UAV!  This is my friends looking for me ... You're frightened!  It's ... it's okay; it won't hurt you.  It won't hurt you.”

What the heck am I saying?  No, it won't hurt you, but I ... I can't say I'm excited about the prospect of being your dinner.

Well, he's calmer again, sitting back down.

Look, I admit, I'm curious about you, but you have the advantage over me.  You know where we're going and when you plan to ... eat me.  Nothing personal, you understand, but I'm ready to go home.  I mean, I didn't pack or anything for this little trip, and ... well, Jack is worried.

Jack?  Well, Jack is my lover.  He's ... everything.  He's quick on the trigger, though, so believe me, you don't want to make him angry.  How about letting me go?  I'll just get up.

Ouch!  No go, eh?  Okay, I'll sit here and chant at the moon with you.

JACK:

This is turning out to be one bad day.  It may be the baddest day ever.  No sign of SG-11, and my team has nothing but positive thoughts.  Real Pollyannas ... not.

'UAV will have run out of fuel by now,' Carter says.

'Maybe another Unas got him,' Rothman says, as if I asked him, which I didn't.  Wonder if the Unas will accept a trade-in?

**Daniel?  Come on, Daniel.  Just remember the rule:  stay alive!**

DANIEL:

Okay, this is what Jack would call a really bad day.  I mean Chaka here, and yeah, I guess I'll call him Chaka; that's as good as anything else, and it beats 'hey you, Unas.'  Anyway, Chaka has been dragging me for hours.  Doesn't he need rest?  I'm tired, as in TI-RE-D, and I need water.  Had some earlier, but things didn't go like I planned.

I conned my friend here into putting down the rope he's been dragging me with, and I made a break for it, trying to swim across the river.  I wasn't sure why, but he didn't seem to like the water much.  He still managed to get to the other side before I did.  Gotta find that bridge because what I learned is terrifying.  There are symbiotes in this river, and one was about to ... No, don't want to even think it, but it, uh, he saved me.  Yep, saved me so he could eat me himself.

That blue blood wasn't very appealing, but I think it marked me.  The Unas was saying I'm his.

Wrong, friend.  I belong to no one.  Well, except for Jack, of course.  I mean, I belong to him, and gawd, incredibly, he belongs to me.  He, uh, doesn't want to share me, and trust me, he's not going to be happy when he finds me, and you have me tied up like this.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  Jack's very possessive, and he has a thing about me getting hurt.  Gotta love that man of mine!

You don't care, huh?  Well, you will, when Jack finds me.  When, not if, because he WILL find me.  Anyway, where was I?

I did learn something, though.  'Ka' means no.  It's amazing how many languages there are and one of the first words people learn is the word 'no'.

We really need to rest.  Remember rest?  Nope, don't remember, huh?

JACK:

**Daniel?**

Finally, we've reached the dig site, but no one's home.   This was your playground, Danny.  I bet you were having a great time.  Sometimes I feel guilty that you don't get to do this as much as I know you'd like to. Things have changed this year.  The powers that be want weapons and ... the point is, exploration has suffered in the midst of the change.  I'm sorry, Danny.

--

“Loder was killed over there,” Rothman said, pointing at the location.

~Rothman's acting innocent, but I don't buy it.  Packing up fossilized Goa'uld?  That's all Loder was doing?  Then, why would the Unas attack?~  “You guys weren't doing anything that would have provoked an attack?”

“I, uh, I don't know!”

~Idiot.  Daniel's life is on the line here.  I need facts.~  “You know, Rothman, I'm *so* glad you came!”

Defensively, Robert responded, “Okay, then, no, I doubt it very much. You see, we'd been at the dig for three weeks doing exactly what Loder's been doing for three weeks.”

~Defensive little twerp.  Three weeks?  Thank goodness, Daniel wasn't with them the entire time.  Three weeks?  I couldn't last three weeks without him.  Danny.  Focus, O'Neill.  He's alive.  He knows that's his job right now.  Find him.  He's waiting for you to find him.~

After surveying the area, Teal'c reported, “Our theory appears to be correct, O'Neill.  The stride, width, and shape of these footprints appears to be consistent with that of an Unas.”

“Can you track it?”  ~Say 'yes'.  Please say 'yes'.~

“Indeed.”

~Good answer, Teal'c.~

Moments later, they came across Major Hawkins, the leader of SG-11, in the woods, just staring off into space.  He seemed dazed, certainly not in full control of his faculties.  He explained, “We were attacked.  Sanchez is dead for sure.  I don't know what happened after that.  We got split up.  I was hoping some of them might have made it back.”

Almost as he spoke, the Major seemed to know the fate of his team.  Jack knew it, too.  He also knew that even though Hawkins seemed to be in shock, he couldn't spare anyone to escort him back to the Stargate, so he'd have to accompany the rescue team.

“Let's move out!”  ~We've wasted too much time here.~

--

We're not moving fast enough.  Now, Carter wants to rest.  I guess she's right, but I have to get to Daniel.  Too much time has passed.  I'll take the first watch, like I could really rest?  Not now.  Can't rest until we find him.

**Danny?**

This is peaceful, here by the riverbank.  Look at the two moons -- two of 'em.  If Danny were here, the moonlight would be dancing off his hair.  His hair shines in the light.  He's beautiful, My Danny.  We could cuddle here.  I'd put my arms around him and hold him close.  He's all I need, all I ... want, and I want him NOW!

**Danny?  Where are you?**

I won't rest until I find him.  I would have kept going, but the team was exhausted.  I should have gone ahead alone.  Nearly tried it, but Teal'c threatened to tie me up until Carter decided we'd rested long enough.  Would’ve done it too, bossy Jaffa.

**I'm coming, Danny.  Soon.  I promise, Angel -- soon!**

DANIEL:

It's cold in here; cold and dark; of course, it's a cave, and that's how caves are, but still, I'm not sure it's where I want to be.  This must be home, such as it is.  Could use some drapes; definitely some furniture.  Electricity would be nice.  Is there a coffee pot?  I don't suppose there's a Starbuck's nearby?  They make the best blends!

What?  You know, this yanking me around is really getting old, and ... my wrists.  Don't think about it.  Can't help it.  They hurt.

Okay, give me a minute.  No?  You know, what did I ever do to you?  Are we there yet, wherever there is?  Oh, sit?  Fine, I'm sitting.

Fire?  You know how to make fire?  That's good.  You know, if I wasn't on your dinner menu for tonight, I'd be a little more curious.  Okay, so I am a lot more curious, but ... I want to go home.

What are you doing?

“Nan?  Nan is Goa'uld?  Is, uh, symbiote?”

You go ahead with what you're doing.  I'll just sit here and be your captive.  Um.  Uh, is he doing what I think he's doing?  Eating it?  Now, chestnuts roasting on an open fire are one thing, but a symbiote?  I don't think so.

“Nan is eat.  Of course.”

Roasted symbiote?  As my lover would say, ewwww!

You've done this before, haven't you?  A little well done, don't you think?  I can't believe I just thought that.  Maybe we need a cookbook:  One Hundred and One Parasitical Recipes by Chaka the Unas.  Get a grip, Jackson!

Polite of you to offer it to me, but, uh, no, I don't think so.  I really am not interested in eating that ... thing, but you go right ahead.  Eat heartily.  Fill yourself up.  That would be good!

I understand that nan means eat; really, I get it, but sorry, like I said, not interested.  I'm, uh, on a diet.  Symbiote is definitely not listed as an acceptable food.

“Ka.”

Most definitely, ka.  Let me just give it back to you.

Don't give me that thing again.  I already gave it back.

“No, you know, if I am the main course, I'd rather you fill up on the appetizers.”

I'll just toss this back on the ground.

“So, no, ka!”

He definitely can't take ka for an answer.  He's thrown the thing back at me.  Well, I'll just toss it back at him.  Two can play at this game.  Okay, three times we've done this.  It's almost funny.  See, I'm laughing.  Laughing all the way to that big pot I'm sure you're about to throw me in.

“Right, uh, yes: Toss-The-Symbiote-Head; that's very, very popular; very, very interesting.  Yes, all the kids are doing this.”

He's actually laughing.  Interesting, or it would be, if I weren't on the menu.  Okay, I've had enough of this game.  Let's just get rid of this thing for good.  Yep, into the fire.  That'll work!

“Oh, look out ... in the fire, but ...”

Let's show this beast some real food.  Yum: chocolate power bar.  Yum.

“Now don't say ka until you've tried it!”

It's not exactly Godiva, but it's still got chocolate, and chocolate is the next best thing to sex.  Gawd, Jackson, stay focused.  Focused on what? Becoming dinner?  Jack, hurry the heck up!

Okay, where was I?  Oh, yes, trying to distract this guy with real food.  I'll offer him a bite.  Yep, he likes it.  How fun.  Bonding with an Unas, courtesy of a power bar.

“That's funny.  I ... met my father-in-law like this.”

Kasuf.  Sha're.  Seems like a lifetime ago.  It was a lifetime ago.  Everything changed so fast.  Jack.  No, nothing changed.  I just opened my eyes, that's all.

Remember, Jack, on the ship ... when you touched me.  It was a like a bolt of lightning struck me.  In a split second, my whole world changed. I don't want to lose that, not because I'm someone's idea of dinner.

**Jack?  Hurry, Jack.  I think the symbiote was just the appetizer.  Jack?**

Too far.  You must still be too far away, but you need to hurry.  I don't know how much time I have left.

JACK:

Sleep.  Carter tells me to sleep.  Right.  'Daniel would want you to get your rest, Sir.'  Rest.  Not possible, not until he's safe again.

Look at Hawkins.  I feel sorry for him, losing his team like that, but there's something else ... off.  Danny would've noticed it right away.  He's not here.  Instead, I'm stuck with ...

“Rothman.”

Oh, for crying out loud.  Let's see if throwing my hat atcha can wake you from your little dreamland.  Probably dreaming of rocks and fossils.

“What?  Colonel?”

~Gee, did I wake you?  TOUGH!~  “Have you noticed anything weird about Hawkins?”

~These military-types drive me insane.  Why can't he sleep like the rest of us?~  “Weird?”

“Different.”

“Different?”

“Odd.”  ~I may kill Rothman myself before this mission is done.~

“Odd?”

~Did I say 'may'?  I meant will.  Who let this guy into the SGC in the first place?  Oh yeah, Daniel recommended him.  Daniel, you were never like this.~  “Rothman!”

“Oh, I'm still not awake yet, Colonel.  I'm sorry.”

This guy is totally wacko.  I mean, it's one thing to enjoy your work, but it's another thing not to realize there is life outside of your work.  Now he's telling me he doesn't know if Hawkins is acting strangely or not because it's not his thing.  Not his thing?  What isn't?

“People.  I mean, give me a million-year-old fossil, and I'll tell you what it had for breakfast, but I'm not too good at people.  They're too recent!”

