What is Essential  by babs and JoaG                                                                   Part One
Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Established Relationship.  Hurt/Comfort.  Angst
Season/Spoilers: None
Synop Daniel's world is turned upside down when Jack is brutally murdered before his eyes until a trip to another planet sends his world spinning once more.
Warnings: Just remember  things are not always the way they seem.  Do not be afraid to read - trust us.
Length:  1,133 Kb

What is Essential  by babs and JoaG                                            Part One

"Jack!" Daniel screamed as one of the two priests raised his crystal and aimed it at Daniel's lover.

"Daniel, go!" Jack ordered, his pain-filled eyes catching Daniel's and holding his gaze with regret.

"No…" He turned to the priest, trying to plead for Jack's life. "Please, take me. Spare him. I'm the one you're angry with. Punish me!"

The priest ignored Daniel and the crystal he held lit up once more, bathing Jack with a pink glow. Jack screamed and Daniel yelled out, knowing full well the pain Jack was going through. The tortured man fell to his knees when the light winked out, gasping audibly as he tried to control his pain.

"Jack," Daniel called, his voice catching in his throat.

"Daniel, get the hell out of here," Jack ordered again, his voice rough and bordering on impatience.

"Daniel," Sam said softly in his ear. "We're outnumbered. There's nothing we can do. His only hope is for us to get back to the SGC and get reinforcements."

"Sam, there's no time," Daniel ground out through clenched teeth, his own pain overwhelming him for a few seconds. He ignored the sight of Teal'c lying unconscious nearby; these priests had simply aimed a crystal at the Jaffa's pouch and Teal'c had fallen to the floor as if he'd been pole axed.

Daniel didn't even know if Teal'c was alive; everything had happened too suddenly, too fast. The priests and guards had entered the temple where Daniel had been exploring. He'd apparently touched the altar in the room, thereby despoiling it. Twin beams of blue light had winked from their crystals, cutting into him deeply. His teammates had come running at Daniel's yells for help. They'd been quickly overpowered. It was all Daniel's fault.

Daniel had to try again. They had to listen to him. They wanted Jack's life for Daniel's mistake; he was their leader and thus was responsible for Daniel's actions.

"Please, I'm the one you have to punish. I'm the one who touched your altar. Jack wasn't even in the room." He ignored Sam's tugging on his arm and limped forward a couple of steps. "Please!" He was stopped by two burly guards who placed themselves before him, barring him from nearing the scene being played out before him.

The priest brought his hand up and Jack looked at Daniel for a moment before the light hit him. Jack's back arched and Daniel saw his lungs strive to take in air. Jack's mouth was wide open in a silent scream, either in pain or in an attempt to breathe.

"Jack," Daniel moaned, seeing the one person who meant everything to him being tortured for something Daniel had unknowingly done. When the light winked out, Jack slumped to the ground.

"Please!" Daniel yelled, trying to push past the guards. They both took a hold of him and he was physically pulled out of the room. He struggled against the vice-like grip on his arms, ignoring the pain radiating down his chest from the wound to his ribs.

He tried to set his feet to stop his backwards movement but his injured leg refused to obey and he lost his precarious balance. The guards ignored him and dragged him kicking and screaming out of the room. He saw that Sam and Teal'c were already gone and he renewed his efforts, knowing he was Jack's last hope.

"Jack!" he yelled once more, hearing Sam's cries along with his own. His last view of Jack was one that he knew would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Two of the priests were holding crystals in their hands. Jack lay helplessly before them, writhing in pain. One was shining the crystal's light directly into Jack's face and the other was directed to Jack's chest. The screams coming from Jack were inhuman, and the sound followed Daniel outside until they were suddenly cut off when the door closed behind him.

The guards relentlessly dragged the three SG1 team members towards the gates of the temple. Daniel could hear himself panting and grunting while he thrashed about, trying to free himself.

Somehow Daniel managed to twist around and kicked the guard on his left. The man lost his grip and Daniel half fell to the ground. Before he could try and attack the second guard, the first one laid a savage kick to his injured side that had him gasping in pain.

For a few minutes he couldn't catch his breath. His eyes tearing, he felt himself picked up once more, his legs dragging along the hard ground. He could see stones and twigs beneath him as he was pulled along. When he was finally able to breathe, he realized they were nearly to the temple's gate.

"Daniel, you okay?" Sam asked behind him.

He sobbed with frustration and anger, ignoring her question and struggling to free himself.

He caught a view of Teal'c being dragged lifelessly before him. Daniel renewed his efforts, only to be efficiently tossed through the gate, landing hard on the rock-strewn path.

