Dream of Minnesotaby devra and JoaG Authors' Warning: Graphic violence - some parts *may* make you squeamish.
On another note, please keep in mind as you read this story: Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. Remember this is *us* ... we bend them and break them but *always* dust them off and put them back the way we found 'em.
Daniel allowed himself the luxury of taking a moment to regroup, and the only prevalent thought he could arrive at was that SG-1 was going to collectively murder him. Only last week, Jack had begrudgingly signed off on Daniel's archaeological request to travel with SG-11 on a purely archaeological mission to P9H 889, mumbling under his breath that he would be a rich man if he charged the other teams every time they borrowed SG-1's archaeologist. Jack had scoffed that he would be able to retire on the monies that could be had if he doubled the fee when Daniel was injured and then raise the dollar amount exponentially based on the length of infirmary time necessary for recovery.
Not this time, though, Jack had advised Daniel. This time, he was going to come along to personally watch SG-1's archaeologist's six. Daniel was going on this mission, along with SG-11, while he, Colonel Jack O'Neill, was going to execute his brilliant idea of killing two birds with one stone. Keeping one eye on Daniel while the other eye was going to be trained on a handful of recruits who Jack promised would learn the fine art of keeping busy when a mission was truly boring. And if that hadn't been enough, both Teal'c and Sam had thought their CO's idea was a wonderful one and had volunteered to go along for the ride.
"Over here, Jack. I'm fine." Daniel quietly laughed at the absurdity of his remark while Jack continued with verifying the recruits' whereabouts. Wherever they were, was pitch black. Daniel couldn't even make out his own hand in front of his face so he truly doubted Jack had any idea where "over here" was.
Suddenly aware that he was stretched out on his back and staring upward into the darkness, Daniel cautiously righted his body into a sitting position and paused, taking stock of any injuries. Finding nothing but stiffness, he patted the floor on either side of him, first leaning to the left then to the right, trying to possibly locate his backpack. His hands met only cold cement. Disappointed, he slid his ass along the dampness until his back made contact with an equally damp cinderblock wall.
"Stay put, Daniel." Jack's voice came from an indeterminate distance from where Daniel sat. "*Everyone*, just stay where you are. Teal'c? Carter?"
Daniel exhaled slowly as his friends answered.
"Major Kamran, is your team accounted for?"
Daniel listened as a crude roll call was commenced, concentrating intently as each name was called and then responded to until SG-11's team leader called his civilian linguist's name.
"Dr. Gintz appears to be missing, sir."
Daniel walked up the wall until he was upright and did a little sidestep to the left, keeping his arm flush up against the cinderblock. He took two more steps in the same direction. "It's so dark in here, are you sure he's not unconscious? I mean… shit!"
Even though walking slowly when his left leg made contact with the object, the surprise caused him to overbalance and he slipped sideways, his hands flaying in a futile attempt to find purchase. The left side of his body landed on something definitely softer than the floor, but his right hand made painful contact with a metal object that protruded from the wall and seconds later, the room was flooded with bright light.
Daniel threw his hands up to shield his eyes, inanely noting for the first time his glasses were missing.
"Arrgh. Thanks Daniel, but next time, warn a guy, will ya?"
Slowly, Daniel lowered his hands, immediately slapping them back over his eyes as the light painfully stabbed into them. He could hear conversing and movement, but right now all he could focus on was the pain from the infusion of light and how little his hands seemed to block out the whiteness.
"Hey, you okay?"
Daniel struggled against the hands that fought to bring his arms down.
"Easy. Carter come over here and take a…"
"Jack?" Daniel left his hands in place and fanned open the fingers, peeking out cautiously between the spread digits.
"Okay?" Daniel could feel Jack giving up the fight to tug his hands from his face and instead the familiar weight moved to his shoulder and squeezed.
"Fine." He dropped his hands, still squinting in the brightness, the people standing in the room no more than a blur. "Ow." He dug the heels of his palms into his eyes to rub away the pooled moisture.
"Don't rub," Jack reprimanded and he must have motioned to Sam to take his place because the next order of "don't rub" was softer and a higher pitch. She patted his hand. "I'll be right back." His hands were pulled down and their pressure was replaced by a cool, wet rag.
Daniel nodded. The coolness against his eyes was a godsend.
"Do you think you can remove the cloth so I can take a look?" Sam gently tapped his forearm.
Experimentally, Daniel blinked behind the wetness and was pleased to find the burning had dissipated. He thought about mentioning the burgeoning headache and decided against it, nodding instead to Sam's question about taking a look. Hesitantly, he lowered the washcloth, surprised and feeling more than a tad foolish that the light seemed to have no effect on him anymore.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He sidled up to Jack as he stood in the corner, his glance gazing around the room continually assessing their situation. "How're the eyes?"
"Fine, actually," shrugging away Jack's look of disbelief. "Sam said she didn't see anything." Daniel blinked for emphasis.
"Okay then." Jack waved his arm around their cell. "Anything? Writing, carvings… a hint?"
Eleven people in a cinderblock cell that housed a prison-like, black metal bed, a side cubicle with a toilet, a working sink, and that was pretty much it. The walls were comprised of stark, white cement; a door, if any existed, was still undetected, windows non-existent. The ceiling was vaulted with the ducts for breathable air too small and too high to gain access to. The room was oddly shaped and Daniel had been sitting on the bed, ignoring the looks of concern from the people in the room, and concentrated on the design instead, counting the blocks in a futile attempt to find some type of clue as to who or what was holding them hostage.
"Nothing," Daniel apologized.
"Okay, everyone, listen up. Situation… Carter?"
"I'm sorry, sir." Like Daniel, she apologized for her inability to find anything suitable to help them out of this situation.
"I, too, O'Neill, have nothing to add. Except that this cell does not appear to be of Goa'uld construction."
"Ok, that's a plus. Anyone else?" Daniel watched as Jack threw up his hands in frustration. "How about… what do we know?"
"Stepped through the 'gate and woke up here," Major Kamran stated. He held up his left hand, then pointed to the area where his watch should have been. "I seem to have lost mine in transit. Anyone have an idea or a thought as to how long we've been gone?"
Daniel rubbed his face, his hands feeling only smoothness, as smooth as when he shaved this morning. "No five o'clock shadow, I'm taking a stab at 6 hours at the most."
"Carter, that box over there."
"The light switch, sir?" She sighed so deeply that Daniel watched her shoulders rise and then fall in defeat. "That's just what it is. A light switch. Not even alien technology."
"Could we still be on Earth?"
"Anything could be a possibility, Colonel.
"Weaponless," one of the recruits threw out. "Even my knife, gone."
Daniel's headache was intensifying with each item ticked off their list and all hopes of even an aspirin were dashed when Sam spoke up. "Packs, vests… no medical supplies."
"No fresh water."
"Not true," Sam interjected, "The sink by the toilet works. Hopefully the water is drinkable. We have no purification tablets."
"No GDO," Daniel added. "And no Dr. Gintz."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For an indeterminate amount of time everyone in this room had literally crawled over each other and had searched the walls, the floors, every square inch of their prison for some type of an escape route or a clue as to who their captors were. Tempers had flared and then quieted down. Daniel was once again leaning against the wall, sitting on the cold, damp floor, gazing up at the thighs and calves as everyone paced with nervous energy. They all appeared lost in their own thoughts, except Jack and Major Kamran, who were having an intense, whispered conversation that was slowly rising in pitch.
He dropped his chin onto his knees, forcing himself to focus past his headache and concentrate on what was being said. He smothered an inappropriate yawn behind his hands, eyeing the single bed with longing, chiding himself for the sudden, intense desire to close his eyes and sleep. Daniel shook his head over the ridiculousness of this situation, one man missing, a man from *his* archaeological department, they were stuck in a cell with no food, one bed, and all he could fight against was the urge *not* to slide into that bed and shut his eyes.
Daniel jerked, his eyes flying open when he felt a gentle tapping on his cheek. Jack's distorted face occupied his whole field of vision.
"Good. Still with me?"
Daniel blinked convulsively, trying to force Jack's face into focus. He couldn't seem to find the words to ask Jack what was wrong, his mouth opened a time or two without finding the appropriate words to fill it.
"Not. Only. You."
Jack's voice was slow and slightly stoned sounding.
"Huh?" was all the coherency Daniel managed to produce.
"Look." Jack stepped aside.
The cell was littered with the unconscious bodies of both SG teams and the recruits.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Screams pulled him from unconsciousness. Incessant screams of pain that droned on and on, not even coming up for air. He should be concerned, hell, he was concerned, but acting on that concern wasn't as easy as it should have been. In slow motion, Daniel pulled his body onto his hands and knees. Staying the position, with his head down, breathing through his mouth, fighting nausea and losing, his retching thankfully blotted out the screaming for a while.
A voice cut through his misery, and he allowed the hands to guide him to a sitting position. "It'll pass, Daniel," the voice shouted in his ear in an attempt to be heard over the screaming. "Been there, done that."
"Jack?" He felt Jack's hand on his neck, then he cringed as the screaming increased in pitch, words peppering the sounds of anguish. He stood with Jack's assistance, squinting in the direction of the horrific noise, stretching his neck to see around the number of people surrounding the bed. "Who's...?" Daniel waved his heavy arm towards the cot.
"It's Gintz, he's been tortured, horribly. Carter said fatally, it's just a matter of time."
Daniel heard the 'but' behind Jack's silence. He kept his eyes closed; it was easier to concentrate that way and not be distracted by the sickening tilt of the floor and the walls. He leaned into Jack's hand, ashamed of the comfort he was drawing from the warmth wrapped around his neck. "There's something else, Jack, isn't there?"
"Major Kamran and Lt. Harriman have been taken."
"Oh, geez." Daniel took two steps forward and faltered; the room spinning with the effort.
"Give it a minute," Jack ordered, gripping Daniel's shoulders. "Take some deep breaths, the feeling goes away—or it lessens in time."
"Thanks," Daniel mumbled, unsure that even if the feeling lessened, he'd be able to walk, but as much as the screaming was pulling him to investigate, he stayed and counted to ten, taking deep breaths. Jack was right, though he wasn't a hundred percent, at least now he could put one foot in front of the other without the fear of falling flat on his face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel sat by Dr. Jimmy Gintz. Others had drifted by, offering reprieve, but the only one he allowed to sit with him was Sam. He had even waved away Jack, knowing that Jimmy would have been embarrassed to be comforted by Colonel O'Neill. Jimmy had been his choice, therefore his responsibility, one that he was unwilling to share.
The screams had faded to whimpers. The whimpers faded to whispered, hoarse pleadings for death. He *begged* for death. He begged for help. He called for his mother, father, and other names Daniel wasn't familiar with. Daniel never let go of the cold, blood-soaked hand, speaking soothing words of nothingness just so the young man on the cot would feel connected to the human race.
Daniel no longer saw the empty eye sockets, or the skin peppered with missing chunks that resembled a battle lost with a lion. Daniel only remembered the young man's gift for ancient languages that had rivaled his own and he switched from English to Ancient Greek, spinning tales of mythology from memory, if for no other reason than to bring reality into their waking nightmare and comfort to a dying friend.
He didn't know how long he sat there after Jimmy died, still talking, unaware that he was telling tales to a dead man. Daniel fought against the person who sought to separate his hand from Jimmy's.
"DanielJackson, it is time for you to leave Dr. Gintz's side."
"Huh?" Daniel looked up, his neck protesting the movement. "He's—"
"You were a good friend."
"*Were* being the operative word here." Daniel allowed Teal'c to guide him away from the bed, and he watched with a strange sense of detachment as Sam took his place next to Jimmy's body, and began to wrap it in the blood-soaked sheet.
"I need to help. She's doing that all wrong." Daniel twisted from Teal'c's grasp and descended on Sam.
"No," he shoved her hands out of the way. "Like this. It needs to be done like this."
Sam protested but Jack intervened, pulling her off to the side, nodding at Daniel as he passed.
"I will be honored if you allow me to assist you in the preparations, DanielJackson."
"Thank you," he whispered, his voice dry and hoarse, as if he had been the one screaming for hours.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel and Jack sat on the floor, leaning against the bed with their backs to the wrapped body and he wanted, very badly, to lean into Jack. A little bit of normalcy in an abnormal situation would have done wonders for his psyche.
The room was deadly quiet. Everyone had stopped mulling around, stopped looking for answers, and Daniel was too exhausted to even mention how ludicrous that was. SG-1 never gave up, no situation was hopeless, but for some reason, here, in this cell, with two good people missing and one dead, they were figuratively rolling over and playing dead.
This was so wrong.
The fact that he couldn't even find the words to say how wrong the situation was, was wrong.
Daniel sneezed and for a second he was able to breath, and the air smelled different, heavier, cleaner. "Jack?"
There was confusion, noises, shuffling of hands and feet on the cement floors and then, nothing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And then there were four. Daniel could feel an insane bubble of hysteria work its way up his throat, but he clamped his mouth shut, preventing its escape. All dead, except SG-1.
All tortured, dying horrific, painful deaths, begging for a reprieve that didn't exist.
Seven dead bodies sharing a cinderblock cell with four living people was itself torturous. The smell overpowering, beyond nauseating, even the masks they had constructed from ripped sections of their tee shirts had proven worthless. Sam was green around the edges, and honestly, it was a good thing their stomachs were empty.
"It has been an honor—"
Jack threw up his hands. "Do *not* even go there, Teal'c."
"Sir, it's inevitable, I mean," Sam stole a glance over her shoulder.
"I know, Carter—it's just that—"
"You don't want to die like that?"
"I'm sure I can speak with confidence when I say that none of us want to die, Carter."
"I wish you to kill me, O'Neill. Should I return in such a state, I wish you to kill me. For your sakes - I do not wish you to see me suffer so needlessly."
Daniel's head jerked up. "You can't mean that, Teal'c."
"Indeed I do."
Daniel jumped up and began to pace, keeping his agitated steps to a minimum, never straying away from their circle. "Jack, tell Teal'c that's a crazy idea."
"He will not, because he feels as I do. O'Neill, also, would wish for his friends to end his—"
"Sam, you try to talk some sense into—" Daniel's gaze flew around the group. "None of you think it's crazy."
"Count me out of your secret warrior club, guys. I can't—" Daniel's empty stomach rolled at the sheer enormity of what they were discussing. This wasn't blowing up a Goa'uld ship and saving the Earth without hope of rescue. Everything about the whole damned situation was ludicrous. Why couldn't anyone but him see that?
"You can, Daniel." Jack's voice was soothing, cajoling, seductive almost, as if he were asking Daniel for a blow job instead of asking him to...
"No, I can't."
"You know the moves; I've shown you exactly where—"
"I can, but I won't. I refuse. Huge difference, Jack."
Jack snorted. "Pacifist to the end?"
"What end? When the hell did you become—" Frustrated, Daniel threw up his hands "Maybe they're done—"
"They who, Daniel? Tell me who the hell you're talking about, 'cause I sure as hell haven't seen anyone. We've been here for days, bowls of slop to sustain us. Tap water." Jack's arm swept the room. "Dead people for company. Come on, you're smart—do you think leaving us now, letting us go, fits their personality file?"
Daniel walked away, found a piece of blank wall, then rested his shoulder against it, keeping his back to his team and his eyes closed so he couldn't see the gathering of dead SGC personnel in front of him.
He knew Jack was behind him even before he spoke.
"I'm sorry, Daniel, that was uncalled for."
"I have to agree with you, it was uncalled for." Daniel turned and looked into Jack's eyes. "But you haven't changed your mind, have you?"
Sadly, Jack shook his head.
"Jack, I pointed a gun at my wife while she was killing me and I couldn't shoot her. Don't ask me to do this."
"I *will* do it for you."
"I don't want you doing to for me." Horrified, Daniel pressed his back against the wall. "Do you hear me? I don't want anyone—"
"You told me to make Jacob stop, Daniel," Jack insisted. "I listened."
Eyes wide at the shock that Jack would even *use* that analogy, Daniel adamantly shook his head. "That was different."
"How was that different?"
Daniel closed his eyes and concentrated. His mind was sluggish and unresponsive and he was having a horrific time retrieving from his extensive repertoire of words, the ones that would explain to Jack the difference between their two requests. "I can't take anyone's life," was all he managed.
Jack huffed, annoyed, which only added to Daniel's confusion over the wrongness. This was the end. The brick wall, he knew it. Hell, they all knew it—time was ticking until their last call and what the hell were they doing? Arguing.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
He wanted to yell. They should be reminiscing, making jokes about the cavalry coming to the rescue. Daniel's head ached with the wrongness of their actions and he pressed his fists into his temples to counteract the pain.
"Sir?" Suddenly, the wrongness dissipated and it settled into fear. "The air."
"I smell it, Carter."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel said his goodbyes and stepped away from Teal'c's broken body, taking up the spot next to Sam that Jack had just vacated. With his forefinger, he wiped away the bubble of blood that had pooled in the corner of her mouth.
"Dad," she gargled.
Daniel nodded, understanding her request, and forced himself not to avert his eyes from her damaged body. He owed her that. Dignity. She deserved it, but there was so much blood. Daniel was amazed that a person could lose that much and still manage to draw a breath. Daniel was trying to imprint in his mind visuals of Sam, working, laughing, being angry, focusing on past images rather than the broken shell of person who lay before him, when he heard it.
It was loud, louder than he could imagine, the breaking of a friend's neck. He gripped Sam's hand harder, but she didn't reciprocate. She was still conscious, her eyes searching for something, someone.
"No, Sam, Jack's with, umm, Teal'c, for awhile."
Sam closed her eyes, then slowly shook her head. "Me next."
"No!" Daniel's response was lightning quick.
"It's what she wants, Daniel."
Daniel shrugged the heavy hand on his shoulder. "It's what you want."
Jack squatted next to Daniel, and wrapped his hand around Sam's and Daniel's.
"It's not the same thing, Jack."
Roughly, Jack hauled Daniel to his feet and dragged him to the side. "Don't you dare say there's still hope." He pointed to Sam. "Even if the whole SGC medical staff arrived here in seconds, they couldn't save her. Nor Teal'c. Like you couldn't be saved from the radiation. Stop with the delusions, Daniel." Jack drew a breath, then ran blood-stained hands through his hair, leaving an absurdly pink streak through the grey. "There *is* no hope."
"I hope to god you're right, Jack."
"God has nothing to do with this."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel watched disinterestedly as Jack paced the two foot by two foot space right in front of him. He had a horrible crick in his neck from looking up and just wished Jack would sit. Just *sit*, so Daniel could talk to him. Touch him. Say goodbye the proper way. Everyone was dead, there would be no accusers if they broke the don't ask, don't tell law, didn't Jack notice that? Better yet, didn't Jack care?
Maybe he wasn't being fair and with a time clock ticking loudly, did it matter? Jack did what he felt necessary, Daniel may not have agreed, but honestly all Jack did was hurry along the inevitable, while he fought to prolong it, but the end result would have been the same—Sam and Teal'c would have died.
"Are you okay?"
Daniel sniffed the air before answering. "Just great. You?"
Jack sat across from Daniel and if it wasn't such an immature action, Daniel would have patted the floor next to him in invitation.
"Have you eaten?"
"Eaten?" Daniel looked at the two bowls of grayish, lumpy liquid that had been brought in with Teal'c and Sam. "No, have you?" Daniel asked incredulously, wondering how the hell Jack could even think of that now.
Jack just shrugged, he seemed uncomfortable with Daniel, ill at ease, and Daniel was just so confused. He slid closer to Jack, then placed a hand on his thigh, gently massaging the tight muscle.
Talk about confused. Jack gazed at Daniel's hand, then at Daniel, plucked his hand off of his leg and handed it back to Daniel with an expressionless face.
There was no time to react, the wave of pain that crashed into his skull was intense, blinding and blurring the image of Jack pulling away from him. There was no rebuttal, no chance to challenge Jack's nor a chance to say goodbye before the blackness descended.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A just-showered Jack was touching his face, wet, warm fingers were tracing a path along his check and he smiled in his sleep. The sweet smell of some bath gel Cassie had given him drifted though Daniel's clogged nasal passages and he sneezed, banging his head on a surface what was too hard to be his mattress.
Oh god. "Jack!" He sat up quickly, too quickly, but he ignored the dizziness and searched the darkness, patting the floor, accidentally smacking Jack's torso in the process.
"Not good." Jack was panting, his words spit forth with each breath.
"Light—we need light." Daniel stood, imagining where he and Jack had been sitting before he passed out, then tried to picture that position in relation to the switch on the wall. He swiveled, took two steps and tripped over something—someone in his path, landing hard on a wet, smelly, and definitely human, shape. His mind refused to even go there, and he hauled himself back up and forced his steps to become hesitant, sliding across the floor, his hands out at hip level, searching for the frame of the metal bed. Daniel found the frame, or rather his knee did, and he leaned across the bed and slid his hands up and down the wall, eventually finding and flipping on the switch and found—
A macabre scene, one that would have made horror film buffs cover their eyes and gasp. Daniel had the luxury to do neither. Their captors had taken the dead and posed them. Sam and Teal'c were propped up against the far wall, Teal'c's arm around Sam's shoulder, her head hanging against Teal'c's chest at an unnatural angle. Kamran was kneeling by the bed, in a position that looked as if he was praying. And the others… two had been undressed and their hands were resting on their genitalia. Daniel whimpered and contemplated turning off the light. What he didn't see wouldn't be burned into his memory—but Jack, without light, he couldn't assess him.
So he constructed mental blinders and focused on Jack, sidestepping the bodies in his path. He knelt beside the injured man and used the corner of his ripped tee shirt to wipe away the blood from his face.
"Thanks," Jack huffed.
"Don't talk," Daniel commanded. Like Sam, there was so much blood and it puddled on the floor, surrounding Jack, seeping into Daniel's pants. This was Daniel's torture, he knew it now. Their captors where never going to come and *get* him, he was going to be left in this room for eternity. He listened to Jack's struggle to breathe and promised never again to complain about Jack's snoring if they got out.
He must have drifted, closing his eyes for a second. "Charlie?" Jack's voice was a mere whisper.
Daniel swallowed. "I'm right here, dad."
Lost in a labyrinth of delusions, Jack blindly waved his hand, made contact with Daniel, then patted Daniel's arm. "Be a good boy for your mom, okay."
"Don't give her a hard time."
Daniel just shook his head, unable to answer.
Jack's huffing sped up and then slowed, falling in a hypnotic rhythm. Daniel wasn't too sure how long he watched Jack's chest rise and fall before a gasp interrupted the pattern. Jack arched his back off the ground, and screamed in pain. "Make it stop," he begged.
"I'm here." Ineffectual for someone in pain, Daniel knew, but he was shattered by seeing Jack not in control.
Jack flopped to the floor and gazed up and Daniel. "Please, Danny." He grabbed Daniel's arm with a strength that belied his pain. "Don't make me beg."
His vice-like grip increased as another spasm of pain rocked his body. "I trust you."
He huffed again and smacked his lips. "I'm sorry. This wasn't the way it was supposed to go down."
"No, it wasn't," Daniel agreed softly, thinking of growing old in a cabin in Minnesota.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"No," Daniel replied, the answer sounding nightmarishly familiar. "But I will be."
"You remember what I taught you."
Daniel nodded. He sopped up tears with the back of his hand. He would obey orders.
"I'm sorry," he sniffed, suddenly apologetic for the guilt he had left Jack with when he ascended, burdening him with the message to make Jacob stop. Full circle. Atonement for his sins.
Gently he closed Jack's eyelids. "Don't look."
"'K," was all Jack managed.
Daniel shifted position and placed his hands where Jack had taught him and then jerked them back as if Jack's skin was on fire.
Daniel didn't bother to wipe the tears away as he leaned over and kissed Jack. "Dream of Minnesota," he whispered in his lover's ear before putting his hands around Jack's neck.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The room was dimmer than he liked, the shadows partly obscuring the face of the man sitting in the chair beside the bed. Evander leaned against the doorframe and watched as the man stared vacantly at the wall across from him.
His hands rested laxly against his lap except for an occasional twitch; his mouth was partly open, his breathing loud and nasal in the otherwise quiet. He was dressed in strange mottled green trousers and a black top which emphasized the muscled body. A silver wire gleamed brightly against the dark material as it dangled from behind his ear, connected to a strange box on the floor which blinked and hummed softly.
This was the young man these aliens had promised him? Curious and impatient, his special delivery already two days late, Evander stepped farther into the room, carefully skirting another wire connecting the man to one of the two aliens in the room. They had better be right this time. Evander had traveled to this world twice already and as much as he enjoyed flying his ship, his patience was wearing thin.
He hated these creatures but they truly were his last hope. He had given up expectation of finding the type of person he so desperately sought on his own world, so he had put the word out that he was willing to buy what he was looking for.
He tried not to look at the bulging eyes and odd orangey-hued face as he walked past the first alien; instead he turned his attention to his new acquisition.
Leaning over to peer into the face of the man, he was surprised to see the impossibly blue eyes shiny and wet. Even as Evander watched, a tear formed in one eye and slowly, slowly, pooled over the rim of his eyelid and slid down his cheek.
"Got him!" the alien crowed. He quickly bent down and punched a button on the blinking box. Immediately the man gasped loudly, his eyes rolled back and his eyelids fluttered so quickly that slivers of white were barely evident. It was painful and disturbing to look upon.
Evander reeled back as the man's hands and legs jerked and twitched. The other alien moved from the doorway and stood beside the man, a hand placed on his shoulder to ensure he didn't fall off the chair. The alien removed the wire connecting him to a small piece of metal affixed to his temple and smirked.
"Heee put up a wonderful fight," the creature said with a grin as he rolled the wire up and threw it upon the machine. "Too bad weee don't get more like him more often."
Evander looked away from the small, sharp teeth and blue tongue peeking behind them, and turned to gaze again upon the man.
A moment later the twitching stopped and the man's eyes finally stopped flickering. His head dropped down and Evander could tell he wasn't conscious.
The creature pulled back the man's short hair and teased the wire from a similar metallic device behind the man's ear.
"Allow hiss hair to grow long enough to hide thiss and no one will ssuspect."
Evander peered at the circular device. It was almost flush with the man's skin, about the size of his thumbnail.
"What is it?" Evander asked, touching the metal with a forefinger. It was warm to the touch, almost the temperature of skin.
"Tok'ra technologeee, but weee made it better." He grinned again and Evander had to turn away quickly.
The man was dumped unceremoniously onto the bed and rolled onto his side.
"Give him a few minutess for hiss brain to abssorb the latesst download. When heee wakess up, heee'll beee ready to go."
Evander straightened and stood up straight, smoothing down the creases on his gown. Now came time for negotiations. "He is old."
"Heee is in the prime of hiss life." The creature jabbed the man's arm with a knobby finger. "Heee iss sstrong."
"I did not wish a behemoth. I wished a young companion with whom I could converse, discuss, teach."
"Thiss man iss what you assked for, My Lord Eeevander. Heee knowss of many culturess, sspeakss many languagess. Heee hass a thirsst for knowledge that iss unquenchable and iss alwayss eeeager to offer aid and teach."
"Teach? What could he teach me? Does he speak Greek?"
"Heee speakss a variation of your own sspeech, My Lord. I am confident heee will quickly learn to conversse eeasily with you, and in the meantime, heee sspeakss the language of your old Massterss. Heee will be able to teach you hiss own native language, and many more. He speakss many. There will beee little difficulty in communication."
Evander harrumphed loudly. "And what of history?"
"Heee sstudied the hisstory of hiss own planet and I am certain you will disscover there are many common threadss along the coursse of your own. Heee hass explored many worldss and may even teach you of your own passt."
"You are certain of this?"
"For many monthss weee have sstudied thiss man. Weee do not make misstakess."
"Very well. What must I do?"
"Firsst, you must pay uss." The aliens handed Evander a piece of paper.
"Three hundred and fifty?" Evander roared angrily when he saw the bill. "We had agreed on two hundred marks."
The alien grinned and scratched at his ear. "Yessss, weee did. But weee never expected ssuch sstrength of will in thiss man. You have done extremely well, my Lord Evander. And asss long asss you do not remove the deevice, Daniel Jacksson will do exactly asss you bid him."
"Two hundred and fifty. Not a mark more."
"Three hundred and twenty five." The alien's nose twitched as he stared at Evander with a steely gaze.
"Three hundred. And this man will now be known as Danil." He had thought long and hard about it and figured the man's original name should not be changed overly much. Evander had had a good childhood friend by that name so had decided upon it.
"It iss ssimilar to hiss own name to not causse him confussion. Sso beee it."
A soft moan came from the bed and Daniel Jackson, now known as Danil, shifted restlessly.
"He's waking up."
"Yessss." The alien grinned and rubbed his hands. "And weee accept your generouss offer, my Lord Evander. Three hundred markss."
Evander took a pen from the pouch at his waist and signed his name on the receipt with a flourish. The amount was exorbitant, but from everything he had heard of these aliens, they always delivered what they promised.
The alien leaned over Daniel and pushed him so he was lying on his stomach. He produced a thin golden disk the size of the metallic one affixed to Danil's head.
"Thiss isss a key. He hass been programmed to obey whoever ownss it. You musst turn the device on, like so." He placed the golden disk over the device. "Now place your finger on the deevice and turn it half a turn, once, to the right, sspeak your name and tell him you are hiss masster."
Evander approached Danil, who was following him with his eyes. He leaned close, pressed his finger on the golden metal, turned it and spoke clearly in the tongue of his people's ancient master. "I am Evander. You are Danil. I am your master now."
Danil's eyes did the fluttering thing for several seconds, then they opened lethargically.
The alien plucked the golden key from behind Danil's ear and handed it to Evander.
"Keep this safe. If you wish to sell him, you must change ownership in the same manner."
Evander took the disk and saw there was a small hole in it. He deftly unclasped one of several chains around his neck and added the disk to the many pieces of ornamentation there. It would remain around his neck until he died. Or until he tired of this man.
"Master?" Danil sat up quickly, and nearly toppled off the bed. The aliens appeared to have been expecting this because they caught him and pulled him right back up. Their laughter angered Evander and he placed a sympathetic hand on Danil's shoulder. The man was breathing heavily, obviously dizzy and weak.
"Heee hass not had food or water in two dayss. His training wass ssuch heee wass unable to hold the nutrition. Heee will be fine once heee hass eaten."
"Then by the wrath of Ra, get him some food now." Evander sat down on the hard mattress beside his new purchase, some of his anger easing as Danil watched him worriedly. "Do not worry, my friend. You will be feeling better soon."
"Sshould you wissh to sset him freeee, usse the key and turn it threeee times. It will unlock the device and itss removal will allow him freeeedom will once more."
"What of his memories? His previous life?"
"Hiss mosst vulnerable moment wass captured by the computer, and isss held locked insside hiss brain. The pain of that memory will prevent him from going beyond the boundss of hiss programming, or beyond your orderss. He now hasss no memory of hiss life beyond today – hiss knowledge isss there, that weee have not touched, but hiss family, hiss work, hiss friendss... heee will not know them even were heee to come face to face with hiss most beloved."