Yeah, you go back to sleep.  So glad I let you come along, Rothman.  When I get Daniel home, I am *so* going to ask him what he sees in this ... forget it.  Focus on Daniel.  He's what matters.

DANIEL:

Chaka, how about a nice game of chess?  No, huh.  Gin?  Jack beats me at gin all the time.  Of course, he doesn't know that I let him win.  Well, I don't exactly let him win; it's just while we play, I let my mind wander.  I think about his strong hands on mine.  I think about how it feels when he's inside me.  I think about ... boy, I'd better not.  I don't need you getting curious about human anatomy.  Down, Jackson.  Think about something else.

Work.  Work is always a good distraction.  Okay, tape recorder, let's make some notes.

“I'm in a cave. There are crude drawings, pictographs. The Unas seems to have a comprehension of Goa'uld symbiote species structure as well as their ability to blend.  Obviously, the Unas who were taken over must have figured out how to work the Stargate and left, but why not all of them?  This Unas wears a strange bony neckpiece.  At first I thought it was purely ornamental, but now I suspect it must serve as some small safeguard to protect against symbiotes penetrating the neck.  Some of the aboriginal Unas must have realized that their kind were being taken over and taken refuge in these caves.”

Makes sense.  Oh no.  I know what this is now.  Sometimes, I think too much.  I AM dinner.

“This is a rite of passage.  There are parallels in Earth culture.  For example, the Masai warriors of Africa kill lions in order to be recognized as adult warriors.”

He's growling again.  Hungry?  Oh, he's right behind me.  Communication is good for everything, right?  Okay, I'll ... communicate.

“I think I understand what it is you are doing.”

Hey, that hurts!  Oh, gawd.  I am dinner.  I mean, I really *am* dinner.  Blood is running down my face.  He's ... painted my blood onto the cave wall.

“I think I've just been marked for death.”

**Jack, you'd better hurry, or ... Jack?  I love you.**

JACK:

This is just swell.  Teal'c thinks one of us might be a Goa'uld.  I need to find Daniel.  Time is running out.  I ... feel it.  We don't have time for this!

He's right, though.  The waters here are full of symbiotes looking for hosts.  We didn't notice until this morning, but now, just looking out there, we can see them swimming around, and it would be so easy to ...

DANIEL!  No!  Get that thought out of your mind, O'Neill.

**Daniel?  Please answer me.**

Crap.  Neither Carter nor Teal'c can sense these monsters.  They don't have naquadah in them or something like that.  I don't friggin' care.  I just know we can't sit here and do nothing.

Fine.  Let Teal'c play the big gun, but what the blazes do we do now?  I am *not* a Goa'uld.  I need to find Danny.

Teal'c thinks he can find him.  Sorry, big guy, but as much faith as I have in you, this is killing me.

He's contacted Coburn and is ordering him to retrieve us while he goes after Daniel.  This is *such* a bad day.

Go ahead, tie me up, and then shoot me.

Find him, Teal'c.

DANIEL:

He expects me to sleep?  He sure is, though.  This is my chance.

**Jack?**

I wish he'd answer me.  Okay, I'll do this on my own.  Here's a nice big stone.  All I have to do is crack his skull open.  One powerful throw will do it.

Yep, this is my chance.  I can leave then.  Just ... kill him and get out of here.

I can do this.  I CAN do it.  No, I can't.  Crap, Jack.  I'm sorry.

Yeah, wake up.  Don't look at me like that.  What did you expect?  I want to live.

Look, I could have killed you just now instead of waking you up by tossing that stone here next to you.  You know that.  You see that I am standing here.  I had a chance, but I let you live, so ... can't you let me go now?  I really want to go home.

Well, think about it.  Your hand is bleeding.  Maybe if I help with that, you'll let me go.

“Look, I can help you with that, if you let me, but you have to trust me.”

Just another minute and ... almost ... yep, there we go.  The splinter is all gone.  You'll feel better now.

“I don't suppose you know the story of Androcles and the lion?”

He's saying chaka again.  I can't figure out for sure what that word means.  He says it a lot though.  Is it a name or a thing?  A place maybe?  I'm calling Chaka, but it seems to apply to a lot of things.

“What is chaka?”

Not talking, huh?  I'm so tired.  I want Jack.  Okay, so that sounds ... wimpy.  I don't freakin' care.

“Look, obviously we don't need to be enemies here; I mean, uh, I want to go home.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I mean, it ... it has been a hoot, but, uh, I did just pass up a chance to kill you so ...”

Pulling on the rope hurts.  Don't you get it?  I could have killed you, and when I tell Jack that, he's going to kill me.  Please, gawd.  Jack, help me.

“Please let me go.”

I'm tired of this.  Where are you pulling me to?  It hurts.  Gawd.  Wait.  I need to mark where we're going.  Charcoal will do it.  Yes, I know you don't know what I'm doing, but Jack will understand.

OW!  I could have killed you.  Why didn't I?  I don't want to be your dinner or ... whatever.

JACK:

Find him, Teal'c.  This is frustrating.  Sitting here, tied up, doing nothing.

Oh crap!  It was just a joke; you know, one of my sarcastic quips?  No one was really supposed to raise their hand and admit to being a Goa'uld, but Hawkins did.

Poor guy; he's probably better off dead than being the puppet for a snake, and that does explain his behavior.  I knew something was off.  I sure am glad Teal'c made it back to save the day; crafty Jaffa.

Rothman, though, that's a different story.  I can't say I was fond of the man, but Daniel ... I'm sorry, Danny; I didn't have a choice.  Your artifact playmate was a Goa'uld, too.  After Hawkins bought it, Rothman broke free of his bindings, knocked the Big Guy over, wounded Griff in the shoulder, and was headed for me.  I think you'd pick me over him ... wouldn't you, Danny?  I was just didn't have a choice.  I grabbed my P-90 and fired until he was dead.  I didn't it see it coming; I wish I had.

Griff will be okay; better send him back to the Stargate.  We need to move on.  This was a ... costly rest.

How big is this planet, anyway?  Feels like we've been walking forever. At least Daniel left a trail; it's helping.

“Sir, what if we're too late?”

These people really need to think more positively.  This is Daniel we're talking about.  My Space Monkey, he survives everything.  Please survive, Danny.

“We aren't going to be too late, Major.”

**Jack?**

Whoa.  That came from nowhere.  He sounds like he’s at breaking point.

“Sir, why did you stop?”

“Take two, Major.”  **Daniel, where are you?**

**In a cave.  I've marked my trail as best I could.**

**You've done good.  We have to be close if you can hear me now.  Danny, are you okay?**

**Yeah.  Um, Jack, it's an Unas.  I think I'm ... dinner.**

**Over my dead body.**

**Keep that body alive, O'Neill.  I have plans for it.**

**I love you, Danny.**

**Love you, too.  Jack, we walked a really long time before getting here.  Be careful.  There was another set of caves about a mile before we entered this one.  I broke some branches close to the cave entrance.  Look for those.**

**Stay alive, Danny.**

**You, too.**

**I'll find you.**

**I know.**

**Danny, I have to tell you something.**

**What?**

**It can wait.  I'll tell you when I find you.**

**Hurry, Jack.  I'm not sure how much longer I have.**

**I love you, Angel.  We're coming.**

**Love you, too, so much, Jack.**  He's alive; he did his job.  My turn to do mine.  “Let's move out!”

SAM:

Whoa!  First we're moving cautiously, then we're taking a break, and now we can't move fast enough.  It's like the Colonel suddenly knows where we're going.  Maybe he does.

Sometimes he and Daniel seem to know things that ... I don't know how they know.  It doesn't matter.  I just want to find Daniel.

Okay, Colonel.  I'm with you.

DANIEL:

Jack is coming.  I'm going to live.  Sorry, you can't eat me.  Jack can, though.  Gawd, I can't believe I said, er, thought that.  I've got to make sure he can find his way to me in this cave.  There are so many turns.  I have to keep marking the way.

Oh, gawd, I think I can hear more Unas deeper into the cave.  Okay, this is not good.  There are definitely others here.  Look at the fires.  Time to draw this party to a close.

“Look, I know we've got the beginnings of a beautiful friendship here, but I'm not sure your folks are going to understand.”

Oh, gawd.

**Jack, hurry.**

**We're in the cave, Danny.  Was that blood ... your blood?**

**Jack, forget about it and just move it!  I marked the way.**

**Just saw that.  You're good, Danny.**

**Just doing what you taught me, Babe.  Jack, stop talking, and move your butt.  There are others.  Hurry!**

Those growls sound nasty, and I see my friend doesn't like it either.  In a weird way, that's kinda reassuring.  Oh, that guy is a big ... one.  He must be number one around here.  Okay, I'll just watch.  You and ... Deep Throat there can fight it out.  Maybe you'll forget I'm here.  That would be good.

--

**Move out of the way, Daniel.  We're here.**

“Don't!  Don't!  Don't shoot!”  ~Gawd, did I just say that?  I always do crazy things like this.  Jack is going to kill me; that is, if Chaka and his friends don't first.~

**Don't shoot?  Daniel, are you out of your friggin' mind?**

**Jack, give him a chance.**  “This started out as some sort of rite of passage.  I think the alpha male was expecting the younger one to offer me up for some kind of feast ... Instead, I think the younger one's trying to bring me into his clan.”

“Why?” Sam asked.

“We've communicated.  We're friends.”

“Friends?”  **Daniel, I'm taking you to see ... I don't know who, but someone when we get out of here.**

**Jack, be quiet.**

**I'm here to rescue your sweet behind, you ... ingrate.**

**And I'll let you ... after I see what Chaka has in mind, you ... mule!**

**Chaka?  What's a ... Never mind, but Daniel, he makes one move, he's a dead ... cha... whatever.**

~Okay, Deep Throat, if you don't stop, you're going to be one dead Unas.  Oops, Jack is preparing to fire.~  “DON'T!”  ~Listen, Chaka, so far, Jack's humoring me, but he won't have much more patience.  He's, uh, kinda partial to keeping me alive.~  Daniel took a breath and tried to delay Jack's actions with more explanation about what was happening.  “I think the younger one's trying to tell the clan that he's ... he's found something good for them.”

“And they're buying that?” Jack asked skeptically.

Dryly, Daniel answered, “No, I don't think so.”

The alpha male again approached Daniel who raised his bound hands slightly in protection.  Daniel shouted at his attacker in the language of the Unas, surprising the alpha male who backed away a little.

“Daniel?”  **I don't like this.**

“What did you just say?” Sam asked Daniel.

“I think I just asked him not to kill me.”

Suddenly, the alpha creature knocked Chaka to the ground and stalked towards Daniel.

**Jack, now's a good time.  Shoot the thing!**

Daniel ducked, covering his head with his hands to try and avoid the attacking Unas, and when he did, both Jack and Sam opened fire, wounding the creature severely in the chest.  The Unas staggered backwards.