Ignoring his bruises and the pain coursing through his body, Daniel lunged for the closing gate. The barrier itself was over fifteen feet in height, and very solidly constructed in wood and stone. The doors had been wide open when they'd entered the village several hours ago, the inhabitants welcoming them warmly. That was until Daniel had gone and done something stupid.

He ran his hands along the seams of the closed door, trying to find a way inside. He could hear Sam talking to Teal'c behind him and the Jaffa's deep rumble answering her back.

"The colonel's dead," Sam replied softly to Teal'c's inquiry of ‘what had happened'.

Something died inside of Daniel when he heard the words spoken out loud. Almost frantically, he began tracing the gate's outline. He had to get Jack… maybe there was still a chance to save him. Over and over, his hands followed the door's edge. Up and down and across. When he felt a hand on his shoulder, he shrugged it off, continuing to search for a way back inside.

"Daniel, we have to go."

"No, we have to get inside. Sam, help me find the mechanism that opens the door."

"Daniel." Her voice sounded strangely strangled. She placed her hands over his, forcing him to still his movements. "You're hurt and something's wrong with Teal'c's symbiote. Please, Daniel. We need to get home. General Hammond will send someone back to… get the colonel."

"No!" He turned and glared at Sam. Daniel didn't want someone else to find Jack. Jack was going to be okay. Daniel just needed to find him and bring him back to Janet.

"Daniel, he's dead. They killed him." Daniel shook his head, refusing to listen to her. A shiver coursed through his body and he suddenly felt very tired.

"You're going into shock, and we need to get Teal'c home. Please, come with us now."

"Teal'c?" Daniel looked over at his friend and saw that he was looking very pale as he sat quietly where the guards had left him. One hand was held protectively over his pouch but his eyes were glued to Daniel's.

"I am recovering, DanielJackson. But I fear I may need DoctorFraiser's assistance."

Daniel allowed Sam to guide him away from the door and he lurched against her when his leg nearly crumpled beneath him. Her arms came around him a moment until he got his balance while Teal'c stood up slowly. Sam tugged at him and he followed quietly. His mind felt numb and he couldn't seem to think straight. His ribs and leg suddenly flared with pain and he looked down in surprise to see his tee shirt and pant leg soaked with blood. Why hadn't Sam bandaged him? Oh, right. They'd lost their packs and supplies.

He saw the Stargate looming in the distance. They were going home, but without Jack. Jack would never go home again. Daniel would never hear his voice again; feel Jack's hands running over his body, his brown eyes looking at Daniel with love. Jack was dead. Oh God, Jack was dead!

Every painful step he took was echoed with the words ‘Jack's dead… Jack's dead… Jack's dead'. He walked in a fog, seeing nothing but his lover's face in his mind and hearing Jack's voice whispering lovingly in his ears, remembering making love to Jack last night.

Suddenly pulled back to reality,  he found himself on his hands and knees, retching violently. He had no memory of how he'd gotten there and from the amount of vomit on the ground, he'd been sick for a while. Sam's hands were on his shoulders and he could hear her voice over the sound of a strong wind blowing through his mind.

When the spasms stopped, she pulled him into a kneeling position. Daniel could see her mouth moving but couldn't put the words together. Someone was tugging at his arm and finally tired of the nagging, he got up and followed where they led.

He recognized the Stargate after a while and saw the chevrons circling in preparation for activation. For a split second he almost made the leap into the backwash, not wanting to live with the pain he knew from experience was only going to get worse. But hands tightened on his arm, startling him. He turned to look and saw Teal'c staring at him in worry. He hung his head; Jack was dead.

A large hand rested on his forehead and Daniel smiled. He must have been sick, that's why he was having such horrible dreams. He opened his eyes and murmured, "Jack." Only to be brought back to reality by the sight of Teal'c standing by his bed.

"Oh God. Oh God." Daniel tried to sit up, his chest burning. It wasn't a dream. It was true. Jack was…

"Lie still, Daniel." He turned his head to look at Sam. Her face was a blotchy red.  He'd worried them both.

"Teal'c? You okay?" Daniel brought up his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. "Sam?"

"I am recovered, DanielJackson." Teal'c shifted his weight and placed his hands behind his back.

"I'm fine, Daniel," Sam whispered. She turned away as Doctor Warner approached the bed.

"Doctor Jackson," Warner nodded a hello and took Daniel's wrist in his hand, feeling for a pulse. Warner, like Fraiser, believed in hands on medicine. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," Daniel said automatically. At Doctor Warner's frown, he closed his eyes. "My ribs hurt. My leg hurts."