"Too bad she iss dead," the other alien said.
"There iss one other thing, my Lord Evander," the alien said as it handed Danil some bread and cheese. "The device isss imbedded into hiss brain, as you ssaw."
Danil looked to Evander for permission to eat and Evander nodded.
"It affectss hisss eyessight and hasss made him ssussceptible to sstrong light. It will give him headachess and will affect hiss eyessight."
"You tell me this after I paid for damaged merchandise?" Evander got up from the bed, and although he was aware he had a proprietary hand on Danil's shoulder, it angered him that they had harmed this man in their attempts to train him. Danil stopped eating and sat watching Evander uncertainly. He waved him on and Danil took a bite of bread.
"It iss an inevitable occurrence. But eassily treated with a sspecial tool." The alien handed Evander an object that had twin pieces of glass on them affixed to two long stems. "Leave thesse on hiss face, over hiss eyess and when heee needss to go out in the ssun, heee can eassily clip theeesse on." A small, dark covering was placed over the twin pieces of glass, enveloping them completely. "Thiss will protect hiss eyess to a degree in the sstrong light."
"And what is the charge for these?" Evander waved the eye protectors at the aliens.
"No charge, My Lord Evander. It iss our gift to you."
Evander handed the protectors to Danil, who took them and frowned down at them. He threaded one of the twin stems into the neckline of his dark shirt, but Evander motioned for him to put them on. He unclipped the dark protectors from the clear glass and placed the two stems along his temples so they rested against his ears. Uncertain what to do with the dark pieces, Evander took them from him and placed them in his pouch.
"Finish eating, Danil. We'll be leaving for home as soon as you're done." He got up and went to gather his bodyguards who were waiting for him in the hallway. They'd be heading for his space ship the second Danil was strong enough to walk.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
// Daniel laughed softly as the man behind him teased him mercilessly. They were walking along an underground passageway, lit by artificial means. Someone carrying a huge wrench nodded at them as he walked past and Daniel smiled a greeting, then turned to rejoinder the man's taunts.
He saw laughing brown eyes in a strong face framed by silver hair. A feeling of warmth, love, and happiness infused Daniel and he sighed in contentment. He was hungry and they were off for some food, some much needed rest, and plenty of hot and heavy sex.
"So next time you say a place smells that bad, make sure you're not caught eating beans."
Daniel grinned at the joke, ducked his head as he accepted the blame and—
The room suddenly morphed into a dimly lit cell, the bodies of their dead teammates gruesomely positioned around the room, the scent of death and decay overwhelming despite the days spent with the corpses. All of which were the symptoms of a twisted and sick mind.
"Please, Daniel, don't make me beg."
He looked down at those laughing eyes which were now shrouded in pain, the life from them fading fast. Daniel could feel the cold, clammy skin beneath his fingers as he positioned them on Jack's neck. //
He jerked, sitting up in a swift motion from where he'd fallen asleep on the chair overlooking the bare gardens. He was sweating, fighting for breath, and his head ached mightily.
"Are you ill, my friend?" Evander placed a hand on Danil's shoulder, and he could feel the heat of the man's hand even through the soft cloth of his loose shirt. Danil looked up into the clear winter sky, wondering where the sun had gone. But it still shone brightly in the deep blue sky, although none of its warmth penetrated the windows of his bedroom.
"Headache." Danil reached a hand and massaged the area around his temple and right ear.
"We should not have spent so much time discussing the merits of being under the rule of Ra this morning. You were obviously upset. I apologize; I had not realized you weren't feeling well."
"I was fine before. I'm sorry, My Lord, I hadn't planned on falling asleep." The last vestiges of the dream faded, leaving him only with the memory of the anguish in those brown eyes, and the feeling of happiness lost.
"You should wear the protectors over the lenses when you're near the window. That's why your head hurts. Haven't I told you to keep your eyes covered? You do enjoy hearing me nag, don't you?"
The small dark covers were placed into Danil's hand and he removed the frames from his face and obediently clipped the covers over the clear glass. As he placed the lenses back onto his face, he thought it strange how much clearer his vision was when he wore them.
"Yes, thank you," Danil lied. If anything, his headache was worse and the meal he'd eaten a few hours ago sat heavily in his stomach.
"So, do you think we could go on with the language lesson this afternoon?" Lord Evander picked up the tablet with the text Danil had written out earlier and began looking it over. As his Lord became absorbed in the lesson, Danil took the opportunity to rub at his temple again. He gazed out the window into the garden where ornamental bushes were covered with protective sheets and bare stalks swayed in the cold wind.
"You should see the gardens in the spring, Danil." Evander had followed Danil's gaze and was staring out the window. "The bellie tree flowers early and the shantu blooms days later. And the scent from the lopsa flowers is so powerful it will follow you into your dreams."
"I'm looking forward to seeing it all." In the five weeks Danil had been in Lord Evander's manor, it had been overcast and raining. Today had been the first sunny day and Danil had taken the unexpected free hour to simply sit, relax, and enjoy the blue sky. Lord Evander had been reminiscing about his dead wife and had left Daniel alone when he'd become melancholy.
Daniel inserted two fingers beneath the lenses and rubbed his eyes. Unfortunately Lord Evander had been right and his eyes simply couldn't take the strong light.
"Do you know anything about gardening?"
"I don't think so."
"Then I need to begin teaching you immediately." Lord Evander put the tablet aside and motioned for Danil to follow him. "I have books in the library. We can start with those plants that are right outside your window."
As Danil stood, the scent of a flower teased his nostrils. In his mind's eye, he saw an elderly woman kneeling, digging in the dirt before a plant full of yellow blossoms. The aromatic scent of the flower continued to tease Danil's mind, and he gasped when the woman turned to look at him with the same loving brown eyes he remembered from his dream.
He shut his eyes against the pain that shot through his right eye as he fell back into the chair.
The worry in Lord Evander's voice scared Danil, more than the fact that he could barely move from the pain. This was his Lord and Master, he shouldn't be worrying so over a slave. Danil should be the one obeying his commands, but the pain was preventing him from doing that. He tried again to stand but ended up leaning forward, his hands cradling his head.
Moments later he heard his master shouting for help. Hands grabbed Danil and for a few seconds he knew nothing, until he found himself in his bed. Without opening his eyes he knew the curtains had been drawn; the room quickly chilled now that the sun had been chased away.
"Here, drink this." A cup was placed to his mouth and he was forced to drink the bitter liquid. He realized the lenses had been removed from his face when a cool cloth was pressed over his eyes.
Danil shivered and blankets were wrapped around his shoulders. Soon a fire hissed and popped in the fireplace, its heat seeping through the blankets and into Danil's bones.
A chair scraped the one part of the floor that wasn't covered with thick rugs. Evander's voice spoke softly to him and Danil squeezed his eyes open to look at him. The pain was easing now, as was the memory of whatever had brought the attack on.
"The potion will ease the pain and make you sleepy. I'm sorry, Danil. I'll have the window covered so this won't happen again."
"No." Danil pushed a hand out from beneath the heavy coverings and reached for his Lord's hand. "It was my fault. I didn't protect my eyes. I'm sorry, my Lord. I was looking forward to learning about the garden."
"Tomorrow is soon enough. Sleep now and we'll see how you feel by suppertime."
Danil closed his eyes and tried to relax. Whatever he had drunk was already beginning to ease his headache. He listened to the wind blowing outside, and tried to imagine the garden in full bloom. All that came to mind were those pretty yellow flowers.
He dozed, his lingering headache keeping him just on the cusp of sleep. He heard Lord Evander get up and walk softly out the door after a while.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The klaxons wailed loudly, signaling the return of one of Hammond's teams. He left his office gratefully, glad for the opportunity to take a break of the monotony of paperwork.
"It's SG-2," Davis said as Hammond stepped up behind the man's chair. A glance at the computer confirmed Davis' announcement.
"Open the iris," Hammond ordered.
Seconds later, Ferretti and the other three members of his team stepped out of the wormhole with little ado. Hammond left the control room and descended the stairs. A few steps through the hallway and he was in the Gateroom even before Ferretti's team had finished handing over their weapons.
"Nothing much to report, sir," Ferretti said as his teammates passed him by on their way to the infirmary. Hammond saw Ferretti glance up towards the briefing room window and even though Hammond didn't look up, he knew who was standing there staring down at them.
And from the way Ferretti couldn't hold Jack O'Neill's gaze, they both knew there had been no news on Daniel Jackson's whereabouts.
"The planet was a bust. No signs of naquadah, no signs of habitation. The MALP's preliminary workup was totally off. There was naquadah in the dust around the Stargate, but not an inkling of it anywhere else."
"Fine, Major. We'll debrief tomorrow at ten."
Hammond turned to watch the major exit the control room, then looked up at the empty spot in the briefing room. He shook his head and returned to the control room.
Hammond looked at Davis' expectant face and couldn't imagine the pain SG-1 was going through. He shook his head and Davis nodded. Three months and there had been no sign or word about Daniel Jackson's whereabouts.
Hammond returned to his office, dreading SG-14's scheduled return in six hours.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sam sighed softly as she watched her fellow teammates walking before her with an almost dejected mien. Of course this was only apparent to someone who'd known them well for the past few years.
Teal'c was always the same solid, protective bodyguard, but he'd become more introverted, more like the Teal'c of eight years ago. Gruff. Strong. Silent. All the little Tau'ri nuances; the humor, the smile, the twinkle in his eye, even the hair on his head, gone. The Teal'c of Chulak, First Prime of Apophis, now walked with them once again.
He'd begun to understand Tau'ri humor and at times, she was sure, he had played the game just to get the colonel riled or confused. She smiled to herself at the memory then frowned; it had been quite a while since he'd teased any of them. Especially Colonel O'Neill. She missed the more relaxed Teal'c, the one who had mellowed out since losing his symbiote. She still trusted the Jaffa implicitly, but this alien Teal'c made losing Daniel even harder.
And the colonel. She glanced up at his stiff back before her; walking with a barely controlled rage. Although she couldn't see his face she was sure his eyes were constantly in motion, checking for hidden dangers. The dirt track leading through the field of grass and flowers they were following was surrounded by wooded land. She guessed anybody or anything could be hiding in there, watching them. She turned to glance behind them, making sure that nothing was sneaking up on them.
The colonel had become a stranger to her these past six months. He barely spoke, refused to socialize with her and Teal'c, and was constantly on the edge of losing his temper. She could see he walked a fine line in keeping control.
She had loved serving on SG-1; they were her friends, and had become her family. But the way things were going, she was seriously thinking of requesting a transfer to another team. She had discussed this with Teal'c and he shared the same views. Now she remained on the team only out of sisterly love for Daniel and respect for Colonel O'Neill, but she wasn't sure how long she could stand to see her family fall apart.
As she circumvented a patch of delicate-looking blue flowers, she saw the colonel tramp carelessly through another, leaving a trail of broken and crushed petals. She sighed. Had Daniel been here, he would have gently nudged him aside and…
Daniel. And herein lay the problem. Daniel wasn't here. Daniel was… gone. This wasn't like the time Daniel had left them and had ascended. Then they had known Daniel's fate. But with Daniel's disappearance, his fate unknown, it was taking a toll on all of them.
God, but she missed him. And if the ache in her heart was this bad for her, she couldn't even begin to imagine what Colonel O'Neill was feeling.
Don't ask, don't tell. A stupid unspoken rule, but her friends' love had been obvious to those who'd known them. She'd been so happy for them; they had both deserved joy in their lives and although totally different personalities, they complimented one another. She had often wished she could find someone that she could love wholeheartedly the way they did one another; but now that she had Pete, she was afraid of committing to him. She didn't know if she could bear being hurt that way.
This trip was another waste of their time. She was sure of it; they all knew it. Hell, there wasn't even a Stargate here, they'd come to this planet in search of someone due to another lead given to them by the Tok'ra. They'd used the Tel'tak, and had parked the spacecraft several miles away, hopefully in a space where nobody would actually walk into the now-invisible ship.
Their fourth team member had been very impressed with the alien ship. He was a quiet, swarthy young man who spoke several languages and had some knowledge of archaeology. Marty didn't come close to having Daniel's extensive expertise but he did try hard, she had to give him credit for that.
She and Teal'c had welcomed Marty Chandler into their team, extending him the courtesy required, but not making any attempt to get close to the man. It was as if Daniel's position on the team was simply on hold, and neither wanted him to be replaced. The colonel, on the other hand, ignored him as much as possible. It sometimes made for very awkward and disagreeable missions.
Their mission today was to find a young woman who had been a prospective host for the Tok'ra and who had been kidnapped from her home world. They were pretty sure she was here and the Tok'ra had tried to convince them that there was a good chance that Daniel was, too. Especially since this young woman had disappeared in similar circumstances as Daniel.
At first, after Daniel's disappearance, they'd 'gated to as many planets as they could, following up every available clue they could find. But Daniel had vanished from P9H 889 with no sign of a struggle and no clue as to where he had gone. They'd searched the area for days; then, when they'd realized that he wasn't on the planet, they'd called Sam's dad for help. At Jacob's behest, the Tok'ra had put out feelers and had eventually come up with all sorts of information, but it had all led to dead ends.
Colonel O'Neill had been edgy and anxious in his search for Daniel during the first few months. He'd barely slept and ate; he had slowly become a shadow of the man he'd once been, both physically and emotionally.
They'd all wanted to go and rescue Daniel from whatever fate had befallen him but it had been just too exhausting, too discouraging, too painful. Then, after four months, the colonel had finally blown up in a meeting with two Tok'ra representatives. Sam knew it wasn't their fault, they had honestly been trying to help, but the last three times that SG-1 gone out looking for Daniel had also been with underlying missions that the Tok'ra required as favors.
They had all suffered with Daniel's disappearance; Sam thought that it was the unknown that was killing them, tearing them apart. Had they found a body to bury they could have said their farewells, mourned, and then gone on with their lives. But living with the constant hope that he'd merely been abducted and was waiting for rescue… and seeing her commanding officer's eyes slowly lose their vitality every time they returned from a wild goose chase, tore at her heart.
While Colonel O'Neill slowly withdrew from everyone and everything that he'd held dear, Teal'c, on the other hand, had begun seeking Sam out more often. She figured that he was missing Daniel and the two of them could at least give each other support and comfort. They had tried approaching the colonel several times but he'd brusquely pushed them away, refusing to even invite them into his house.
The worst part, though, were the missions. He'd taken innumerable chances with his life lately but never endangering any of his team in the process. Daniel had once told her that he had had a suicidal bent after his son's death and she was sure that this was what she was seeing.
She started suddenly as she realized that they'd reached the meadow's edge and were entering the wooded area. She'd been wool gathering, and mentally chastised herself for it. Quickly turning around, she scanned the field before brushing aside a branch and followed the well worn trail into the forest.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They traversed the woods for a good thirty minutes and came out overlooking a valley in which a large town was comfortably sprawled before a small mountain range. From their vantage point it was very picturesque, complete with a waterfall and lazy river flowing nearby. Verdant lands and fields showed evidence of the thriving town.
The colonel's face remained impassive to the scene as he ordered them onto the trail leading down towards civilization. As they descended, they passed by several homes, all well cared for, lawns manicured, gardens and flowers growing abundantly. Children played outside, their cries and laughter carried to them on the wind.
Sam began to feel uneasy once they'd reached level ground. She kept turning back, trying to spot whoever she thought was following them. They were approaching the town now; the large gates with unfamiliar script, probably naming the city, loomed before them.
A young boy ran past them, chased by another child. Both were laughing. The sound seemed to grate on Sam's nerves. This wasn't right, she loved children. This whole scenario was beginning to get her down and she decided then and there that she'd hand in her transfer papers as soon as they returned home.
The kids' laughter suddenly turned into a scream, echoed by what seemed like a vicious snarl. Spinning around, she saw an immense shaggy creature that seemed to be a cross between a bear and a hyena chasing the children. They split apart, one running back towards them, the other making for the fields. The creature began to run, quickly gaining on the frightened child who had left the security of the group.
She brought her P-90 to bear and heard the colonel's gun go off beside her. She squeezed off a shot and saw the animal shudder, but the bullets barely slowed it down. Its speed was incredible and within seconds it had nearly caught up to the running child. She and Colonel O'Neill took aim and their combined shots finally took the creature down just as it swept up the boy. It rolled several times, coming to an ungraceful stop against a tree. The young child, thrown several feet by the powerful claws, landed in the earth and lay unmoving.
They quickly rushed to his side, Carter grabbing several pressure bandages and with Teal'c's help, she placed them on the heavily bleeding claw marks on the boy's legs. He was unconscious and she could see that he'd hit his head when he'd landed.
Footsteps and cries warned her of the townspeople quickly approaching. Teal'c and the colonel turned to face them, standing protectively over her as she worked to stop the bleeding.
"Wyvair," one of the approaching men uttered in an awed voice. Several of the men cautiously approached the dead beast while the others gathered round Sam and the injured child.
"Is there a doctor here? A healer?" she called out, looking around at the crowd. Marty quickly translated and Sam returned to her grisly task.
"They say there's a healer not far from here, Sam," the young man said quietly as he knelt beside the injured child. "They'll take the boy to him," he explained as one of the men knelt down beside them. The balding man gently gathered the boy in his arms and began walking as quickly as he could towards the town. An older boy took off at a run after the man yelled something at him. Sam suspected he was going to alert the healer that he was soon going to have a patient.
Sam reached for a sterile wipe and washed the blood from her hands. She'd need to scrub with soap and water to get it from beneath her nails but she did as good a job as was possible for the moment. When she stood, she caught a glimpse of the dead predator which was surrounded by a dozen villagers who were poking the furry carcass with sticks.
Marty was talking with several, one of whom was garbed in very elaborate and flowing gowns. She glanced around, taking the time now to note that most people were wearing brightly colored clothes and jewelry except for one or two who were wearing drab beige pants and tunics.
"Colonel," Marty called as he left the man that Sam was beginning to term a 'peacock' due to the rainbow colors of his tunic and pants. "Whomma here is the brother of the Lord of the village. He wants us to come for a meal as a thanks to us for having killed that beast. And I think he may want to trade; he seemed particularly interested in your guns."
"Tell him we're not hungry," Colonel O'Neill said as he turned to stare in the direction the injured child had been carried.
"Sir?" Sam said. "This might be an opportunity to ask about the missing Tok'ra. They might be more inclined to talk if they're relaxed and—"
"She's not a Tok'ra, Carter. She didn't get snaked yet."
Sam held back a retort and continued.
"Yes, sir, technically you're right, but she had agreed to the blending. Anyway, I think maybe we could at least try and negotiate for information, if nothing else."
"MajorCarter is correct, O'Neill." Sam jumped slightly at Teal'c's voice sounding behind her. She hadn't heard Teal'c walk up to them. "We should not give up this opportunity."
The colonel nodded slightly and Marty returned to the peacock, who quickly led the way to the manor house.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Something was off. It wasn't anything that Jack could put his finger on, but something about this feast in SG-1's honor wasn't right. He hugged his P-90 closer to his chest, but honestly, it had nothing to do with a feeling of unrest and a whole lot more to do with the Lord's Eveready's lack of interest in them. Oh, he had made all the perfunctorily noises regarding the weapons, touching them, asking questions through Chandler, but Jack still couldn't shake this weird sensation.
He glanced over at Teal'c and Carter who were sitting too stiffly, ill at ease, offering smirks instead of smiles to the people serving the food. Only Chandler seemed oblivious, but that was okay because Jack was usually oblivious to the young man anyway.
"Lord Evander seems most distracted."
"Took the words right out of my mouth, T." Jack followed Evander's gaze to the door to the left of the dais.
"I wonder what's behind door number one? Carter, Teal'c—any ideas?"
"I believe that's—"
Jack didn't let Carter finish, instead he tapped Chandler on the shoulder. "Chandler, why don't you and Carter mosey on down front a ways and see what's so interesting." He stood and smiled at those around him, who nodded and smiled in return. People were milling around, as opposed to sitting, so he didn't think anyone would take offence to SG 1 doing a bit of meandering. "Teal'c you're with me; let's play to the back of the room."
"Play? I do not believe—"
"Scope out. Check out."
"Assess," Carter threw out.
Teal'c stood. "It will be my pleasure to play with you, O'Neill."
Six months ago, before they got stuck with Chandler, before Daniel had gone missing, that remark would have been fodder for Daniel and Carter. Now, it fell flat and Jack just motioned Teal'c forward with a wave of his gun.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The two of them walked the perimeter, keeping one eye on the group of people and the Lord, who was still keeping both of *his* eyes on the door. Jack's other eye was trained on Carter and Chandler. His sigh was obviously loud enough that Teal'c turned a questioning eyebrow in his direction.
"Carter and Chandler. Sounds like they should be a vaudeville act and not an SG team."
Teal'c raised the other eyebrow.
"Think Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello."
Teal'c sighed as well. "Indeed."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They completed one more circuit around the hall, and he was just going to motion for Carter to rejoin them when he noticed that she was gesturing for them to join her.
"Not exactly, sir. Marty was able to ascertain that the Lord is upset—"
"No duh, Marty."
Carter's reprimand forced a humble nod of apology from Jack.
"Lord Evander is awaiting word from the healer."
"Make sense, he seems like a nice enough guy, concerned about his town. Okay, I'm for giving him the benefit of the doubt, let's eat, drink, and be merry, and keep our eye out for the Tok'ra woman. Any intel on that, Carter? Chandler?"
"Not even a whisper, sir."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack was getting antsy. Twenty minutes since SG-1 had resumed their seats, no sign of the healer, the party seemed to be winding down, and the Lord was getting more agitated by the second, his glances towards the door increasing.
Jack was just about ready to find the fuckin' healer himself when the door opened and a middle aged man appeared, ignored the protocol of waiting for the guards and hurried over to Lord Eveready. Bypassing the postulating that everyone else had done before the Lord, the healer began to speak, his hands waving wildly in the air. Surprisingly, there was a flash of unhappiness, sadness even, before the older man threw back his shoulders, adjusted his robes, and dismissed the healer with a disgusted wave of his hand.
Shit. Jack didn't think the child the animal had attacked had been hurt that badly. He pounded the table in frustration. "Come on, folks, let's go offer his highness over there the services of an SGC med kit. Seems the kid's not doing that great." He pointed to Chandler as they approached the dais. "Clear, concise, no playing around. Find out how serious the kid's injuries are, and cajole him into letting us examine him."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Chandler, did I just hear what I thought I heard?"
"Ummm, that would be a yes, sir."
"Then why the hell—never mind. I'll talk." Jack pushed Chandler aside and gave the minutest of bows to the Lord, annoyed that the man had the capability of speaking English, and had spoken it quite clearly, but hadn't bothered to make SG-1 privy to that little fact any earlier. Jack pasted a smile on his face, convincing those in his group that he was capable of being diplomatic with the best of them. "Lord Evander," Jack bowed once more. "I am quite pleased to hear that you can speak English."
"I didn't choose for you to be aware of it until now."
"Truly your prerogative." Jack softened the harshness of his accusation with a slight lift of his lips.
"Why have you come before me? I have spoken to you regarding your weapons and I have not yet made a decision what in my possession I wish to trade for them."
"I do not understand your statement."
"Sir." Carter hissed a warning through pursed lips.
"I ummm... we," Jack flicked his hands to encompass all of SG-1, "noticed that you were a bit upset with the healer. We will gladly offer our assistance in the treatment of the child injured by the beast."
"Child?" Lord Evander leaned forward, his face screwed up in confusion. "I do not understand."
"Child. Little boy." Jack touched his head. "Dark haired. Nine or ten years old. Attacked by the beast." He patted his gun. "We shot the beast. Any of this sounding the least bit familiar?"
"The child is fine; otherwise we would not be feasting."
"That's good. Great, actually. We just thought…"
"The healer was not discussing the boy. His injuries have been treated and he is already at home with his parents."
"We could not help but notice, Lord Evander, your agitation with one you call the healer." Teal'c bowed much more majestically than Jack. "Can we be of assistance?"
"A favorite slave of mine, Danil, fell ill about a week ago and I am sad to say each day his breathing gets worse." Evander gazed at the door. "I was informed that today his struggles for each breath are progressively harder and he has developed a fever."
"Could you possibly back up a minute? Did you say this slave's name was Daniel?"
"I did not. His name is Danil."
Jack's gaze bounced around the room, noting for the first time the overabundance of flowers and the open windows, remembering the fields they had trounced on their way to this village.
She shook her head, then shrugged. "Anything's possible, sir."
"How long have you had this *Danil*? Jack undid the clips holding his backpack, catching it before it fell to the ground.
"His father was my father's slave."
The answer was too quick, too precise. Hopefully Lord Eveready would never take up the game of poker 'cause he would suck at playing cards. The man's face was an open book. He was lying and, for the first time in ages, Jack's heart soared with hope. He squatted and dug through his backpack, finding a crinkled blister pack of antihistamines, which he waved at Teal'c and Carter. "Hey, just in case."
Lord Evander pointed at the rectangle in Jack's hand. "Can those help Danil?"
Jack stuck out his hand. "Carter, how about hitting me with some Tylenol and antibiotics?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This was against regulations. Jack should have insisted that someone, Teal'c, Carter, hell, even Chandler, accompany him and the healer to Danil's room. But after all this time, Jack needed to see with his own eyes, privately, without having to share either the exaltation of finding Daniel or the disappointment of another red herring. So he left a protesting team with a Lord who informed them protocol didn't permit him to leave the shindig until the last person had departed.
The healer's English wasn't as clear as Evy's; it was broken, spoken with a weird, heavy accent, and intermingled with what Jack recognized to be some Goa'uld. He was able to pick out cough, fever, restless—the rest was lost.
"Here." The healer stopped beside a wooden door that, surprisingly enough, didn't seem to have a lock on it. Jack filed this bit of information away for another time and followed the man through the door into a simply designed sitting room with a desk overflowing with books and papers. Bowls of freshly cut flowers garnished every flat surface.
Jack tried to cover up his impatience as the healer, Janilisse, spoke to an older woman sitting on a chair in the corner. She stood and nodded at both the healer and Jack as she left.
"I do not know this word—sec—" Janilisse tapped his forehead.
Jack pointed to the now vacated chair and the closed door.
"Oh, Fontina. She watches Danil when sick. When I cannot."
"Nursemaid. Gotcha. If this is Daniel we're talking about, been there, done that. And I so understand where you're coming from."
The healer nodded and Jack figured he probably hadn't a clue what he was talking about. "Lead the way, my friend." He patted his pockets stuffed with medication. "Let's see if we can help him."
Janilisse guided Jack down a short hallway filled with things that just looked old. Ancient. Daniel-type toys. Jack had to admit that for a servant, this guy's quarters were damn nice.
"He is here." The healer pushed a slightly opened door and motioned for Jack to step inside. The room was huge, light, airy, with doors that opened onto a garden, from what Jack could see. The doors were closed, but three floor–to-ceiling windows were open, the curtains flowing back in forth in the breeze, the overpowering smell of fresh flowers wafting through the room.
"Where?" Jack pivoted, sneezing.
Janilisse pointed to an area behind an ornately decorated Japanese style screen.
Jack heard the wheeze of someone struggling to breathe even before he approached the head of the bed. The lump under the covers was curled in a fetal position, only a few strands of blond hair visible. Hair that was too light and too long to be Daniel's. Disappointed, he sat at the edge of the bed and lowered the blanket.
And suddenly he couldn't breathe.
For six months he had dreamed what he would do when he found Daniel, but now, as he gazed down upon a profile as familiar as his own, he did none of those things. He sat in stunned silence and stared.
"Can you help him?"
Jack jumped at Janilisse's intrusion. "I need to examine him first." Jack gestured to the screen. "May I have some privacy?"
The healer seemed a bit flustered but Jack smiled and lowered his weapon to the floor. A big, big break in *his* protocol but if he didn't tell, who would know? He lifted his empty hands in the air and Janilisse smiled hesitantly and stepped behind the curtain. Sure, Jack realized, if Daniel should die, who better to blame it on than the strangers from another planet.
He waited until Janilisse was safely behind the screen, then pulled the blanket back and examined Daniel like a new parent, foregoing the finger and toe count, looking for three particular marks.
"I know. I know," he soothed as Daniel's hand searched for the missing covers. "This will only take a minute, I promise." He started at Daniel's left foot, there on the sole, the tiniest of scars received when a barefoot Daniel stepped on broken glass in a storeroom a lifetime ago. Jack gently pushed Daniel onto his back and received a cough, but no other protest for his efforts. He tugged down the pants to reveal the smooth line of an appendix scar. "Almost finished." He pulled the pants up, then, with shaking hands, Jack lifted up the short sleeve of Daniel's right arm and hesitantly sought out the patch of mottled, scarred skin from a staff blast received in an AU.
Fever bright, unfocused, confused, and never looking more beautiful, blue eyes stared at him.
Not caring how sick Daniel was, ignoring the squirm of protest, Jack jerked him upright by the front of his shirt, enveloped him in a hug, and buried his face in Daniel's warm neck.
"I'm so sorry," Jack confessed. Not many people could do what Jack was now doing, embracing their heart, and, for the first time since he buried Charlie, Jack cried. He shed silent tears for all that was wrong in the universe, and tears for all that was right. Thankful tears for the gods that watched over wayward, kidnapped archaeologists and protected them, as well as tears for making one desperate, lost colonel, have second thoughts before he ate a bullet.
A hand forced its way between their two bodies and Jack allowed Daniel to push them apart.
"Hey." Jack reached up to touch, and fought to keep the hurt from his voice when Daniel scuttled away. "I know. It's been a long time." Jack wiped his tears away with the back of his hand. "See," he sniffed, throwing open his arms. "I'm still the same, a little greyer thanks to you but—"
"Don't worry, I left the guy alive—for now."
Daniel blinked at Jack, then coughed, a deep, tight, painful sound that forced Jack back to reality. He lifted his ass and dug into his pocket for the myriad of medication. "Look familiar?" He presented an open palm to Daniel with antibiotics, Tylenol, and the blister pack of antihistamines.
Daniel shook his head and coughed again. "Where's Janilisse?"
"Janilisse's medicine doesn't work."
Jack snorted at the *very* Daniel remark. "Sure you are."
"I don't need any allotrios helping me."
Jack moved closer to Daniel. "Daniel, that's a new one on me. What the hell does—?"
"Stranger. The word means stranger," Janilisse answered with a smug expression.
"You know, Jannie, do you even *understand* the word privacy?" Jack shook his head. "And you're mistaken, something must've gotten lost in the translation, 'cause that allo word can't possibly mean—" Jack looked towards Daniel again. "Tell him that's *not* what the word means."
Daniel's gaze flitted from Janilisse to Jack a few times, before he opened his mouth to speak. He got out a squeak of a word before a coughing fit overtook him.
"You lied," Janilisse accused. "Danil is no better."