Chaka immediately attacked the alpha male, overpowering and then drowning him making himself the new leader of the tribe.  The remainder of the Unas looked at Chaka and roared loudly, some bowing down in submission.

“He's just become the alpha male,” Daniel said.

Chaka growled at the others, and they retreated further into the caves. The new leader of the Unas growled out Daniel's name in invitation, gesturing for him to follow.

Shaking his head, Daniel answered, “Ka, I have to go now.  Thank you. Chaka.”

Chaka moved back to the inner caves as Jack and Sam stood and moved to stand next to their exhausted teammate.

Hearing the Unas call out 'Chaka', Jack asked Daniel, “What'd that mean?”

“I have no idea, but I think I've just been invited to come back one day and find out.”

“Over my dead body.”

“Jack, let's go home,” Daniel requested softly.

“Teal'c, take point.  Carter, go.”

Teal'c and Sam led the way out of the cave, Jack and Daniel following.

“O'Neill,” Teal'c said when Jack and Daniel reached the cave opening.  “There is something you should consider.”

“And what is that, Teal'c?”  ~And it had better not be what I think it means.~

Teal'c looked at Daniel for a moment, then stated, “Anyone who went by the river could have been infested with a Goa'uld.”

Daniel blinked several times.  He should have thought of that.  He would have, if he weren't so tired.

“I'm not a Goa'uld,” Daniel responded instinctively, but then sighed, “but you can't know that.  The fossils ... there wasn't any naquadah, so ... you can't sense a Goa'uld that young, can you?”

“HE IS *NOT* A GOA'ULD.”  Jack tugged on Daniel's arm and went towards the forest.  “You two stay here.  I need to talk to Daniel.”

“Jack, that might not be a good idea.”

“Oh, don't you start,” Jack warned, his voice full of frustration.

“Colonel, Teal'c is right.”

“Look,” Jack said, stopping and turning to stare down his two teammates.  “Tell you what.  You two go ahead.  I *order* you to get back to the Stargate.  You're welcome to have an entire team; NO, you can have the WHOLE FRIGGIN' AIR FORCE there to cover us.  Handcuff us; do whatever you want, but Daniel is *not* staying in these ties, and I'm not treating him like some ... prisoner.  Go!”

“But, Sir ...”

“I said 'Go'!”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Carter?”  He saw her turn to look at him.  He spoke more softly, suggesting, “You might leave me your med kit.”

She nodded, removing the kit from her back and placing it on a large rock before continuing on her way.

“I do not believe what you are doing is wise, O'Neill.”

“Maybe it's not, but it's the right thing, Teal'c.  Go with Carter.  If we don't come back, call out the Marines, and ... do what you have to..”

Reluctantly, Teal'c nodded, and then followed Sam towards the Stargate, leaving the two lovers alone.

“That was a dumb thing to do, Jack.”

Daniel's voice was soft, tender, and full of emotion.  His lover was fighting for him, and the concept of anyone fighting for him, especially with that much vigor and strength, was still a bit foreign to the archaeologist.

“Maybe.  Sue me.”

Jack took Daniel's bound hands in his and gently caressed them for a moment.  As he did, he gazed into his soulmate's eyes.  They said nothing, not even with their silent communication.  Words and language weren't needed; the only communication necessary was that of touch and that visible from looking into the other's eyes.  It was a moment that last over a minute, the two just standing and staring while Jack caressed his lover's hands.  Finally, the older man leaned over and kissed each hand.

Daniel blinked several times as he stood, facing Jack.  His mouth was open slightly, and he was breathing a bit heavily from all the trauma.

“Your wrists are bleeding, Danny.  He never took these off?”  Daniel shook his head.  Moisture was beginning to accumulate in his eyes as he realized his nightmare was truly over, and Jack was about to fix all that was wrong.  Jack always fixed everything.  “Angel.”

Jack couldn't wait any longer.  He gently pressed his lips against Daniel's.  His lover moaned, a very urgent and desperate sound.

“It's okay, Danny.  You're safe now.”  Jack smiled as reassuringly as possible and worked to untie the bonds, hissing at the pain he knew it was causing his lover.  “Geez, this is solid leather.   It's chafed your skin pretty bad.”

The younger man never took his eyes off of Jack.  He didn't look down at his hands, but instead, focused on Jack's face, completely ignoring the pain.

“I love you,” he said, interrupting Jack's progress.

Jack smiled again.  Daniel was getting much better at saying the words first.  More often than not, Jack still took the lead, but it wasn't quite as unusual as it used to be for Daniel to say them on his own.  He was learning to trust and believe in their forever.

“I love you, Angel.”

“I knew you'd find me.”

“I knew you'd stay alive so I could.”  Daniel grimaced.  “Sorry, Love.  Trying to do this gently.”

“I know.”

“There.  Silly question, I know, but ... does it hurt much?”

Daniel shrugged and said, “Not as much as it would have if you hadn't found me.”

Jack cupped Daniel's face, his thumbs caressing the skin slightly, but careful not to aggravate the wound on his cheek.  His eyes bore deep into his lover's.  Slowly, he again inched their faces together until their lips touched.

“Jack ...”

“You are not a Goa'uld.”

Jack slipped his tongue inside Daniel's mouth, and then moved his arms to wrap securely around his lover.  Both moaned from their contact, and with a contented sigh, Daniel rested his head against Jack's shoulder.

“I'm so tired, Jack.”

“I'll take you home.”  Jack took a deep breath.  He had to tell Daniel.  It was only a matter of time before Daniel asked about SG-11.  “Daniel, Rothman's dead.”

Daniel blinked several times, and pulled himself out of Jack's embrace.

“What?”

“So's Hawkins.  They were both ... taken over by the Goa'uld.  We didn't have a choice.  It was us or them.”

Daniel looked down and turned away.  He walked a few steps and then stopped.

“Who?”

Jack sighed.  He tilted his head to the right slightly, and hesitantly answered, “Teal'c got Hawkins; I got Rothman.”  Daniel nodded.  “Danny, I ...”

Jack didn't bother to tell his lover that Rothman had injured Griff.  He wouldn't try to lessen the load of blame on his shoulders.  He had fired the shots; he'd take the full force of Daniel's wrath, but then, the archaeologist surprised Jack.

“No, these things can happen.  We all know that, and we accept the risks.  Better dead than a Goa’uld.  Jack, I'm tired.  I want to go home.  Take me home.”

“Okay.  We need to take care of your wrists first.”

He led Daniel over to the rock where the med kit was and motioned for him to sit, which he did.  Jack knelt down on his haunches and opened the kit, perusing the supplies.

Jack worked quickly.  He washed the wounds, afraid that infection would set in if it hadn't already because of the strands of leather that had stuck inside the wounded wrists.  He applied some Betadine, wincing in sympathy as Daniel grimaced at the pain from the application of the medication, and then he put a gauze bandage on each wrist.

“Jack, my fingers are kinda numb, tingly even.”

“You'll be fine.  The Doc will fix you up.”

“My wrists, maybe, but the rest ...”

“The rest I'll take care of,” Jack said tenderly.

“I'm counting on that, Jack.”

“Let's get out of here,” the older man said when he was done.

He stood, placed the kit in his pack, and helped Daniel to stand up.  He wished he could set a more leisurely pace back to the Stargate than he knew he was going to have to.  He also wished that he could hold Daniel as they walked, but he had to be on guard, not knowing if other Unas might be out there.  Thus, the two men moved quickly, always on the look out.

“Jack, I think chaka is a word that means several things, but he seemed to respond when I called him that.  I started calling him Chaka, so I think I'm going to call him Chaka officially.”

“You do that, Daniel,” Jack said, a bit of annoyance seeping into his voice from Daniel's calm tone about his new friend, the Unas.

“He's not an enemy, Jack.”

Jack stopped suddenly, turned, and stepped towards Daniel.

“He's not?  That thing almost killed you.  He cut you, Daniel, and wiped your blood on that wall.  He kept you tied up like an animal.  You said yourself your fingers are numb.  You might have ... I don't know, nerve damage or something.  Now tell me again how he's not our enemy.”

Daniel was a bit taken aback, but he held his ground.

“He's not our enemy.  He's just ... young.”

“Daniel, he's their leader now, right?”

“Yes.”

“He's not that young.”

Jack turned and began to walk again, until he heard Daniel speak again.

“He saved my life.”

Jack sighed, bowing his head.  He shook it once, then turned around to stare at his lover who hadn't moved.

“You and your causes.”

“He's not a cause.”

“Daniel,” Jack stepped forward again, “call him whatever you want, but don't ask me to like him.  He almost killed you.”

“I'm going to study him.  I mean, the Unas.  I want to come back, and ...”

“Oh, no.  I don't think so.”

Daniel wanted to fold his arms, but he knew his wrists would hurt too much from the contact with his clothing.

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, you want to study them, then study them, from a distance.  You are *not* coming back here.”

“So sayeth the great Jack O'Neill.”

“We're not going to argue about this.”

“Yes, we are,” Daniel said, only instead of the sharper tone he had used previously, this time, his voice was soft, and he smiled.

Jack snorted, and then smiled in return.

“After.”

“Definitely ... after.”

“I'm not giving in, Danny, not on this one.”

“We'll see.”

“I'm ... not!”

“Right.”  Hearing Jack growl, Daniel teased, “You sound like an Unas.”

“No need to be insulting.  Come on.  We need to make up some time.  It isn't safe here.”

They began to move out, and then, as he had done earlier, Daniel suddenly said, “I love you, Jack.”

Jack stopped, turned to his lover and kissed him soundly.  Unlike the first two, more tender, almost delicate connections, this kiss was deep and full of passion.

“And I love you.  Don't you ever forget that, or how much I need you.”

“Do you?  Do you need me, Jack?”

“Geez, don't you know that?  I need you more than anything,” Jack said, kissing his lover again, and this time, their passion was threatening to erupt; something that just wasn't a good idea at the moment.  “Danny ...”

“I know.”

“Are you okay?”

“I'm with you,” Daniel said with a smile.

Jack nodded, gracing his love with one more smile, and then, finally, the two resumed their journey back to the Stargate.

====

They had traveled several miles when Jack looked back at his lover who was trailing him.  Daniel was pale and clearly exhausted, taking slow steps that kicked up the dirt on the ground.

“Let's take a break.”

“We can't ... Jack,” Daniel said, barely able to get the sentence out.

Jack walked over to his soulmate and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

“Yes, we can, and we are.  Right here.”

The two sat down on the ground.  Daniel sat Indian style, leaning forward and resting his head in his hands.  He wanted to relax into Jack, but knew his lover needed to keep watch, a fact both hated at the moment.  All Jack managed to do was rub Daniel's back for a few moments and whisper, “I love you.”

“I'm sorry I'm slowing you down.”

“Danny, you were dragged through rugged terrain for two days.  Have you eaten anything?”

“A power bar.”

“A?  'A', as in one?”  Jack sighed when Daniel nodded.  “For crying out loud, Daniel, why didn't you say something?”