Oh and by the way, Doctor, my soul is dead because I found out what I thought was a dream is reality. Jack O'Neill is dead. His death is my responsibility. He was my lover, did you know that? Daniel tightened his lips and stayed silent. His leg would heal; his ribs would mend, but his soul? Would it ever recover? Daniel wasn't sure about that.

He couldn't even cry. A memory of the gates on the planet closing made Daniel push Warner's hands away. He pulled himself up by holding onto the bed rail.

"Sam," he gasped. "We need to go back. There's still a chance. Maybe he's just wounded."

"Daniel," Sam began. She stopped and took his hand in hers. "I'll talk to General Hammond."

"You think he's dead." Daniel hated the desperation in his voice.

"I do, Daniel. You translated, Daniel. You said the price for the desecration was death."

"Maybe I was wrong. Sam, we need to go back there. You have to convince the general."

He watched Sam swallow hard and her eyes fix on the far wall. "I'll see what I can do, Daniel. But you know as well as I do that the colonel is most likely dead."

"We don't have a body, Sam," Daniel whispered. "And we don't leave our people behind."

She patted his hand. "No, we don't." She stepped away from the bed.

"You are not going anywhere, Daniel," Doctor Warner said, pressing a hand to Daniel's chest. "You're not going to be walking on that leg until it heals a little more."

Daniel sighed as he sank back on the pillows. As long as there was no body, no proof, maybe he could hope a little longer. He could do nothing, had to put his trust in Sam and Teal'c. They'd find Jack. It was his last thought as he succumbed to the drugs once more.

He heard the soft murmur of voices. His mouth was dry and he turned his head to look at Sam. She was sitting by his bed, her head held in her hands.

"Sam?" It was more of a croak than an actual word.
She jerked her head around to face him and he knew. One look at her eyes and he knew.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," she whispered. "Oh God, I wish we were wrong." Her eyes filled with tears but she didn't cry ever the stoic soldier.

"I want to see him." Daniel found the call button and pressed it, an overwhelming need to get out of the infirmary. "Take me to see his body."

Doctor Fraiser was there frowning and Daniel spared only a passing glance at her as he concentrated on Sam. "I want to see Jack."

"Daniel." Sam gave a little hiccup. "He's dead."

"I know that." Daniel coughed, pushing Fraiser's hand away when she reached out to him. "Do you think I don't realize it? I want to see his body. Please, Sam. Janet. Please."

"General Hammond," Doctor Fraiser said with evident relief, looking over Daniel's bed to the other side.

"Will you leave us, Doctor? Major?" The familiar Texas twang was oddly soothing. "I'd like to speak to Doctor Jackson alone."

"Sam, come with me. You need a break. Let's see if we can find you somewhere to rest." Daniel watched as Sam stood, wobbling slightly before allowing Janet to wrap an arm around her waist. He turned his head, looking up at the general.

"Son," Hammond began. Daniel closed his eyes. He didn't want to hear this, but he needed to. He needed to know what they found. Had Jack's body been so mutilated they feared to let him see it? Didn't they understand his need to see Jack, his need to say goodbye? "Daniel, there was no body."

"No body?" Daniel asked, licking dry lips. He took a sip from the straw Hammond offered, letting the cool water soothe his throat. "No body? But then maybe…" he stopped as he met Hammond's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Daniel. It appears the priests…dispose…" Daniel didn't miss the jerky way the word was said. "…of the bodies in the backwash of a Stargate activation. All that SG-2, Major Carter and Teal'c found were bits and pieces of your abandoned packs, a piece of Colonel O'Neill's boot, and this." Hammond took Daniel's hand, placing a length of chain and a small bit of molten metal into it. Daniel studied it able to make out three symbols. An O'N.

"He's dead?" Daniel traced the metal with one finger. "Jack's dead?"

"I'm sorry," General Hammond said again. He placed his hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel closed his fingers around the chain and metal, letting it bite into his palm, a small pain compared to the dying of hope.

The gateroom was cold. He didn't remember it being that cold before. Daniel shifted in the wheelchair and wished for a blanket. He supposed he should be grateful Janet allowed him to attend this ceremony and allowed him to wear scrubs. He rubbed the back of his left hand, the tape holding the IV in place itching.

Long fingers covered his, stopping the nervous movement. Sam bent down beside him, the blue of her uniform accentuating the blue of her eyes. "Daniel," she whispered. He wondered if his eyes held the same hurt and shock hers did. Teal'c came to his other side and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"We are with you, DanielJackson." Daniel closed his eyes and prayed he was dreaming. But when he opened them again he was still in the gateroom and General Hammond was still standing at a podium ready to speak.