Jack waved his hand clutching the meds in front of the healer. "I haven't given them to him yet, you idiot." Jack slid up the bed, inching his way closer to Daniel. "Get me water, anything for him to take with these pills."
All of Daniel's bravado faded with the coughing fit and he sat with his back pressed up against the headboard, warily eyeing Jack like a cornered, caged animal, huffing. Jack knew those furrows in Daniel's brow well, he was in pain and he hurt. "Your head hurts."
Daniel refused to answer.
Jack busied himself popping two antihistamines from the blister pack and repeated, "Your head hurts, your throat is raw, and your chest feels like you've swallowed a ton of water."
"Yeah?" Daniel demanded, his voice barely above a whisper. He leaned forward and examined Jack. "Do I know you?"
Jack touched his brow then pointed at Daniel's. "Your forehead gets all crinkly when you don't feel well. And your eyes get all squinty. Just like they are now."
"Do *I* know you? You never really answered me."
Jack held his breath as Daniel studied him and he would bet his life that there was a spark of recognition before he grunted in pain and dropped his head into his hands. "Head," he whimpered."
"Damn it, Daniel—Janilisse, where the hell are you with—"
"I am here."
"Well it's about time." Jack grabbed the heavy glass goblet from the healer's outstretched hands and sniffed the contents. Acceptable.
Janilisse began to speak to Daniel and Jack was able to pick out Evy's name followed by his own. Daniel lifted his head slowly with his hand pressed over his right eye, a sure sign that Daniel was definitely in pain, a migraine posture that Jack knew well. Daniel stretched out his hand towards Jack. "Pills? You have medicine?"
Listening as Daniel struggled to draw a deep breath, Jack was aware the only thing to truly help him would be several days' stay in the infirmary. Short of flinging the man over his shoulder and hightailing to the 'gate, these pills were going to have to make do.
Jack dropped the pills into Daniel's outstretched palm.
"Lord Evander is worried, Danil, you have been sick too long."
With an imperceptible nod of his head, Daniel popped the whole handful of pills into his mouth.
"One at a time—never mind." Jack handed the glass of liquid to Daniel and fought the urge to tell him to slow down with his drinking.
"Hey Jannie—when was the last time Daniel—"
"Danil," the healer interrupted.
"Yeah, whatever." Daniel was literally licking the rim of the glass when Jack plucked it from his hands. "You call yourself a healer? The man's dying of thirst."
"Water is not given for at least ten hours after the leeches—"
"Leeches? You sonofabitch backwards, backwater healer! You used leeches on him?"
Jack pointed to Daniel. "You. Go to sleep. The pills will make you tired and ummm, Lord Everre... Evander, requests that you sleep and get well."
Daniel yawned. "Fine," he mumbled
"I'll get back to you later on that." Jack waited until Daniel slid down and for the sake of propriety, he allowed the healer to cover him up. He counted until ten, watched Daniel close his eyes, then physically dragged the healer away from the bed.
"You're an idiot," Jack ranted, gathering up two armfuls of the flower from their vases and flung them out the nearest window.
Janilisse sputtered indignantly.
"You are a guest in my house, I trust you to behave as one."
Jack slammed the window shut and turned to face his accuser. Lord Evander stood in the middle of the bedroom.
"Where's the rest of my team?" Jack demanded.
"They are out in the hall, with my guards, where you will find yourself in a moment if you do not keep your anger in check."
"Anger? Anger?" Let me tell you something, *Lord* of the manor." Jack grabbed a handful of flowers and shoved them in Evy's surprised face. "You haven't even begun to see angry yet." He waved the blooms under Evander's nose. "You're poisoning Daniel. *These* are what is making him sick."
"He is wrong, Lord Evander, he does not understand our ways."
"Shut up," Jack yelled, throwing the flowers at the healer. Make yourself useful. Get rid of every goddamn flower in these rooms."
"I do not see where the signs of spring would—"
"Think back, Evander. When did Daniel begin to cough, sneeze, have problems breathing?"
"There have always been headaches."
Jack wanted to throttle the leader. "Listen to me," he hissed. "I'm not asking about the headaches, which will surely be a discussion for another time. I need to know when the sneezing—"
"When the garden began to bloom," Lord Evander spoke slowly. "And yet he pushed himself to learn about the flowers, and their planting cycles—*I am* responsible for Danil's illness?"
"My master?" Daniel stood, swaying, the screen on which he was holding onto for support was moving right along with him.
"Danil, what are you doing out of bed?"
"I heard my name," he whispered, squinting in the room's light.
"I am sorry we woke you."
Evander approached Daniel with Jack on his heels listening to the Lord gently admonish Daniel about the light.
The healer was pacing, gesturing wildly. "See, my lord? The medication from these people has not helped Danil at all."
"Bite me," Jack groused. "One dose isn't going to take away the damage you people have probably been doing to him for weeks. Shit." Jack was fast, but Evander was closer and managed to grab Daniel before he and the screen hit the floor. Evander lowered Daniel to the ground and Jack knelt by his side. He was burning up, uncomfortably hot to the touch, confirming Jack's assessment that this was a step over the line from an allergy attack. "Get my team. I need them here, now."
"Do not listen. It is a ploy, Lord Evander, to—"
"Will you just shut up!" Jack paused, sniffed the air, then bent down and sniffed Daniel's skin, hair, clothes. "Rose petals?" he growled, jumped up, grabbed the healer by the front of his shirt and slammed him into the wall. "Do *not* tell me that you've been bathing Daniel in rose scented water."
Jack let go of the healer and disgustedly wiped his hands on his pants.
"O'Neill, if what you say is correct, how would Danil be affected—"
"Rose water? I am not familiar with that word," the healer asked, truly confused.
Jack scrubbed his face, disappeared behind the curtain and returned with a blanket to cover Daniel with. "Flower scented water. A rose is a certain flower. And flowers and Daniel don't mix unless he has his medication." Jack pinched his nostrils together. "He smells like flowers."
Janilisse began to speak rapidly to Evy in their own language and Jack watched as Lord Evander's face clouded with emotions until Evander shut his tirade up with a sharp clap.
"It would appear that you are correct, O'Neill. Danil has been washed in the oil of the kimitra flower, the properties of which are beneficial for those who have breathing difficulties." He pointed at Janilisse "You will keep quiet for just a moment while I speak."
"Phew, thanks a bunch, Lord Evander, that Jani guy was getting on my nerves as—"
"Do not speak to me unless *I* request you to do so. You seem to have forgotten that this is my house and as the Lord of this village, *my* word is final. I am grateful that you and your team saved the child. I am also grateful that you have given medication to Danil to cure him."
"Call him whatever you want, but his name is Daniel Jackson," Jack insisted, ignoring the lord's request to keep his trap shut as he rested a possessive hand on Daniel's shoulder. "He's a member of my team."
"Danil is *my* slave and has been in my service for his whole life."
"Daniel is owned by no man."
"Danil is owned by me. He belongs to me, in this house. He knows nothing else." Evander tucked the blanket under Daniel, then turned and paced in front of Jack, annoyed. "How long has this Daniel been a member of your team?"
"He was a good friend?"
"Yes, he was," Jack admitted proudly.
"Yet when Danil, who you claim is named Daniel, a good friend and teammate for over eight years—when he saw you, what did he do?" Evander smiled. "Did he recognize you?"
"He's obviously been brainwashed as near as I can figure," Jack reasoned. "Look, Lord Evander, I can see from the feast and the size of this house you own many slaves but no guns. We will gladly trade our weapons for Daniel." Jack was treading on thin ice, if Evy agreed with him and SG-1 returned to the SGC weaponless but with Daniel in tow, Jack could only hope that Hammond would see the equality of their trade.
"I do not wish to discuss this now. For two people who claim to care about him, we have spent too much time arguing and have been distracted from taking care of him."
Evander signaled to the healer to pull a cord suspended from the ceiling. A contingent of household slaves appeared instantaneously. Lord Evander instructed them to clean the room from top to bottom, change the sheets on the bed, and rid the room of all flowers. He requested that Daniel be taken to his bedroom where a bath would be drawn and to be notified when the bath was ready.
"I will personally make sure that Daniel's body is rid of the flower's oil."
"Oh joy," was Jack's sarcastic remark.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sam smiled as she walked down the hall in Lord Evander's wake, trying to contain the bounce in her step. Okay, she really shouldn't be smiling, Daniel was ill, and she was on her way to assess exactly how sick he was. There was also the problem that he didn't remember anything other than being a slave to Evander. But both of those obstacles they could deal with. Daniel was alive. Which was more than they'd known twenty-four hours ago. Alive. Sam was actually so caught up in her happiness, she had to bring herself up short to keep from crashing into Evander's back when he stopped in front of a large wooden door.
The colonel hadn't been happy that Evander had adamantly refused to allow him to see Daniel. Based on the way her CO had been bad mouthing their host as he paced their quarters waiting for Sam to be summoned, there was an extremely strong possibility that he and Evander hadn't exactly seen eye to eye in the care and feeding of Daniel… Danil, she corrected herself. Danil, she repeated. Maybe going in through the back door and acknowledging that this had been Daniel's life for the past six months would get Evander to open up a bit more. What had her mother always said…? You can get more from honey… Too bad the colonel lived by the credo that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So close, and yet so far. Sam glared impatiently at the healer who was blocking her way, arguing with Evander. The way he was pointing and gesturing in her direction made it obvious he felt threatened by her presence.
"I will not stand for your insolence," Evander insisted, and the healer withered under his gaze. "I do not want you to think your place in this house is secure enough that you believe you can speak to me or our guest in this manner."
She hid a smug grin as the healer bowed deeply and stepped aside to let them pass.
"Major Carter, I ask that you forgive Janilisse." Evander smiled broadly at her as he opened the door and allowed her to enter the room first. "He has truly overstepped his boundaries but he is worried about Danil." Evander paused, and if Sam didn't know any better, he looked embarrassed. "As are we all."
Sam walked into the anteroom and gazed longingly at the archway. Daniel was through that doorway and she surprised even herself by managing a modicum of decorum by not rushing in there and throwing her arms around her missing teammate.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The hair was lighter, longer, and you could see in the pale, sweaty face a hint of tan and a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. He looked the same, he looked different, but he was definitely eyeing her as if he had never seen her before in his whole entire life. But then she'd experienced this before. It was Daniel's inability to make a move or answer a question without first glancing at Evander for approval that disturbed her the most.
He was sitting up, the blanket pulled snugly to his neck. She was positive Daniel was feverish but she didn't want to enter his personal space until he had let his guard down some—maybe relax in her presence—allowed her within three feet of him.
"Does your head hurt, Danil?"
He turned towards Evander, who smiled and answered for him. "Danil is prone to headaches. Light sensitivity. The fact that he always has his nose buried in a book adds to his headaches."
Sam sighed, gritted her teeth and prodded forward, searching her memory for Daniel's springtime allergy symptoms. "Nose stuffed?"
"That is a most recent ailment," Evander answered, nodding at Daniel. "As is the itchy eyes, though the cough has increased to the point he has had problems sleeping, isn't that correct?"
As if on cue, Daniel yawned. "It is, my master."
"May I speak to you in private, Lord Evander?" She didn't wait for an answer, just took off to the seclusion of the anteroom, knowing that curiosity and fear over Daniel's condition would force his hand.
"With all due respect, I'm finding it extremely difficult to examine Danil in your presence, Lord Evander."
Sam was stunned; the man couldn't or didn't see what she was witnessing. "You are answering for him, and *he's* allowing you to." She huffed in frustration, one minute away from stamping her foot in frustration, which was the least invasive way she could think of to deal with the overbearing lord when all she really wanted to do was to zat the man into oblivion.
"I did not realize, I promise I will—"
"You'll stay right here," Sam interjected, feeling a slight victory as confusion danced across his face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Where's my master?
Sam bit back a nasty, very colonel-like remark that dealt with false gods. "Lord Evander will be back." Short, sweet, and not exactly a lie.
"You don't like him, do you?" Daniel wheezed, his eyes trained over her shoulder to the archway for a second or two before his head flopped backwards on a throne of overstuffed pillows, obviously not caring what her answer was.
"Bet you're tired."
He just shrugged but closed his eyes in response. "I slept."
"Head aches, throat hurts, eyes itch." Sam didn't mention the reddened nose, chapped lips or, what really was worrying her, the loud wheezing sound that was attached to every breath.
Daniel opened his eyes and studied Sam with contempt. "Didn't Lord Evander already answer your questions?"
"Yes, he did." Sam fought to keep her anger under control, trying to temper it with the joy of *finding* Daniel, so she decided not to even justify her response. She pulled the med kit from her backpack and slapped a fever strip on his forehead, then batted his hand away when he attempted to touch it. "No."
His fever was high, but not dangerously so, his breathing was wheezy, bordering more on bronchitis than pneumonia, she hoped. Daniel was exhausted, dehydrated. He needed sleep, water, and to go home. The sleep and the water she could easily rectify, it was the going home that would take some convincing, or maybe downright kidnapping.
Daniel buried a cough in a pillow and while Evander had removed all flowers from this room, Sam had a sneaking suspicion that the pillows, and probably the blanket, weren't exactly helping Daniel breath any better, nor was the headache allowing him to sleep. She had the blister pack in the med kit, Tylenol, antibiotics, but she decided to piggyback the Motrin with the Tylenol and hold off the other meds for another hour or two.
He eyed the pills she was handing him. "I've taken those already and I do feel better, honest."
"These are different ones."
Daniel leaned over and peered into her open palm, then shook his head. "No."
Didn't make a difference if he was Daniel or Danil, the brainwashing hadn't taken away an iota of stubbornness.
"Lord Evander wants you well, Danil."
He looked towards the archway, nodded, accepted the goblet of water Sam offered him, then scooped up the pills without another word.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I'm not tired."
Daniel *had* actually been drifting, and Sam had just enjoyed watching, when a coughing fit woke him and he sat up and pounded the one flimsy couch pillow she had given him in exchange for the overabundance of pillows that had been surrounding him.
"You're exhausted." She had already pulled the 'Lord Evander wants you to do this' out of her hat and didn't want to overplay that hand, so she showed Daniel her watch. "Make you a deal—I'm setting the alarm for fifteen minutes. Lie down for fifteen minutes, and if you're not sleeping within that time—"
"I can get up and finish the research I was doing on the cross pollination of—"
"You can get up and dance naked in the garden, for all I care," she explained with a flourish, not caring if she was channeling the colonel.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sam switched off the alarm with six minutes to spare. "I've missed you, Daniel," she whispered to the sleeping man as she pushed a strand of hair off his face and tucked it behind his ear. He brought up his shoulder to move her hand, but it did the opposite, pushing it closer to his hairline, right into a suspicious, heart-stopping lump behind his ear. She moved his hair to the side and skirted her fingers over the hard, flat lump imbedded under the skin.
"It is the mark of my house."
Sam jumped up and turned, barely saving the med kit before it fell to the floor, annoyed that she had been so focused on her teammate that she hadn't even heard Lord Evander enter the room. "You've branded him."
"Branded? Marked him?" He vigorously shook his head. "No. Danil is really not my slave, he is my companion."
Sam snorted. "You say potato, I say po*tat*o. But what it all comes down to, *Lord* Evander, is that Daniel is not here of his own free will. And in my book that makes him a slave."
"You are a guest in my house, Major Carter, and as such I would expect you respect my ways and the ways of my people."
"Could you explain to me how you respect another human by making them a slave?"
Three sharp, staccato slaps and two guards appeared by his side. "Danil is sleeping, so for now he no longer needs your services."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Carter, talk to me."
She had entered their quarters sputtering and spitting, and her teammates had patiently waited while she pounded around their suite of rooms until she flopped onto the couch, the flame of her anger slightly lowered.
She pointed behind her ear. "Daniel wears a device here."
"And—it does what?"
"I'm sorry, sir. When I found it, Evander walked into the room and I sort of, ummm, *questioned* his right to slavery." Now, in their rooms, she was embarrassed at her loss of control.
"I'm taking it that your opinion didn't sit very well with him?"
"I believe, O'Neill, Lord Evander is not going to give up DanielJackson so easily, even if he does require our weapons."
"No, I have to agree with you." The colonel sat down on the couch next to her. "Short of calling in the cavalry and snatching Daniel by force—I'm open to suggestions."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Danil buried his face in the uncomfortable pillow. The bed and the linen were vastly improved over the norm of the infirmary, softer, smoother and immensely better smelling, but the pillow left a lot to be desired. His headache was back with an intensity that was mind-numbing; the drone of voice that belonged to the person sitting by his bedside was like fingernails over a chalk board.
"Do you need something?"
Danil nodded, smothering his head in the poor excuse for a pillow. "Headache."
The touch to his cheek was unfamiliar and Danil slowly opened his eyes and as they adjusted to the dim light in the room, the headache receded a bit.
"Do you feel better, Danil?"
Eyes as wide as saucers, he sat up suddenly, accidentally knocking his master's hand away from him. "I apologize—I didn't mean—" He felt the heat of blush work its way up his body, it was embarrassing enough to awaken as his master was extending comfort to him, but to actually awaken *in* the master's bed—was unthinkable.
Lord Evander's laughter only succeeded in adding to Danil's discomfort.
"I am truly sorry."
His master patted Danil's knee. "There is no need to be sorry, for I am not angry." He wagged a finger in Danil's face, "Though if you keep apologizing, I *will* get angry."
Danil averted his eyes. He was truly mortified and it was easier to examine the blanket than it was to meet Lord Evander's gaze.
"Would you be more comfortable back in your room?"
How should he answer the question? Danil would have been much more comfortable and relaxed in his bed, but to give that as an answer would have been an insult to Lord Evander. "I wouldn't mind staying here."
"Good." Lord Evander reached for the book that was precariously resting on the edge of the bed, then opened up to a previously marked place and began to read. His master's voice was pleasant and for many minutes Danil sat and listened, letting his mind wander and his gaze drift around the room, feeling particularly blessed and humbled to be under the protection of a master who was so caring.
"Would you please lie down?"
Danil yawned. "Why?"
"Because you are still tired. Isn't that reason enough?"
"But this is your bed, my Lord."
Danil misread Evander's sigh of exasperation and hurriedly slid down under the covers, the small pillow under his head, his arms held stiffly to his side. "If you continue to read, I'm sure I could fall asleep."
"Are you calling me boring?"
"Oh no, never." He struggled to sit back up.
"I've offended you." He had done something to cause all of Lord Evander's exaggerated facial expressions. Danil hadn't missed the roll of eyes or the pursing of lips, nor the slight shake of the head.
"Yes?" In an unusual showing of temper, he slammed the book shut and turned his attention to the guard who had entered the room and called for his attention.
The guard bowed. "I am sorry to interrupt, but your presence is required in the great hall."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
His suite was devoid of flowers and Danil was both shocked and hurt that his offence to Lord Evander had gone so far that his master had ordered his room stripped of the blooms they had worked so hard to grow. Even the yellow buds were gone.
What little energy he had when he had awoken in Lord Evander's bed had slowly dissipated as he'd trudged towards his room. He had found no peace in his master's bedchamber and now there was no peace here either. He sank heavily onto his couch, fearful of what fate was planned for him. He fingered his master's mark, finding comfort in its touch.
The blueprints he'd been studying, the books he'd been using, and all of his research were no longer strewn around his desk. His work was neatly piled and organized, just waiting for someone else to pick up where he left off.
He looked around the room, realizing with a shock there was nothing for him to pack and take on his new journey because he had arrived at this manor with nothing, and nothing here belonged to him. The paper he had drawn on belonged to Lord Evander. The pens, the books, even the clothes he wore weren't his.
He would accept his new placement with stoicism, even if he was given to the strangers in exchange for their weapons. If that was what his master needed him to do, then he would do Lord Evander's bidding with his head held high.
A note of thanks. He could do that. It was appropriate to do that. Though he may be leaving, Danil wanted Lord Evander to understand that *he* had been happy here. He actually had to search through the piles to find a clean sheet of paper and a pen, then sat on the stool and stared at the empty lines.
The room around him changed, the air became cooler, the clothes on his back morphed into heavier, coarser material, and his eyesight crystallized to take in a place that wasn't his room, nor any room in the manor, and he reached out in curiosity to touch an artifact sitting to his right. The pain in his head was swift, blinding, and severe enough for the room to tilt on its axis.
The floor was damp against his back and he coughed, rolling onto his side, then to all fours until he finally found the strength to pull himself upright with the aid of the chair and the desk.
Whatever the strangers had given him to mask his illness so they could draw him away from Lord Evander had worn off and he stumbled to the couch. As he stretched out to rest for just a minute, the idea of the thank you note became overshadowed with the insight that Danil liked this house, this room, and Lord Evander's company, and maybe if he pleaded and groveled, his master would take pity upon him and reconsider.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He was happy he would not be forced to sup with Colonel O'Neill and the other members of his party. The family of the boy they had saved had invited them to a dinner in their honor, and he had seen in their eyes their desire to decline, but he knew O'Neill couldn't back down without appearing ungrateful.
Evander ordered a simple dinner to be brought to his quarters for him and Danil. A quiet dinner without interruptions would be a pleasant way to spend the evening. Hopefully Danil would feel well enough to participate in a game of cribbage, because he had grown accustomed to their nightly games and missed them tremendously since Danil had fallen ill.
However, upon arriving at his rooms, he was furious. Danil wasn't in his quarters and all his personal servants hung their head and shrugged when asked where he had gone to. Evander ranted and yelled about their lack of concern regarding Danil's illness.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Danil only escaped Evander's reprimand about sick people wandering through cold, damp halls because he was sleeping. The exhaustion that Danil had insisted didn't exist had obviously caught up with him, and Evander smiled indulgently at the snoring man sleeping on the large couch Evander had insisted upon for Danil's outer room. There was always the bed but he had often entered Danil's rooms to find he'd spent the night stretched out on the then undersized couch instead of on the comfortable bed. His feet had hung off the end, books and papers strewn around him.
Not anymore. Now the piece of furniture that Danil occasionally slept on was oversized, taking up a large portion of the room. Evander sighed in exasperation when he saw that Danil had curled himself into a tiny corner of the couch. Obviously, the man's old habits were hard to break.
He lit the lamps around the room and for the first time noticed how barren it was without the flowers, too bare for Evander's preferences. And while he would have liked just to leave both the room and sleeping Danil at peace, he could not. The emptiness of the room brought back too many painful memories and he chuckled as he made the decision to reorganize the now neat stacks of books and papers. He was just beginning to scatter the books in Danil's preferred filing arrangement when he found a piece of paper on the desk, written by Danil's hand, containing just a greeting. The name was unfamiliar, the words scripted with precision and care and without the sloppiness that was usually evident in his notes. A bolt of unexpected jealousy and fear shot through Evander.
It was no longer important that Danil was sleeping and he grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him until he awoke, shoving the paper under Danil's nose as his eyes slowly opened.
"What's the meaning of this?" He knew his fury was disproportionate to the crime but he was unable to help himself.
Bleary eyed, Danil blinked at the paper, then slowly took it from his grip and studied it, one hand holding the paper, the other hand pressed against his right temple, a sure indicator he had a headache. "I don't remember writing this."
Evander snatched it away from him. "Do you deny that this is your handwriting?"
Danil sat up but kept his gaze downward and shook his head.
"Please explain to me what the words 'Dear General Hammond' mean?"
"I can't. I don't know anyone by that name." Danil took a deep breath and Evander stood by unsympathetically, watching him as he fought to bring his coughing under control. Danil wiped his sweaty forehead with his shirtsleeve. "I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" Evander flung the paper at Danil.
"For causing you anger. For being sick. For failing you in some manner that I'm not aware of." Danil picked up the paper and began to fold it. "I remember sitting down—" Danil folded the incriminating paper in half. "To write you a note—"
"My name appears nowhere on that paper."
"I'm not lying." Danil folded the paper again. "I was going to thank you for being my Master—" He looked up at Evander with sadness. "I know it is presumptuous to ask but will you share the reason why you're sending me away? If it's because I've done something wrong, I'll correct it." He swallowed loudly. "But if it's because you need to exchange me for the weapons the strangers carry I'll understand, because the protection of this village is your primary concern."
"If need be, I can be ready to leave at a moment's notice—"
Evander left the room and returned with the blanket from Danil's bed. Danil was bereft and with precise movements, he placed the quilt around his slumped shoulders, chastising him gently. "You've been sick, you're still not well."
"Is that the reason?" Danil drew the blanket tightly around his shoulders. "My sickness?"
"I'd be willing to lend my services anywhere in the manor you desire—" Danil shifted and even in the dim light Evander saw the blush of embarrassment stain his face as he worried his bottom lip. "I can pleasure you, if *that's* what you desire."
Danil's gaze was focused on his groin and it was Evander's turn to be embarrassed. There was no heat in his gaze, just fear. But it was more than fear, Danil was terrified of being sent away, and from the comfortable way the fear seemed to settle around his shoulders like the blanket, Evander knew that this wasn't the first time in Danil's life that he had faced this situation.
"Do you know why you're here, Danil?" Evander sighed and dropped down on the couch next to him. "No, I guess you wouldn't. I was lonely. Horribly alone after my wife died. Like the albernets, the birds I pointed out to you by the lake, we mate for life, and there was to be no other in my life after she joined the afterlife. I missed her friendship, her intelligence, her quick wit, her words of wisdom, her guidance. She was my friend. I lost my best friend. Celibacy could be dealt with but my mind was dying."
He grabbed Danil's chin and forced him to meet his gaze. "I desire you here." He tapped his temple and then the area over his heart. "And here. You have kept my mind strong and my heart open and fair. You are not going anywhere. Not to another part of this house, nor with the strangers. *I* will not allow it. I will not lose my best friend again."
"I do not mean any disrespect, my Master, but those words are in direct contradiction to the emptiness of these rooms."
"Ahhh, I see."
"The flowers aided in making you sick. The strangers explained to me they are called allergies and there is a particle in the flower, barely visible, that caused your itchy eyes and sneezes. So I had them removed."
"Even the yellow buds by the bed?"
Evander nodded, not really understanding Danil's obsession with those yellow tinged flowers. "Yes, even those. While you were in my rooms I had your room cleaned from top to bottom. The papers, books—"
Danil's smile was hesitant. "It doesn't even look like I was ever here."
"Thankfully, we both know that isn't true."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Catlike, Danil stretched his body awake. The brightness of the sun bled through his closed lids and as much as his head hurt and there was still the residual malaise in his bones and joints, he was content after his conversation with his Master last evening.
They had eaten dinner and played two hands of cribbage before Lord Evander had forced him to bed when he'd fallen asleep waiting for his turn. He felt ashamed for thinking he wasn't wanted in this house but it was strangely comforting, though somewhat awkward, when his Master revealed personal thoughts.
The only thing that clouded Danil's happiness were his dreams of a place that was vaguely familiar while he slept but whose images refused to follow him coherently into the waking world.
He opened his eyes, shading the brightness from searing his sensitive eyes, and smiled at the two tiny yellow buds in the container on his nightstand. He truly had found happiness, a feeling that for some inexplicable reason, felt alien to him.
"Good afternoon!" Janilisse burst around the screen with a big smile carrying a tray of food.
"Afternoon?" He threw back the covers, horrified that he had slept so late.
Janilisse pushed in his direction with the tray. "Get back into bed. Lord Evander thought it best if you rest up the whole day."
Danil smiled at the joke. "He didn't say that."
Janilisse put the tray on the bedside table. "He did."
"No." Danil slid his legs off the side of the bed. He wanted a bath, clean clothes, and there was work to be done.
"His exact words were, 'Danil is allowed up to wash, he is to have lunch. But any and all research, work, or anything else he deems *must* be accomplished today will be done from his bed'."
"He said that?"
Janilisse nodded vigorously. "Followed up with he would murder anyone, Danil included, if his order was disobeyed."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack was frustrated. Okay, he had passed over the frustrated boundary about twenty minutes ago and was now in the completely pissed mode.
"We want to take Daniel home."
"He is not yours."
"Nor does he belong to you," Teal'c pointed out.
Jack pounded the table, ignoring the raised eyebrows of reprimand from his teammates. "We're offering you our weapons, supplies, scientists to show you—"
He gave Carter his best 'not now, we'll discuss this later' stare. "Things you've never dreamed imaginable in exchange for Daniel."
"He is not Daniel. His name is Danil—"
"Yeah, Evy, say it enough times and even *you too* will begin to believe it."
Lord Evander shot up out of his chair. "I have done nothing but shown you hospitality, open my home to you—and I get repaid with rudeness. If this is an attribute of your people, the ones you want me to trade with, then I believe we have nothing more to say to each other and my guards will escort you to the gates."
"Wait—I apologize—I'm sorry."
"Do you really? Or do you want to stay here just for Danil?"
Jack drew a deep breath and ate crow. "I apologize for my rudeness and *my* attitude but I will be truthful and tell you that we're also here for Daniel."
"Your truthfulness is appreciated, O'Neill, but be forewarned, Danil is not going home with you."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Would it be possible to speak with you, Lord Evander?"
Evander nodded at Teal'c, waved his scribe away, then motioned for him to enter.
"I do not believe you to be evil or heartless. You are a stubborn man, unwilling to bend in areas you believe to be right. As is O'Neill. You are simply fighting on different sides of the fence, trying to hold onto what you both believe belong to each."
"You do say your mind, don't you?"
"This situation reminds me of a story I have read from the Old Testament of the Tau'ri's Holy Bible, about a wise man named King Solomon. He had two women come before him with a child. Both of these women claimed to be the child's parent and demanded the child. The King produced a knife to sever the child in half so both mothers could share in the child. One woman stepped forth. She said she would rather the child remain safe and live with the other woman than be cut in two so both women would be satisfied. The king knew at that moment the identity of the true mother."
"Yes, I have heard that fable. Danil recounted it to me."
"I am not as wise a man as this King Solomon but I can only hope Danil is not the one who will be sacrificed due to both your stubbornness and O'Neill's."
"Have you come here to argue?" Evander got up from the chair and walked to the front of his desk, crossing his arms, facing Teal'c. There was no fear as he confronted the Jaffa. "I have said all that needed to be said."
"The man you call Danil belongs to neither you nor O'Neill."
"I beg to differ. He is mine. He bears the mark of my house."
"And he bears the scars from the Tau'ri home world. Those are not marks of ownership; they are the marks of his life. The mark that Danil now wears is from a life *you* have chosen for him."
"Danil is happy."
"Why would he not be? You have given him a roof over his head, food, warmth, but more importantly, you have given him a place to study, and a person to learn with along with unlimited time in which to accomplish it."
Evander seemed taken back. "If you value Danil as much as you and your friends claim, he should have had all of those things, and more."
"I believe a small part of our friend is happy here, Lord Evander, because you ask nothing from him except happiness. I cannot betray the confidence of a friend but there have been many obstacles for DanielJackson to overcome, yet he has never backed down from a confrontation, even when it meant placing his own life in jeopardy."
Evander nodded in pleasure. "He is a brave man."