“We have to get back to the Stargate.”

“Daniel, so help me.  Sometimes I ...”  Seeing Daniel's sad face, Jack melted.  “Sometimes I just want to hold you and never let you walk away from me.”

Daniel smiled, saying very softly, “Sometimes, just sometimes, Jack, that's all I want, too.”

“Would, uh, now just happen to be one of those times?”

“You have to keep watch,” the young man spoke reluctantly, looking away from Jack.

“Answer my question.”

Daniel nodded and answered with a barely audible, “Yes.”

Jack sighed and looked around.  His decision was made, and a moment later, he gently placed his weapon on the ground beside him.  He put his arm around his lover and tugged him close.

“Jack, you shouldn't.”

“But, I am ... just for a minute.”

Daniel knew he should argue, but he needed this desperately, even if it would only be for a minute, so he leaned into Jack and sighed deeply.

“I want to go home.”

Jack knew what was behind that soft line.  Daniel was going to be strong.  He'd be a trooper, prepare his report, answer everyone's questions, and be Janet's pincushion; through it all, he'd act like it was no big deal.  He'd made a new friend, an Unas, and he'd prattle on about Chaka.  He'd talk a good game.  He'd be ... fine, and no one would be the wiser, except for Jack.

The Air Force Colonel would stand by and watch Daniel go through the motions, and then as quickly as he could, he'd escort him off the base, to the home they shared, and once inside the safety of their house, and not one second before, Daniel would release his emotions.

“We'll be home soon, Angel, very soon.”

“I was scared, Jack.  I mean, it was exciting, but the whole time, I wanted to go home.  I kept telling him that; kept asking him to let me go.  I did.  I swear I did.”

“I know.”

“Do you, Jack?  I wanted to go home the entire time.”

Daniel was worried that just maybe Jack thought the thrill of the discovery might outweigh Daniel's love and need to be with Jack, but that wasn't the case at all.  The discovery was incredibly awesome, but even from the start, all Daniel had wanted was to go home to his soulmate.

“Daniel!”  Jack knew what was behind his soulmate's words, that Daniel was concerned about how he perceived the situation.  After all, they weren't even home yet, and Daniel was already insisting on returning to the planet.  ~You're afraid I think you put that thing ahead of our nation of two, aren't you?  Not a chance, Love.~  “I know you wanted to come home.  You left a trail the entire way.”

“Wanted you to find me.”

“I did, too.”

“Yes,” Daniel sighed, rubbing his forehead against Jack's cheek as he rested against his lover.

“You're amazing, Danny.  Only you could make friends with an Unas.”

“Jack, can we not fight until next week?”

Jack hadn't really meant it negatively.  He really was proud of the man he held.  Daniel was resourceful and able to communicate with almost anyone, and on a variety of levels, so Jack teased, “Let's schedule it for Tuesday.”

Daniel laughed, which was music to Jack's ears.  He leaned over and placed a kiss on Daniel's cheek.

“Here, I want you to drink a few sips of this, and eat just a nibble of this bar.”

Daniel did as Jack requested.  He wanted to devour the water and nutrition bar, but he knew it would make him sick if he did, so he held back.

“Thanks,” he said softly a few minutes later.

“You're welcome,” Jack responded.  He was still holding Daniel, but had gone back to Special Ops-mode, listening, watching, and focusing on the unexpected.  ~We need to get out of here.~  “You ready to go?”

“I'm so tired, Jack.”

“I know.”

Daniel stood, but Jack saw he had wobbled for a moment.  The archaeologist was on his last legs.  “Let's go,” Jack said, deciding that his lover should walk a few steps in front of him.  He didn't want Daniel to fall and him not realize it.  “You go ahead, Danny.”

“Gonna watch my six?” he asked with a sly smile.

“Don't you know it,” Jack answered, sporting a wicked smile at Daniel.

The two continued on.  Always the trooper, Daniel never complained, stopping only when Jack insisted, and each and every time, Jack held his love in his arms, giving him strength and love.

“Jack, what happened to the rest of SG-11?”

“Loder was killed at the site.  Hawkins, like Rothman, was taken over by a Goa'uld and ...”

“Killed,” Daniel said as he ducked under a particularly low tree branch.

“Yeah.”

“Sanchez?”

“Dead, too,” Jack answered flatly.  He had to answer that way.  It was always difficult to lose good people, and distancing was a technique used by many to get through tough losses such as this one.  “The dig site was pretty much a mess when we found it.”

“I ... guess I was lucky in a way.”

“You're alive, Danny.  I definitely call that lucky.”

====

As they continued their trek to the Gate, they checked in periodically with Sam and Teal'c.  When night began to fall, Sam asked, “Sir, will you and Daniel catch up with us tonight?  We've made camp about six miles beyond where we camped on the way to the caves.”

It made sense.  Sam and Teal'c weren't all that far ahead of the lovers.  Jack looked at Daniel who shrugged and said softly, “It ... would be the sensible thing to do.”

“Yes, it would.”

Daniel blinked a few times, and then he looked down and away.  It was a clear message of his need and desire.

“Carter, we're ... going to go on a while longer, but I don't think we'll make the camp.  Daniel's ... exhausted.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I'll let you know our position when we stop.”

Daniel looked up and smiled.

“That was ... dumb for a Colonel.”

“Maybe, but it was smart for the man who loves you.  Let's keep going.  We'll see how far we can get, but ... we'll stop a mile or two behind them.”

Daniel nodded, happy that Jack knew what he needed, smart or not, and it wasn't smart, wasn't smart at all, but at the same time, sometimes, the lovers just had to give in to their needs, no matter what the cost, and this was one of those times.

Though on the verge of collapse, Daniel made it to the point where Jack thought they should make camp, roughly one and one-half miles south of Sam and Teal'c's position.  After a radio check, Jack and Daniel picked out a spot where a tree had fallen to make their nest.  They could sit up, snuggle, and still keep watch.

Jack made a fire to keep them warm and again made sure Daniel ate and drank something for nourishment.  He also cleaned and dressed the wound on his lover's cheek, something he didn't have time to do before when it was more important to get distance between them and the caves.

“Wake me in an hour,” Daniel said as he snuggled into Jack's shoulder.

In fact, Daniel seemed to be working extra hard to get close to his lover, practically burrowing into the protective hold.  The young man desperately needed to be held.  For now, this was the best they could do; still, both wished for more.

“I'll do that,” Jack said softly, his lips pressing against Daniel's forehead.  “You sleep.”

“Ho...ur,” Daniel repeated, yawning, and two seconds later, he was asleep.

“Sleep, Love.  Rest.  I'll keep you safe.”

====

“No ... no ...”

Jack had gently placed his lover into a supine position while he made a quick check of the perimeter and took care of business.  The words quickly grabbed his attention.

Looking over, he saw Daniel's head shaking back and forth, the young man clearly agitated.

“Not dinner.  Eat ... not me.  Home ... want Jack.”  Jack hurried to his lover, kneeling down to the ground next to him.  “Hurts ... not ani...mal.  Rite.  Cut.  Pain.  Don't ... NOOOOOOOO!”

“Daniel, wake up.  Wake up, Angel.”

Jack pulled Daniel up, sweat rolling off Daniel's face from the torment of his nightmare.

“Home.   Want to go home.  Not food.  Jack!”

“I'm here.  Wake up,” Jack said, desperately trying to wake the younger man.

He nudged him as he pulled him tightly into his arms.

“Jack ... love him ... signs ... leave signs.  He'll ... find me.”

“I did, Daniel.  Danny, wake up.  Please wake up.”

Jack's hands roamed Daniel's body. He placed kisses on his lover's forehead.  He shook him more aggressively, but Daniel was lost in the terror.

“Cave ... don't want to ... touch ... leave me alone.  DON'T!  Want to go home.”

“We are home.  Danny, hear me.  We're home, snuggling in front of the fireplace, just you and me.  Listen to me, Daniel.  The fire is so warm.  You're in my arms.”

“Arms.  Warm.  Safe.”

“Safe, Danny.  I love you.”

“Home.  Jack.  Love.”

The nightmare was over.  Jack continued to talk to his soulmate as if they were at their home, cuddling in front of the fire.  The younger man never quite woke up, but he was hearing Jack's words as he settled back into Jack's embrace.

~That creature had better not have ... touched you.  You didn't mean that, did you?  That was just a ... misnomer in your nightmare ... right?~

Jack prayed it was just a misplaced word, a disjointed sentence.  If not, Daniel would never have a chance to study the Unas on this planet because Jack would return and kill every single one of them himself.  It was a silent vow he made as he held the man he loved and kept watch as best he could.

====

The next morning, Daniel felt a slight nudge.  It was a hand warming his back and shoulder.  It was ...

“Jack?”

He moved out of the embrace and blinked his eyes as he woke.  Immediately, he noticed ...

“Sunlight?  Jack, you didn't wake me up!”

“You needed to rest, Danny.”

“No, I needed to keep you safe.”

“I am safe, and so are you, but we need to eat something and get out of here.”

“Jack, I'm angry with you.”

Jack smiled at the words.  Daniel wanted to be angry, but his tone was soft.  He was still too tired to be too made at Jack.  The older man raised the palm of his right hand to Daniel's cheek.

“I love you, and you're alive.  I promised to take care of you, and I will always do that.  So, if you want to be mad, go right ahead.”

He leaned forward and kissed Daniel briefly on the lips, and then stood to stretch.

“No fair, O'Neill.”

“Get over it,” Jack teased.

“Gawd, you're incorrigible.  Did you sleep?”

“A little.”

“Which means?”

“Which means ... I'll sleep later.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel ... we need to get going.”  He clicked on the radio.  “Carter, report.”

“We're headed for the Gate, Sir.  We should get there in about six hours.”

~Six hours.~  “Keep me posted on your progress.  We're moving out in ten.”

“Yes, Sir.”

====

Two hours later, Daniel was struggling to set any kind of normal pace.  Jack gave up on keeping watch.  They'd just have to hope the Unas weren't after them.  Setting his P-90 to his side, Jack surprised his lover by suddenly putting his right arm around him, supporting him as they walked.

Daniel looked at his lover and was about to say something when Jack said, “Give it up, Daniel.  I think you've got a concussion.  There's a bump on your head.  Found it last night, so we need to get back to the Gate as quickly as we can, and that means, I'm here ... right here with you.”

“Who's ... arguing?” Daniel asked, realizing Jack was right.  His fingers felt like pins and needles, the tingling sensation beginning to become more apparent than it was earlier, and now, he was dizzy, too.  He didn't want to say anything, but by not arguing, he had spoken volumes.  He knew it; so did Jack.  “Love you,” Daniel said.

“Don't get all-dramatic on me.  You're going to live.”

Jack was trying to keep it light.  He didn't think Daniel had any injuries he wouldn't recover from, but then he wasn't a doctor, either.  So, he wanted Daniel to be distracted, to focus on the good, on them, not on the possible concussion or anything else.