"We are gathered here to remember the life of Colonel Jonathon O'Neill," Hammond began. He paused and when he started again his voice was rougher than before.

 "Colonel O'Neill, Jack, was one of the finest officers I ever had under my command. I could list all of Jack's accomplishments, his medals, the awards he received, but somehow I don't think it would give us a feeling of who the true Jack O'Neill was. Jack was never one to speak of his accomplishments. No one outside of this room will ever know the sacrifices Jack made again and again for not only his country but for his world. Serving with Colonel O'Neill, having him in my command, and knowing him was an honor and a privilege. There is a wound in all of our hearts today, a very large hole left by the loss of Colonel O'Neill. In time, the wound will heal but the scar will remain. Major Carter, Teal'c, and Doctor Jackson, will you please come forward?"

Sam held her head high, ignoring the tears that fell unchecked down her cheeks. Teal'c pushed Daniel's wheelchair. He watched as the gate spun, the chevrons engaging, and thought he'd never feel a sense of wonder stepping through it again. Daniel studied the chevrons, realizing the gate was being opened to the planet where Jack had been killed. He wondered what would happen if he threw himself through the open wormhole and as if his thoughts had been read, Teal'c's hand descended to his shoulder.  Sam and the officers in charge of SG-2, 3 and 4 tossed a
wreath through the gate. The wormhole blinked out of existence, the iris closing over it with finality. Daniel couldn't see the bugler but he heard the strains of Taps float over the crowd while Sergeant Siler and the members of SG-2 folded an American flag. Sergeant Siler turned crisply on his heel, coming over to Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c.

"I believe Colonel O'Neill would want you to have this, Doctor Jackson." Siler pressed the flag into Daniel's waiting hands. "I'm sorry, sir."

His head hurt, his thigh throbbed, and he couldn't breathe through his nose anymore. Janet took his hand in hers. "We're going to get you back to the infirmary, Daniel. Sam? Teal'c? I think perhaps you should come too."

"Yes." Sam was crying, soft hiccups interrupting her words.  Daniel couldn't speak, a refrain beating a rhythm in his head, Jack is dead, I will love no more.

Daniel picked his glasses up off the coffee table and slipped them onto his face when the doorbell rang. He got up stiffly from the couch and limped across the room to answer the door.

"Hey, Daniel." Sam's voice was tentative and Daniel realized she wasn't sure of her welcome. Teal'c was standing behind her, his usually impassive face showing concern.

"Come on in," he said, holding the door open for them. He made his way back the couch, wincing as he descended the stairs to the living room area.

"We were worried," Sam said as she followed behind him. "You weren't answering our calls… we weren't even sure if you were here or at your apartment."

Daniel flushed guiltily at her words, knowing he'd ignored all the messages she and Teal'c had left on the two answering machines.

"I didn't feel much like talking," he said simply. He sat down in Jack's favorite chair, propping his leg up with relief.

Daniel'd stayed away from Jack's house up until today, finally steeling himself to go through Jack's things since he knew Sam and Teal'c were heading here this afternoon. At Daniel's request, Hammond had held off sending a team to retrieve anything official from Jack's home. The sympathetic general had enlisted Sam and Teal'c to do the job with Daniel's blessing.

He'd arrived here much earlier than planned, wanting to get through the initial shock of returning to Jack's home, which no longer felt like a home without Jack. And he was glad he had because the sight of the dirty dishes sitting in the sink, the unmade bed, and their clothing strewn across the bedroom, had all been testament to their early morning frolic which had nearly made them late for work on that unforgettable, disastrous mission so many days ago.

When he had picked up Jack's favorite sweatshirt from the floor where Daniel had thrown it after wresting it from Jack's body, he brought it to his face and inhaled deeply. It still contained Jack's scent, evoking the longing he thought he'd managed to put aside all these past days. With his eyes brimming with tears, he'd been unable to do anything other than crawl onto the bed with the piece of clothing clutched to his chest.

He had fallen into a deep sleep, his body trying to make up for the hours of sleeplessness he'd experienced over the past three days since he'd been discharged from the infirmary. But his rest hadn't lasted long; he'd woken up screaming, reliving Jack's last moments.

The bed was now but a cold, bare mattress, the room tidy and neat, the kitchen spic and span. There was no evidence that there had been two in the house rather than one before Jack had left, never to return. He had erased all signs of his ever sharing Jack's home, and it had been much harder than he'd expected.

There was one more task to perform, one more painful thing he felt obliged he had to do. Daniel had put off his visit to Sara, hated to see her pain, knowing she'd lost another person in her life. But he would have to do that in the next day or two. He'd waited long enough.