A slightly bowed head was his response. "I am proud to call him friend."
"As am I."
"There is something you need to be aware of, Lord Evander. DanielJackson had just recently been returned to us after spending a year offworld assisting—"
"Is that supposed to provoke sympathy in me, Teal'c?" Agitated hands smoothed down already pristine robes. "He was away for a year, you allowed him to leave? You, who claim to be his friend, allowed him to leave?"
"We allowed nothing. The decision to leave was his. Again, his life, *his* choice."
"Did you and O'Neill drag him back to the Tau'ri home world?"
"DanielJackson returned to us for reasons we do not yet understand. As here, his memory had been erased but we believe he chose to return to us. And while he may not remember his time away from us, we, his friends can recall with crystal clarity how much he was missed."
|A wonderful prezzie,
sketched by Wilma
"I have heard enough," Lord Evander stated with a wave of his hand. "If anything, you have convinced me that Danil does *not* belong with you and as such, we have reached, what Danil calls an impasse."
Teal'c got as far as the door before he turned to face Evander. "You demanded truth and respect from O'Neill yet you do not ask the same of yourself. I think the time has come for you to look in the mirror."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He pleaded a headache and excused himself from dessert. Jack knew that he really wasn't fooling anyone, least of all Evy, but no one stopped him and he did the appropriate groveling and bowing before leaving the dining hall. Two wrong turns later, surprisingly, found him standing in front of Daniel's door. An amazing coincidence and since he was here—
Jack pushed the door open and tiptoed past the older woman snoozing in the outer room. The ante room was empty and noiselessly, Jack peered around the screen. Daniel was sleeping on his side, his face buried in the binding of an opened book, and Jack smiled when Daniel rubbed an itchy nose against the pages, crinkling and bending the paper sacrilegiously.
He was itching to touch, to adjust the blanket the way Daniel liked, to smell him, inhale deeply the essence of what was Daniel, to kiss him. But no, there would be none of that, so Jack shoved his hands deep into his pockets and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, forcing himself to be satisfied with just looking, which was a hell of a lot easier than thinking he was dead.
Daniel snuffled, a familiar, comforting sound of a man who needed a dose of antihistamines and a tissue, and who definitely shouldn't have a vase of freshly cut yellow flowers by his bedside.
If he could just get around the bed to grab the vase, he would be able to–
"You need to leave."
Jack fixed a charming smile to his face before turning. "Lord Evander."
Lord Evander had pulled himself up to his impressive height and for the first time, Jack got a very visible and very obvious display of the muscles that were well hidden under the man's robes. The attempt to intimidate Jack fell on blind eyes; he had Teal'c to thank for that, but at this point, with a list of his transgressions a mile long in Evy's mind, keeping silent was probably the smartest thing Jack could do.
"We will not discuss why you are here in these rooms. We will not again talk about your disrespect of my house. I am giving you until this time tomorrow to present to me an equitable agreement of trade."
There was nothing this planet or these people had to offer except Daniel, but Jack had enough sensibility to keep his mouth under lock and key for once.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The walk to the dining hall was a solemn affair. Jack had gone to sleep on the wrong side of the bed and awakened the same way. Teal'c was lost in his own thoughts and Carter and Chandler had burned the midnight oil, grasping at straws for a planetary treaty that would force Evy's hand into returning Daniel. But they had come up with nothing, nada, zip, and with each step they made to the dining hall the clock was ticking, bringing SG-1 closer to the inevitable decision of leaving one of their own behind.
Evy had been right on one account, SG-1 needed to return home. The search for the Tok'ra woman had been a bust and there was no reason to remain here any longer, not to mention the fact they were overdue.
It was obvious that Evander was striving for intimacy with breakfast, a smattering of guards and a round table. The food was buffet style against the wall and from what Jack could see, the overabundance of eats was a tad nauseating.
His team was battling Evander's personality but the man had charisma and charm; he was intelligent and well versed. His only short coming, as far as Jack could tell, was that he also *had* Daniel. Daniel appeared rough around the edges, better, but still infirmary material and Jack was grateful when Sam offered him a handful of meds after an excessively long coughing fit. He buried his face in his plate of food when Daniel turned towards Evander, asking permission. This was so wrong on so many levels and Jack cringed, embarrassed for Daniel.
Permission granted, Jack counted to ten before looking up and he caught Daniel's gaze following a servant who had just placed a platter on the buffet table. Daniel turned a blinding smile toward Evy who responded in kind, then followed it up with a nod towards the display of food. "Get one for me also, Danil."
There was no counting to ten this time. Jack got up and followed Daniel rather than stay behind and throttle his highness.
He pointed to the plate Daniel held filled with a pastry stuffed with bright purple fruit. "What the heck is that?"
"These?" Daniel grabbed one and popped it into his mouth while Jack waved away a cloud of powdered sugar puffing out in all directions. "Fellousch." Daniel licked the purple fruit off his fingers, his tongue swiping away any escaping piece. "Sweet, really too sweet for breakfast pastries—it's the cook's specialty."
Daniel moved the plate away from Jack's inquisitive fingers. "They're too sweet for you, Jack. Try those cookies over there, with the—"
"How do you know what I like and, what did you call me?"
Daniel grimaced and blinked at Jack, as if he couldn't process the question. He coughed, wheezed, and Jack grabbed the plate of pastries from Daniel's shaking hands and all but threw it onto the sideboard. "You called me Jack."
"Nonono." Daniel shook his head in adamant denial, trying to back away from Jack who was holding Daniel's hands in a death grip. He did a little dance, a bit of fancy manoeuvring to position their bodies so Lordy wouldn't be suspicious.
Daniel whimpered and ducked his head, an all too familiar expression of pain contorting his features.
"Damn it," Jack hissed. He fought the urge to drag Daniel to Evander to show him exactly what untreated allergies could do, especially in the light of that stupid vase of flowers last night. "The pills that Carter gave you will kick in. Give it a moment or two. The yellow roses in the vase by your bed—"
"Roses?" Wide eyed, panting, Daniel stared at Jack.
Jack nodded. "Yeah, the flowers—yellow—vase—any of this sounding vaguely familiar?"
"Rose? Is she...?"
Jack grabbed Daniel's upper arms and gave a slight shake. "My mother? You remember my mom?"
Jack could literally feel the tremors build in the muscles he held in his hands. "Your mom's gonna kill us," Daniel whispered, his gaze locking somewhere over Jack's right shoulder so intently that Jack dropped his hands and followed Daniel's line of vision, expecting to see either some eminent danger, or worse, his mom standing behind him.
He turned back just in time to see Daniel's eyes roll up into his head and his reflexes were quick enough to grab him, then lower the shaking body to the floor. Instinct took over. Jack slid Daniel away from the buffet table legs, turned him on his side, grabbed a folded napkin off the table, shoved it Daniel's mouth, then yelled for help.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do you mind if I stay and read over Doctor Jackson's notes?" Chandler had a large stack of papers in his hands and he turned to Jack with a hopeful look. "You don't mind, do you, Doctor... Danil?"
Before Jack could answer, Daniel had joined Chandler and began flipping through the pages until he pulled out one particular page. "You might enjoy reading this – it's about the wildlife here on the planet and the Wyvair you managed to kill." Daniel shyly glanced at Evander. "I could stay and show you—"
"Danil, you know what we agreed." Evander gently extracted Daniel's hand from the notes and pulled him away. "We're all going outside for dinner, remember?"
Daniel immediately lowered his head and mumbled something, following submissively behind Evander. Jack clenched his teeth in anger, hating to see the man he loved so compliant.
"Chandler," Jack said, waving his hand expansively at the comfortable chair by the den's window, "enjoy yourself." Jack smirked at Evander's dark look – 'see, big guy, my people might be under my orders, but they have free will'. Well, to a certain extent, Jack amended as he hurried to catch up with Evander and Daniel.
"Why can't we do this supper thing inside?" After the allergy attack Daniel had been through, the gardens were the last place Daniel should be frequenting.
"Danil has been ill; he needs sunshine to put color back into his cheeks."
"Yes, he has been sick. He needs rest and should still be in bed, not traipsing all over the place."
"He needs sun, wind, and fresh air."
"Not with all that pollen floating around out here." Jack glared at both Daniel and Evander, who despite his constant haranguing hadn't listen to a word he'd said all afternoon.
"Danil no longer has a fever and his breathing is already much better. He simply requires a change of scenery."
"He had a seizure, for crying out loud! He should be in bed. Resting." Jack glared at Daniel who was studiously avoiding looking at either of them. His pale face and shaking hands belied how recovered he was.
"He is fine. Look at him. He's fully recovered from his fit."
Despite his words, Evander walked close to Daniel, matching his slow pace. Jack and the rest of the team followed the two through the elaborate gardens. Jack glowered at the plants on the grounds but as Evander motioned for Daniel to take a seat beneath a shady tree where their meal was being set up, he realized there were no blooms anywhere nearby. He turned and checked out the whole garden, as far as he could see. Not a spot of color, not a hint of perfume. Somehow Evander had all the plants removed for Daniel's benefit. He sighed in exasperation, then glanced at Teal'c and Carter when Daniel coughed.
"All of this," Jack gestured with his hand for emphasis, "isn't going to do Daniel a lick of good since pollen also comes from trees and grass."
Daniel ducked his head down, not meeting anyone's gaze, while Evander straightened and stared Jack down.
"Enough with your talk of plants and things floating in the air making him sick. If you don't wish to eat with us, then go away." He waved his hand in a shooing motion.
Making a small tsking noise with his lips, Jack sat down in the warm grass, next to Daniel. As usual, Daniel appeared nervous around Jack and was constantly looking to Evy for approval and guidance. Once everyone had settled either on cushions or on the grass itself, servants came out of the house bearing trays laden with food.
As they doled food out into plates and ate, Jack noted that although Daniel had piled stuff onto his plate, he wasn't eating, being far too busy trying to stifle coughs. He took his glasses off, removed the sunglasses clipped to the lenses, and massaged his forehead with two fingers.
"Still got a headache?" Jack asked softly, wondering if he had fully recovered from his episode of this morning. Jack knew people usually didn't bounce back this easily from a seizure.
Daniel gave Jack a sidelong glance and frowned. The lines on his forehead squished together and stayed like that for far too long.
"Like a nail in the head," Daniel replied just as softly after a moment.
Jack's guts clenched at the familiar words uttered only a few months ago when Daniel had recovered from the multitude of aliens that had inhabited his brain. Then he realized Daniel didn't want Evander to overhear him admitting to feeling unwell. He wondered how often Daniel hid his headaches from his supposed master and why was he confiding in Jack.
Jack turned to Carter but she was already fishing a blister pack of painkillers from her vest pocket.
"Here." She surreptitiously handed two pills to Daniel who swallowed them with a gulp of juice.
Jack took the last bite of fruit from his plate and placed the empty dish on the ground. He took Daniel's untouched plate and placed it over his own. A servant picked both up seconds later.
Evander took his time with his meal and Jack suspected he was deliberately postponing the time for talk. Instead of growing angry, Jack leaned back against the tree trunk and watched Daniel. Still pale and shaky, he was aware of Jack's scrutiny by the small glances he kept giving him out of the corner of his eyes. He took a deep breath, creating a whistling sound. Quickly Daniel coughed, trying to hide the tell-tale asthmatic noises.
Jack arched his neck and scratched the skin there with two fingers. "So, I hope that after what happened this morning you're convinced that we have a problem."
Evander froze just as he was taking a bite of meat. He threw the uneaten food back onto his plate. "That meant nothing except that Danil took in too much sunlight. I told you already how the light affects his eyes and causes headaches."
"That was more than a headache, Lord Evander." Carter shifted and turned to look at Daniel before returning her attention to the older man. "He had a full blown grand mal seizure."
"And he shouldn't be dragged out all over the countryside just because you want to try and prove to us he's fine. He's not. Anyone can see that." Daniel ducked his head again and it took all of Jack's control to not put a hand out and rub the tight shoulder muscles. "He should be in bed recovering from that seizure and from the bronchitis."
"I'm fine." Daniel's soft words had Jack pursing his lips together. He knew this was also hurting Daniel but damnit, Evander had to understand.
"DanielJackson did indeed remember Colonel O'Neill, if only for a moment. That is irrefutable proof that his memories have been altered and that you have purchased someone whose memories had been forcibly removed against his will. Do you truly wish to keep someone in your possession who now knows the truth?"
"Danil knows I care for him and I would do anything for his wellbeing."
"Oh fercryingoutloud." Jack straightened from his relaxed position and leaned forward. "How can you say you care for him? Like Teal'c said, he's simply a possession to you, a thing you bought. You don't see him as a person, you see him as a walking, talking boy toy. Simple entertainment. You have him trotting around you obeying your every whim not because he wants to, but because that thing behind his ear has him programmed to do that. Daniel, of all people, would be the first one to tell you to abolish slavery."
"I do not own slaves!" Evander straightened his shoulders and sat up proudly despite the obvious lie.
"Oh yeah? Then what do you call all these people working for you?"
"They are servants." There was astonishment in Evy's voice, as if to say 'how couldn't Jack understand the difference between the two'.
"Do they have the freedom to leave your employ?" Teal'c canted his head as he waited for an answer.
"Of course not. They have been indentured to me for a set period and it is my privilege to treat them well until they have served their time."
"And if that ain't slavery, I don't know what is." Jack shifted so that as he leaned against the tree once more, his leg rubbed against Daniel's. He waited a moment to see what Daniel would do. To his surprise, Daniel didn't move away from him. Jack decided to change tactics.
"Daniel, you're not talking much. What do you think about all this?"
Wide, scared eyes glanced at Jack before they shifted to look at Evander. "I have nothing to say. Muh... my Master cares for my wellbeing."
"Okay, what about everyone else working here? Do you think it's right to take someone away from their family just because they fell on hard times? Having to work seven days a week without seeing their loved ones for two or three years?"
"Five years," Daniel corrected in a low voice. He nervously plucked some grass and began shredding the green growth.
"So, five years without seeing husband or wife. Maybe if they're out shopping or working in the yard they might catch a glimpse of them, or their parents or siblings. Do you think they might detour close to the school so they might see their kids playing in the schoolyard?"
"I don't know. I haven't... it's not like you say."
"It's not? So, what? They go home to their families at night?"
Daniel shook his head no.
"So you think it's okay?"
"Colonel, I think that's enough."
"No, I'd like an answer from Daniel." Jack touched the leg next to his. Just a gentle prod, he wasn't going to push his luck. "Do you think it's right that someone is taken away from their family? Away from their loved ones? Their life? And let's go one step further. Is it right to have their memories erased and put to work entertaining the person who bought them? Okay, fine, the servant doesn't remember much so maybe he's happy, but what about his family? His friends? Do you know what kind of hell they might have gone through in the past six month thinking that person might be dead? Maimed? Sick? Tortured? Do you know how hard it is to find that one person you love and realize he doesn't remember them? And that he won't be allowed to go back home with them?"
"That isn't me. I'm not who you think I am. I belong with Lord Evander. He... he's very good to me."
"Daniel, do you remember anything of what happened this morning?" Carter's voice was soft and Daniel plucked away the hand she placed on his knee.
"My name is Danil. And no, I don't remember anything." This time he pulled away from Jack, bringing his legs up and wrapping his arms around his knees.
Jack looked up at Evander beseechingly. "Please, Lord Evander." Jack swallowed. "He doesn't belong here. Let him come back with us. We're his family and... we can try and undo the programming, let him remember who he really is and—"
Loud screams came from inside the house and everyone turned towards the door as the sound of breaking glass followed another scream. Before they could scramble to their feet, dozens of armed men poured through the garden gates, rushing towards them. They cut down Evander's servants who were unlucky enough to get in the way.
Even as Jack and his team jumped up, Evander's bodyguards rushed out of the house and hurried to meet the attackers, but they had been caught unprepared. Some were armed; some simply grabbed whatever was close at hand to defend themselves. SG-1, who had been unarmed while Evander's guests, reached for their knives sheathed in their belts.
"Carter, get them out of here." Jack pushed Daniel towards Evander and turned towards the first charging opponent who had sidestepped Evander's guards.
Jack quickly dispatched his attacker, who had underestimated Jack's fighting skills, and he turned towards a second. This man was more cautious and they circled for a moment until the man feinted with his knife. Jack swivelled to the left and brought his knife up, gutting the man with ease. As his attacker fell to the ground, Jack spotted another bearing a sword sneaking up behind Carter, who was trying to usher Evander and Daniel inside. Evander was yelling loudly, trying to tell his bodyguards what to do. Daniel was standing beside his master, clearly shocked and out of his league.
Jack rushed the man before he could get to Carter and they both fell to the ground, fighting for control of the sword.
Not sure how long the struggle lasted, Jack only managed to get the upper hand when he let go of the sword and reached up to twist the man's neck, killing him instantly. Jack pushed the corpse from him and got onto his knees.
And was in time to see Chandler rushing through the door, P-90 in his hands, just as an arrow took him through the heart.
"No!" Daniel's shocked scream cut through the air.
Before Jack could get to Daniel, another attacker rushed towards Jack. He picked up the fallen sword and hoped the man wasn't very good with his.
The sound of a P-90 firing had Jack ducking as bullets swept the area around him. He dove for cover behind a tree and peered out cautiously.
To his surprise, Evander had Chandler's weapon in his hands and was firing away at the invaders. Daniel was kneeling beside Evander, recoiling from the weapon's loud report. Evander was missing wide, though, simply shooting up the flowerbeds as he fought to control the weapon. His attention totally on the gun, he didn't see the man who had gone after Jack come from behind. Before Jack could give a warning, he stabbed Evander in the back.
Daniel seemed to come out of his daze and with an animalistic scream, jumped onto the attacker. Jack rushed towards them. He had no way of knowing if any of Daniel's fighting skills had been retained or they'd been blocked. Just from the way he'd reacted from the fight led Jack to believe that it was the latter.
With a yell, Jack charged the man hard enough that he let go of Daniel. His momentum pushed the attacker against the brick house. He fell to the ground, unconscious. Daniel scampered to Evander's side and tried to stem the flow of blood oozing out of the man's lower back.
Jack glanced around and saw the bodyguards were barely holding their own. The lay of the land was really what had kept SG-1 from being easily overpowered. The narrow trails, surrounded by bushes and trees and ornamental ponds, while pretty and decorative, had also become a hindrance for someone trying to take the fast way through.
Before Jack could decide to give the bodyguards a hand, another dozen men flooded the gates, making his decision for him.
"Carter, Teal'c, let's go. There's nothing we can do here."
"But sir, they'll kill them all." She had been heading for the heart of the melee but stopped at Jack's orders.
Teal'c quickly dispatched his opponent and came back to Jack's side.
"It's not our fight, Carter. Whoever these people are, it's not our fight." He reached down and caught Daniel's arm. "Come on, we're leaving."
"No, we can't. They need... my Lord needs help."
"Daniel, there's nothing—" Even as Jack spoke, one of Evander's bodyguards broke from the fight and came to his master's side. He obviously knew first aid as he removed his tunic and folded it quickly into a bandage. He pressed it onto the wound and looked up at Jack.
"Take Danil to safety, it is what my Lord would want."
"No." Daniel shook off Jack's hand and Jack relentlessly grabbed his arm again. "I'm not leaving him."
Jack glanced at the fight behind him and then at the man lying wounded at his feet. Jack had no idea where they could take Evander but he did realize that by leaving him here, they were probably condemning him to death. Despite what he'd done to Daniel, Jack decided he couldn't just abandon him. "Damn it. Teal'c, can you—"
"No, leave me." Evander had a grip on Daniel's arm but was looking at Jack. "My men will get me to safety. Take Danil, protect him." Evander's voice was low and pained, but they heard it clearly over the sounds of battle.
Jack shared a look with the bodyguard and the man nodded at Jack. "Okay, Daniel, come on."
"I said I—"
"No argument. You heard him. Let's go." He pulled Daniel up onto his feet and as Daniel began fighting him, Teal'c caught Daniel's other arm and held him securely.
"Danil... go with him."
"My Lord, no... I don't want to leave you."
"Be safe. Please, that's all I ask of you. Be safe and be happy." Evander held out a bloody hand to Daniel. There was a chain looped around his fingers with a golden trinket dangling from it. "Take the key," he mumbled.
Daniel reached for the bauble with shaking hands just as Evander's arm dropped heavily to the ground.
"No!" Daniel went to throw himself onto his knees, but Teal'c and Jack jerked him back.
"No more time. We need to go now." They pulled Daniel towards the door, Carter running ahead to see if the house was clear. Jack took a moment to check on Chandler. A cursory glance told him the man was dead. He took a moment to gather Chandler's dogtags, then pushed Daniel inside.
The house was empty of servants. Jack realized they had to have escaped somehow and he looked around. A glance through the windows showed the house was surrounded with more fighting in the street. It looked like a whole village or two had come to attack this one.
Teal'c immediately headed for their rooms and their gear.
The front door showed signs of damage, but it had been barricaded by a heavy piece of furniture. There were bars on the windows so nobody could enter the house that way.
"There must be an escape route somewhere." Jack took Daniel's face in his hands and forced the dazed and bewildered eyes to look at him. There was a streak of blood on Daniel's face and Jack forced himself not to wipe it away. "Daniel, is there a secret way out of here? A tunnel? A passageway?"
Daniel blinked, staring at Jack uncomprehendingly. "Look, we have to get out of here or we'll all be killed. The servants are all gone. Is there another way out of here, out of the house?"
Jack squeezed the familiar jaw between his fingers. "We can't do anything for Evander like this. We have to get out of here so we can come back with help." He hated lying but right now his priority was Daniel.
"You have guns, why can't you...?"
"Because there are too many of them. They'll overpower us before we can get them all. Look outside, they're everywhere. Come on, Daniel. They're gonna get past the guards and into the house any second now."
Teal'c came running back and handed Jack his vest and weapon. Jack quickly shrugged his equipment on while he searched the immediate area.
Still looking lost and bewildered, Daniel stumbled into the small den where Jack had left Chandler earlier, before all hell erupted. Daniel's papers were strewn all over the floor and, after glancing out of the window, Daniel knelt and began rifling through them.
Jack kept an eye on Daniel while he finished gearing up.
"Sir, over here." Carter had a door open and was pointing her flashlight into its depths. Jack hurried into the den, grabbed Daniel's arm and gave him a look. Daniel folded a sheet of paper he held in his blood-smeared hands and stuffed it into a pocket, quietly allowing Jack to lead him into the hallway. Jack peered past the open door and saw stairs leading down with a trail of spilled food on the wooden steps.
Carter hurried down the stairs while Teal'c pulled a still unresisting Daniel along. Jack followed on their heels, shutting the door behind him and kicking off the betraying buns and sweets off the steps.
Food-ringed footsteps led them to the escape tunnel. Carter found the latch seconds later, then they were running through the dank underground.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Danil leaned wearily against the barn's wall, barely aware of the activity around him. The dark man, Teal'c, was searching the interior for intruders, the blond woman, Sam, was examining Evander's ship, and Jack... well, he kept staring at Danil when he wasn't furtively looking out the building's window.
Wrapping his arms around his midriff, Danil fought the pressure in his chest and cleared his throat, deflecting a cough. He felt totally lost, adrift on a sea with no land in sight. Evander had been his whole life, the sole purpose for getting up in the morning and going to bed only when his master cajoled him into getting some rest.
He couldn't believe what had happened. It had all been so fast. He could still see the man jab his knife into his Master, see his knees crumple, the gun tumble from his hands as he fell to the ground.
Danil was just sorry he wasn't the one to have killed his Master's assailant.
When he felt Jack's gaze on him again, Danil asked, "Is he... Is Evander...?" He couldn't bring himself to say the word and he shivered at the feeling of despair that was starting to overtake him. He looked at Jack when the man remained silent.
"I don't know." Jack spoke softly, his eyes full of compassion. "If his men managed to get him out of there, he might have a chance."
"So he wasn't... when we left?"
"No, he'd just passed out."
Evander had been alive. Hope flooded Danil and he straightened, glaring at Jack. "Why didn't you insist on bringing him with us?"
"Because you're my priority right now. And keep your voice down."
Danil dropped his eyes to the ground, unused to Jack's anger being directed at him. Throughout the past couple of days he'd been unnerved by the intensity of Jack's gaze and with the compassion he saw in his eyes. Danil scuffed the dark patches where oil had once leaked onto the wood with his boot.
"You have any idea who those people were?"
Danil chanced a quick glance at Jack, relieved to see his attention was once again focused outside.
"Panos from across the valley."
"He makes a habit of attacking Evander's people?"
"My people," Danil corrected. He shook his head. "I overheard Phedra from the kitchens saying she heard how Panos was worried about Evander acquiring your weapons."
"Evander and Panos are at war?"
"Nothing like this. A few skirmishes, mostly over land borders, but Evander would never have used the guns to..." Danil raised his eyes to look at Jack and, for a moment, was lost in them. He'd dreamed of those eyes, they'd been haunting him ever since... ever since he could remember.
Then the pain in his head went up a notch and he managed to tear his gaze away from Jack. He concentrated on Sam instead. She seemed to have finished her inspection and came to join them.
"The hatch is secure, sir. It's probably keyed to Evander's DNA or his voice."
"Daniel, do you know how—"
"My master spoke to it and the door would open."
"Voice activated," Sam confirmed.
"Okay, then we have no choice but to try and head for our own ship. We can hole up here until dark and then sneak out." He turned steely eyes on Danil. "Unless you know of another secret passage out of here."
Danil unwrapped one chilled hand from where he had stuck it beneath an armpit and simply pointed to the ground a foot away from Jack. Teal'c, who had finished wandering around the barn, knelt beside the second hidden passage and quickly found the latch.
"You know, a little more help on your part would be appreciated."
Danil's arm was gripped firmly and he was pulled towards the gaping hole in the dusty floor. The dark passage eased his headache slightly, but the pressure in his chest kept escalating. He wasn't sure if it was due to his congestion or his constant worry about Lord Evander.
Just before Jack pushed him into the passageway, Danil dug his feet in and turned to Jack. "Look, this will lead you about a mile into the woods to the east. You can make your way home from there and I can—"
"You can what, Daniel? Go back to Evander's house? You don't know if those goons are still there and you don't know if Evander's alive. And if he's not, what then? Huh?"
Danil's breathing increased from either fear or anger, making it more difficult to draw air. He could hear the wheezing sounds in his chest and he cursed this weakness. He needed to be strong for his Master.
"You said he was alive. If he managed to get to safety then he'll be fine. I need to go find him. I need to..."
His head was throbbing and this time when Jack steered him into the passage, Danil didn't resist. Once again they traveled in the dark, lit only by flashlights. Danil finally gave into the cough that had been struggling to escape since the attack. Nobody out there could hear him and he no longer had to fear about giving away their position. He coughed and hacked until he saw stars.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They'd been traveling forever through the woods and it was with relief that they finally settled down in a thick copse overlooking the town. Danil dropped to his knees and leaned his shoulder wearily against a tree. He could see smoke pouring out of a few houses, but from this distance it was hard to tell which ones were burning. He prayed it wasn't the manor.
He longed for his bed, his room, the sound of Evander's laughter. He shivered. His bones and joints ached and the forced trek had tired him more than he'd expected. He suspected his fever was back.
Danil nodded as Jack knelt in the soft soil beside him. Despite his confusion and illness, he felt odd whenever Jack was close to him. The feeling was discomfiting and familiar all at the same time.
He jumped when he felt a cool hand on his nape. He turned to look at Jack, trying to ignore the hand that was now feeling his cheek and forehead.
"Your fever's back." Jack rummaged in a pocket and came up with medication again. Danil grimaced, but dry swallowed the pills. They had no taste and were much easier to swallow and were more effective than Janilisse's potions.
"Sit down and relax a bit. We'll stay here until dark, then try to make our way around the valley."
Danil allowed himself to slide sideways, off his knees. He brought his legs around until he was more comfortable.
"So, you holding up okay?"
Danil continued staring down into the town, afraid to meet Jack's eyes. He nodded again.
"I need you to tell me when you can't go on, okay?"
"Yeah, I know."
There was a strange tone to Jack's voice and Danil risked a glance. As he'd expected, Jack was staring at him. He quickly averted his eyes and looked back down into the valley, unable to focus on any one thing. Jack's presence was making him more and more uncomfortable.
"But you have to remember that we can only go as fast as our weakest link and I hate to say this, but right now, that's you."
Danil nodded. That was no surprise. He had no fighting experience; he was totally out of his element here. He longed again for his bed and conversations with Evander. Danil had been in the middle of explaining the differences between Roman and Greek rule when he had fallen sick. He recalled how Evander had finally sent Danil off to bed when his lesson had been constantly interrupted by sneezes, his eyes tearing so badly that he could barely see the paper he'd been scribbling on to emphasize his point.
"Carter said you had a brand..."
Self-consciously, Danil raised his head and fingered the warm metallic piece embedded behind his ear.
"Do you mind if I take a look at it?"
"Why do you call her Carter?" He bent his head, allowing Jack access to the marker.
"Because that's her name."
"I thought it was Sam." Jack's fingers were cool but gentle as he probed the area.
"It is. Major Samantha Carter. It's a military thing."
Danil shivered as Jack threaded his fingers through his hair, the feel of his touch went straight to his groin. Embarrassed, he pulled away. This was the first time he'd experienced any kind of sexual longing in... God, since his wife had died ages ago. He stared at Jack, confused.
"Hey, you okay?"
Danil nodded, realized his breathing had sped up.
"That thing on your head, it's a memory device of some kind. We've seen it before, the Goa'uld and the Tok'ra have used it and—"
"Parasites. Intelligent snakes that use people as hosts and... trust me, you don't like them."
"I know some of these... snakes?" Danil asked tentatively. Images of several attractive people suddenly popped into his mind. A young man with dreadlocks and an impious grin. A beautiful blond with a Celtic lilt, a dark skinned man, a redhead, flashes of more people coming quicker and quicker. All of these had strangely glowing eyes. Suddenly he saw his wife in his mind's eye, staring at him with contempt, her eyes glowing and an evil grin on her face and—
"It's okay, just relax."
"Sir, what happened?"
Danil opened his eyes and looked around dreamily. He was lying on the ground, Jack was leaning over him and Sam and Teal'c crouched next to him. He blinked and wondered where Evander was.
Then he remembered and his gut clenched with worry for his Master. He raised himself onto his elbows, wondering if he'd fallen asleep.
"He's fine, Carter. He muttered something about Shau'ri being a Goa'uld and then his eyes did that fluttering thing. Then he passed out for a few seconds."
Sam pressed a hand to his forehead and Danil refrained from batting it away. Despite the fact that they'd only met a few days ago, their concern for him had been constantly evident in looks and actions. After a moment she declared he had a fever.
"I know. I just gave him some Tylenol."
Danil ignored Sam's concern and turned to Jack. "You knew my wife?"
"Yeah, we met... hey, how come you remember her but you don't remember us? Do you remember Kasuf? Skaa'ra?"