“You sound so ... enthusiastic.”

“Oh, I am.  It's time to clean out the fish tank, and you know how I feel about that.”

“Jack, you've never cleaned the tank, not once.”

“See?  They need you.”

“You could do it, if you wanted to.”

“Hey, I contributed to their welfare.  I bought the tank; deluxe, too.”

“Is that your answer to everything ... money?”

“No,” Jack said, suddenly growing serious, “you're my answer to everything.  I love you.”  ~Crap, O'Neill.  Keep it light.~

“I love you, too, you great big grizzly bear.”

They continued on, but Daniel was getting weaker, a combination of the emotional trauma, the wrist wounds, his head injury, and pure exhaustion.  Even though he had gotten some sleep during the night, his nightmares had ensured it wasn't a particularly restful sleep.

Jack was getting more worried.  They were slowing to a crawl, and he felt uneasy about not being able to keep watch.

More time passed, and they were even slower.  Daniel was shaking, and had begun to sweat.  Jack worried about infection on top of everything else.

“Rest, Angel,” Jack said, helping the young man down to the ground.

He again cleaned the wounds, applying ointments and giving Daniel some Tylenol to try and ease the pain.

“Headache.  Bad,” Daniel announced suddenly.

Jack clicked his radio.

“Carter, what's your status?”

“I'm about two hours out, Sir.”

Jack sighed.  He hated to do this, but he needed help.

“Carter, send Teal'c back.  I ... I need him.”

“Sir, he ...”

“What?”

“Colonel, he should be reaching you within the hour.  He ... headed back your way earlier.  He ...”

“Thanks, Carter.  O'Neill out.”

Daniel's head was tilted to the side as he rested against the tree.  His eyes were closed.  Jack reached out and touched his cheek, and then he realized, his lover had fallen asleep.

~Shouldn't let you sleep.~  “Five minutes.”

“O'Neill, this is Teal'c.”

“Teal'c, where are you?”

“I am ... a few yards north of you.”

“Get in here.”

“As you wish.”  Jack waited, and in no time, the Jaffa approached.  “O'Neill ...”

“Teal'c, thanks for coming back.  He's ... not doing well.  He's not a Goa'uld; neither am I, but ... I need help, Teal'c,” Jack said, opening up in an unusual way with his Chulakian friend.

The strong alien nodded.  He handed his staff weapon to Jack, and smoothly picked Daniel up.

“We must hurry,” he said.

“Teal'c ...”

“You are welcome, O'Neill.”

Jack smiled, and the three headed out, Daniel still asleep in Teal'c's arms.

After they had traveled a mile, Daniel began to rouse.

“J'ck?”

The Jaffa noticed Daniel's right hand was making an unusual movement up to his shoulder.  It seemed ... familiar.

“DanielJackson, it is I, Teal'c.”

Daniel's eyes shot open.

“Teal'c?”

“Daniel,” Jack approached.  “It's okay.  The big guy here came back to check on us.”

“I can walk.”

“There is no need, DanielJackson.”

“But ...”

“I said there is no need.”

“Oh.”

**Let him carry you, Danny.  I need to stand watch, and we need to get off this friggin' planet.**

**Okay.**

**I love you.**

**I love you, too.  I'm sorry I'm such a pain.**

**Danny, you're hurt.  You are NOT a pain.**

**I'm sorry I sound like a whiny, sniffling brat.**

**You aren't ... yet!**

**JACK!**

**We'll be home soon.**

====

**Jack, how close are we?**

**Five minutes.**

“Teal'c, you can put me down now.”

“That will not be necessary, DanielJackson.”

“Jack?” Daniel pleaded.

Jack stopped and turned back to face his lover, still in Teal'c's arms.

“Put him down, Teal'c.”

Teal'c did as asked, but Daniel almost fell.  It took him a couple of moments to regain his stability.  He looked at his lover and nodded.

**You sure?**

“We'd better get to the Stargate,” Daniel spoke confidently.

Jack returned Teal'c's weapon to him, and again headed out for their objective.  Three minutes later, the trio approached the Stargate.  Sam was waiting there, along with Coburn and one other member of SG-2.  The wounded had already returned through the Gate to the SGC.  Jack had expected more personnel, considering the situation and the potential risk to Earth.

“No welcoming committee?” Jack asked his 2IC as they approached her at her position near the DHD.

“On the other side.”

Jack nodded.  All precautions would be taken.  He removed his P-90 and handed it to her.  Hesitantly, she accepted it.

“Carter, dial the Gate.”

A minute later, SG-1 stood at the end of the ramp.  Hammond and Janet Fraiser were there, as were a team of Marines, all standing at the ready, a position they did not give up.

“Colonel, these men will accompany you and Doctor Jackson to the infirmary.  I'm afraid ...”

“I understand, Sir.  Doctor, Daniel needs medical attention.”

“I can see that,” Janet said, already examining the young man's hands.

Hammond nodded at the security team, giving them the go-ahead to escort Jack and Daniel to the infirmary.

====

While Janet attended to Daniel, Jack was given a MRI and subsequently cleared.  When he was done with the rest of the post-mission exam, he went in search of Daniel, who was being treated in another bay of the medical department.

“Doc, how's he doing?” Jack asked, still buttoning up his green BDU jacket as he entered another area of the infirmary.

“It's going to take time.”

“Is he ... asleep?”

“I've medicated him.  He's exhausted.  I want to make sure he gets some quality rest.”  Janet saw Jack's look.  Over the years, one thing she could always count on was the devotion of Jack to Daniel, and vice versa, whenever one was injured.  “Colonel, why don't you go in my office and wait for me.  I need to finish up this test and pick up the results of another, and then I'll fill you in.”

Jack hesitated.  He didn't want to leave Daniel.  Janet saw the reluctance.  Jack's breathing had become more labored.  His eyes were locked onto Daniel, and he was nervously bouncing a bit on the balls of his feet.

“Jack, please.  Go to my office, and then you can come back.”

“Okay, Doc.”

====

“First of all, he'll be fine, but let me give you the rundown,” Janet said, not even giving Jack a chance to get in a 'hello', basically because Janet knew the first words out of Jack's mouth wouldn't be 'hello' but 'how's Daniel?'

“I'm listening, Doc,” Jack responded, leaning forward in his chair.

His hands were clasped together, and he watched Janet intently as she spoke, looking for any signs she was covering something up.  He needed and wanted the truth.

“First, I have him on IVs, nourishment and pain meds.  He's dehydrated and, by his own admission, hadn't eaten more than a power bar or two.  Second, we've cleaned the wounds.  You were right, Jack: some of the leather embedded itself in the open wounds.  There is an infection, but as I said, he's being given antibiotics to fight that.  I've redressed his wrists.  They'll probably hurt him for a while when he wakes up.”

“Janet, he said his fingers were tingly.”

“Yes.  One of the reasons Daniel was so weak is that the leather bindings had cut off his circulation.  Blood flow had been restricted.  This is why there is also the potential for nerve damage, but we're still running tests for that.  We won't know for a while.”

“Concussion?”

“Yes, I'm afraid so, probably from the initial attack, but I don't anticipate anything permanent there.”

Jack nodded, but added, “He said he was dizzy.”

“That's normal, and that's all we know for now.  Let me guess: you aren't leaving.”

Jack shook his head and said, “He's ... part of my team; best friend and all that stuff.”

He had tried to sound nonchalant, as if it were duty, but he saw in Janet's eyes that she hadn't bought the act.

“I want you to get something to eat, Colonel,” she raised her hand to stop his arguments before they began, “and before you argue with me, if you don't, I'll have you sedated and stick an IV in you.  Eat, and then I want you to get some rest.  Daniel will not be waking up for several hours, so I want you to put that time to use.  Your choice ... your way or my way.”

“Little Napoleon strikes again,” Jack teased.

“Your ... chair will be waiting for you in about five hours.  If I even hear you've walked in here before then, it'll be my way, Colonel.  Do we understand each other?”

Jack nodded and left to carry out the petite physician's orders.

====
 
“Jack, how's our boy?” Hammond asked, seeing Jack standing outside the infirmary four hours later.

“He's ... asleep.  Doc says he should be fine, but the lacerations from the ties are pretty deep.  It didn't help that he tried to escape, taking a swim in that river.  I couldn't believe it when he told me about that little maneuver on the planet.  It caused the leather to swell up; made it worse.  He has the usual concussion, but I guess the worst thing is an infection.  Oh, he's exhausted.  Who needs to eat and sleep, right?”

Hammond sighed.  He had, of course, already had a detailed report from Janet hours ago, but the purpose of his question had been more to gauge the welfare of his 2IC, and he didn't like his answer.

“Weren't you supposed to be getting some rest, Colonel?”

“I did.”

Hammond noticed Jack hadn't taken his eyes off the bed to the left of the door.  Daniel Jackson was in that bed, and Hammond knew Jack wanted to be with his friend.

~They're close; very close.~  “I'm going to get an updated report from Doctor Fraiser.  Would you like to join me?”

“I can't.”

“Can't?”

Jack finally looked at the Major General and gave him a small smile.

“I'm not supposed to be here ... yet.  She's threatened to ... bar me from the premises if I came back here too early.”

“Well, then, you'd better hide, because she's coming.”

Jack stood up straighter.  There was nowhere to go.  Janet had already spotted him.

“General.  Colonel,” she said with a scowl.

“How's Doctor Jackson?”

“The same, General.”

“Keep me posted.”  Hammond began to walk away, but turned back.  “Colonel O'Neill, I'd like you to stay with Doctor Jackson.  He hasn't given his official report yet, and we need to know as much detail as possible once he wakes up.  Stay with him, and take note of anything relevant he might say when he comes to.  That won't be a problem, will it, Doctor Fraiser.”

Janet considered calling Hammond on his game of subterfuge, but instead, she went along.

~Why fight it?~  “No, Sir, of course not.”

Jack smiled as he sent a nod of thanks to his CO, then quickly walked to his chair by Daniel's bed.  It was a lighthearted moment that ended when he saw Janet's glare.

~I'm in for a very big needle the next time she gets the chance.~

====

“He should awake in the next hour or so, Colonel, but I'm going to go ahead and change the bandages now.”

With the assistance of one of her staff, Janet removed the current set of bandages and then cleaned the wounds with a physiologic saline solution.  She then applied more of the Betadine cream and a greased dressing to make sure the cream didn't stick to the bandage.  Finally, she wrapped the wrists with clean bandages.

Jack watched the entire process, anxious for Daniel to wake up.

**Time to wake up, Angel.**

Forty-five minutes later, Jack heard a moan and saw Daniel's head moving.

“Doc,” he called out, alerting Janet to Daniel's status.

“Welcome back,” she said with a smile at Daniel who was groggily trying to wake.

“J'ck?”

Janet shook her head, smiling.

“Not exactly, but he's right here.”

“I'm here, Daniel,” Jack spoke at the same time.