"Daniel, are you okay?" Sam was sitting uncomfortably on the edge of the couch, leaning forward and watching him closely. He shook himself mentally, having forgotten momentarily that his friends were here.

He nodded, and forced a small smile onto his face.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that… coming here today was a little hard."

"We would have been pleased to have performed this onerous duty for you, DanielJackson," Teal'c stated. "I must admit that I find the task to be somewhat… difficult for myself as well."

Daniel looked at Teal'c, who couldn't seem to meet Daniel's gaze, and then Sam, whose eyes were shiny with unshed tears. He nearly gasped out loud when he saw their pain. He had assumed that he was the only one having trouble with Jack's death and had pulled away from them in his misery. But he could see they were hurting, maybe not as much as he was, but they had needed him too.

He got up and sat beside Sam, putting his arms around her, ignoring the pull of healing scar tissue along his ribcage. She laid her chin against his shoulder and he could feel her body trembling as she tried to hold her emotions in.

"It's okay, Sam," he whispered against her hair.

"This is worse than the time we thought you'd died on P3X 866…" she told him, her voice shaky and thick.

"I'm so sorry, Sam. You've had to go through this twice, first with me, then…"

"But you weren't dead. And we all felt that something was wrong, and that there was an underlying sense of hope. But now…" She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand, then pulled away from Daniel's embrace. She stood up, her eyes red rimmed.

"Excuse me," she said as she rushed towards the bathroom.

"Is she all right?" Daniel asked Teal'c as he stared down the hallway at her retreating back.

"She is sad. We both feel O'Neill's loss deeply. But my friend, it is you we are concerned for. How do you fare?"

Other than a pain that cut so deep inside he sometimes wondered how he still breathed; other than knowing he faced cold, lonely nights filled with haunting nightmares of his dead lover's death; other than finding himself huddled in a corner of his apartment with tears streaking down his face and no memory of how he'd gotten there; other than a desire to simply go to sleep and not wake up until the world went into another ice age; other than wanting to scream and rage and vent out his anger at himself for allowing Jack to die in the first place, he was fine.

"I'm coping," Daniel said simply. "It's hard, I admit that. I miss him—" Daniel had to swallow hard to stop his voice from cracking. Despite his best efforts, his throat tightened and his voice came out thick with grief. "A lot," he managed to finish as he averted his gaze, blinking back his tears.

Hearing the door to the bathroom open, he got up to gaze out the large picture window. He felt a hand on his shoulder and thinking it was Sam, was surprised to see Teal'c's bulk standing behind him.

"We shall begin with Colonel O'Neill's office, if it agreeable with you." Daniel nodded, listening to them leaving the room and grateful they were giving him time to compose himself.

He'd join them in a minute. He'd be all right. He'd been through this before, hadn't he?

You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

Daniel pulled his black woolen coat tighter as he followed the walkway to the front door of the suburban house. His gloved hands clutched the triangular package he carried. He still didn't know if his visit here would be welcome, but he believed it was the right thing to do.

He knocked on the door instead of ringing the doorbell. Glancing around while he waited, he saw the yard and tried to picture a younger Jack pitching a ball to Charlie. The picture still standing on Jack's night table of Jack with one arm around Sara and the other resting on Charlie's shoulder came to mind and Daniel closed his eyes, hating the way the cold stung at them and caused them to water.

"Yes?"  Sara O'Neill answered the door, wiping her hands on a dishtowel she carried. It was covered with little strawberries Daniel noticed in a detached part of his brain, and an image of Jack dipping a strawberry in whipped cream and then licking it off slowly came to his mind with crystal clarity.

"Mrs. O'Neill, I’m  Daniel Jackson." He watched as she tilted her head and then her mouth formed into a little 'oh.'

"Come in." She opened the door wider and gestured him inside. His glasses fogged at the warmth of the house. "You're Daniel. You work with Jack. Doctor Jackson isn't it?"

"Yes." Daniel stood in the foyer. He didn't know what to do with the package, feeling awkward now that he had almost completed his mission.

"Here." Sara held out her hands. "Let me take that." She  placed her hands on the package and Daniel had to force his fingers to uncurl. She deserved this he knew, but what he didn't know was if he was ready to let go.

"Thank you," he coughed and stuffed his gloves in his pocket. He quickly swiped a finger on the inside of his lenses, able to see once more.

"You can hang your coat on the coat tree." Sara gestured behind him and Daniel took his coat off, straightening his tie before he turned back to face her.

"Mrs. O'Neill." He began again, needing to take a deep breath when she interrupted him with a 'Sara.'

"Sara," Daniel nodded, wishing she hadn't insisted on the informality. It was making his task harder. "I…Jack…" He cursed inwardly, hating himself for screwing up what he needed to say.