"Of course I remember Shau'ri's family. It's been so long since I—" He broke off, trying to remember how long it had actually been since he'd last seen them. Too long. He wondered if he could ask Evander if they could visit Abydos. Danil would have so much to show him and... Then he remembered again that Evander had been seriously injured. He squeezed his eyes shut, wondering why he kept forgetting that. His mind seemed to be jumping everywhere at once. He wondered fleetingly if it was a side effect of the medication Jack and Sam had been giving him. Then he remembered what Jack had said about Shau'ri. "What's a ghoul?"
Jack scrubbed his face with his palms, looking tired and exasperated.
"I just told you a few minutes ago. You don't remember?"
"We talked about Sam's name and how I have to keep up."
"That's not what I said. I said you had to tell us when you couldn't go on."
Danil sat all the way up and the movement triggered an itch in his chest that erupted in a cough. He lowered his head as he struggled for breath and felt Jack's hand on the back of his neck. When the spasms eased, he raised his head and sniffed to clear his sinuses.
"You still haven't told me what a ghoul was and what it had to do with Shau'ri."
"Goa'uld," Teal'c corrected. "They are an alien species who have taken the persona of ancient Tau'ri gods in order to—" "Tau'ri?"
"Another word for Earth," Jack supplied.
Danil nodded absently. "I know that word. I just thought it strange that you use it."
"They use your people as chattel, force them to work in mines, conduct experiments on them, and bask in their adoration."
"Your people? Not yours, Teal'c?"
"I am not from Earth, DanielJackson. I am from Chulak."
"What gods did they pretend to be? Greek? Roman?" His curiosity was piqued and he wanted to know more. Evander would be thrilled with this knowledge and he turned avidly as Jack took up the conversation.
"Oh, just your basic no good run of the mill Egyptian and 'whatever else they were in the mood to play' act. Let's see. We have Apophis, Hathor, Seth, Ba'al, Anubis, Heru'ur, Ra—"
"Ra?" Danil said over the litany of names. "I... I think I met *him*."
"Yeah, we did. We beat the shit out of him and over half the others I mentioned."
"What do you remember of Ra?" Sam was taking some pouches out of her pack and pouring small amounts of water into them. Danil watched, distracted, as she placed smaller pouches into those and set them aside.
He shrugged. "I know I spoke with him. He had long, dark, curly hair. Tall, slim, graceful, and his eyes—"
"Um, no, they were piercing. Mesmerizing."
"What did Ra say to you?"
Danil shrugged at the vague memory. "I'm not sure, something about how far the human race had come. It was a long time ago. I was more interested in Shau'ri." Danil smiled shyly at Jack. "That's when we got married."
"I know. I was there at the wedding, remember?"
"No, why would you say that?" Danil started and suddenly he pulled back, uncertain of these people.
"I wasn't there for the wedding *night*." Jack punched Danil on the arm lightly. "I was with Kasuf. I guess there was so much going during that time I was just a face in the crowd."
Danil nodded and relaxed. Yes, there had been lots of people. He frowned. Mobs, really. And noisy. Fireworks.
He rubbed at his forehead and temple as his headache began to creep down towards his ear again.
"So, what's for supper?" Jack rubbed his hands and looked eagerly at Sam. Danil watched curiously as she removed the smaller pouches from the foiled ones and handed them one each. Surprisingly, it was hot.
Danil watched the others tear theirs open and was surprised to find it contained food. He tore his and sniffed. His nose was blocked but he could see in the dimming light that it was macaroni and cheese. He accepted a plastic fork from Sam and began to eat.
He still didn't have much of an appetite but forced himself to finish his meal. He knew he was still sick and would need his strength for the coming night. His headache receded and he found himself remembering how he and Evander had explored these woods a few months ago. The trees had been bare, the wind cold and chill but still there had been so much to see and learn. Danil had been promised a return trip when the foliage had filled the trees, but they'd never had a chance to do so. He almost felt like he'd broken a promise to Evander by coming here without him.
He blinked in surprise when Jack handed him a small package. He unwrapped it and found it contained chocolate. "Thanks," he said, biting into the treat.
Jack simply nodded and watched him eat with a lopsided smile.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, the late summer day began to cool. Both Sam and Teal'c moved off to keep watch while Jack sat with him keeping an eye on the village. The fires had been extinguished; people still ran through the streets but it was difficult to tell if they were villagers or the enemy.
Danil wondered if Jack and his people would try and rest before moving on. Maybe when the sun set Danil could try and sneak away and find his way back to his Lord. He looked around, wondering which way would be the easiest direction to head for.
"Don't even think about it."
Danil turned to look at Jack who was watching him with a look that both aroused and worried him. He raised an eyebrow, feigning ignorance while wondering how the man had known what he'd been planning.
"And don't play innocent. You were planning on sneaking off. Just remember this before you try any hare-brained schemes. Panos and his men are still down there and they're probably combing the woods looking for us."
"It's you they want, not me."
"That kind of depends. If they succeeded in capturing your Master, yes, probably. But if he managed to escape then what better means of flushing him out of hiding than by holding his favorite pet slave hostage?"
"You think he escaped? That he's alive?" Hope caused his heart to race and his headache suddenly eased.
"Daniel, you're not focusing on what I'm saying here. We've already discussed this. I'm trying to tell you that keeping you out of Panos' hands is important in keeping Evander safe. And if they catch us they'll have our weapons. You said your master wouldn't use our weapons to attack Panos, but would Panos do the same?"
"I don't know. Possibly."
"Do you understand why you have to stay with us? And remember, Evander wanted you safe. That's why he sent you with us."
Jack reached into one of the hard bags that had been tossed to the side of their small camp and rummaged through it. "We won't move until the sun's down and the moon's up. Why don't you lie down and get some rest. Sleep if you can."
Danil looked at Jack in surprise. The man took out a small, thin, shiny square from his bag and began to unfold it. It was only when he wrapped it around Danil's shoulders did he realize it was a blanket. He accepted it gratefully.
"We've got at least three hours. Here," Jack said, putting the bag on the ground, "use this as a pillow."
Danil lay down on the ground and wrapped himself up in the blanket. He felt safe knowing Jack was sitting beside him and although he was tired, he wasn't sleepy. His body still ached from the fever's grip and his cough was irritating. He wished for one of Janilisse's concoctions to ease the tickling in his throat.
Danil didn't sleep as much as drowse. Sam came back to sit with Jack after a while and their conversation drifted into his consciousness.
"I think I know what that device is doing to Daniel." Sam's voice was soft, barely carrying past Danil's ears. "You say he's remembering things, then something happens and he forgets. That eyelid flutter we saw is probably a reaction from electrical stimulus as the device reprograms his brain."
"You mean it's doing things to him?" There was shock in Jack's voice and Danil pushed away tendrils of sleep to pay closer attention to the conversation.
"Think of it as a soft reboot. We've seen technology like this before on P3X 289; remember where everyone's memories were affected by the computer when they were connected to the link? I think this device filters Daniel's thoughts and memories and push back or erase the ones it doesn't want him to think about. Now, the seizure, I think, was Daniel's memories coming through too strongly and quickly. It did a cold reboot. Shut him down completely and did a reset."
"Damn it, Carter, this is Daniel we're talking about, not a frigging computer."
"I know, sir." Now there was pain in Sam's voice and although Danil did sort of understand what they were talking about, he didn't quite see how it had anything to do with him. A stray thought crept through his mind and he wondered why Evander didn't have any computers in his house. Come to think of it, they didn't even have electricity. Why couldn't they build some kind of generator? It wouldn't take much. There was a fast flowing river nearby, or heck, there was a hill where the wind always blew. Maybe Sam and Siler could put something together and—
"Come on, time to wake up." Jack shook Danil's shoulder gently and he opened eyes that felt gritty and glued together. He rubbed at them with one hand and wondered when it had gotten so dark. The moon was still low, rising slowly in the south, its silver gleam shining faintly through the leaves.
He sat up and blew his nose, then accepted the water Sam handed him. He took a sip and then squinted as she held out some more pills.
"That's the last of the antihistamines and antibiotics."
Danil swallowed them, feeling one of them stick momentarily in this throat before continuing down into his stomach. He peered over the bushes and tried to look down into the darkened village. There were no lights anywhere and he wondered with some apprehension where all the people were. Were they safe hiding in the woods like he was? Holed up in their homes? Was Evander in one of the houses, hiding in a cellar somewhere?
"Daniel?" Sam put a hand on his arm and he looked at her when she squeezed.
"In a few hours the effects of these pills are going to wear off. It doesn't mean you'll get sick again, but it's a possibility. You're still running a fever despite what we've given you which means you need something stronger, which we don't have, so the infection is still there."
"And that means my nose will get stuffed up and my eyes will itch like mad?" Despite the cough and sinus headache, the relief from the other afflictions had been very welcome. Sneezing twelve times in succession hadn't been pleasant, especially when Evander had made it a joke and began counting out loud to see if he could break his record every time it happened.
"In about six or eight hours, yes." She moved her head and the moonlight lit up her hair and cast her eyes in strange shadows. "It might take us longer to get to the ship, depending on how many of Panos' men are between us and it."
"You have weapons. You won't fight your way?"
"Our guns can be heard many miles away, DanielJackson." Teal'c spoke suddenly out of the shadows to Danil's right, making him jump. "They will attract undue attention and broadcast our presence. Instead we wish to make a stealthy retreat which will in the long run be quicker and bring about less loss of life."
"Of course, if we had a couple zats..." Jack moved silently through the small clearing and came to kneel beside Danil. "You ready to go?"
Danil pursed his lips and dropped his head. He didn't want to; he'd much rather return to the village and look for his Master; but instead he raised his head, shrugged his shoulders back and nodded. Then he realized Jack might not see him in the dark. "I'm ready."
"Good." Jack stood and pulled Danil up by tugging at his arm. "Teal'c will take point, Carter's watching our backs. You follow Teal'c and I'll be right behind you."
They began moving slowly through the woods, their way impeded by low branches and hidden roots disguised as shadows, despite the illumination of the half moon now shining brightly through the trees. The ground was springy and full of lush growth, their passage barely discernible as they threaded their way along the mountainside.
Hardly an hour after they'd started moving, Teal'c made odd motions with his hand and suddenly Jack was pushing Danil down, forcing him to crouch low to the ground. They remained that way for some time with Danil's calves on the verge of cramping. Jack held a hand around the back of Danil's head, preventing him from looking up to see what was going on. He kept getting more and more frustrated and was just on the verge of struggling free when he heard the sound of voices.
He froze and Jack's fingers tightened in warning. Danil had no way of knowing if these were Panos' men or villagers sheltering in the woods, but he knew they couldn't take any chances.
He breathed through his mouth; short panting gasps of fear that wheezed with every breath. He was afraid he'd give away their position, but the noise they made overshadowed Danil's. He collapsed in relief when the men continued on without stopping.
They waited several minutes once the small group moved away. Daniel got up and softly cleared his throat. Jack patted his shoulder and then gave the order to move on.
As the night wore on Danil began to think they spent more time crouched and hiding than sneaking through the trees. Sometimes whoever they were hiding from could be heard or seen; most times Danil simply resigned himself to wait until whatever danger the three had spotted had come to pass.
He had no idea exactly where they were going but from the lay of the land, he knew they were circling the valley in an easterly direction. If they kept on they'd come to Argyra's lake, so named because of the silver-leafed trees growing near the still water. Evander had taken Danil there earlier this spring and they had attempted to catch the fish that swam the waters despite the chilly temperature. Danil had begged Evander to take him back there when it was warmer. There was something about the lake that had been both disturbing and intoxicating.
The moon was on its way out when they came to a bluff overlooking the lake. Teal'c waved them forward after a long moment and they crowded beside him for a view of the famous lake. He heard Sam's softly uttered, "Wow," as Danil peered over Teal'c's shoulder.
The water reflected the moonlight, giving it a silver sheen. The argyra trees rippled as a breeze shook the leaves, causing them to appear molten silver. It was a scene from a fairy tale, only to be believed when seen.
Danil glanced at Jack and smiled when he saw the look of wonder on his face. Feeling inordinately pleased that Jack was enjoying something of his world, Danil felt himself relaxing for the first time in hours. Jack turned and met Danil's gaze, and he returned Danil's tentative smile with one of his own, soft and strangely familiar.
"See anything moving down there, T?" Jack asked. Daniel felt suddenly bereft and cold when Jack turned his attention back to Teal'c.
"Indeed. We shall have to skirt the far end of the lake to avoid a campsite, there." He pointed down to the left. Once he looked for it, Danil spotted the small flickering flames of a campfire.
"We're gonna run out of moonlight in just over an hour. I think we have enough time to make it to the lake and circle around. We can rest up and wait for morning. From there, it's what, five miles to the Tel'tak?"
Sam was looking past the lake, into the mountains behind it. "Yes, sir, I'd say at least five."
"With luck we can have breakfast on board the ship." Jack nodded for Sam to take point, and Danil raised his eyebrows in surprise. He looked at Teal'c to see if he would say anything, but he simply waited for Danil and Jack to begin walking.
"You let her walk into danger like that?" Danil whispered to Jack, trying to distract himself from his increasing breathlessness and aching legs.
"Why shouldn't I? It's what she's trained for."
"But... she's a woman."
"Daniel, you of all people should know better." Jack sighed, then scratched his cheek. "I wish I knew how much of your memory is gone. Carter's military, she's been training most of her adult life. You saw how she handled herself in Evander's garden."
Mention of Evander suddenly reminded Danil how he still didn't know his Master's fate and he sucked in a breath as a cold shiver ran down his back.
"Hmm?" He turned to look back at Jack, and nearly tripped on an unseen root. Jack caught his arm and held on a moment longer after Danil caught himself.
"Yeah, sorry." He forced himself to pick his footing carefully. There was no trail and the grade was getting steeper. He could see the argyra trees twinkling through the leaves below him, could hear the dry rustles they made as they rubbed one against the other in the wind, and knew they were almost there.
Sam stopped them when they were nearly to the bottom. For a moment Danil couldn't understand what she was gesturing at then his nose suddenly unblocked and he got a whiff of feces, vomit, and death. He gagged, and while Teal'c steered him away from the two eviscerated bodies, Jack moved towards them with Sam at his back, both of their guns held at the ready.
While Danil struggled not to vomit on strangely shaking legs, visions of Sam and Teal'c went through his head. They were bloody and broken, dead by all accounts. She was resting her head on his chest, her head at an odd angle due to an obviously broken neck. Teal'c had an arm propped around her shoulder, holding her close.
Bile rose up into his mouth and Danil spat the hot liquid onto the ground. He grabbed onto a nearby tree and swayed. He continued breathing harshly, telling himself it wasn't true, these two weren't dead, they were here, with him. Now. But he could smell their decomposing bodies. The stench wedged in his blocked nose, along the back of his tongue. He rested his forehead against the trunk, wishing he were back home in his bed with Evander sitting next to him, reading him to sleep.
He felt a cool hand on his neck and knew it was Jack. He felt something placed in his hand and saw it was a water container. He took a sip and rinsed his mouth, then took several deep swallows. The water sat uncomfortably in his stomach and Danil wished he could rinse the stench from his sinuses.
"Think you can go on? We'll make camp soon and you can rest up."
Danil handed Jack the water and without a word, followed Sam as she took up the lead once more.
They followed the lake, hugging the tree line, remaining in the forest's shadow. The noise of the wind in the leaves muffled the slight sound of their footsteps. They walked for a time while slight shivers began coursing through Danil. His head began to hurt again and he knew the medication was finally beginning to wear off.
When the moon was low, barely visible through the darkening silver of the trees, Jack pulled them away from the lake and into the woods. Within moments he found a clearing with a spectacular view of the lake's expanse before them. While the others removed their bags from their backs, Danil stepped away from them and leaned against a tree and watched the water's glow begin to dim. He could still smell the dead bodies and he tried to blow his nose to dislodge whatever foul odors were caught inside him.
Danil wished for a moment that his Master were here with him, to tell him everything would be okay, but when Jack joined him, the heat from his body warm against Danil's arm, he was surprisingly glad to be with the soldier.
He looked at Jack sideways and saw the man staring at the lake. The water reflected in his eyes, giving them an inhuman shine. Danil's heart suddenly pounded in his chest, the stench increased while fear grabbed him, cutting off his air. Then Jack turned his head to look at Danil and his eyes were dark.
Feeling confused at the sudden terror, Danil swallowed and licked his lips, trying to moisten his dry mouth. "What were you thinking?" he asked, hoping to distract himself while his heartbeat returned to normal.
"Dreaming of Minnesota."
Then the foul odor was back, overwhelming him. The cell was bright, no dark shadows to hide the damage. Tears blurred his view of Jack's broken body as blood slowly seeped into his pants, warming his skin. His heart slowly breaking, he bent down and kissed Jack just before he placed his hands around his lover's neck, exactly where Jack had showed him. Jack's skin was cold and clammy beneath his fingers as Daniel tensed and—
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Something was wrong with Daniel. The Daniel Jack knew wouldn't have been so upset at seeing dead bodies but this Daniel was more vulnerable, and his lack of particular memories made it difficult for Jack to figure out what to say or how to explain things to him.
There were times when Daniel looked at Jack with what he was sure was recognition. He seemed to gravitate towards Jack, so he'd decided to stay as close as possible to him at all times, if only to make him feel safe, and, Jack didn't try fooling himself, to stop Daniel from making a break for it. He was sure Daniel would if given the opportunity. Jack didn't kid himself about what was going on in Daniel's head. Some alien computer was telling him that Evy was Daniel's master and that he needed to get back to him at all costs. Actually, Jack was surprised he hadn't tried to run yet.
The lake was absolutely spectacular and it had made Jack homesick for the one in Minnesota. Somewhere far from all the stresses of work where he could take Daniel when all of this was over and they could just sit back, relax, and get reacquainted with one another.
So when Daniel had asked him what he was thinking about, Jack had simply blurted out what had been on his mind. 'Dreaming of Minnesota'.
He had expected Daniel to question him about Minnesota, but the sound of approaching voices had him turning in alarm. Teal'c and Carter had frozen, crouched low even though the trees would hide them from anyone walking along the lake's shore.
Satisfied that his team was aware of the danger, Jack turned to Daniel just in time to see him fall face first onto the ground.
For a moment, Jack thought he'd been shot but then as Daniel began to jerk repeatedly, he realized he was having a seizure. Daniel's leg was perilously close to a small bush of those silvery leaves. If he thrashed against it, Jack knew the sound would attract whoever was approaching. Without thinking, he pulled Daniel's leg aside and straddling him, thrust his own leg between the tree and Daniel's.
He tried to pull Daniel back against his chest, but the jerky movements made him difficult to hold on to. He settled for rolling Daniel onto his side and laying against him to prop him up.
The seizure seemed to last forever but Jack knew it was probably less than a minute or two. He could still hear the voices, at least three or four persons talking, but they were getting faint. As Daniel slumped bonelessly with a wheezing sigh, Jack turned him into the recovery position. In the moon's fading light, he gently wiped the drool from Daniel's mouth and then brushed the dirt and debris from Daniel's forehead, nose and cheek. There would probably be scratches, but hopefully nothing serious.
"What happened?" Carter knelt beside him, her whisper barely audible. Teal'c joined her and divided his attention between Daniel and the slowly receding group of men.
"I don't know. Something had to have triggered this but I have no idea what. He was upset at seeing those bodies." Jack thrust a hand through his hair before lowering it and gently brushing a leaf from Daniel's sleeve.
"Sir, two seizures in less than twenty-four hours... that can't be a good thing." She got up and rummaged in one of the packs and returned with water and a small bandage.
Jack waited until she began washing out the scrapes on Daniel's face before answering. "Those things he does with the eyelids, the... reboot, you called it."
Carter stopped a moment and looked at Jack and nodded.
"He's been doing that a lot, too. That can't be good for him either. Do you think it's us, or has he been doing that all the time?"
"I would like to think that DanielJackson's memory has not been completely erased and that he is attempting to remember us, despite the device's function."
"Yeah, me too, T," Jack sighed.
"He's running a temperature," Carter said as she buried the dirty bandage.
"I know. There's nothing we can do about it until he wakes up."
"We should keep him warm and comfortable in the meantime."
"Teal'c, can you help me move him farther back?" Jack and Teal'c picked Daniel up and carried him several feet deeper into the clearing.
Carter pulled a blanket out and spread it around Daniel's unconscious form. "Um, Colonel?" The dark was almost complete, the moon barely visible through the trees. Jack glanced at her and saw she was rubbing her lips with her knuckle, a sure sign she was embarrassed about something.
"What is it, Carter?"
"Teal'c and I can split the watch. I think Daniel would be more comfortable if you shared body heat with him."
Jack felt torn between his team and his lover. He had allowed Teal'c and Carter to take up the brunt of the work in getting here while he had kept most of his attention on Daniel. He knew he should be doing his own fair share of the work tonight, if only to keep watch, but Daniel was hurt and... damn, Carter had just given him an out.
"Thanks." He wanted to reach out and squeeze her arm in gratitude but was afraid of grabbing some unmentionable parts. "I'll treat you to a steak at O'Malley's for this," he said instead.
"It's a date." She moved aside so Jack could lie next to Daniel. As Jack slid beneath the blanket, he heard Carter move to Teal'c's side and speak softly with him. By the time Jack had rolled Daniel so that his face was nestled against Jack's shoulder and his arms wrapped around Daniel's ribs, Carter had taken another blanket and had rolled herself up behind them.
Jack could feel Daniel's soft puffs of breath against his skin. Ignoring the sour smell coming from his mouth, Jack snuffled Daniel's hair. He could smell sweat and an unfamiliar shampoo. He moved down Daniel's face and inhaled deeply. There, beneath everything, was what he was looking for. Daniel's scent, that primal instinctive allure that identified Daniel, as Daniel.
Jack flicked his tongue out, tasting Daniel's sweat, then lowered his head so his face was once again buried in Daniel's long hair. This was what he'd dreamed of over the past six months. Holding the man he loved once again in his arms. The not knowing what had happened to Daniel had been so hard. He felt an overwhelming sense of joy despite Daniel's illness.
"Master?" Daniel's voice was slurred and soft as he tried to lift his head.
"No, it's just me. It's Jack."
"Jack..." Daniel sighed his name and relaxed.
"Go to sleep. Everything's fine."
"Yes, everyone's safe." Jack didn't even try to kid himself that Daniel was asking if Evy was safe. Jack just made sure his answer was non-committal and hoped it soothed Daniel's fears.
Daniel nuzzled his face deeper against Jack's neck, his breathing slow and regular. To Jack's surprise, Daniel shifted so his arm reached around Jack's waist and he squeezed Jack closer to him for a moment.
Jack waited a few minutes, making sure Daniel was asleep before sharing his feelings. He didn't know when the next opportunity for intimacy like this might come, days, weeks, maybe, stuck in the infirmary while Janet and whoever of their allies came to help them with Daniel's dilemma. And maybe somehow, Jack's words might touch the part of Daniel that was trying to remember, and help him fight to come back to them.
"It's been so long since I've held you like this." Jack kept his voice very low, despite the soft snores coming from Carter behind him. "God, Daniel, I missed you so much. We're going to get through this, somehow. We'll get you home, maybe Jacob or Selmac will know how to take the frigging device off. I know you think Evander is the greatest thing on Earth right about now, but that's just the programming that's messing with your mind."
He stroked the hot, sweaty temple and pushed a thick swathe of hair away from Daniel's face.
"I love you, Daniel. I wish I could make you remember how it was between us. Just keep fighting that thing, okay? Don't give up on us. On me."
Jack stretched his neck and kissed Daniel's exposed temple before he allowed himself to relax and drowse, luxuriating in the feel of Daniel in his arms once again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Danil heard Jack's words and felt his lips touch his temple as he kissed him tenderly. He lay there, his body heavy and aching, disoriented and unable to think clearly. Yet he felt safe in Jack's arms, the sensation at once familiar and, if he were to be truthful to himself, he desired it. He'd been attracted to Jack from the first time he'd laid his eyes on him and somehow he wasn't surprised to learn that the two of them had been lovers at one time.
Then a feeling of extreme disquiet and hopelessness came over him. The stench was back in his nostrils and Danil saw himself sitting, leaning back against a wall in what was essentially a cell. He moved closer to Jack and placed a hand over Jack's thigh, hoping to provide a bit of comfort. And Jack looked at him with disbelief as he plucked Daniel's hand away from him with an expressionless face.
Pain lanced through Danil's head as both memory and the alien device attempted to separate his thoughts from his mind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The sound of softly spoken voices pulled Danil out of a dreamless slumber. The voices were familiar, although he waited expectantly for the deep baritone of his Master until he woke up a little more and remembered his Master's fate.
The warmth of Jack's body had disappeared, leaving him alone beneath the blanket. He shivered in the cool, damp air as he curled up, trying to stay warm. His body ached, his muscles tight and sore, leaving him feeling like he'd been hit by a train. Still, there was a vague 'feel-good' feeling that he couldn't quite put his hands on that wanted to make him smile and stretch like a cat.
"You two can probably make it to the Tel'tak a helluva lot faster than if we try to drag Daniel along with us."
"I hate leaving you alone with him, sir."
"ColonelO'Neill does have a point. The last seizure will have weakened DanielJackson considerably and it would be kinder to allow him this time to rest."
"He did one of those reboot things again just after you went to sleep, Carter. They seem to be coming more and more often and we can't take the chance of him having a fit just when we have to make a run for it. Just don't forget where we're holed up at, and you can ring us up to the ship and soon as you get her up in the air."
Danil couldn't believe they were going to leave him. For some odd reason he didn't want to be separated from them, and as much as he wanted to go back to Evander, it didn't *feel* right. He had to try and stop them from doing this.
He struggled to sit up and the blanket slid down his shoulders, the cold air seeping through his tunic immediately. He squinted in the early morning dawn, trying to make out the blurry forms and wondering where his glasses were.
"You don't have to go. I can travel." He suddenly sneezed several times in succession and his head immediately stuffed up. Even though Sam was the one who came to put a hand to his forehead, Danil kept his eyes on Jack. "Please, I can keep up."
Jack knelt down to Danil's level and glanced once at Sam. Danil looked at her to try and figure out what wordless communication was going on, but he missed whatever signal she'd given him. Jack handed him his glasses and he gratefully put them on.
"You're feverish, your muscles probably feel like they're tied in knots and you've been wheezing for the past hour. We still have a ways to go and I'd rather you not push yourself at this point."
"You're afraid something's going to happen to me. What?" He turned to look at Sam and Teal'c when Jack didn't answer. "What is it?" He felt more apprehension when they both turned to look at Jack.
"You had another seizure last night. Something must have triggered a memory and you fell flat on your face just when some of Panos' men came walking by."
Jack's voice was soft and gentle, and Danil shook his head, unable to believe any of what he was saying. He'd remember if something like that had happened to him, wouldn't he?
"I know you don't remember, that's the whole point of why we're here, isn't it? That thing behind your ear is making you forget and it's screwing with your brain. When you push to remember, it pushes back. Hard."
"How do you feel this morning?" Sam asked. "Other than the probable headache, stuffy nose and congestion?"
He thought a moment before answering. If he admitted that his whole body hurt beyond the effects of a fever, he'd be giving in to the fact that something truly odd was happening. But then, they said they knew him, and Lord Evander had taken a dislike to them despite offering them the hospitality of his home. His Master was a truly kind soul and it took a lot to make him develop an aversion to someone.
"Like someone used me as a punching bag," he finally admitted.
"See?" Jack reached for the blanket and placed it around Danil's shoulders when he shivered. "I'd rather not take a chance and try for seizure number three. T and Carter can move faster alone and get back here in a couple of hours."
Danil turned to Teal'c, and he nodded solemnly. "Not that I do not trust your determination and stamina, but you are ill and it would serve you best to remain in hiding."
"I don't like this," Danil said, dropping his head in embarrassment.
"We don't either." Sam smiled at him when Danil looked up at her. "But the Colonel's right. It's the fastest way out of here."
"Um..." Danil said, raising a finger to ward off more arguments. "What if I don't want out of here?"
"We've discussed this before. Either way, we need to get you better before we go looking for Evy. Evander," Jack quickly corrected when Danil frowned at him. "Are you two set?"
"Yes, sir." Carter reached for her pack and with Teal'c's help, adjusted it on her back. She attached her weapon to her chest and grinned back at him. "We'll be back in no time. You'll be careful?"
"We're not going anywhere." Jack sat down beside Danil and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles. "Hurry back and don't forget to pick up the pizza."
"Yes, sir." Carter flashed them both another grin before she stood and walked to the tree line. She began walking without waiting for Teal'c, who inclined his head at Danil before turning to join her.
Danil scooted back, muscles protesting as he moved, until he was leaning against the tree next to Jack's. They sat there for several minutes, Danil's ears peeled for the sound of Sam and Teal'c's footsteps but other than the birds up in the trees, there were no sounds that seemed out of place.
He raised a hand and rubbed his aching temple, then winced as he caught abraded skin.
"Let me see," Jack said as Danil lowered his hand. "It was dark last night and we didn't dare turn the flashlights on." He took hold of Danil's chin and leaned close to examine his face. Danil, in turn, stared at Jack's brown eyes, mere inches away from his own. When Jack caught his gaze, Danil saw his pupils widen in surprise.
"Nothing looks infected," Jack said as he pulled away. "Why don't you lie back down and get some rest?" Jack reached into a vest pocket and removed the pills that Danil knew was for reducing fever and helping with pain.
"Later, maybe." He took the medication gratefully along with several long swallows of water. As he handed back the water container, he asked, "You don't like my Master. Why?"
"Daniel, I don't think this is the time and place for this."
"It's obvious you don't like him and I don't think he cared for you much. He liked Sam, though."
"She's a woman. Who wouldn't like her?"
"I heard you and Evander arguing outside my room a time or two. What did he do to you?"
"Didn't we just say we didn't want to trigger any kind of episode here? Just stop pushing, okay?"
Danil pursed his lips as he tried to figure out Jack's attitude. They had said Danil had had a seizure; there were scratches on his face he didn't remember getting and his whole body hurt. So there was physical evidence that something had happened.
He remembered waking up at some point during the night and being held close to someone. He'd felt safe and loved, the distinction between Evander and Jack slowly crystallizing into Jack's voice as he spoke words that touched Danil's heart. He couldn't remember exactly what Jack had told him, but he knew they had been important.
So what if Jack's story was right, after all, and Danil's memories were being tampered with? Did that mean his Master had actually tried to hurt Danil?
He went over everything he could remember from the day the team known as SG-1 had come to his home. Strangely all three of them had tried to convince Danil and Evander that Danil belonged with them. The fourth, the one who had died yesterday during the battle, had remained aloof. As if he hadn't known Danil previously.
Closing his eyes, he tried to ignore the growing headache. The next time he opened them, the sun had risen considerably and the day had warmed. His bladder was full and insisting it be relieved soon. He stretched his stiff neck and looked around.