Slowly, the young man's eyelids fluttered opened.  He saw Janet, but turned to focus on his lover.

“J'ck?” he said again.

“It's about time you woke up.  Hammond's waiting for his report.”

Daniel saw Jack’s smile.  He felt fuzzy, unfocused, and was a bit confused.

“What happened?”

Jack looked at Janet, and then moved closer, leaning over his 'best friend'.

“You were on the planet, remember?  That ... Unas captured you and ...”

“I remember now.  Robert's dead.”

Jack stood up straight, unprepared for the comment.

“Yes, he is.”

“Okay, Daniel, let me take a good look.”

====

“Jack, I want to go home.  I've wanted to go home for days.  First, Chaka, now Janet.  I want to go home.”

“Daniel, you've only been awake a few hours, and ...”

“And I've given the General my report during that time, and I've answered all of Janet's questions, and I've done everything anyone has asked of me.  I'm not dying, am I?”

“No, of course not.”

“And Janet's already pumped me full of food that doesn't taste like food.  You can change the bandages, right?”

“Dan...”

“Jack, please.”  **I have to get out of here.**

Jack swallowed hard, then nodded.  He took a deep breath and prepared his plan of attack.  It was never easy to convince Janet to let Daniel out of the infirmary, but usually, Jack managed to get his way.

“I'll be right back.”

He walked into Janet's office and closed the door.  She recognized the look.

“No way, Colonel.”

“Doc, he's been released with far worse injuries.  He wants to go home. Janet,” Jack leaned forward, the palms of his hands on the edge of her desk, “he was kidnapped by an Unas.  He needs to feel free, and that can't happen here.”

“He's hardly a slave or a captive here, Colonel.”

“Janet ...”

“All right!  I don't want to argue, and the only reason I'm not is because you are right.  I've released Daniel with more severe injuries in the past, but Jack ...” Janet said in a warning tone as she got up and moved to stand in front of him.  Jack rose to an upright position from his previous pose.  “You have to guard against the infection and watch for any signs that might pop up later as in regards to his head injury or nerve damage.  We'll go over that in a few minutes after I have a little chat with Daniel.”

Jack nodded his agreement, amazed at how easy that had been.  He glanced at Janet's desk and saw something interesting: medication and instructions, already written out.  He let out a snort.

~Okay, you had us figured out.  I'll give you that one, Doc.  Thanks.~

====

“How's that?” Jack asked, after adjusting the pillows in their large bed for his lover.

He sat down next to Daniel and put his hand to Daniel's left cheek, caressing slowly.  He smiled reassuringly.

“Better, but ... it could be ... even better.”

Jack grinned.  He removed his shoes and went to the other side of the bed where he lay down next to Daniel.  Smiling, he extended his left arm and beckoned, “Come here, you,” to his lover.

Daniel shifted, moving into Jack's embrace.  His body was sore, but he needed to hear Jack's heartbeat, to rest his head against the chest of the man he adored more than anything.  He sighed, finally content and at peace, knowing he was safe in Jack's hold.

“Tired.”

“Sleep.”

“Don't leave.”

“Never.”

Within two minutes, Daniel fell asleep.  Jack had given him his medication as soon as they'd gotten upstairs and changed Daniel into his pajamas, blue ones, of course.

Jack ran his fingers lightly through his lover's hair, enjoying the moment, though wishing it wasn't happening due to some crazy nightmare.

“Sleep, Angel.  I'm not going anywhere.”

====

“Let me go!  I want to go home!  LET ME GO!”

“Daniel,” Jack called out, shaking the young man he held in his arms.  “Danny!”  Daniel shot up to a sitting position, looking around in fear.  Jack sat up, placing his hand on his lover's back.  “It's okay, Danny.  We're home.”

“Home?” he asked mildly.

Jack felt the trembling as his hand rubbed soothing circles on his lover's back.

“Come here, Angel,” he requested, tugging slightly on Daniel's left arm.

Daniel turned to face Jack, staring into his eyes for a few moments before sinking into Jack's arms.

“Wanted to come home.  I kept asking him to let me go.  I wasn't afraid of him, Jack, not really.  I mean, I was scared of the situation, but not of Chaka.  I know it sounds crazy.  I just ... just wanted home.”

“I know.”

“The caves were full of stories about their rites of passage.  I was marked.  He was just doing what he was brought up to do.  It was all he knew.”

“Daniel, he was going to eat you alive.”

“We became friends.  You saw.”

“What I saw was that you were two seconds away from being a snack for that bigger goon.”

“I wanted to come home.”

“You are home.”

“Not letting me go back?”

“Danny, you want to set up some computer equipment or something, you tell me what you need.  We'll assign a team, but no way are you going back there.  I don't care how friendly ...”

Suddenly, Jack remembered Daniel's comment on the planet.  He got a faraway look as he considered the possibilities.  Daniel felt the change.  He pulled out of Jack's hold and looked at him.

“What's wrong?”

“Danny, you said something on the planet.  You had a nightmare, and ... I just ...”

“What?  What did I say?”

Jack hesitated, not knowing how to ask the question, but finally, he put it as simply as possible.

“Daniel, aside from dragging you around, marking you for ... lunch, and just treating you like crap, did that thing ... hurt you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did he ... touch you?”

“Touch?”  Suddenly, the light bulb went off in Daniel's mind.  “Gawd, Jack, no.”

“You sure?”

“JACK!  Gawd, of course, I'm sure!”

“Okay!”

Jack tugged Daniel close to him again.

“What did I say, anyway?”

“I don't remember exactly.  It was just a lot of disjointed words and phrases.  It could have meant anything.”

“It certainly didn't mean ... that!”

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

====

“He's doing just fine, Doc.  The numbness in his hands is gone.”

“Any after-effects from the concussion?”

“You know Daniel.  He always has a hard head.”

“JACK!” Daniel said from his spot on the sofa.

Jack laughed in the phone.

“Did I miss something, Colonel?”

“Just Daniel's ...”

“Jaaaack!” Daniel said as he jabbed his lover in the abdomen with his elbow.

“Uh, nothing, Doc.  I'll bring him in tomorrow for his checkup like you requested.”

“Make sure he continues to take the antibiotics, Colonel.  I want him to finish that bottle.  Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's gone.”

“Gotcha.  See you tomorrow,” Jack said as he turned off the phone.

“You're so bad, Jack.”

“It was just Janet.”

“She doesn't know about us.”

“I know,” Jack said, leaning forward to place a kiss on Daniel's lips.  “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

Daniel smiled and shook his head.

“Nope, not in several hours.”

“Bad me,” Jack said, kissing Daniel again.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

As they faced each other on the sofa, Jack took Daniel's hands in his.  He sighed as he stared at the still-bandaged wrists, and then he leaned down and kissed each one tenderly.

“I wish I could undo it, undo all of it.”

“I know, but you can't, and I'm fine now.”

“No, you're not.  You're still having nightmares.”

Daniel sighed heavily.

“I'm not sure why.  Chaka wasn't going to hurt me.”

“Keep saying it, and you just might convince yourself.  Daniel, you can deny it all you want, but you left us directions right up until the end, and at the end, you ducked.  You did your best, but the truth is, you were afraid for your life.  Look,” Jack moved a little closer and squeezed his lover's hands just enough to show that he wasn't going anywhere, “This ... Chaka character.  Maybe he was your friend, but he's different from us, and he has a heck of a lot to learn about us before we can try and do anything more than ... observe.  His culture is different.  His ... right and wrong are different.  Danny, he could still like you and throw you into the pot to boil, and I won't take that chance.”

“I didn't say I was going back.”

“But you're thinking it, and I've never been more serious than when I say *again* that you are not setting foot on that planet again.”

“You worry too much,” Daniel spoke softly.

“Daniel, I mean it.”

“I'm not arguing.”

“You're getting ready to.”

Daniel sighed.

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, what do you want to do?”

“I need to make contact with him.”

“How?”

“I don't know.  Uh, well, we ... we communicated.”

“How?”

“The radio.”

“We're not giving that thing a radio.  We don't know enough about them to fork over anything technological.”

“Well, uh, chocolate.”

“Chocolate?”

“I had a chocolate power bar with me, and we shared it.  He, uh, seemed to like it.”

“Okay, when SG-11 is re-staffed and ready to go again, they can take a whole case of power bars and leave them, if you want.”

“No, Jack.  I'll ... tell them what they need to do.  We only need one bar, but it has to be handled the right way.”

“You're not going back, Daniel.”

Daniel stared into Jack's eyes.  He had thought they'd argue about returning to the planet, and he also believed that after some give and take, Jack would relent, perhaps by accompanying him, but as his own eyes bore into Jack's, he saw that Jack was dead serious.  He wasn't going to back down any time soon.

“You're scared,” Daniel said.

“You'd better believe it.  I don't take chances with your life.  This was way too close, and that planet is far from secure.  I ... love ... you.  Understand?”

Daniel smiled and initiated a warm kiss.

“I understand.  Okay, Jack, for now anyway.”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack, for now, I agree.  We'll talk about it later if something changes there.  Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I am okay, Jack.”

“No, you're not.  Your nightmares tell me different, and you won't be okay until you admit the truth.”

“Truth?  Jack, I have.”

“Tell me.  What's the truth, Daniel?”

“I ... I was kidnapped and forced to go with Chaka.  He kept me tied up and wouldn't let me go.  I wanted to go home, but he wouldn't release me.  Then, you came.  Chaka fought the leader and became the alpha male, and ... and then we came home.”

“Tidy little summary.”

“Jack, what do you want from me?” Daniel asked, rising from the sofa and walking to the desk.

“I want you to ...” Jack snorted, “I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I want you to get in touch with your feelings.”

Daniel turned and looked at his lover with disbelief written all over him.

“What did you just say?”

Jack stood and walked to Daniel.

“I said, I want you to get in touch with your feelings because right now you're quoting me a mission report.”

“You're crazy, Jack.”

“No, I'm in love with you, and I know when you're covering.”

Daniel shook his head.  His arms crossed in front of his chest, he walked by Jack to the other side of the room.

“Covering for what?  You were there.  You know what happened.  I've told you over and over that I was scared, that I wanted to go home.”

“Yes, you have.”

Staring at the wall, Daniel asked, “Then why are you doing this?”

“Because,” Jack began softly, “you're not getting better, so that means there's more.  Danny, you're a genius.  You're brilliant with new cultures, communicating with them, making ... friends.  It's what you do best, but something about this experience has you spooked.  Either that, or there is something you haven't told me.”

Jack saw Daniel bow his head, and he knew then that he was right.  He walked up behind his lover and put his hands on Daniel's upper arms, rubbing gently up and down.  Then, gently, still aware that Daniel was sore, he wrapped his arms around the younger man, placing his hands on Daniel's folded arms.

“What haven't you told me?”  Daniel's breathing became more rapid.  He made one attempt to get away from Jack, to walk forward out of the hold, but Jack pulled him back.  “No go, Love.  I've got you, and it's time.”  Suddenly, a nightmare occurred to Jack.  “Danny, you didn't ... fib to me about that thing ... hurting you?”