"Oh God," she whispered as she looked at his face and then back to the package she held. He could see it in her eyes, see when she realized.

"Sara?" Daniel placed a hand at her elbow, wondering if she was going to faint, her skin had gone so pale.

"I'm…I'll be fine. Let's go sit in the living room." Sara didn't resist as Daniel led her the few steps to the couch. He looked around after she was seated not knowing if he should sit next to her or find another chair so he remained standing, shifting his weight to his other foot when a twinge in his newly healed thigh reminded him of the mission.

"Please sit." She patted the cushion next to her. "Tell me." Her eyes searched his face.

"I can't give you details," Daniel began but he knew she understood that. "The mission is classified."

"Yes. They always are." Her voice held just a trace of bitterness and Daniel wondered how many nights Sara had listened to Jack's nightmares and been unable to comfort him because he couldn’t share what had happened.

"I'm sorry." Daniel twisted his fingers together and studied his hands. "I was injured. I thought they would call you."

"No." Sara began unwrapping the paper covering the triangular box holding the American flag. "No one told me. I would have come to the funeral. I don't hate Jack. I…we…some hurts were too deep to heal."

"It was a memorial service, Sara." Daniel stared at the flag, pushing memories of the ceremony to the place where he couldn't feel them, where the loss didn't bite into his soul with every breath. "We couldn’t recover his body." Maybe it would feel more real, Daniel thought. Maybe if he'd seen the execution he wouldn’t be imagining Jack being tortured to death every night in his dreams. Maybe he wouldn’t hear Jack's screams in the silence of his empty bed. Daniel shoved his hands into his pockets, his fingers finding the small piece of metal and chain he'd taken to carrying around with him.

"He would have wanted to be buried next to Charlie." Sara stroked one long finger over the flag.

"I can make arrangements for the stone carver to do the inscription on the tombstone." Daniel offered. "Jack made me his executor a few years back, but I didn't want to do anything without your permission."

"Can it wait?" Sara asked. "I'm just not ready."

"It can wait." Daniel answered. It was the same reason he was putting off taking care of the other details. He wasn't ready either.

"The flag?"

"You were married to him. I thought you should have it." Daniel studied her face not knowing if the gesture was being rejected or not.

"Thank you," Sara nodded. They sat in silence for a few minutes. He watched  Sara's fingers trace the outline of a star over and over until he wanted to cover her hand and make her stop. She looked up at him, her eyes bright.

"You loved him." She moved her hand from the flag and took Daniel's in it keeping her eyes on his. Daniel was unable to speak but he nodded. He couldn’t lie to her.

"Jack was always faithful to me, Daniel," Sara admitted. "He took our marriage vows seriously."

"And you knew." Daniel swallowed.

"I found out quite by accident. I needed to let him go, Daniel. It wasn't fair to either of us. I didn't want to settle for a husband who was missing his chance at happiness and lose my own. Maybe if Charlie hadn't…"

"You don't need to tell me this." Daniel shook his head, feeling he was intruding on a very private matter.

"No. I do," Sara continued. "I'm glad he was happy, Daniel. He was happy with you?"

"Yes. We were happy," Daniel said. He turned his hand under hers so they rested palm to palm.

"I'm glad." Sara nodded a moment before the tears spilled down her cheeks.

"General Hammond!" Daniel exclaimed, seeing the older man standing by the door to his office. He stared at him in surprise before remembering his manners and standing up to greet him. The general rarely came down into the laboratory area of the facility; he usually had people come to him.

"What can I do for you, sir?" Daniel asked as the general entered Daniel's lab.

"I won't keep you long," he said with a smile. "Doctor Fraiser has just informed me that she has cleared you for active duty, but with reservations. Now I know you've been through a difficult time. I would like to know how you would feel about going through the Stargate again."

Daniel dropped into his chair, picked up his pen and fiddled with it before looking up at Hammond.

"You want to know if I've lost my nerve, don't you?" Daniel didn't know whether to be insulted or angry.

"You have gone through a traumatic occurrence, son. Doctor Fraiser has also informed me that you've refused to seek counseling. At this point I know it's strictly on a voluntary basis, and I haven't seen or heard any sign of your work not being up to its usual standards. But it is a concern I need to raise."

"General, you may recall that I first joined SC-1 in order to find my wife, who had been taken from me forcibly and impregnated with a Goa'uld. That was due to my own stupidity when I unburied the Stargate on Abydos. I lost many friends in that battle, and I've lost many friends and teammates in the ensuing years, all because of that damned Stargate." He shoved his hands under the table, squeezing them together tightly in his anger. "I may have just lost my best friend," he said through clenched teeth, "but that's not going to stop me from stepping through and doing the work I know."