Jack was standing near the edge of the woods looking down towards the lake. Danil thought about getting up to join him but the thought of having to walk even that small distance seemed like a huge effort. He pushed the blanket aside and got up with difficulty. He shuffled a few feet away into the trees, answering Jack's question about where he was going with a wave of his hand.
When he finished, Jack was waiting by the blanket and helped him back down. The few steps had tired him out and he was now secretly relieved he wasn't out there traipsing through the woods.
"Carter and Teal'c are almost to the ship. They think an hour, tops, and they'll be back here."
"How do you—?"
Danil cut his question off when Jack pointed to the small radio in his pocket. "Right." Danil pulled the blanket up despite the heat of the sun peeking through the trees. "You never answered my question."
"Why do you hate Evander?"
Jack sighed loudly and sat down facing him. "Look, I keep trying to tell you what's going on and this thing—" Jack moved quickly and caught Danil around the nape. His fingers tapped Evander's brand. "This thing keeps making you forget. And the worst part of it is I keep telling you that that thing is screwing with your head and you never believe me."
"Okay, for the sake of argument, let's say you're right." Danil reached behind his ear and touched the warm metal. He was so used to it that he associated it with Evander, a mark of Danil's trust in his Master. "You blame Evander for putting this on me. You say it's making me forget things but you won't tell me what—"
"Kinda hard to do that when you keep forgetting what I tell you."
"How do I know you're telling me the truth?"
"Because you keep forgetting what I tell you." Even though Jack was keeping his voice down, Danil could tell he was beginning to get upset.
"Well there's not much chance I'm going to believe you if I can't remember what you say."
"That's what I've been trying to tell you." Jack's exasperation was coming out loud and clear.
"Oh." Danil grinned shyly, enjoying seeing Jack get riled up. "I forgot."
"You... forgot?" Jack canted his head sideways and his face erupted in a grin. "You know, you've always been the most exasperating and annoying pain in the ass, and I wouldn't change you for a million bucks."
"A million? I'd have thought I'd be worth more to you, maybe the price of a day's rations?"
"Where'd you hear that?" Immediately the amusement was gone from Jack's face and he leaned forward, serious.
Danil shrugged. "Dunno. Why?"
"Never mind. I just thought... never mind."
"So why can't you accept that I want to stay here?" Danil squinted as the sun rose just enough to shine in his face. He put a hand into his pocket for his dark lenses and was surprised to find they were broken. He didn't remember hitting or bumping into anything, unless it happened last night when Jack said he had...
"Because you don't *belong* here."
Danil looked at Jack in alarm. "But I do. I *belong* to Evander." He put the broken lenses back into his pocket and instead removed the folded sheet of paper he'd placed there yesterday.
"No, you don't. You don't belong to anyone but yourself. You wanted to know why I don't like Evander? Okay. It's because he took you away from your home, your friends, and your family."
Danil caught the catch in Jack's voice when he said family, and frowned. Something about that feeling of security while being held and—
"He snatched you away, and I *know* you didn't go willingly. He erased all the important memories of your life and put in new ones where he's made himself numero uno, and you have no choice but to follow what that thing on your head is telling you to do."
"Jack, I don't think Evan—"
"You were working on an archaeological dig. Something you rarely get a chance to do. It's who you are, it's what you love to do, and it's as close to a vacation as you can get without taking off with me... anyways, you disappeared. Into thin air. One minute you were working in a trench happy as a clam, next minute someone comes to remind you it's lunchtime and all that's left is a bunch of tools, but no archaeologist.
"We searched the area high and low and couldn't find a clue. You were probably snatched by ship, most likely the one sitting pretty in Evander's barn. Now you tell me how a man that's part of a civilization that has hardly any technology can have such a fancy "space ship" in his barn."
There was anger in Jack's voice as he recounted the tale. Danil raised his chin to defend his Master. "Evander traded for the ship. We may not be technologically-wise, but we do trade with people who are."
"You knew what this was." Jack patted his radio. Danil nodded. "Does Evander have any?"
Danil frowned as he thought back. Slowly he shook his head.
"Obviously you guys aren't all that worthy if you couldn't trade for better weapons."
"There's a treaty between the various villages that we do not buy anything that could be used as a weapon."
"And then why the hell did Evy want to trade for ours?"
"I don't know!" Danil raised his voice, irritated at where this conversation was going. "You killed the Wyvair so easily. They'd gotten bolder in past years, coming down to raid the villages. Evander wanted to protect his people from them!"
"I believe you." Jack's words suddenly stopped Danil's tirade and he put a hand up to his increasingly aching head. He noticed he was still holding onto the folded paper.
"Look, this can't be good for you. Why don't you lie down and—"
"Wait, can you tell me what this is?" Suddenly needing an answer to one of the things that had been haunting him for the past months, Danil unfolded the sheet and handed it to Jack.
It contained sketches of the one yellow flower he kept seeing in his mind, from a small bud to a full bloom, from a single petal to the thorns evident on the stems. The sketches were slightly smudged where the creases were.
"These are roses."
"Roses," Danil repeated softly. "Are they yellow?" he asked hopefully.
"Some are," Jack answered, distracted. "Red, pink, white, yellow. The yellow ones are my mom's favorites." Jack folded the paper again and handed it to Danil.
Roses," Danil repeated as he unfolded the paper to stare at the sketches. Somehow he felt there should be fireworks going off somewhere.
Danil squinted up at Jack, who has placed a finger on the paper's top edge and was pulling it down. "You okay?"
"Yeah. It's just... I've wondered what these were... for so long. I thought I'd imagined them. Evander said he'd never seen anything like them but I can smell them, Jack. I know exactly what they smell like."
"And where do you think this memory comes from? Hmmm?"
"You think this is from..." Danil made a twirling motion with his index finger.
"Yeah. There's something else. My mom's name... Daniel, her name is Rose."
// I love you, Daniel. I wish I could make you remember how it was between us. Just keep fighting that thing, okay? Don't give up on us. On me. //
The words swept through Danil's mind, the feeling of being loved a warm, tender blanket. Only to be ripped away by the scent of death and the feel of Jack's clammy skin beneath Daniel's fingers. He moaned softly as everything went white.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack caught Daniel as he collapsed sideways, his eyes rolling back into his head and his eyelids twitching a mile a minute. He cushioned Daniel's head in his lap, waiting for him to get over it. He was just thankful that their conversation hadn't triggered a full blown seizure.
Daniel sighed softly as his face relaxed into sleep. Or unconsciousness. Whatever the recovery phase was, it usually didn't last more than a few minutes.
True to form, Daniel's eyes fluttered, and he opened them, staring at Jack.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
// I love you, Daniel. I wish I could make you remember how it was between us. Just keep fighting that thing, okay? Don't give up on us. On me. //
The words once again swept through Danil's mind, accompanied by the knowledge that he was loved. Then the sensation was replaced by the scent of death, horror and a feeling of doom as Danil resolutely placed his fingers around Jack's neck. He knew there was nothing more to be done and he bent down to kiss the beloved face when everything went white.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Before Jack could ask Daniel how he was feeling, his eyes rolled back into his head and they started to twitch again. Jack felt his heart beating as he suddenly realized something was truly wrong here.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
// I love you, Daniel. I wish I could make you remember how it was between us. Just keep fighting that thing, okay? Don't give up on us. On me. //
Peace and love were replaced by the stench of horrible things. They'd killed Sam and Teal'c, relieved them of their sufferings and now there was nobody left but Daniel. He had to do this for Jack, as much as it killed him, he knew Jack had loved him with all his heart and Daniel had to go on living for him. Saying a quick goodbye, he reached down, holding back his fear and his tears, and placed his hands around Jack's neck.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Five reboots within fifteen minutes. This was so not good. Daniel wasn't even coming around in between attacks, going from reboot to reboot without a break. This had to be worse than a seizure.
This time when Daniel did the eye thing, his fingers began to twitch. God, no. He was moving towards a seizure and if Jack couldn't do something to stop it, Daniel would probably go on having seizure after seizure with no end in sight. If there hadn't been any brain damage up until this point, there certainly would be after this was over.
There had to be something Jack could do. Something to snap Daniel out of this loop. Maybe during those few seconds when Daniel opened his eyes, Jack could shock him out of it.
He sidled out from beneath Daniel and pulled him up into a sitting position. As he manhandled the limp form, his tunic stretched and the gleam of gold caught Jack's eye as Evander's trinket fell out from beneath the tunic. Jack prepared himself to slap Daniel in order to see if it would wake him up when he realized there was something familiar about the shape of the charm hanging from the chain.
Holding Daniel up against his chest, Jack gently threaded the chain from around Daniel's neck. He held it, one handed, and looked at it carefully.
God damn it! It looked exactly like that thing behind Daniel's ear.
He gently laid Daniel back down, supporting his head and then turning him onto his side so he could get a good look at the device. He pushed the sweaty strands aside and held the trinket close to the memory device.
There were near indistinguishable marks on the trinket, and when Jack leaned close to the thing attached to Daniel's head, noted that they matched what he held in his hand. With trembling fingers, he placed the golden trinket on top of the device and heard a soft click.
Unsure of what to do next, he pushed and prodded it, then realized it moved. He turned it a couple of times until it would go no further. He tried prying it away and to his surprise the trinket, with the device attached to it, came free.
Then all hell broke loose as Daniel began seizing.
Unable to do anything except to once more turn Daniel onto his side and make sure his airways were clear, Jack bent over the jerking man and spoke softly to him as his breath came out in short, wheezing exhalations.
"I'm here, it'll be okay. Just keep breathing. That's it, I know it's hard, but you need to breathe."
Jack wiped the growing bubbles of saliva that formed around his mouth and dripped down his chin.
"You're doing good. Hang in there, Daniel."
Jack swore beneath his breath. This episode was lasting longer than the other two. Damn it, why the hell wasn't there a Stargate on this planet? They could have been heading there and have gotten Daniel home in no time instead of having to fly back and—
Coming straight on the heels of Carter's summons was the sound of the Tel'tac's engines. Its shadow drew closer as Jack grabbed his radio and yelled into it.
"Get us up there, now!"
He threw himself alongside Daniel's convulsing form as the rings formed around them. Seconds later they materialized inside the Tel'tak.
"He's seizing," Jack yelled as the rings rose into the ceiling. "Get us to the nearest Stargate."
Carter came running into the room seconds later. "We're at least twenty minutes away at full speed." She took one look at Daniel then ran out of the room, only to come back minutes later with several sleeping bags and blankets.
She packed the thick material around and under Daniel to try and ease the damage he was inflicting on himself every time his muscles contracted onto the hard surface of the floor. As Jack reached for a blanket, Carter caught his hand, glancing at the golden chain and heavy trinket still wrapped around his palm.
"Sir? Is that—?"
"I got it off, but that's what triggered this. Damnit! He had the key to the device all along and we didn't know."
"How long ago did this start?"
"I don't know, at least ten or twelve minutes before you got here."
Carter slid the last sleeping bag beneath Daniel's feet and rushed out of the room a second time. She came back a minute later with a portable oxygen tank in her hand. With Jack's help they got the mask around Daniel's face and watched with relief as the slight bluish cast to his lips began to fade.
"Teal'c! How much longer?"
"Fifteen minutes. I am unable to bring this vessel to a greater speed."
They knelt beside Daniel, watching helplessly as he struggled to breathe, the congestion in his lungs impeding the involuntary gasps as his diaphragm contracted in uneven breaths.
Jack checked his watch continuously, the seconds ticking by so slowly that he wanted to scream out loud. Then, five minutes before they were to reach the landing point, Daniel stopped jerking with a deep sigh.
Carter quickly checked to see if he was breathing, nodded to Jack, then rushed to the cockpit to help Teal'c find the Stargate.
Daniel's eyes were open but Jack knew after what he'd been through, there was no way he would be conscious or aware of what was going on around him. Still he leaned down and stroked a hand along Daniel's cheek, moving sweaty strands of hair aside before adjusting the oxygen mask slightly.
"Just hang on, we're almost home," Jack whispered. He felt the engines slow and then they were entering the planet's atmosphere. As Teal'c landed the ship, time seemed to speed up and then Teal'c had Daniel over his shoulder while Carter was manning the rings' controls.
The second they were on the planet, Carter ran for the DHD while Teal'c moved towards the Stargate. The moment Carter's GDO signal went through, Jack was running through the 'gate, yelling for a medic seconds before Teal'c came through with Daniel.
Jack was perplexed for a moment as to why Hammond sounded confused, until he realized they had left by ship and had come back by Stargate.
"What happened to Doctor Chandler?" the general asked, mistaking Daniel for his replacement as Teal'c gently lowered Daniel to the ground.
"Chandler didn't make it. But Daniel needs medical help, now!"
"Doctor Jackson?" Hammond took a step closer as Daniel's face was revealed. "Colonel? Where did you find him?"
"On that planet the damned Tok'ra sent us. It's a long story but—" He broke off as Fraiser entered the Gateroom at a run.
"Oh my God," she exclaimed as she knelt beside Daniel.
"He's been seizing. The last one lasted almost twenty five minutes."
"Get him to the infirmary, stat." She glanced at Jack as the medics loaded Daniel onto the gurney. "Sir, I'll need details."
"General, you might want to come along. It's a long story." Jack wearily handed his weapons over to the airmen and trudged along behind the gurney, aware of his commander and team following a few steps behind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"So we landed on the planet and 'gated through asap to here."
"The ship was undamaged?"
"Yes, sir." Jack stared dully at the curtain separating Daniel from everyone. Occasionally a nurse would step out and come back in with some piece of equipment or other. At least there was no feel of urgency, which had to be a good sign, didn't it?
"I'll send SG-7 to retrieve it. They can probably be ready in about an hour."
Jack tore his attention away from the damned curtain and looked at his commanding officer in surprise. They had just left a huge piece of important equipment out there for anyone to scavenge. Ideally Jack could have taken Daniel back through the Stargate alone and had Carter and Teal'c fly the ship back, but things had happened so fast that Jack had probably made a bad command decision.
"Teal'c, are you up to going back to help bring back the ship? Major Wilson can use a bit of hands-on training, if you don't mind."
Teal'c inclined his head in agreement, telling Hammond with a gesture that he'd be pleased to help out. Although Jack didn't miss the way Teal'c's gaze shifted to the grey curtain moments later. Teal'c was just as worried as he was.
Jack straightened his shoulders, not allowing his fatigue to come through as he looked at Hammond.
"You did good, son. You needed to get Doctor Jackson immediate medical help and you landed your ship on an unknown planet. You required backup and as there was no immediate threat to the ship, you knew we'd send someone back for it. Now, everyone has been checked out. Why don't you two try and get some rest." He nodded at Jack and Carter.
As Hammond left the infirmary, Jack knew he should be relieved by the general's support, but he was just too damn worried about Daniel to think much about it. He was numb, the fear and anguish had leeched all the energy out of him. He and Teal'c continued standing, staring at the closed curtain while Carter huddled on a bed beside him. Then Jack stiffened as Fraiser stepped out from behind the curtains and joined them.
"He's still unconscious but he's stable. His brainwaves show he's recovering from the seizure normally and is still in the post-ictal phase. As far as I can tell, there's no physical damage other than the bronchitis. I have him scheduled for scans and MRI's in the morning. Hopefully those will tell us if there's been any damage from the device or the seizure."
"So, he's just sleeping?"
"Sort of. It's kind of complicated but... think of his brain right now as being in a recovery period from the electrical storm of the seizure. He'll be a little groggy and disoriented when he wakes up, so don't expect much from him for a while yet."
"Janet, will he be himself when he wakes up? His memories...?"
Grateful that Carter had asked the question first, Jack waited anxiously for the answer, although he knew deep down what it would be.
Fraiser shook her head. "We won't know until he wakes up. We don't know for sure what that device did and—"
"I know, Janet. I'm sorry, it's just... I hated seeing him like that. It wasn't like when he descended – he had free choice then, and we managed to convince him to come back with us. This time, whenever we thought we'd made a little progress, that device kept on pushing back our efforts and we'd be back at square one."
Fraiser looked at them with an understanding gaze, then turned to go answer a question from one of her nurses. They stood there in silence for a few moments, digesting Fraiser's words.
"I must prepare for the journey back." Teal'c took a few steps away from Jack. "You will keep me apprised?"
"You'll be the first to know if there's any news." Jack could see how much Teal'c hated to leave, but he forced a smile and clapped him on the arm. "Thanks for everything, T. I know Daniel will be grateful when... he wakes up."
Once Teal'c had left, Jack turned to Carter. She sitting with her knees pulled up and her arms wrapped around them. Her chin rested against them, the whole pose made her look like a teenager. A tired teenager.
"Go get some sleep, Carter."
"Only if you will, sir," she mumbled into her knees.
"I will, as soon as I get to see Daniel."
Carter turned her head to study Jack and, satisfied that he'd do exactly as he'd told her he would, she slowly unfolded herself and stretched.
Jack returned to staring the curtain down until it finally twitched. Fraiser looked around the opening and, seeing Jack, she motioned for him to approach.
Jack quickly slid off the bed, ignoring stiff muscles, and hurried to Daniel's side.
"He's waking up," Fraiser whispered to Jack as he walked into the small, secluded space. "Talk to him. He's going to be confused and sleepy."
At first glance Daniel lay on his side, still and pale, the dark circles beneath his eyes evidence of the hardship his body had just gone through. The scrapes and scratches on his face hadn't quite scabbed over, looking angry and red on his too-pale face. An IV fed him nutrients and medication. Jack was relieved to see the oxygen mask was no longer needed.
There were EEG leads connected to his face and skull, and a Foley catheter sneaked out from beneath the sheets. A heart monitor beeped steadily to Jack's right.
Then Daniel opened his eyes, looked around blearily, coughed, and winced.
"Hey, Daniel." Jack leaned over so he would be in his line of sight. "How are you feeling?"
"Ummm." Daniel licked his lips as he turned slightly to look up at Jack through heavy lids. "Head... hurts."
Immediately Fraiser gently pushed Jack aside. "How bad? On a scale of one to ten?"
"Um..." Daniel's eyes drifted closed and he frowned slightly before opening them again. "Lots?"
"Okay. I'll give you something for that." She nodded encouragingly at Jack. "It's not abnormal to have a headache after a seizure. After what he went through, I'd be surprised if he wasn't hurting. I'll be right back."
She left Jack alone with Daniel a moment, and he took advantage to push a long strand of hair that had fallen across Daniel's cheek, then caressed Daniel's bared cheek with the back of his fingers when it looked like Daniel was starting to drift off again.
"Hold on a little longer, buddy."
Daniel obediently opened his eyes and tried to clear his throat. He winced again, but his breathing cleared up.
Fraiser returned and while she injected something into the IV, Jack shifted his hand so it lay on Daniel's forearm.
"Here, this will help. Give it a minute." She moved to stand beside Jack and smiled down on Daniel. "Okay, you know the drill. Name and age?"
Daniel licked his lips again and moved his hand so it lay over Jack's. He said his name, slurring the syllables slightly, and Jack wasn't sure if he'd meant to say Daniel or Danil.
Then Jack nearly cheered when Daniel continued with his family name. He turned his hand so he could squeeze Daniel's fingers as he grinned down at him.
"I know, just a little more, okay? Can you tell me your age and where you are?"
"Feels like I'm 90, and... infirmary." His words were still slow and slurred, but his voice was a little stronger as the medication began to kick in. He shifted his gaze from Fraiser to Jack, frown lines covering his forehead. "Jack?"
"I killed you. You shouldn't be here. You're dead. They're all dead."
"Shhh, there's nothing you could do," Jack said, wondering if Daniel was mixing Jack up with Evander.
"Gintz, Kamron, Harriman, SG-11... all of them, we killed them."
Jack looked up at Fraiser in confusion. "It's normal, sir," she whispered back to him.
"Nobody died. You must have dreamed it." Still holding onto Daniel's hand, Jack stuck a leg out and pulled a chair over to him with his foot. He sat down and leaned close. "Gintz is out with SG-7 and SG-11 is fine. They're on downtime until they find a fourth. Harriman's on maternity leave." Jack smiled. "Bet you didn't know she was pregnant, huh?"
"We killed them," Daniel whispered again, pain evident on his face. Not physical pain, but from whatever confused thoughts were going through Daniel's head.
"Nobody died. You disappeared from the dig site on P9H 889 six months ago, Daniel. Nobody was hurt, nobody was killed. You were abducted without a trace."
"Yeah. You remember it?" Jack wasn't about to admit that that planet's designation was burned into his memory, equating it with six months' worth of heartache and fear.
"No..." Daniel's eyes were almost shut and Jack watched as they finally slid all the way. Within seconds the fingers clasped between his palms relaxed and Jack put the hand down on the mattress.
"That was a good thing, right?" Jack asked as Fraiser adjusted Daniel's blankets.
"Yes, it was, sir." She put a hand on Jack's shoulder and squeezed. "He'll probably sleep for a several hours now. Between the infection and the seizure, he's exhausted. Don't tire yourself here for nothing. He needs you at full capacity."
"I don't think I can sleep." Jack was tired, his body stiff and sore and aching to lie down, but he knew his brain wouldn't be able to shut down. Visions of Daniel convulsing still flitted through his mind every time he shut his eyes.
"I can give you something..."
Jack immediately went to refuse Fraiser's offer, then realized she was right. He'd be no good to Daniel like this. "Okay." He heard Fraiser leave and he waited, continuing to watch Daniel sleep.
The overhead light shone directly onto Daniel's pillow, accenting his sun-kissed hair. Jack fingered a few strands, wondering if Daniel had actually spent that much time outside or if Evander had had him dye his hair.
He dropped the strand of hair and moved his fingers against Daniel's skin. His temperature was still high and Jack could hear the slightly wheezing breaths.
Jack leaned close and whispered into Daniel's ear. "Don't give up on me now." Hearing Fraiser's footsteps approaching, he hurriedly said, "I love you. Don't forget that."
Then he straightened, took the sleeping pill, and got up. He figured he'd go say goodbye to Teal'c, and then head for his bed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel could hear the albernet tapping rhythmically on a tree outside his window, trying to attract a mate. It pecked in counterpoint to the slight pounding in his head and he wished someone would go chase it off.
He snuggled deeper under his blanket, still half asleep. He took a deep breath, trying to smell the flowers growing outside but his nose was still clogged. Still, he tried again, looking for the elusive scent of that yellow flower that had tantalized him so... roses. Yes, that was it.
Daniel smiled and sighed happily, finally being able to remember the name. He felt like a huge load had lifted from his shoulders. He just wished he could bury his nose into the soft yellow petals and smell the darned things.
A chair squeaked beside the bed and a male voice cleared their throat. A feeling of warmth and love spread through him. Evander was here with him, hadn't left him alone. He contemplated opening his eyes but that meant having to get up. It was daylight; he could see the glimmer of sunlight behind his eyelids. But he was comfortable under the blankets despite the slowly growing pounding in his temple. Still he wanted his Master to know how much he appreciated the time he spent taking care of him.
"You never finished reading that story to me," Daniel said with a smile, turning towards the softly drumming fingers which always meant Evander was impatient with something.
The voice was just as familiar as Evander's, just as beloved if not more so. Daniel opened his eyes, startled. The soft, creamy sunlit walls of his bedroom evaporated into a harsh, artificially lit area. He was surrounded with all types of medical equipment, and the albernet to his left suddenly began tapping more frantically, the speed increasing incrementally with his headache.
He raised himself onto his elbow, looking around in alarm. His body was weak, just holding his upper body off the mattress was difficult, and his arm immediately began to shake. Muscles burned and threatened to cramp.
Jack put a hand on his arm and Daniel turned to look into concerned brown eyes. Suddenly mesmerized, he couldn't look away even though hands helped him back down onto the bed.
"Daniel, do you know where you are?"
Jack blinked, breaking the spell and Daniel managed to pull his gaze away and look for the healer. No, he amended, Janet.
"Infirmary. Cheyenne Mountain." He licked dry lips with an equally dry tongue.
"Good." Janet smiled and reached towards him, and Daniel flinched. She froze, her hand inches away from his face.
"Sorry," Daniel murmured, glancing quickly towards Jack, who was standing behind Janet, hands thrust deeply in pockets. Janet continued the motion and pushed away some hair that had fallen before his eyes. She tucked it behind his ear.
His heart was still beating a mile a minute and he realized he could hear it on the heart monitor, which made him nervous because was a heart supposed to beep that fast?
"Try and relax. You're safe." She wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm and Daniel nodded.
Easier said than done, especially when one could actually *hear* how scared one was.
Fear. Why was he afraid? He was home, wasn't he? Despite the fact that the infirmary was cold and harsh and the base would be bustling with activity and everyone would be occupied with work and nobody would care about him and want spend their time just talking and listening and teaching—
"Your blood pressure's a little high."
He thrust those thoughts aside. No, that wasn't true. Jack was here now. He'd found Daniel, had brought him back home. Had taken him from Evander and—
God, the attack! He hadn't thought it possible but his pulse beat even faster. His breath was coming in small gasps, his stomach empty and sour.
"Is there news? Is my Master still...?"
Jack's face suddenly hardened and without a word, he turned and walked away from the bed.
He turned to Janet in confusion when Jack kept going out the door. She wasn't looking at him, but was fiddling with a syringe.
"Daniel, I'm going to give you something to calm you down." She injected the contents of the needle into his IV.
He stared at the empty door and then realized what he'd just said to Jack. His face burned with embarrassment.
Turning his head away, Daniel concentrated on the slowing measured mechanical pulses. His breathing eased and Janet smiled at him before she stepped away from his bed. He lay there alone, his gaze creeping back towards the open door. Then there was a blur of blue and for a moment Daniel thought Jack had returned, but it was blond hair that he finally focused on, not silver.
Sam glanced over at Daniel as she approached, her gaze settling on him. Her face broke out in a smile when she realized he was awake. She hurried to his side, full of energy and happiness.
A darker picture of Sam, dead, lying in a pool of blood flashed through his mind, gone almost as quickly as it had come. The intense feeling of despair that came with the image stayed with him, though. He tried to push the emotion aside and greeted her with as much enthusiasm as he could.
"Did you happen to see Jack on your way here?" he finally asked after she kissed his cheek.
Sam frowned. "I saw him getting into the elevator. He looked upset and..." she paused a moment, looking at her hands before meeting Daniel's eyes. "I was afraid something bad had happened."
Daniel was the one to look away this time. "I said something that upset him. I... if you see him, can you tell him I'm sorry? I woke up a little confused and..." He reached up to rub at the still growing headache and his fingers froze when they met skin and hair instead of smooth, warm metal.
Sam grinned. "Yep. You have the colonel to thank for that. He figured out how to get the thing off."
She checked her watch and frowned. "I'll be seeing him in about ten minutes. We have a briefing and—" She looked away past Daniel and made a face. "Your breakfast is here. I think I'd better let you alone and get a move on." She took Daniel's hand and squeezed his fingers. "I'll tell him you're sorry but I'm sure he knows you never meant whatever you might have said. You must be feeling a little confused right now."
Daniel nodded as one of Janet's nurses rolled his breakfast close to the bed. As she raised his bed so he could sit up, Daniel waved goodbye to Sam.
"Doctor Fraiser thought you might like to try and eat something."
"Thanks, Charlene," Daniel said to the nurse as he looked over the light breakfast before him. He truly wasn't hungry but he knew that if he ate, Janet would disconnect him from the IV, and that was a step closer to getting out of here.
The next several hours passed in a blur. He hadn't realized how weak and sore his body was until he tried to go from the bed and into a wheelchair. He underwent scans and tests patiently, knowing they had to be done, but was extremely grateful to be back in bed when they were all over.
He dozed a little when he was finally left alone, only to wake up whenever he heard approaching footsteps. He was able to tell the difference between the soft-soled tread of the nurses from the heavier sound of boots or shoes. When he heard the measured steps of what had to be a man coming towards him, he opened his eyes, fully expecting to see Jack.
Words of apology on his lips, Daniel swallowed when he saw Dr. Mackenzie staring down at him. Well, why should he be surprised? He'd spent several months under alien influence, who best to say whether or not his brain had been screwed with.
Daniel watched with slight nervousness as the psychiatrist pulled up a chair and sat down next to his bed. He carried a clipboard and consulted the sheets attached to it a moment.
"Your test results are very encouraging. Earlier scans showed significant swelling around the temporal lobes, which probably was the cause of your seizures. Today's scan shows the swelling to be fairly minimal."
"Temporal lobes?" He didn't even ask when he'd had scans done while he'd been unconscious. Or for that matter, how long he'd been here in the infirmary.
Mackenzie pointed to the area around his ear. "This part of your brain affects memory so considering your memory is what was affected by the device, it's not a surprise that you experienced trauma there."
"My memory is back." Daniel stared down at his thumb, then began picking at his uneven nail.
"So I understand. I was just wondering how much you remember about what happened."
"I remember P9H 889, and 'gating there with SG-11 and..." Not SG-1. For a moment he was going to say SG-1, but he knew, somehow, that Jack, Teal'c and Sam had not been with him and that their team had only been a total of eight, not eleven. "...Doctor Gintz, Cadet Johansen and Captain Marin accompanied us," he finally added.
Mackenzie flipped through more papers on the clipboard and then looked at Daniel. "Do you remember your abduction?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, I don't remember anything except my Mas—" Daniel swallowed then smiled wryly. "Sorry. I think the programming is going to take a while to get over. I don't remember anything except knowing I wanted to serve Evander."
"And you were treated well by this man?"
Daniel nodded fervently. "He was very kind, there was nothing bad about him. He was just... lonely."
"Do you want to go back to P9H 889? And to Evander?"
"I'd like to know what happened to him, if that's what you mean. He'd been injured, possibly fatally. But if you're asking do I have a hidden drive to try and escape and go back to serve him..." Daniel straightened as best he could in the bed and looked Mackenzie straight in the eyes. "No, I don't."
"Good, good." Mackenzie wiped a few wrinkles from his pants' material and stood. "I think we might talk again later, Doctor Jackson, when you've had time to assimilate your thoughts and feelings about what happened." He smiled. "Then we'll see if you've gotten over the programming of that device." He looked around the room, then turned back to Daniel.
Daniel looked in the direction Mackenzie had turned to and saw Janet talking with a nurse.
"I'll recommend that Doctor Fraiser allow you to go home when she feels you're up to it. Should you have any problems or concerns, or simply feel the need to talk beforehand, you have my number."
"Thanks," Daniel mumbled as Mackenzie went over to join Janet. He thought back at the memory of SG-1 accompanying SG-11 and frowned. Throughout the day he'd had occasional memories of seeing all of those, plus the three archaeologists, tortured and dead. Both memories had been visual and olfactory, but Daniel suspected they might have something to do with the device's programming.