“Gawd, no.  Not ... like that.”

“Okay, then tell me.”

“You'll be angry.”

“Daniel, stop finding reasons not to tell me, and just tell me.”

“I had a chance to get away, and I didn't.”

“Okay,” Jack said, trying to stay calm.  “Details?”

“Chaka was asleep.  I picked up a big rock and ... I couldn't do it.  I'm sorry.”

Relief flowed through Jack.

“I'm not.”

The words stunned Daniel, so much so that he turned and shook his head rapidly, totally disbelieving the words he had just heard.

“You're not sorry?”

“Daniel, you're not a killer, and I don't want you to be.  Look, if you had done it, I'd be fine with it because it would have saved your life, and we'd be here, standing like this, working on getting past your guilt.”

“Guilt?”

“Oh, you'd be full of it, and you know it.  The other thing is ...” Jack brought his hands to Daniel's neck, caressing gently as he stared into the younger man's eyes, “well, that's not your answer for difficult situations.”

“I don't understand.”

“Killing is never your solution, and the day it becomes that, is the day I swear I'll pull us both out of the Stargate program forever.”

“Jack, he could have killed me.”

“Yes, I know.  Do you?”

“I ... I just said ... Jack?”

Daniel's breathing was even more rapid now, and his eyes were growing misty, but from what, he didn't yet understand.

“Say it again,” Jack urged.

“He ... he was going to kill me.”

“And ...”

“And I don't know.  I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO SAY!” Daniel suddenly snapped, hurrying out of the study.

“I'm not sure, either, Danny, but there's something, and I'm going to find out what it is.”

Jack exited the room just as he heard the front door close.  He hadn't expected that.

“Daniel!”

Jack ran outside.  Daniel was in his car, backing out of the driveway.  The older man banged on the side of the vehicle, but Daniel finished backing out.  He put the car in drive.

“STOP THIS CAR NOW!” Jack shouted, still banging on the door.

“Get out of my way!” Daniel ordered through the closed window.

As fast as he could move, Jack moved to the front of the car.

“You'll have to run me over.”

Jack could see the heaving chest of his lover.  He eased up a bit, certain he'd 'won' the battle, but then Daniel surprised him.  He put his sporty car in reverse, and in two seconds had done a move that any NASCAR race driver would be proud of it, turning his car around and heading down the street.

“DANIEL!”  **For crying out loud, GET BACK HERE!**

**GET OUT OF MY MIND, O'NEILL.  LEAVE ...  ME ... ALONE!**

Jack put his right hand to his head, running his fingers through his silver-gray hair.  He looked around the neighborhood, wondering if anyone had seen or heard them.  He took a deep breath and went back inside his house.

~Okay, I'm missing something.  I hit a nerve, but I'm not sure what the nerve was.~

Jack locked up the house and headed for Daniel's apartment, certain he'd be there, only when he arrived, there was no sign of Daniel's 1999 Shelby-American sports car.

~Hiding it out of sight maybe?  That won't work.~

Jack parked his truck and went up to Daniel's apartment, only it was empty with no sign Daniel had been there.

~Okay, where'd you go?  You wouldn't go to the Mountain.  Janet would skin you alive if she caught you out, and you wouldn't risk being hauled back to the infirmary.  So, if you aren't here, and aren't at the house, where ...~

Jack raised his eyebrows, then hurried to his truck, hoping his guess was right.  If it was, it would mean Daniel wasn't really running away from him.  He might be running from something, but it wouldn't be from Jack.

====

Jack breathed a sigh of relief as he approached the Colorado cabin that he and Daniel rented.

~We ought to buy this place; losing a fortune in rent.~

Daniel's car was parked out front.  Jack parked his truck next to it, and went inside.  The door had been locked, and there was no indication Daniel had been inside, either.

Jack walked over to the dock by the lake and looked around.  There was still no sign of his lover.

“DANIEL?”

Jack searched the area for thirty minutes.  He didn't understand it, but he couldn't find any sign of his lover, not one, but he had to be there ... somewhere.  He was beginning to get worried.

**Danny, where are you?**

There was a panic in the question, and finally, Jack heard the sound he'd been waiting to hear.

“Over here.”

The young man couldn't let Jack worry any longer.  Jack looked around, confused.

“Where?”

“Here.”

Jack shook his head, still looking around, then looked up.  If he wasn't so worried, he would have laughed.  His Space Monkey, his 'monkey', had climbed up a tree ... literally.

“Daniel, what are you doing up in that tree?”

“Sitting.”

“How about coming down?”

“No.”

“Daniel.”

“Leave me alone, Jack.”

“Not going to happen, Angel.  Never going to happen.”

“Why?”

“Silly question.  I love you.”  Jack waited, but Daniel said nothing.  He was just sitting, up in the tall oak tree.  “Danny, please come down.”

“I should have killed him.”

“No, Danny.  You did what was right, for you.”

“You would have killed him.”

Jack sighed and looked towards the lake for a moment.  He looked back up and admitted, “Yes.  Yes, I would have, but I'm not you, Daniel.  We see things differently on that score.”

“On ... murder?”

“If some creature is holding me captive, refusing to let me go, and I know he has plans to make me his steak of the night, that's not murder; that's self-defense.”

Daniel fidgeted.  One hand held on to the branch he was sitting on; the other to the trunk of the tree.

“I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't.”

“I know, and that's okay.  Daniel, please come down.”

“I don't want to die, Jack.  I ... you ... I ...”

Jack swore and began to climb the tree, ignoring the pressure it put on his knees.  When he reached his lover, the young man was leaning his head against the tree trunk.  Jack settled in carefully on a limb that was slightly below Daniel's and to the left.

“Danny ...”

Daniel startled, having been so lost in his emotions that he hadn't been aware Jack was climbing the tree.

“Jack, are you crazy?  You'll get hurt.”

“Are you ready to climb down?”  Jack reached out and touched Daniel's right thigh.  His thumb gently rubbed the area.  “Okay, we'll stay here a while.  Talk to me.”

“It ... it's nothing.”

“It's something.”

Daniel shook his head, saying only, “I wish you'd leave me alone.”

“If you really wanted that, you wouldn't have come here, and you wouldn't have called out to tell me where you were.”

Daniel closed his eyes, not wanting to admit that Jack was right.

“Please go.”

“No.”

“Stubborn.”

“So are you,” Jack said.  Daniel winced a little, something Jack saw.  “Your wrists?”  The young man nodded.  “Danny, can't we have this ... non-discussion on the ground?”

“You go first.”

“No, I don't think so.”

“Don't you trust me?” Daniel asked.

“With my life, when my life is on the line.  Right now, you're trying to hide from something.”

“So you don't trust me?”

“I trust you to make sure I'm fine.  I don't trust you to do the same for yourself.  You never think you're worth it, but ...”  Jack stopped.  Unexpectedly, he had just figured it out.  “Daniel, so help me, you didn't kill that thing because you thought he had more of a right to live than you?  Is that what you're trying to tell me?”

“Not ... exactly.”

Jack continued to rub Daniel's thigh.

“Then what?”

Daniel again leaned his forehead against the tree trunk.  He sighed.

“I don't know.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don't.  I want to get down,” he said, suddenly feeling very confined in the tree.

Before Jack could respond, Daniel began his climb down.  Not wanting to risk injury, Jack didn't interfere, but he followed his lover down the tree as soon as he could do so safely.

Daniel started to run to his car, but he stopped short, spinning around, looking for something he couldn't identify ... until Jack stopped his turning and pulled him in for a hug.

“I love you, Danny.”

The magic words, though spoken regularly between the two, now served as a catalyst.  Daniel's body caved, and suddenly, Jack had to hold him up.  He felt the tears from Daniel's eyes hitting his neck, and heard the sobs.

“Danny, I love you,” Jack repeated, supporting the younger man as he released pent-up emotions.

“Scared.  Live for you.  Tried so hard to ... wouldn't let me go.”

“You're safe, Danny,” Jack said, lowering them both to the ground as gently as possible without letting go, not that he could have because Daniel was gripping Jack's shirt tightly.  Jack kissed Daniel on the forehead and whispered his love again.  “Tell me what you're feeling.  I'm trying to understand.”

Daniel continued to cry into Jack's neck, his grip as tight as ever.

“This.  You and ... and me.  Jack, when I didn't kill him, but he still wouldn't let me go, I ... I ... I still tried to help him.  He was injured; splinter.  I fixed it, but he still wouldn't release me.  Why, Jack?  I was being his friend.  Gawd, I'm pathetic, but I wanted to go home, here, to you.”

“You're here, Angel,” Jack reassured, his hands rubbing his lover's back.

“I couldn't stand the thought of not seeing you again, of not ... feeling you.  I heard myself telling you not to shoot, and at the same time, I was screaming inside for you to ... to ... gawd!”

Jack squeezed the young man to him.

“Even as you were protecting that thing, you were afraid he was about to end our forever?”  Daniel nodded against Jack's neck.  “Impossible.  Nothing will end our eternity, Love.”

“It could have gotten out of control.  I risked your life, and Sam's and Teal'c's, for ... for that ...”

“For Chaka, for a potential new friend,” Jack said with an understanding he'd probably never show again for the Unas.

“I didn't have the right to risk your lives.  He hadn't shown any compassion or understanding.”

“He did in the end.”

Daniel let out a big sniffle and finally looked up at his lover.  Jack kissed the falling tears.

“You're defending him.  Why?”

“Because you can't change who are you, Daniel, and I don't want you to.  No matter how frustrated I may get, or how ... insane I think whatever you're doing is, I don't want you to let go of your belief that ...”

“That all life is worthwhile; that somehow, we can find a way, if not to friendship, at least towards tolerance?”

“Something like that.  Danny, you did your best out there.  You left a trail, a very visible trail.  Tracking you was darn easy.  I wish it hadn't taken as long as it did to find you, but we didn't take any wrong turns, and that was due solely to you doing your job.”

“Staying alive?”

Jack smiled, “Yes, and pointing us in the right direction.”

“I don't want to lose this, Jack.”

“Us?”  Daniel nodded.  “You're not going to, not if I have a say in the matter.”

“I'm ...”

“What, Love?”

“Getting used to this.  Gawd, Jack, I was ... I ...”

“Stop judging yourself, Daniel.  Say what you feel.”

“Before I went with SG-11, I think I was taking us for granted.  I don't mean life or ... I just mean that we ... somehow we survive, and we ... I'm a lousy linguist,” he sighed as he placed his head snug against Jack's shoulder and neck.

Jack grabbed hold of Daniel's right hand, slowly getting Daniel to release the grip on his shirt so that he could hold the hand in his.  Once he did, he brought the hand to his mouth and kissed it, and then rubbed the knuckles up against his cheek.  He kissed each knuckle again, slowly, letting his lips linger on each.