At one time Daniel would have said 'the work I know and love', but today that would have been an outright lie. He stared straight into the man's blue eyes, daring him to find fault with him and keeping him Earthbound.

Hammond nodded slightly. "Very well," he said. "SG-1 is due to visit P8K-883 in two days' time. You're on the team. Colonel Rivera will be taking over SG1. Welcome back, son."

"Thank you, General," Daniel managed to stammer, holding his anger inside until the man left. As soon as he was sure General Hammond had had time to get to the elevator, Daniel stormed to Sam's office.

"Hi," she said as Daniel began pacing up and down the room. "What's up?"

"I'm back on active duty," Daniel said as he reached the end of the room and turned around to begin pacing in the other direction.

"That's great!" Sam said, turning to watch him walk by her. As Daniel turned around again, she added worriedly, "Isn't it?"

"Not when you consider that Janet thinks I might have problems coping with Jack's death. She had 'reservations' about letting me back on the team." He came to a stop and placed his hands on the table, sighing heavily.

"It'll be all right," Sam said as she came to stand close to him. "You'll be all right."

"I don't think I can do this," Daniel confided. "Maybe Janet and Hammond were right. Maybe I've just seen too much happen to people I love." He turned to Sam and saw the concern in her face.

Without hesitation, she walked up to him and put her arms around him. He slipped an arm around her shoulder and hugged her tight, taking comfort from the fact she cared. He let her go after a few moments, holding her at arms length and smiling. He loved this woman; this sister, although not of the same blood, was of the same spirit as he. And Teal'c, the companion who although rarely showed his emotions, was one of the most passionate men he knew. He had to do this for them; they had lost a friend, a leader, a protector. If Daniel didn't stay on the team with them, he'd be gouging another hole in their lives.

"And if I didn't step through the gate with you and Teal'c, who'd be watching your six?" He squeezed her arms gently. "Forgive me for that little outburst?" He let go and turned back to the table and sighed. "General Hammond's words got me upset and had me doubting myself for a second." He forced a grin and turned to her again, raising his forefinger in the air.

"Know what? I think I'll go give Teal'c the good news." He strode out of the room with vigor, heading towards Teal'c's quarters. His steps slowed when he turned into another corridor, and he sighed audibly. Going through the Stargate and exploring new worlds, or staying on Earth and studying old ones. Same difference; neither held much interest and the best he could hope for was losing himself in his work so that he wouldn't have to think of the pain in his heart.

"Are you okay, Daniel?" Sam asked, her hand coming to rest on his shoulder as they sat around the campfire. Daniel looked up in surprise, lost in his thoughts.

Across the fire, Colonel Diego Rivera was watching him closely. Probably waiting for a screw-up, Daniel thought, then shook his head trying to dispel the irrational anger.

"Fine, Sam." He smiled, feeling his muscles stretch in a way they hadn't since Jack's death. Her sigh at his words immediately made him feel guilty. He placed a hand on her knee. "It's…sometimes I think he's going to be waiting for us when we go through the gate."

"Teal'c, why don't you and I do a perimeter check?" Colonel Rivera got up and stretched.

"Yes, ColonelRivera." Teal'c rose. His eyes met Daniel's and he nodded in acknowledgement of Daniel's pain. "I will assist you."

Silence filled the camp as Teal'c and Rivera's footsteps crunched away.

"I, Sam, I keep telling myself it will get better. I thought after Christmas, after our first Christmas without him…" Daniel stirred the fire with a stick, hearing Jack's 'little boys who play with fire pee in their beds,' comment in his head. He dropped the stick.

"It's okay to hurt, Daniel," Sam said. He gave a bitter laugh.

"Do you think I don't know that, Sam? It's not like I haven't been through this before." Daniel stood up and began pacing. "We never had a chance to say goodbye. And I'm not ready to now."

Comprehension dawned in Sam's gaze. "That's why you haven't done anything with the house," Sam got up and stood in front of him, effectively stopping his restless movements.

"I can't, Sam. I talked to the attorney, to Jack's lawyer. I have a year to settle the estate. I'm just not ready. I still haven't made arrangements for his, for his tombstone." He looked down, seeing tears track down her cheeks. Daniel brushed them away with his thumbs.

"Because that will make it real. Final," she whispered.

"Yeah," Daniel whispered back, pulling her into a hug. Her arms wrapped around his waist and she squeezed him tightly before stepping back.

"Maybe you need to, Daniel. Maybe if you say goodbye you'll be able to live again." She reached up and touched his face. "Colonel O'Neill would want you to live, Daniel. You know that."