He tried to push the thoughts out of his mind and curled up on the bed, wondering where Jack was.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"... So General Hammond asked the colonel to stay behind and keep an eye on the dignitaries." She took a bite of yogurt and swallowed. Her tongue flicked out and licked her lips, washing away a small smear of pink. "He wasn't too pleased and he walked into the negotiations like a man on his way to death row. But from what I hear, he has them all eating out of his hands."
"So you never got a chance to talk to him?"
"I'm sorry, Daniel. All hell broke loose from the moment I left the infirmary this morning." Sam noisily scraped the last of the yogurt from the sides of the small plastic container and licked the spoon. She put the empty container beside Daniel's partly eaten supper and sat back.
"Look, I know infirmary food isn't always the most appetizing. Is there something I can get you from the commissary that might be more appealing than this? I'm sure Janet won't mind as long as you eat something."
It was on the tip of Daniel's tongue to ask for either Fellousch or Kataïfi, but he managed to bite back that request and asked for pecan pie instead. "Or anything sweet," he amended. Immediately Sam was up and out, promising to be back in a couple of minutes.
Daniel rubbed at the aching spot on his head and closed his eyes. Despite being home, everything felt strange. He figured it must be culture shock, emphasized to a certain degree by the residual effects of the device. He was anxious to get all this behind him and back into his old life.
Now if only Jack would come and...
This time he didn't hear the footsteps until the sole of a heavy boot scraped the cement floor. He opened his eyes to see Jack standing at the foot of the bed, looking uncertain as he held a piece of pecan pie in his hand. Daniel felt a rush of love that took his breath away.
Jack put a hand out onto metallic part of the bed's end and leaned his legs against it. "Hey." The bed rocked slightly.
"Heard you were playing chairperson with some high powered delegates today."
Jack made a face. "Don't remind me. I had to threaten to zat them to make them behave."
"Did it work?"
"No. They just like to argue." He glanced down at the cellophane-covered pie and stepped around the bed to hand the dessert over to Daniel. "Carter said you were hungry?"
"Not really. I just was in the mood for something sweet." Daniel carefully unwrapped the plastic wrap and picked up the fork from his dinner tray. He was relieved his hands weren't obviously shaking. He took a bite, savoring the sweet flavor.
He concentrated on cutting another bite, feeling a little awkward around Jack now that he was finally here. Out of the corner of his eye he saw him rub at his face tiredly.
"Are you heading for home?"
Jack pressed both palms against his cheeks and rubbed his eyes, then looked over at Daniel. He didn't miss Jack's slightly bloodshot eyes and pale skin.
"Yeah, in a little while. I thought I'd come and sit with you for a while, relax a little first."
Daniel smiled, took a second bite of pie and pushed the rest towards Jack. He'd rather have had the Fellousch but at least he could share the pecan pie with Jack since the purple-fruited concoction would have been too sweet for Jack's tastes.
He watched as Jack devoured half the pastry in two large bites.
"Didn't you eat?"
Jack shook his head, shoving a piece of pie shell back into his mouth. "Didn't get a chance," he mumbled with his mouth full. "Came straight here after we escorted our guests back to the Stargate."
Daniel took another small bite when Jack gave him back the fork, then waved it away when Jack offered it back to him. He swallowed, and then nearly gagged when the smell of decay and death flooded into his nose.
He managed to swallow what he had in his mouth and quickly rinsed the taste with some water. Jack finished the pie, swiping a finger around the plate to pick the last of the crumbs. While Daniel fought to keep his stomach under control, Jack licked the last of the dessert from his finger.
"Carter told me Mackenzie came to talk to you today."
Daniel could only nod for the moment. He tried breathing through his mouth until the stench disappeared.
"He said I could go home," Daniel finally managed.
"I don't know. When Janet says I can go," he snapped.
The sudden feelings of despair were back and Daniel knew his answer was curt and waspish, but he was suddenly scared of being alone with Jack, afraid of touching him. Afraid for some unknown reason that if he put his hands on Jack, he'd hurt him.
"You're tired. I'd better go." Immediately Jack stood and then leaned over Daniel, seeming unsure of what to do. Confused and with his head aching, Daniel simply closed his eyes, taking the choice away from Jack. He only relaxed once he heard Jack's footsteps walk away from the bed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Here we go, home sweet home." Jack stopped the Avalanche in front of Daniel's house and opened the truck's door. He made it around the front of the cab before Daniel managed to fumble for the door handle. He carefully slid down the steep step, wincing as his stiffened muscles complained.
Daniel shuffled up the walk. The sun had set and Jack hurried to the door, unlocked it and flicked on the outside light. He waited for Daniel to step inside before moving on down the hall, turning on lights as he went. Daniel walked into his home with trepidation. He froze in the hallway, unsure of where to go.
The cool fall Colorado air sent shivers through him despite the jacket he wore. Daniel breathed through his nose, searching for the elusive scent of flowers, but couldn't smell anything due to his still clogged sinuses. Anyways, he knew without a doubt that the house would smell musty and unused regardless of the signs that Jack had been here last night despite his exhaustion.
There was freshly laundered linen folded haphazardly in a basket by the bedroom door, empty grocery bags littered the kitchen counter. Daniel took a step away from the door and let it shut behind him. Instead of feeling secure, he suddenly felt hemmed in.
This wasn't home. This wasn't where he wanted to be. Even though he'd insisted on coming here when Janet had released him from the infirmary, he realized he'd made a mistake.
He wanted warmth and attention. Love. Right now, even though Daniel had chosen this house and had happily paid for it, it was a stranger's home. Empty and devoid of life and caring.
Daniel looked around in growing dread, wondering how he could stand to be here by himself after luxuriating in Evander's home, catered to by his Master, despite the fact that Jack had called it slavery.
Jack had gone into the living room, not realizing Daniel had frozen by the entrance. He was returning down the hallway, a look of concern on his face.
Immediately Daniel wrapped his arms around his midsection, seeking warmth, and dropped his head to his chest.
"Okay, that's it. We're out of here."
Jack retraced his steps, turned off all the lights and hurried back. Daniel allowed Jack to tug him out of the house, forcing his aching muscles back to the Avalanche. He climbed in with a weary sigh and resigned himself to the drive back to the SGC and the infirmary. He glanced at the dashboard instead of the scenery, feeling totally lost and out of control.
So when Jack pulled up several minutes later in front of his own house, Daniel blinked in surprise.
Once again Daniel struggled out of the truck and followed Jack inside. He let Jack lead him down the stairs and into the living room. Immediately he headed for the picture windows. He peered into the garden but it was too dark to see anything.
He continued to stare, face pressed against the glass to cut the glare from the interior lights. He heard Jack fumbling with something and soon the hiss and crackle of a fire pulled Daniel away from the cool glass, gravitating towards its heat.
Evander's home had had fireplaces in every room. As the fire caught and burned brightly, Daniel relaxed slightly. Jack fed it slowly until it was well caught.
He was home.
"Want to sit?"
When Daniel shook his head, Jack placed his hands on Daniel's shoulders and eased the jacket from him. He slid it down Daniel's arms and tossed it onto the couch. Daniel could now feel the heat from the fire and he moved still closer to it.
Jack turned the lights down and came to stand beside Daniel, brushing against him. Daniel turned to look into Jack's eyes and Jack moved in closer, touching his lips to Daniel's.
His dick jumped at the contact and suddenly Daniel couldn't get enough of Jack. Six months of celibacy, six months without any sexual urges suddenly culminated into want and need and Daniel began kissing Jack as if he were drowning and Jack the only source of oxygen around.
He felt Jack reach down and unzip his pants. The soft material slid down his hips as Daniel thrust against Jack's hand, his dick hard and aching, and he needed to come now.
Unable to form words, Daniel moaned pleadingly. Jack pulled down Daniel's boxers as Daniel reached for Jack's still-zippered pants. But when Jack touched him, Daniel's mind lost all coherence and he gasped, his whole focus on his need, his dick, his wants.
Then Jack was pumping him and Daniel was coming. And as the world greyed out, he felt his knees buckle. Jack's voice swearing from far away contrasted with the cold wooden floor against his bare hip and outer thigh.
An eternity later, Daniel opened his eyes. He was tucked against Jack's chest, held closely by arms curved loosely around his back. He stretched, aware as he did so that he'd been lying on the floor long enough for his body to have warmed the area he'd lain on.
Self-conscious about what had just happened - God, had he really come that fast with so little prompting? – Daniel moved away from Jack.
Daniel nodded, preoccupied with both pants and underwear which were caught awkwardly around his legs and ankles. Unable to do anything but scramble onto hands and knees, he pushed himself onto his feet and pulled his pants up hurriedly. "Gonna take a shower," he mumbled as he rushed out of the room.
Jack didn't follow although Daniel heard him feeding more wood onto the fire. He turned the shower on, kicked his shoes off and threw his clothes into the corner of the bathroom. As he stepped under the hot stream, he realized how much he'd missed this luxury. Evander had had a large communal bathing room but it was always occupied and there were always women sitting around giggling whenever he'd come to wash.
He closed his eyes and allowed the water to cascade down his face, pounding the top of his skull. Slowly he moved his body around, the jets gradually easing sore and stiff joints and muscles.
"You alright in there?" Jack's voice plus the sound of his knuckles rapping on the closed wooden door startled Daniel. He hadn't realized he'd spent such a long time under the hot water, but he realized that the water's temperature was beginning to cool.
"I'm fine. Just getting ready to get out," he called over the sound of the water.
He grabbed soap and shampoo and quickly scrubbed. As he stepped out into the steam-fogged bathroom, he wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the door an inch to allow some of the steam to escape.
An added benefit to the shower was that when he blew his nose, he was able to smell for the first time in days. Quickly he toweled off and padded into Jack's bedroom.
The bed was turned down and Jack had placed, on Daniel's side of the bed, a pair of sweats and a tee shirt that Daniel had often worn on previous stays. He dressed and returned to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He threw the damp towel on top of his clothes, then realized there were no servants to pick up after him.
He straightened his clutter while brushing his teeth, then stared at his reflection in the mirror. His hair was a mess, soaked, straggly and dripping onto the collar of his tee shirt.
Suddenly he was ashamed of the length. It looked like he'd been trying to regain his youth, be someone he wasn't anymore. He decided then and there he'd get it cut to its former length the moment he got the chance.
Jack had no hair dryer so he'd have to dry his hair the way he'd done it for the past six months. He grabbed a clean, dry towel and with a longing look at the bed, he went to the living room to sit before the fire. As he did at Evander's home, he'd allow the heat to quickly dry his hair.
With a somewhat embarrassed look in Jack's direction, Daniel ignored the hand patting the couch in invitation to join him and instead went to sit in the large padded chair close to the fire. He began to towel dry his hair and he closed his eyes as he enjoyed the fire's warmth.
"Wanna let me do that?"
Jack had come up behind him and Daniel hadn't even heard him. Jack placed a tentative hand over Daniel's, which was holding the towel to his head. He let go of the towel, let his head drop forward, and allowed Jack to massage scalp and hair as he slowly worked the material across the wet strands.
Evander had often done this for Daniel, as had many of the servants. It had always been a teasing affair, a job done in an amicable way. But this was different; an intimacy between two persons that, like sex, Daniel hadn't realized how much he'd missed until this moment.
But the feelings of tenderness were overlaid by his worry over his former Master. He felt guilty because here he was, warm, content, comfortable and clean, and Evander might be badly injured, in pain, ill and hiding out from their enemy. All too soon Daniel couldn't stand Jack's caresses and he stood. He took the damp towel from Jack's unresisting hands and mumbled that he was tired and was heading for bed.
He lay on his side, his back to the door. He was too tense to sleep, unable to stop thinking about Evander's fate. He hated that he kept comparing what he had to what he'd lost. He'd been forcibly taken from Jack and his home, that much he understood. But there was a part of him that missed the time he'd spent with Evander.
Daniel could hear the television droning in the other room and he wondered if part of the reason he felt so... disoriented here was because he'd left the other world suddenly, amidst much violence and confusion. Maybe if he'd had the chance to say goodbye to his friends and Master, if the town hadn't been attacked, he wouldn't feel like he was being pulled in two directions at once.
Mulling the idea over in his head, Daniel hadn't realized he'd dozed off until Jack joined him in bed. He held himself stiffly, wondering if Jack was going to make any more advances towards him. But Jack simply lay on his side of the bed, turning restlessly for several minutes until he began snoring softly.
Again Daniel was torn. He'd wanted Jack to at least make an overt attempt to cuddle and he felt a little hurt because Jack hadn't even tried.
Miserable and heavy-hearted, Daniel wondered why he was so unhappy now that he was back with his family.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He woke up alone in bed, turned and glanced at the clock and was shocked to see it was almost 11 am. Scratching his chest, Daniel sat up and headed for the bathroom.
A few minutes later, the smell of coffee lured him into the kitchen. Still half asleep, he grabbed a mug from the cupboard and headed for the coffee machine. To his surprise, on the counter beside the half-full pot of coffee was a half-opened yellow rose, sitting in a vase.
Jack had obviously run to a florist before heading for the base.
Smiling, Daniel picked the flower up and held it to his nose.
The bloom's perfume was exactly as he'd imagined it after all these months. He took several deep whiffs, then hurriedly put the vase down when he sneezed in succession.
Wiping his tearing eyes with the back of his hand, Daniel noticed a folded sheet of paper that the vase had been sitting on. He opened it and recognized the various sketches he'd made of the elusive memory of that particular flower.
Despite the threatening itch in his nose, Daniel took a last sniff of the rose before pouring himself that coffee.
"Morning. You want some breakfast?"
Daniel whirled around in surprise, hissing when the coffee spilled onto his fingers. Jack was standing in the kitchen's entrance dressed in an old pair of black jeans and a sweat shirt. Daniel glanced at the clock, wondering if he'd misread the time earlier in the bedroom. Nope, it still told him that most of the morning had been spent sleeping.
"Didn't you have to go work today?"
Jack handed Daniel a teatowel and he used it to dry his fingers, then the bottom of the mug.
"Well, yeah, but I called Hammond and told him I'd be in tomorrow."
"Why? I'm perfectly capable of—"
"I know. But I was a little worried about your reaction last night. I thought you'd be more comfortable not being alone, at least for today."
Sipping the hot brew, Daniel looked at Jack over the rim of the mug. "Last night was just a bit of culture shock. I'm fine."
Jack grinned. "Good, then you won't mind mixing the batter for pancakes while I start on the bacon."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Being in Fraiser's office felt like a betrayal but his back was against the wall. On paper, and based on all of the doc's tests, there really wasn't any medical reason Daniel *wasn't* fit for a mission. But he wasn't, and for the life of him Jack was unable to put his finger on one specific reason to tether him to Earth.
Jack stood at the sound of his name, then waited until Fraiser sat before he retook his chair.
"You wanted to see me?"
His smile was tight. "There's a problem."
"I don't mean to pry, sir, but if the problem is with Daniel, shouldn't he be here himself?"
Jack rubbed his sweaty palms along his fatigue pants. "It's not exactly like that..."
"Is there a problem with his work?"
"No!" Jack shook his head. "Not his work."
"It's not his work, his reports, or his ability to do his job."
Jack crossed and uncrossed his legs, watching their movement rather than Fraiser.
"This was your idea, Colonel. You came to see me. I can't fill in the blanks."
"He's not himself."
"Would you care to elaborate?"
"I wish I could."
"Start with something. Anything."
It wasn't the nightmares; Fraiser was well aware that SGC personnel have experienced enough shit that if we *didn't* have nightmares, she would be suspicious. So it wasn't the dreams, it was the look in Daniel's eyes when he woke up. That bewildered gaze Jack received even hours after the nightmare should have receded. Confusion. Speculation. Unsure of whom or where he was.
"There're memory lapses."
Fraiser tapped a pencil against the pile of papers in front of her. "He forgets things?" She dropped the pencil and flipped open a file. "The MRI doesn't indicate any—"
"Well, it's not all the time. Mostly after a nightmare." Jack was embarrassed. It sounded extremely petty and he grimaced. "The nightmares are getting worse. So he sleeps less."
"The sleeping pills?"
"Come on, 'doc, you know Daniel and pills."
Now it was Fraiser's turn to be embarrassed. "I know, but I can always hope."
"And then there's the thing with his hair."
"Hair?" Embarrassment rolled over into intrigue.
"He won't cut it."
"Well, he always says he will. Promises to do it the next day, and the day after that, and after that..." Jack tugged at imaginary hair. "And so far, nothing."
Fraiser leaned forward. "Why don't you come out and *tell* me what you're trying to say. It'll be easier and much less painful that way."
Less painful for who? Jack still felt guilty. "I'm not too sure Daniel believes *any* of this is real." Jack sat back with a sigh and dropped his feet on the cement floor, his boots making a loud thwack. "In the beginning it was good. He was good. But now? Sheesh."
"Would you be surprised, sir, if I told you General Hammond and I discussed this already."
"You did?" Jack wasn't surprised. Relieved would have been a better word. Relieved it wasn't only him who was noticing the obviously, not so subtle hitches in Daniel's personality. "What did you discuss?"
"Maybe we were wrong. Maybe having Daniel return, recover and jump right back into work wasn't the right course of action in this case." She smiled at Jack. "Do you believe there's any possibility of convincing Daniel to take a vacation?"
"Only if need be," she sighed, picking up the pencil again. "I'd rather it be of his own volition. Enforced sounds like such a *bad* word."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This was supposed to be a relaxing week away. That's how he had planned it, that's what Hammond and Fraiser agreed to. So far he'd had to drag a very vocal, protesting Daniel from his office, take him home to pack, which should have been done days ago and stop off for an unplanned meal when Daniel's stomach grumbled loud enough for Jack to hear. Dreary skies had given away to a steady downpour, and now the icing on the cake was heavier than normal traffic.
About twenty miles back Jack realized he was doing all the talking. Daniel was answering with shrugs and grunts, but nothing more than that, not even making a comment on the horrific accident which had caused all the traffic. To elicit any type of response, Jack had gone so far as to stick in a CD of music he knew Daniel hated, and still he was met with silence. The book he'd removed from his satchel sat unopened on his lap, like the untouched burger and fries in the paper bag by his feet.
The rain had stopped and the world had the look of being freshly washed and full of hope. The sun was setting and as Jack went to comment, he gave a half smile at the contemplative look on Daniel's face as he stared at the window and the passing tree line.
He dropped his hand on Daniel's knee and squeezed. "Watcha doing? Dreamin' of Minnesota?"
There was no warning as Daniel began to gag, his body rocking with dry heaves, his left hand clamped over his mouth while he fumbled blindly for the door handle with his right.
"Shit. Give me a minute," Jack pleaded, then checked his rear view mirror for a break in the traffic. The Avalanche manoeuvred around cars, horns blaring as he swerved across two lanes and onto the shoulder.
Daniel battled the seatbelt, won, then flung open the door even before Jack had the truck firmly in park, stumbling out the door and disappearing from Jack's view.
This was so not the way to start their vacation but since every cloud has a silver lining, Jack was thankful that he hadn't pushed Daniel into eating the burger and fries. He waited until five cars passed, giving Daniel some semblance of privacy before he went all mother henny on him. He grabbed the bottle of water, stepped out of the truck and rounded the front.
Hands on his knees, his back up against the truck, Daniel was leaning forward, spitting bile into the wet grass. He waited before intervening, then stepped up to Daniel, grabbed his shoulder, and squeezed before shoving the bottle of water under his nose. "Feeling better?"
Daniel averted his face from the water and slid to the ground, dropping his head upon his raised knees and covering it with his arms.
"Daniel?" Jack was just about to bend down to his level when Daniel raised his pointer finger. "One minute, want me to give you a minute." Jack swung the water bottle by the neck, tapping it against the truck. "I can do that."
True to his word, a minute later Daniel drew a deep breath, then stood. "Drink." Jack grabbed Daniel's right hand and wrapped it around the bottle.
White faced, shaking, using the side of the truck to help him stand, Daniel made it to the door before taking a gulp of water, swished it around in his mouth, and Jack stepped back, unaware until that moment how close he had been standing, and gave Daniel space to spit the water onto the grass.
"Now, take a drink," he ordered, grasping Daniel's shoulder.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack drove past two more exits, made his decision when he passed the second and pulled off on the third. The fact that Daniel didn't even comment when he exited the highway proved Jack's theory.
There was finally a question thrown his way when Jack pulled into the parking lot of the motel. "Are we sleeping here?"
"We're stopping here, if you want to sleep, we can sleep, shower—we can do whatever you need to."
Jack patted his knee. "Think about it, I'm gonna go get us a room."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack manoeuvred the truck into the slot outside the motel room door, put it in park, then checked his watch. "Here ya go, room 78B is our humble abode until oh nine hundred hours."
Daniel blinked as Jack switched on the light in the room, his hand automatically coming up to massage the right side of his face, a habit left over from his time with Evy.
"Are you okay?"
Daniel looked surprised, as if he had forgotten Jack was even in the room with him.
"Shower… think I'm going to shower."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Shower was fine. The fact that Daniel exited out of the steaming bathroom forty minutes after he went in, skin pink, shriveled and rubbed hurtfully clean, plus he smelled like there would be no soap left for Jack to wash with, was also okay. Hell, he wasn't even going to comment over the fact that Daniel ate the piece of cake before the food that Jack had brought from the little coffee shop attached to the registration office. Jack even kept his mouth shut when Daniel drank not only *his* coffee but Jack's as well. He smiled painfully at the sitcom Daniel found on the TV in the room and watched with him for thirty minutes. Jack chewed on his bottom lip, refusing to comment on Daniel's right hand that seemed to have grown quite attached to the area by his ear, rubbing and massaging. Who was he to say anything when at eighteen thirty hours, Daniel turned off the TV, the lights in the room and went to bed, leaving Jack in the dark.
Jack sat on the chair, listening to the bed springs squeak under Daniel's weight. It was figuratively killing Jack, but he decided Daniel was going to lead this dance, letting him know when he was ready to talk. But based on today, he bet he'd be sporting an ulcer before Daniel would even broach the subject.
He hid in the dark and, strangely enough, even though it was still early he could feel himself relax towards sleep. Jack slapped his palms against the arms of the chair and stood. No way did he want to snooze in some uncomfortable, cushioned swivel chair while Daniel was stretched out on a king sized bed all by his lonesome.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The bed and blanket were surprisingly comfortable after his experience with the stiff, coarse towels in the bathroom. Jack stretched appreciatively and allowed the muscles in his back and knees to unknot and truly appreciate this horizontal position after driving for hours.
"Hey." The squeaking springs once again gave up Daniel's movement as he sidled over to Jack's side of the bed.
He inched his ass over, meeting Daniel in the middle of the bed. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Lame, Jack." Daniel sighed, rubbing Jack's slightly damp tee shirt.
"I thought it was pretty original," he whined, feigning hurt in the darkness.
Daniel plucked the tee shirt away from Jack's stomach. "Towels leave a lot to be desired, hmmm?"
"Brilliant deduction, Dr. Jackson."
The few heartbeats of comfortable silence that Jack was enjoying immensely was broken when Daniel abruptly cleared his throat and shifted away. In the darkness, Jack could barely discern the outline of Daniel's hand as he massaged his head. "Do you want a Tylenol?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Okay, just don't say I didn't offer." Jack reached under the covers, located Daniel's leg and dropped his hand next to the warm thigh muscle.
Daniel sighed, his body tensing, and Jack was about to pull his hand back to give him the space he obviously desired when Daniel blurted out, without even drawing a breath, "I don't want to go to the cabin."
Jack paused and almost asked him to repeat what he just said, because even though Daniel was a linguist, he rarely, if ever, *asked* for anything. Extra time on a planet, requesting Jack to see his point of view, those were a given, hell, those were loud arguments, but they were work-related, the state of mind where Daniel felt the most secure and comfortable.
But in the parameters of their relationship, whether it was physical or romantic, actions always communicated for Daniel. A guiding hand, a hungry kiss, a seductive smile, a roll of the eyes, Jack read those signals perfectly. Except these were words and Jack felt clueless and stupid. "Sure, we don't have to go. It's not like we're going to lose our deposit or anything."
There was a smile of relief behind Daniel's small chuff of air, even without the aid of lighting, Jack knew it was there. And although he didn't understand the meaning behind Daniel's words, he understood he had to do what needed to be done in this situation, no matter how confusing it was to him.
He felt tentative fingers wrap themselves around the hand still resting against Daniel's leg and now it was his turn to smile.
"No problem." Jack welcomed Daniel as he moved into his arms, his head burrowing and nuzzling his neck. These weren't overt sexual actions, these were quiet 'thank you for understanding' movements, and Jack answered with a kiss to the top of Daniel's head, his fingers carding though Daniel's hair as they betrayed him by enjoying the one thing he privately thanked Evander for - Daniel's longer hair.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Empty arms, an empty bed and thanks to the large bag of chips, an overpowering feeling of thirst, woke Jack up. He satisfied one problem with a drink of tepid bottle water and he stumbled towards the bathroom light to find the reason for empty arms.
"It's gone, Daniel," Jack explained softly as he found Daniel under the harsh bathroom lights, bending his body like a contortionist as he tried to peer into the mirror.
"I know that." Caught in the act, he dropped his hands, embarrassed.
Palm side up, Jack pushed his hand towards Daniel, confused. "Then what? Headaches?"
The nape of Daniel's neck was an easy target and Jack attempted to offer the tight muscles a supportive squeeze when Daniel tried to shoulder past him in his haste to get out of the bathroom. "Don't touch me there!" Daniel ordered, trying to become one with wall opposite the bathroom.
Jack raised both of his hands in surrender. "Okay. Not touching."
Rattled by his own outburst, Daniel dropped his eyes, ten bare toes wiggling in shag carpeting infinitely more interesting than meeting Jack's eyes.
"It's gone. Remember Carter and Jacob examining it?"
The answering nod was slow and measured. "Jacob said it was a bastardized Tok'ra memory device. I remember. I remember Jacob telling me from what I had told him about Evander's world, they never could have done this on their own. That someone did this—"
"For Evander. For a fee. A day's rations maybe?" Bingo. Jack's caustic remark at least drew Daniel's attention away from his toes.
"Hey," Jack shrugged, "at least now you're looking at me and not at the carpeting." He waved his finger downward. "Or your toes."
Daniel curled his toes inward. "I know the device is gone." He touched the area behind his ear, then dropped his hand self consciously. "I saw it on Sam's worktable. I heard Jacob's explanation—then why can I remember what happened? Remember it so well and with such clarity." Daniel closed his eyes, then leaned his head against the wall. "I'm beginning to wonder if those memories are the reality and *this*," Jack jumped when Daniel's fists pounded the wall, "is all a figment of my imagination. A place I escaped to because my mind wouldn't, or couldn't, comprehend what I was forced to do."
Jack silently cursed as the floorboards squeaked under his feet, alerting Daniel to his approach. The face that challenged him was neither warm nor welcoming, but hard and wary, forcing Jack to stop in his tracks.
"What were you forced to do?"
Wide eyed, Daniel stared at Jack, his face screwed up as if Jack had asked the stupidest question in the world. Daniel sniffed and scrunching up his nose, rubbed it with the palm of his right hand, then sniffed again.
Jack mirrored the action, sniffing the air and smelling just motel odors.
"The smell was the worst." Daniel cupped his hand over his nose.
"You're in a hotel room. There's no smell here, I mean there are smells, but..."
He pushed off the wall towards the bed and Jack followed, leaving the bathroom light on.
Daniel shuffled to the end of the bed and sat. Jack sat at the edge as well, his bare left foot sliding up and down Daniel's bare foot and instep. "There's no smell in this room," he whispered.
"Not here, Jack," Daniel explained in a voice usually saved for power point presentations in the briefing room. He thumped his temple. "Here. The smell is *here*. The voices, the visuals—all here."
"Daniel." Jack tried to drag Daniel's hand down, the resistance tougher than he imagined, but eventually succeeding.
"Stop it." Daniel jumped up, flung Jack's hand back at him, then began to pace. "Don't appease me—don't pity me!" he ordered. "I'm not crazy."
Jack stuck out his leg and stopped Daniel mid pace. "I don't think you're crazy. Your mind has been—"
"Not my mind." Daniel shook his head. "I have *actual* memories, experiences that *I* lived through. People died."
"I'm not dead."
"Pfft, that's what you say." Daniel untangled himself from Jack's leg and stepped back, out of reach. "But *this* may be not be real, I may still be..."
Too many words were leading into dangerous waters, and there wasn't an oar in sight to keep him afloat, so in two strides Jack had Daniel's face cupped in his hands and pulled him in for a kiss. He held back, allowing his partner to lead the way if he so wanted. The contact increased every so slightly in intensity and the face he held in his hands perceptibly relaxed.
When Daniel broke the kiss, Jack slid his right thumb to the left to gently swipe across Daniel's lips, ignoring both the tears hovering in the corners of Daniel's eyes and the not so nonchalant way he blinked them gone.
"You never kissed me. In *those* memories you neither kissed me nor touched me—until the end, I kissed you."
Jack huffed." Obviously *fake* memories because, admit it, when do I ever keep my hands off you?"
In awe, Daniel reiterated. "You barely touched me and when you did it was—"
"As friends—nothing more. Not bad, just—"
"Different?" Jack reiterated with a quick peck to Daniel's parted lips.
"Okay, if you insist, different. But it was more than that."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
His head rested on Daniel's chest and he knew by the shallowness of his breathing that Daniel had yet to fall asleep. Jack was too comfortable and he didn't want to give Daniel the impression that he was clock watching by moving and checking his watch. Where were they going anyway? No hurry to be anywhere now. Maybe that was a good thing. Not a great thing—a great thing would have been relaxing at the cabin, but hey, if nothing else, his life at the SGC had taught him one thing—go with the flow. So if Daniel didn't want to go with Minnesota and not share why the hell not, that was okay with him.
"There were eleven of us."
"Eleven?" Jack purred as Daniel's hand rubbed his lower back.
"In a room." Daniel snorted. "Not a room, really; it was a prison that had no visible entrance or exit. SG-11, SG-1 and three recruits."
"Oh, that room, *those* memories."
"Dr. Gintz was missing when we first awoke." The explanation was flat but his hands on Jack's back ebbed and flowed with emotion.
"Awoke?" Jack felt the pinch of Daniel's nails, even through the tee shirt.
"Drugged. Something in the air. Sweet smelling."
"*That's* the smell you were talking about?"
"Smell?" Daniel smoothed and petted the area he had just grabbed. "Not *that* smell, the gas smell was like sweet air, the one I was referring to was more in the line of nauseating."
"Okay." Jack was confused, but he figured eventually Daniel would get to where he was making sense, just that it wasn't now.
"Every time we woke up, whoever had been taken while we were unconscious would be returned and someone else would be abducted in their wake. Each one tortured horrifically, dying painful deaths. We couldn't do anything except sit with them and lie. Tell them no one gets left behind and that the SGC was searching for us. I wanted to believe that. You *taught* me that. And it wasn't until it was only me, you, Sam and Teal'c in a room full of dead bodies and that smell, that I knew it was all a lie."