“Danny, we'll survive anything, you and I.  What we are, what we have, goes beyond what we can ... touch.  Don't feel bad because you believe in us.  Isn't that what you're saying ... that you believe?”

“Every day, I believe a little more; every day it gets ... easier.  I don't want to lose this for a ... cause.”

“Self-preservation,” Jack said, more or less talking out loud as he tried to process Daniel's emotions, some of which seemed a bit confusing.

“What?” Daniel asked, moving so he could see Jack's face.

Jack smiled and explained, “That's what this is about.  Danny, in the past, we've fought for each other; we've been ready to die together; we ... made a pact that I think both of us are prepared to carry out if we have to.”

“I won't live without you,” Daniel said.

“Me, either.  I think what happened here is that your two worlds clashed.”

“Two worlds?  Us and ... me?”  Daniel saw the smile in Jack's eyes, the gleam and shine that was there in answer to the question.  “Peaceful explorer, always fighting for new life, forever the protector of alien races, good and bad.  Me ... ver...versus us, and the desire to protect us, to live for us, to make our dreams come true.  Self-preservation that caused me to go crazy because I couldn't kill him, but wanted to, that made me panic because I didn't want you to kill him, either, but I wanted you to make sure we got out alive.”

“One big mass of conflicting feelings, Danny.  The scientist battling the man.  Sometimes, it's hard for both to win.”

“And maybe ... for the first time, consciously, I wanted the scientist to lose because I can't bear for us not to exist.”  Jack nodded.  “It wasn't about survival exactly; it was about me wanting us.”

“That's what I think.”

“I was being selfish?”

“No, or you would have killed the thing, and you wouldn't have stopped us from firing, but ...”

“But I thought it; wanted it.  I wanted you to ignore me.  As much as I was shouting at you to not fire, I wanted you to ...”

“Save us.”

Daniel took a big breath.  He was exhausted, emotionally drained, and having not yet recovered from his injuries, he was a little weak from all his activity.

“Jack, can we go out on the lake and just ... float?”

“Sure.”  Jack stood.  “Maybe we should change your bandages first.  I think we have everything we need in the first-aid kit.”

“No, please, Jack.  I just need to ... feel us.”

“Okay.”

The lovers adjourned to a rowboat they kept docked at their cabin.  Jack used the paddles to carry them to a spot upstream.

“How's this?”

“Perfect,” Daniel answered, carefully changing his position.

It was a move that had to be handled just right, or they'd end up in the lake with an overturned rowboat, but they did it.  Daniel leaned back against his lover's chest, his head on Jack's left shoulder, and together, they watched the sunset.  They didn't speak again until twenty minutes after the sun had gone down; instead, they simply felt their togetherness.

“Jack?”

“Yes?”

“Three years ago I couldn't say this, not like this, not ... just come out and say it, but I love you.  I love you so much, and I want to believe.  I want us to go on forever.  I love you, Jack.  I love you.”

“I love you, too, Angel,” Jack choked out, adding, “and we *are* always going to be together.  Keep believing, Danny.  Trust me.  Trust us.”

“It gets scary realizing that I can be happy.  I wonder sometimes what it would be like to always feel like I do right this second.”

“Someday, you're going to, and that's a promise.”

Daniel turned, rocking the boat.

“A promise?”

“Guaranteed.”

“That's a big promise, Jack.  I don't know what it's like to ... I mean, I get scared.  There's always something that tries to interfere.”

“It's going to happen.  Look how far we've come.  Daniel, you've told me you love me.  You've done it before, but like you said, three years ago, you didn't believe in us even that much.  You just keep on increasing that buffer of trust; I'll take care of the rest.”

“Promise?”

“Promise!”

“I love you, Jack,” the young man said again.

Jack laughed with joy.

“Say it again.”

“I love you, and I want our forever.  I want us to grow old together, and ... I just want us, Jack.”

“I love you, Danny.  Love you so friggin' much.”

“Jack,” Daniel said in love-attack mode.

He leaned forward, throwing his arms around the older man, and kissing him hard.

“Whoa!  You're rocking the boat.”

“So what?”

Jack smiled, and said, “Yeah.  So what?  Rock this dang boat, Danny.”

... and they did.

SAM:

This is so much better.  I may just sabotage any of Daniel's future plans to go off-world without the Colonel.  Listen to them, bickering over lunch.  What are they 'arguing about' anyway?  Oh, the Russians and whether or not they should be part of the program.

Naturally, Daniel is for it, and the Colonel is against it.  Oops.  Two new Airmen just made the mistake of sitting down at their table.  Bad move, guys.

Four ... three ... two ... blast off.  Yep, look at them looking at the Airmen.

“Excuse me, Sir.  We'll ... we're not really ... hungry.”

Meet Jack O'Neill, and remember the lesson.  When he and Daniel are bickering, stay clear, but don't get the wrong idea.  Well, actually, I guess you have to get the wrong idea, and I'm part of that, but whatever you do, never assume those two don't ... care about each other.  Best friends, and lovers, and more complete when they are together.

Look at the Colonel.  He's a completely different person this week than he's been for the last month.  Even before Daniel went off with SG-11, it was looming in front of them like the sword of Damacles.  Now Daniel’s back, not going anywhere without SG-1 and the Colonel, and he's ... happy, and the reason is Daniel.

Look at Daniel.  He confided in me that Robert Rothman had asked him to stay longer on the planet.  Daniel could have.  General Hammond has a hard time saying 'no' to Daniel, but he said he missed Jack.

“Sam, I can't stand being apart from him.  Gawd, that makes me sound so weak, but I need him, and maybe more importantly, I choose to be with him.  Sorry, I know you don't like to talk about it much, but I just wanted to tell someone.”

“Tell someone what,” I had asked him.

“That I love Jack O'Neill, that he's my life, and my forever.”

I'm not sure what brought that on, but Daniel had needed to say it, so I let him.  He's a lot happier than he used to be.  Maybe someday, he'll smile more, too.  He has a sweet smile, but he doesn't do it nearly enough.

There he goes.  I wonder what the Colonel said.  Ah, it's gone.  He saw someone looking.  Oh, Daniel, don't fight it so hard.  If the Colonel is the love of your life, than let it be.  Trust in him.  Trust in yourself.

As for you, Colonel, don't mess it up.  Can't you see?  It doesn't matter what I think, or anyone else in the world, but Daniel, you're making him see tomorrow, instead of yesterday.  Don't blow it, or I'll kick your behind.  He's relying on you, and I'll be watching.

DANIEL:

I love him.  He's sitting across from me during the briefing, and all I can think about is how much I love him.  My Colonel has arranged for Griff to take a power bar to P3X-888 when they return next week.  Griff balked at the idea, told Jack he was crazy, but My Jack, he gave Griff that famous stare.  I thought Griff was going to fall down from the intensity.  Robert would have loved it.

I'm sorry you died, Robert.  Don't blame Jack.  He did what he had to do.  So did I.

Anyway, SG-11 has standing orders to check with me prior to each trip to the planet to see if I want them to do anything special.  Of course, I'm under standing orders not to take advantage.  Translation: no secret trips to P3X-888.

I won't do that, Jack, but I am going to study the Unas.  If this works like I think it will, Chaka and I can learn from each other.  Maybe, one day, I can talk you into going back with me, but if I can't, I won't go; not because of your orders, Colonel, but because I choose not to risk you, or us, not for the Unas, regardless of how much I want to get to know them.  I'm ... being selfish.  So sue me!

The funny thing is, I know you'll change your mind eventually.  You're so strong and brave, but at the same time, you get scared, and ... well, you thought you were going to lose me.  You just need a little more time to ... to know I'm safe.  I promise you, Jack, that when you're ready to let me go back to the planet, that I won't take chances there.  I won't make you regret your decision.  I promise, and until you're ready, I'll let SG-11 play gopher.  Robert would get a kick out of that.

Gawd, you're handsome!

**I love you, Jack.**

He's smiling.  Oops, bad timing.  Sorry, Jack.  No, haven't a clue what was being discussed because I'm, well, focused on your beautiful eyes, perfect mouth, cute nose ... and, well, I'm just ... Jack-watching.  So sue me.

JACK:

Now this is the life:  Daniel, the stars, and me.  I think this is my favorite place for us, here on the roof deck.  I especially love it when he sits in front of me and leans back, like he's doing now.  I can put my arms around him and feel his skin.  Love his skin -- so soft.

I love this man.  It's not what I envisioned for my life, but it's better than I ever could have imagined.  Hearing him laugh at one of my stupid jokes like he's doing right now fills my heart.  There's something about making Danny happy that makes me happy in a way I've never experienced before.

He's trying to talk me into letting him go back to that planet, but it's a no-go, and you know what's funny?  I don't think he really wants to go. What Daniel wants is for me to stay firm, to show him that I love him so much that I won't risk us either, especially for a pack of Unas.  Every time we get to the end of the 'argument', he smiles at me.  Yep, he doesn't want to go.  He just needs to hear me argue all the reasons why he can't go.  In the end, it boils down to ... self-preservation:  us.

It's taken some time, but My Love is all healed now.  The infection was never very serious; his fever didn't last long; and the medication and antibiotics did their job.  You can't even see a scar on his face.  Doc said Daniel was lucky there.  It looked a helluva lot worse than it was, and his wrists are finally better, too.  I was more worried about the emotional scars of being some beast's potential dinner, but once Daniel realized what he was feeling, that in his own way, he was fighting for us, the nightmares lessened.

He's more confident now.  Oh, he's still shy.  Sometimes, he needs me to be in the lead, to say 'I love you' first, but sometimes, oh yeah, sometimes he can't say it enough.

I made you a promise, Danny.  I made it years ago, and I'll reaffirm it again now.   Someday, someday, My Love, I'm going to make you laugh and smile and know what it's like to be happy twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; none of these happy moments; only a happy forever, you and me.  It's going to happen.  I'm living for that day, Angel.  I need to see it just as much as you need to feel it.

--

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, so much, Jack.”

“Hey, look,” Jack pointed upwards, “a falling star.”

“Well, there's that star up there, or ...” Daniel moved his body over Jack's in a seductive manner, “your star, right here.”

“La Mio Bello Stella Cadente,” Jack sighed happily.

“I like being your falling star, but I'm not convinced I'm ... beautiful,” Daniel said softly, his shyness evident in his tone.

“Yes, Love, you are, very.”

Daniel smiled, deciding the comment should be made to lead to other activities of interest.

“Prove it, O'Neill.”

“A challenge?”

“Aren't you ... up for it?”

“Up and down, down and up, you're on.”

“Under.  Want to be ... under.”

“So demanding.”

“So sue me!”

Under the clear Colorado night sky, Jack and Daniel made love, both striving for the day when every minute of every day was full of happiness.  Daniel hoped it would come; Jack knew it would.  All they needed was time, and time was something they both had in abundance.

“Love you, Jack.  Love you ... forever and always.”

“Forever and always, Danny, I love you, too.”

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