Daniel's warm hand slipped under his tee shirt, his fingertips drawing unreadable markings on his skin. "False memories," Jack supplied.
"Not to me." Daniel sniffed, then sniffed again, his congestion caused by emotions rather than allergens. "And then there were two."
"Me and you?"
Daniel's nodding head rubbed against Jack's hair. "No one but us. And you made me promise, like you promised Sam and Teal'c, to kill you—"
"Break your neck—took pride in reminding me that you yourself had trained me—"
"*I* killed Teal'c and Carter?"
"I guess killed is the right word. Euthanasia—put them out of their misery, whatever you want to call it—Teal'c begged you. Told you he didn't want to die pleading for his life, asked you to help him die with dignity."
"You did just as he wanted. He *and* Sam."
Jack reached up and kissed Daniel, not commenting about the salty taste of tears. "What about you?" He didn't really want to know the answer. "Did I—?"
"No, Jack, I killed you."
"I followed orders."
Jack burrowed into Daniel, hugging him tightly. "I never would have asked you *that*."
"In our business, Jack, you should know never to say never."
"What happened to you?"
"I made you close your eyes, I kissed you, I told you to dream—" Daniel paused, his breath hitched. "I did what you asked."
"I got left behind." Daniel rested his cheek against Jack's head and sighed. "My torture was remaining alive."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel shifted under Jack's weight. Still not asleep, even though the room was brightening with the coming dawn. "I know what you're thinking, Jack."
"Don't make excuses for the bastard, Daniel."
"He never hurt me."
Jack lifted his body off of Daniel and peered into his face. "Never *hurt* you? He abducted you—"
"He didn't kidnap me."
"Okay, Evandar didn't kidnap you, he *paid* people to kidnap you, torture you with false memories, and then dragged you to his planet and made you his slave. That's not hurting you? Sure as hell sounds like *hurt* to me." With a hrumpf, Jack lowered himself back to his former position.
"I need to see if he's alive. To explain—"
Jack lifted himself up again. "Explain what? I think *he's* the one who has some 'splaining to do."
"It was six months of *my* life, longer than I spent in some foster homes—"
"It was six months of *my* life, unsure if you were dead or alive. I couldn't give a rat's ass if the man's dead and buried."
Daniel's smile was hesitant as he reached up to stroke Jack's face. "I told you before I... I told you to dream of Minnesota."
"Aww, Jesus, Daniel."
"Those memories were based on feelings of faith and trust. Emotions in *me*. You trusted me in that reality, now I need *you* to trust me, here, where it matters. I need to go back—so I can go to Minnesota with you."
"Backwards to go forwards, huh?" Jack's kiss forced Daniel's teeth to release his lower lip. "I can't make any promises." Another kiss to the reddened area left behind by the torturous teeth. "But I'll try."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Are you asking me to fudge a reason for you and Dr. Jackson, hell, all of SG-1, to take the Tel'tak back to the planet that…?"
"I know, sir." Jack tried a little wobble of his head and an apologetic smile as he stood at parade rest in front of the general's desk. "It sounds very—"
"Much like a lie, *Colonel*?"
Jack grimaced at the emphasis on his rank. "I was going for stretching the truth a bit, sir."
"Even rubber bands snap eventually, Jack. Washington is going to—"
"That's why Daniel's depending on you, General."
The general's eyebrows climbed up his forehead. "Daniel's depending on me?"
"Well, sorta, six degrees of separation thing, sir. Daniel's depending on me and I'm depending on you."
"I get the picture." Hammond rocked back and forth in his chair, his tented fingers resting on his belly. "Explain to me again about the power source on the ship you found on Lord Evander's planet resembling the power source that SG-10 brought back from that other planet."
It had been a fluke that Daniel had wandered into Carter's lab while she had been futilely attempting to get that power source up and running. Daniel had made a comment that it looked vaguely familiar and, when he realized *where* he had seen it before, Jack knew that little scrap of information was going to be Daniel's "E" ticket for the Tel'tak ride back.
Hammond dropped his hands, slapping them palm-side down on the desk. "Major Carter beat you here by a good thirty minutes, Jack, pleading the same case. A little more eloquently, I might add."
"With pictures, sir?"
"Power point presentation."
"Wow, she's good."
"You have a go on this mission, under one condition. You are to check out the area first. No contact whatsoever until you are able to ascertain the safety of Lord Evander's manor and surrounding area. If you remember, when you left, they seemed to be in the throes of a civil war. You *do* remember, don't you?"
"Quite well, sir." Losing a team member can do that.
"Good, just making sure. The mission will be aborted if you notice anything amiss or if something *seems* wrong. You are *not* to step into a volatile situation, no matter *how* much Major Carter wants the power device or Dr. Jackson feels the need to say goodbye."
"Ignore their begging, got it."
"This is no laughing matter. If something happens, we will assume the worst and there will be *no* S and R, do you understand that? You and your team will get left behind, am I making myself clear?"
"Jack, one thing before you're dismissed."
"Please try and curb Major Carter's dependence on power point presentations. Reports in folders work just as well."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack gave a check to the area of space they were passing through, a 'good job driving' pat on Teal'c's shoulder, and swiveled around in response to the light tap on his arm.
"Sir?" Is he sleeping?"
He rolled his eyes. Daniel, the man who had kept him up the majority of the night trying to deal quietly with his nervous excitement, was fast asleep, less than two hours away from Evander's planet. "Yup," he agreed. "At least it's better than him asking every five minutes 'are we there yet'?"
"I do not remember DanielJackson asking that specific question."
"Come on, T, Ry'ac never bugged you when you and he were going on…?" Jack paused. "Never mind."
"Should I let him sleep?"
"Sure, why not," Jack shrugged. "Though if he starts snoring, wake him. Hey, T, are we there yet?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It had been the antihistamines that had lulled Daniel into sleep aboard the Tel'tak. Janet certainly wasn't taking any chances. Based on the precautionary injections and the supply of antihistamines she had forced him to stuff into every available pocket and space of his backpack and BDU's, he wouldn't be sneezing for the next twenty years or so, but he was annoyed at how sluggish and lethargic he felt. He fought to stifle another yawn in the crook of his elbow.
"Are you unwell, DanielJackson?"
"I'm fine, Teal'c," he answered around another yawn.
"Though we do not think so, you considered this place your home for many months, did you not?" Teal'c was matching his pace to Daniel, yet the two of them were far enough behind Sam that their conversation would seem just idle chatter to her.
Fondly, Daniel visualized those carefree days, a library at his fingertips and no one at his back saying 'time's up'. "Yes, it was—home."
"Is the Tau'ri saying 'you cannot go home again' applicable in this situation?"
Daniel couldn't help but chuckle. "With regards to *me*, Teal'c, I don't believe that saying is applicable at all."
Teal'c smiled, then inclined his head towards Daniel, never missing a step. "You are correct."
"If you're asking me if I'm going to stay here, the answer is no. If you're asking me if I was happy *when* I was here, the answer is yes."
"But were you not a slave?"
Daniel rubbed the space by his ear, not feeling the puckered skin beneath his fingertips. "I was never treated as one. I don’t believe Lord Evander treated any of his slaves as—" He shook his head. "Slavery is wrong, doesn't make a difference if you realize you're a slave or not. Humans are not property."
"I am glad you remember that, DanielJackson."
Daniel kicked a pebble. "I always knew that. It was Danil…"
"Are you not the same person?"
Daniel kicked another pebble, harder this time, and cringed as it fell short of hitting Jack. "No, we're not the same person. Six months ago when I was here, Daniel Jackson didn't exist."
"Maybe for you he did not, but he was sorely missed by SG-1."
Daniel felt guilty for a situation that he'd had no control over. A wave of shame washed over him for not realizing that the past six months had been hell on the people he had left behind.
And now back on the planet, he felt guilty for having left Evander behind, not knowing what had become of him and the people whom Danil had grown close to over the months he'd been on this planet. He was extremely confused and more than slightly conflicted, neither emotion sitting well.
Daniel sighed deeply and this time the rock he kicked found its mark and Jack turned. "For god's sake, Daniel." He pointed to the area in front of him. "Do you want to take point so *I* can take pot shots at you."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The village and the manor would be in their line of vision in about forty paces. Their drive-by with the Tel'tak had revealed only calmness, with people going about their business without any hint of unrest. Whatever had taken place weeks before had ended as swiftly as it had begun.
Daniel hung back. Who had thought coming back here had been a good idea? It certainly couldn't have been him, not the way he felt at the moment. He reached up to massage his temple only to have his hand enveloped in Teal'c's grasp. "All will be well, DanielJackson."
"You don't know that." His retort was biting and more than a little mean.
"No. While it is true I do not know what fate Lord Evander has met with, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be returning home with SG-1 when we leave this world."
Daniel was ready to refute Teal'c's statement until he saw his eyes, then he understood, and he nodded in agreement. "Let's go bring Danil home."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Closer, it was obvious that there had been a skirmish. Pieces of building were damaged, gardens trampled, but for the most part the people seemed to have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and continued on with life.
Their progress was slower than Jack would have liked as the townspeople first stopped and stared at Daniel, more than a few coming up to him to exchange pleasantries. As they reached out to Daniel, Jack couldn't help but be reminded of the Abydonians' acceptance of the scholar.
SG-1 had basically been ignored, jostled out of the way and much to Jack's chagrin and amazement, Daniel's original embarrassment fell away as the crowds grew and the conversations became lengthier. He snarled at Carter, ordering her to go do the dirty work and light a fire under their archaeologist.
She reluctantly moved into the crowd and tried to catch Daniel's attention.
Daniel stumbled backwards into Jack as the healer threw himself into Daniel's arms. "Lord Evander will be overjoyed to see you." He tugged at Daniel. "You must come with me to the manor. Our lord has been—"
"Lord Evander is okay?" Daniel grabbed Janilisse by the forearms and pushed the man away from him. "Did you hear that, guys? Lord Evander is okay!" Daniel's gaze swept over SG-1 and Jack answered with a stiff nod and a tight smile because he saw the hesitation in the healer's answer and tentative smile, even if Daniel didn't. Teal'c and Carter exchanged glances with him. Obviously, only Daniel was oblivious.
"Can I—we see him?" The tumble of Daniel's words stopped. Daniel finally got a clue when Janilisse averted his face. "Doesn't he want to see me?"
"Come," Janilisse said, tugging on the front of Daniel's shirt. "All of you, come with me, so you can see *how* happy Lord Evander will be to see you."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The news of Daniel's arrival reached the manor home even before they stepped foot through the large door, and the place was already bustling as SG-1 was shown the main dining hall.
Daniel asked the question before Jack could when he noticed the dais was empty. "Where is—"
"Follow me." Janilisse waved SG-1 forward towards the door off the hall, smiling as Daniel sniffed the air when a servant carrying a tray of food passed them. "Do not worry, Danil, I will have a tray of your favorite foods sent to Lord Evander's room."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel was pacing the anteroom of Evy's chambers, discreetly glancing over his shoulder at the closed door while Teal'c and Carter graciously ignored his anxiety. Jack, on the other hand, wasn't feeling as civil.
"Hey, we surprised him, Daniel." Jack clamped a hand on Daniels' shoulder to stop the anxious movement. "That's all. Caught him in his jammies, if you will."
"I believe O'Neill means that because we arrived unannounced, Lord Evander was caught unprepared."
"Yup, that's what I said."
Janilisse entered the room, closing Lord Evander's door behind him. Daniel approached him with SG-1 two steps behind, leaning forward and making no attempt to hide their eavesdropping. Unfortunately, the healer and Daniel were conversing in Janilisse's native language.
"Lord Evander wants to talk to you first, Jack."
"Me?" Jack pointed to his chest, confused. "Are you sure?"
Daniel threw up his hands. "Yes, *I'm* sure."
Janilisse slid to the side, probably grateful to busy himself with the trays of food and drink brought into the room.
"I don't know why you." Daniel's tone was churlish and he pointed to the bedchamber door. "You first," he prodded. "Then me."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jack's anger was close to bubbling over as he entered the room, slamming the door behind him. Damn Evy for manipulating Daniel even now, weeks and one device-since-removed later.
"You know, Your Highness, what the hell is—oh." Lord Evander stood before Jack, leaning heavily on a cane, his face contorted with pain, his shoulders slumped forward, his gaunt features testament to how he'd spent the last weeks.
Jack had to give the man credit, for as much pain as he was in, the voice remained the same. Powerful, commanding, tinged with arrogance. "You have brought Danil back to me."
"They are injuries." He drew a short, shallow breath. "I will recover."
"You always were a lousy liar, Lord Evander."
Evy gave a one-shouldered shrug. "I keep the truth close to my heart. There are not many I choose to share it with. Believe what you will." He hobbled over to a large, cushioned chair. "Do you mind?"
"Of course not." Jack watched as Evy cautiously lowered his body into the chair, holding back any offer of help, knowing the man was too proud to accept it. "We can bring you back with us to our world, allow our medical facilities—"
"No," Evander replied emphatically. "My fate is here. The remainder of my life will be spent where it began."
"Who's going to…?" Jack's arm movements encompassed the room
"My son is coming to visit for awhile. While this place had been his home as well, he was more of a…" Evander's gaze wandered upward and he pursed his lips together in thought. "A free spirit." He poured himself a drink from the pitcher on the table, his hand trembling slightly. "Tomlan has decided now would be a good time to visit his father."
"Yes, now would be a good time," Jack agreed, focusing on the cane resting against the table.
"Sit," Evander ordered, gesturing towards the chair opposite him.
Evy waited until Jack was seated before continuing. "The uprising from the neighboring village was quelled by the next day. Their own people sought them, killing them, declaring them fanatics. But what was done, was done. The young man from your team, the one who was killed, has been buried with the other heroes of the day on the hilltop overlooking the village. I can have someone bring you to his grave if you so wish?"
"Thank you. For honoring him and yes, I would like to see his resting place."
"I will arrange it." He smiled at Jack. "You have arrived at my planet with an ulterior motive. As much as Danil wishes to see me, I am sure that in itself would not have been enough to force your hand into making the trip."
"The ship. The one that you used to get Da—"
"You desire the ship that sits in the back shed? Of what use is it to you?"
"Not the ship itself. We're kinda more interested in the power source that enables the ship to function."
"But without the power source you speak of, the ship is worthless, is it not?"
"That's true," Jack conceded.
"It is yours," Evander agreed suddenly with a flip of his hand. "I no longer have any use for it. Nor do I want it. There are too many worlds out there filled with evilness, too many temptations. And my son has done nothing to deserve such a legacy."
"The beings that implanted the device into—"
"We will not speak of that," Evander warned, surprising Jack by pounding the table with enough strength that the pitcher and glass danced. "My words are for Danil only, not for your ears." Evander gazed at his hand, embarrassed. "I apologize for my anger. It is self-directed and not meant for you, but it is a subject I would rather discuss with Danil."
Evander eased himself out of the chair, grabbed the cane, then hobbled towards the bed, dropping down on the oversized mattress with a groan. Jack hurried over to assist him.
"The healer? Do you need me to get Jani?"
Evander chortled and shook his head at Jack's botched name. "That will not be necessary, though I would appreciate a helping hand to…"
Jack adjusted the blanket and pillows around Evander as he made himself comfortable.
"Danil will not notice my weakness from here." Evander surreptitiously blotted the sweat from his efforts off his forehead with the sleeve of his robe. He pulled himself up, straightened his shoulders, then laid back with a sigh. "Janilisse will see to it that my aide will guide you to both the ship and the gravesite."
"I'm truly sorry, Lord Evander." Jack *was* sorry; the anger gone, sorrow and pity replacing the fury.
"So am I, O'Neill, for reasons far too numerous and complex to explain." A flash of hope flared in his eyes. "Will you allow Danil to stay?" Then Evander quickly waved his hand. "A stupid question asked by a stupid man. Forgive me. Why would Danil choose to stay here?"
"Don't sell yourself short, Lord Evander."
"Sorry," Jack apologized, forgetting that Evander wouldn't understand the analogy. "Daniel was very happy with you."
Evander shook his head. "That is where you're wrong, O'Neill. Danil was content to call this home. This is not Daniel's home." Evander dropped back against the pillows. "Would you please send him in? It's time."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel stepped into the room and walked the door closed.
"I see you haven't cut your hair."
Why did this feel like home? This wasn't home. In this room was a man who'd paid money for Daniel to be tortured so he could control him.
"Turn around, Danil, let me see you."
Daniel turned, arms outstretched. "It's only been a few weeks, my Ma—" His face crinkled in humiliation. "It would seem that old habits are hard to break."
"You look tired," Evander admonished, gesturing for Daniel to step closer.
Daniel walked around the bed, examining Evander from both sides. "You're hurt."
"I'll recover. The injury is more an annoyance than anything else. Janilisse seems to be taking great pleasure in being able to order me around."
"He does seem to enjoy doing that, doesn't he?"
Evander patted the bed. "Sit down. I won't break."
Daniel sat, studying Evander. Intently.
"I am fine, Danil. I promise." He pulled on a lock of Daniel's hair. "After seeing your friends again, I would have thought this would have been cut by now."
"Eventually." And he would, when home felt more like home.
Evander's fingers slipped behind Daniel's ear, examining the area where the device had been. "I am sorry."
"I can't forgive you for that," Daniel admitted, pushing Evander's hand away.
"I'm not asking for forgiveness. I was lonely, selfish, and willing to obtain happiness for a price."
"I was tortured." Daniel rubbed his knuckles along his thigh.
"Do you?" Daniel yelled, surprised at his own anger. "Do you really understand what was done to me?"
When Evander replied, his voice was barely above a whisper. "I didn't want to ask too many questions."
"That's because you didn't want to know the answers." Daniel looked at Evander and shook his head, disgusted. "With you thirst for knowledge, I would have expected you to have at least shown an interest."
"Will you tell me now?"
"My friends died."
"They died slowly and painfully, they were tortured and I couldn't stop it." Daniel cleared his throat. Even this abbreviated version brought visions he would rather forget.
"If I could, I would change it all."
"No, you wouldn't." Daniel exhaled loudly. "You wouldn't have altered anything, that's why you didn't want to know. You'll have to live with the guilt of what happened, just like I'll have to live with the memory of killing someone I loved." Daniel took the key to the device from around his neck and dropped it in Evander's lap. "You took away my freedom of choice and you stole Daniel Jackson from me." Daniel picked up Evander's hand and cupped it gently between his. "I want to be angry with you, but I can't." He squeezed Evander's hand. "Damn you for allowing me happiness."
"I was *never* your master, Danil."
"Those are just words, Evander. The device I wore made me the slave because you could have removed it at any time, but you didn't."
"I am ashamed of my fear." Evander grimaced as he adjusted his body on the bed, waving away assistance. "But in the end my worst nightmare came true. You left."
"You saved my life."
"I *allowed* you to leave. A master to a slave. I gave permission."
"You knew I wasn't going to come back."
Evander smiled. "You are here with me now, Danil, despite all the wrongdoings I have done to you. I cannot ask for more."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I want to hate him, Jack." Daniel took a rock from the wooden deck and skipped it across the water, snorting when his effort failed miserably. "There's some part of me that just can't."
He felt the creak of the boards as Jack sat next to him, placing his bare feet in the water with a hiss. "God, the water's freezing." He bumped Daniel's shoulder.
"It's refreshing." Daniel bumped back, sighing in exasperation when Jack made a rock skip perfectly. "Show off."
He moved his neck back and forth, working out the kinks as Jack's warm hand kneaded his exposed hairline. Daniel shivered as Jack's fingers skimmed across newly cut hair.
"I kinda miss your long flowing—"
"Don't push your luck."
"Come inside, it's freezing out here," Jack begged, adding an exaggerated shiver for emphasis.
"Wimp. It's not that cold."
"Is not." Daniel sneezed twice in quick succession.
"I rest my case."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel was three glasses into a bottle of wine, sitting and staring at the fire, thankful for the warm room on a cold Minnesota night.
"Penny for your thoughts." Jack plopped down on the worn couch next to Daniel, clinking his beer bottle against his paper cup.
"You need a new couch." Daniel finished his cup and poured himself another.
"Wine makes for terrible hangovers," Jack reprimanded.
Daniel tugged at his short strands of hair. "He's a good man."
Jack kissed the sensitive spot behind Daniel's ear. "Those aren't exactly the words I would use to describe him."
"What words would you use?" Daniel gulped down the rest of the wine, crumpled the cup and tossed it onto the coffee table.
"Do you want it in alphabetical order or random?"
"Whatever." Daniel slumped down on the couch.
"Hey, I was just getting warmed up. Six months not knowing if you were alive or dead… no matter how much I try, I'm finding it hard to be in a forgiving mood."
"He's dying, you know." Daniel squirmed, the wine suddenly not sitting as well as it had.
"Evy tell you that?"
"I could see it. He didn't have to tell me."
"And that's why you you're not angry? 'Cause he's dying?"
"I gave him back the key to the device."
"Daniel!" Jack admonished. "Carter isn't going to be happy with you. You know how she hates it when you give away her toys."
"It was the key to *my* prison for six months."
"I'd have liked to strangle him with it. You should have let me do the honors of giving the key back to him." The couch shifted as Jack fidgeted. "Did you, ummm—ever sleep with the guy?"
Daniel sank a little lower on the couch. "No. Though it wasn't for lack of trying."
Jack patted his knee. "That's my boy. What did you do? Kick him in the—"
"Evander said no." Daniel waited until Jack stopped choking. "I offered myself to him."
"He said no?" Jack squeaked.
"He appreciated me for my mind."
"Hey, so do I. Your mind, your ass… I love *everything*." Jack slid down so they were shoulder to shoulder. "He's a eunuch?"
"No, Jack," Daniel sighed. "On his world, they mate for life. And his wife died. He was lonely; he just wanted companionship."
"So you volunteered to have sex with him?"
"I didn't remember you." Daniel wished he hadn't destroyed the cup, a wine hangover was looking pretty damn good right about now.
"Ha!" Jack pointed his bottle in the air. "That's *exactly* the reason why I hate the man." He took a gulp of beer. "Plus the fact that he could've destroyed your mind with that device."
"I can't hate him." He wished he could. Maybe if he let anger color his mind it would overshadow the room, the smell of death and the feel of his hands around Jack's neck. "Logically, I should. The man kept me against my will, he had slaves. Slaves, Jack."
He heard the clunk of the beer bottle as Jack slammed it on the wooden table top, the angry thud as he plopped his feet near the bottle, then the whoosh of trapped air as Jack sat back. "I'll make you a deal. You don't have to hate Evander. I will. I'll hate him enough for both of us."
Jack placed his hand on Daniel's leg, his fingers rising and falling with each list item. "For kidnapping you, for placing you in the hands of aliens, sitting back and allowing them to torture you, not even caring who you left behind, for making you a slave, for the nightmares you still have, and for the memories that *you* can't leave behind."
"Okay, I'll admit it, the man does get two brownie points. One, he let you leave and gave you the key. *And* he didn't sleep with you. Which only proves my point that Evander was a bit touched. That, or he needed glasses."
"Was jealous. A bit." Jack pinched the air between his thumb and pointer finger. "Was. Hell, if you must know, I was jealous of Oma. Hated her, too, not as much, though, 'cause she saved your life."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I can see where that may have elevated Oma a bit in your eyes."
"I guess I do have a soft spot for the old gal." Suddenly, the fire sputtered and popped. "Daniel, something I should be aware of?"
"Who knows. Maybe she took offence to be called old."
"Sorry, Oma," Jack shouted at the ceiling. "Did you just giggle?"
"If I did, and I'm not saying that I did, it was the wine." Daniel kicked the smashed paper cup with his foot. "Wineless, I *don't* giggle."
Jack got up off the couch, went into the kitchen area and returned with another beer for himself and an empty cup for Daniel. "Fill this," he ordered. "I've missed your giggling."
"Wine hangovers," Daniel reminded him as he filled the cup to the rim.
"I do recall great sex before the hangover though, if I remember my chain of events correctly."
"Am I awake for this great sex?"
"Awake *and* an active participant."
"Sounds like something I don't want to miss."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The room was familiar, the lighting bright and unforgiving, and he was cold, colder than he remembered being in that cell, but his head hurt just the same and the odor was just as overpowering even though the bodies were gone.
"Are you going to do it?"
"Jack?" Daniel pivoted, surprised to find Jack sitting up on the bed. Jack, Sam and Teal'c, their backs pressed up against the wall, all watching him expectantly. "Do what?"
Teal'c flung his left arm to the side and a staff weapon appeared, then Sam was suddenly caressing a zat weapon.
"Jack? Give me hint, will ya?"
"Hey, don't look at me, Danny." Jack was swinging the key to the device, lasso like, around his head. "If you don't want to do it, any one of us will gladly do it for you."
"It will be an honor to take your place, DanielJackson."
Jack winked at Daniel. "Jaffa revenge, you understand."
"Let me do it—come on," Sam begged. "Please? I never get to have any fun." Sam was whining. Did Sam whine? Damn his head hurt just thinking about it. "Three times—poof—no evidence."
"Do what!" Daniel yelled, his voice bouncing off the four walls.
"Lord Evander?" There, to the side, stretched out on the floor and lying in a pool of blood, was the man who had been his master for six months. How had he missed seeing him there?
"Danil, are you going to help me?"
"Help you?" Daniel painfully dropped to his knees, tore off his jacket and futilely fought to stem the flow of blood. "Like this, Lord Evander?"
"No, Daniel," Jack whispered in his ear, then took Daniel's blood soaked hands in his and placed them around Evander's neck. "Like this."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel's body shook once before his eyes flew open, heart pounding, stomaching roiling, the room of his torture slowly morphing back into the cabin's bedroom.
"'Kay?" Jack mumbled sleepily.
"Wine—" Daniel dug his knuckles into his forehead to counteract the pounding.
"I left Tylenol on the counter for you." Jack nuzzled his neck, his warm puffs of air only adding to the goose bumps peppering Daniel's skin. "I warned you about those wine hangovers."
Daniel shifted, the ache in his ass let him know that there had been other things on his mind than taking Tylenol before bed.
"Want me to get it for you?"
"No, I'll get it." Daniel untangled his body from Jack, pushed himself upright and slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed. He sat staring at his bare legs, expecting to see some remnant of the nightmare, but the only thing that carried forth from his dream state was the headache and the fact that he was still cold. Hopefully the Tylenol would take care of the headache and his discarded sweats would take care of the cold.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel procrastinated, palming the empty glass between his two hands. Sleep was out of the question, sitting in the living room where he could still fall asleep was out of the question, anything that involved sleeping and dreaming at the moment was out of the question.
He had grown used to nightmares over his lifetime, some were worse than others. Cast off characters traipsing through his sleep, old friends, dead parents, dead friends, dead wives—soon to be dead masters—his mind was a breeding ground for bad dreams.
Space would be a good idea. Wide open space, too many people crowding him inside his head at the moment. Daniel was out the door in a second, his jacket in one hand, the afghan from the couch slung over his shoulder, walking over creaky wooden boards on his way to the dock even before he had a chance to rationalize his actions.
He shrugged on the jacket, lowered himself onto a chair and tucked the afghan around his body, slipping lower into the chair so he was covered from neck to ankles. Feeling a bit stupid, he wiggled his sock-covered toes, a reminder his shoes were sitting forgotten back inside the cabin. Outside felt wonderful and he inhaled and exhaled deeply, blowing smoke rings into the cold night air.
There was a clarity to the sky that one wasn't privy to in Colorado Springs and Daniel gazed upward, playing connect the stars, making the constellations come alive. He blew a kiss in the direction of Abydos.
He could examine the meaning of his dream, but as he borrowed deeper under the blanket, he realized he truly didn't care to know. Life was sometimes easier that way, just accepting things at face value. He loved Jack. Jack loved him. And in his own way he loved Evander, although much differently than he loved Jack. But he loved him just the same for reasons he couldn't begin to explain or comprehend. He couldn’t find it in him to hate the man, even for all the reasons Jack had listed; it was easier to have Jack hate for him.
The yawn surprised Daniel when it came and he curled his feet inward under the blanket, trying to capture some of the warmth. The lake blinked out when his eyes closed, only to reappear seconds later when he caught himself drifting. "I'm not tired," he explained to the night, his hands zipping the jacket up to his nose. "Not sleeping," he yawned, the night time scene before him fading out for good when he closed his eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Daniel sniffed appreciatively at the coffee smell being enticingly waved under his nose. He opened his eyes, yawned, then smiled as he spotted the steaming mug of coffee. "For me?" He wanted to wrap his hands around the warm cup but his mind was still set in sleep mode and demanded his eyes close.
"Not really," he lied. His feet could really go for being warmed in front of a fireplace, though the rest of his body was toasty.
The mug of coffee made one more swipe under his nostrils before disappearing, his protest captured by Jack's quick kiss to his lips. "Better than coffee?"
"It depends on the time of day." Daniel yawned, opening one eye.
"Come on, you're almost there," Jack teased, holding the mug just out of reach. "What could you possibly be doing out here in the damp, cold, dawn?"
Daniel gazed at the man standing before him, disheveled from sleep, back-dropped by the morning mist shrouding the beauty of the lake. He slid his hands out of their warm cocoon and motioned for Jack to come closer. The coffee mug was placed in his grasp and he took a sip and moaned appreciatively. "Good stuff."
"The best," Jack agreed, watching the sunrise. "So, exactly *what* were you doing out here?"
"Dreaming, Jack. Dreaming of Minnesota."
|Our thanks to everyone who voted for us!|
devra: To jo whose idea this was, for her unbelievable patience (though I do remember foot tapping and nagging) while this sat on my HD for over a year and for the honor of allowing me to co-write this with her. To the sisters of our hearts, for wearing the cheerleading uniforms and waving their pom poms. And to Shazz, for being the extra pair of eyes and for willingly (the woman is nuts) spending her time off from work with our story.
JoaG: First off, a huge thank you to Shazz, who gave up free time to beta this monstrosity. The woman's as crazy as I am! *G*
Of course, any errors are mine and devra's - we take total blame for any missed comma, period, quotation mark and off-the-wall ideas.
I have to also thank WelshHelen because this story would never have been co-written. The idea came to me for a gen fic waaaay back when I first started writing. Helen, who was listmom for a Stargate list at the time, challenged authors to get together and write a fic together. I still remember devra's tentative request to me to co-write with her.
I was floored, and extremely honoured.
So this story should have been my first slash fic (Ha, that I remember too - how devra asked, again, very diplomatically, whether it was going to be gen or slash). After I stopped waving my hands in the air and nixing slash, I realized how much I loved *her* stories, and told her, "For you, I can do slash". In the meantime, she wrote back to me and said, "I don't normally do gen, but for you, I can write it". Now, what better friend can one ask for, huh?
Obviously, we should have finished this two and a half years ago but due to varying circumstances and RL and a ton of nagging from our Heartsisters, it's finally, finally done.
We hope you enjoyed.
to contact devra
to contact JoaG