"I do." Daniel leaned into her touch. "I do." He sighed. He looked up as Teal'c and Rivera came back into camp.

"Doctor Jackson?" Rivera said as he sat down at the fire once more and poured himself a cup of coffee. "Why don't you tell us about the petroglyphs you found at the site earlier today?"

Daniel studied his boots a moment and then sat down across from Rivera, feeling Sam settle on one side of him and Teal'c on the other. Drawing strength from his remaining family, Daniel began to explain the significance of the find and what it might mean to their understanding of the Goa'uld.

Daniel dragged his gaze off the yellow pad before him and back towards General Hammond, the silence in the room finally infiltrating his thoughts. Everyone was staring at him expectantly and with a sinking feeling Daniel realized he'd been asked a question.

"Umm, sorry. I didn't quite catch that last question." His face felt hot in embarrassment and he ducked his head.

"I asked if you had anything to add to Major Carter's report, Jackson," Colonel Rivera stated from across the table. "But it's obvious you're not even on the same planet as the rest of us."

No, Daniel's mind wasn't here at all. It kept drifting towards the task he had set himself to do this afternoon, a visit he dreaded, but a deed he felt he owed Jack.

"Very well, if there's nothing more, the mission is a go. Dismissed." Everyone stood up at General Hammond's words, Daniel a little more slowly than the rest, trying to ignore Sam's worried look.

"Doctor Jackson?" General Hammond said when Daniel went to file out behind Sam. "A word, if you please?" Daniel stopped by the edge of the briefing table, waiting for his friends to leave the room.

"Just make sure you've landed back on Earth by tomorrow, Jackson," Rivera said kindly as he brushed by Daniel.

"Is there a problem, son?" the General asked gently.

"Sir?" Daniel's mind raced as he tried to think of what to tell him.

"I couldn't help but notice you've been a little preoccupied today."

Daniel decided to settle for the truth. "Yes, Sir, I was. I'm sorry, it's a personal matter. I won't let it happen again."

General Hammond nodded while he smiled at Daniel. "I'm pleased to see how Colonel Rivera is working out. And Doctor Fraiser is more than happy that none of the team has succumbed to any major injuries over the past three months."

We've been lucky, sir," Daniel intoned. Yes, they'd had a streak of good luck in past missions. So much so that at times he had wondered if General Hammond had purposely sent SG-1 to worlds where he was pretty sure they would have little chance of encountering combat situations. Not that Daniel wasn't thankful that he was being spared the anguish of seeing another of his teammates injured or killed, but there were days when he ached for a fight. Especially after one of those tormenting dreams, Daniel wanted to go out and hurt something, preferably Goa'uld or Jaffa. Instead, he took his rage to the gym and became well acquainted with the punching bag.

"Colonel Rivera is a good man," Daniel continued.

"Yes, he is. I know he's not Jack, but… he is very pleased with your work."

"Thank you, sir," Daniel answered, wondering why he felt like he'd just let Jack down. He looked down at the gleaming table before him examining the fingerprints that were evident at the angle from where he stood.

"I know things were a little rough at first, but I'm glad it's all working out."

"He's been understanding and patient with me. As have you," Daniel added.

"Good. Thank you for your time, son. I'll see you on tomorrow."
Daniel nodded, glad for the dismissal. He needed to finish up a few things in his office and then he'd leave early. Jack was counting on him.

"Hi Charlie," Daniel said as he knelt on the damp grass by the tombstone. He placed the bouquet of yellow roses on the ground, averting his eyes from the other name now carved in the marble. "I thought Jack would want me to bring these to you." Daniel continued speaking, pulling a few weeds from the base. "He used to tell me…" Daniel stopped, finding it hard to catch his breath. "Your dad said yellow was your favorite color." He closed his eyes, remembering Jack leaving the house a year ago today, an armful of yellow roses to place on his son's grave. "Happy birthday, Charlie," Daniel whispered. He traced his fingers over the incised letters, the marble both smooth and sharp under his fingertips and froze as he caught sight of Jack's name.

Jonathan James O'Neill. Beloved father. There were no dates carved in it and Daniel was grateful the job hadn't been completed yet, the stone mason only beginning it last week and then being kept from his task by the week of rain. There would be no acknowledgement of Jack's relationship with Daniel on the stone. Words wouldn't have covered it anyway. He'd spoken to Sara once since going to her house five months ago and honored her wishes to keep the inscription simple. Beloved father and the dates would be enough they both agreed.

"Damn it, Jack!" Daniel made a fist and pressed it against the stone. "It wasn't supposed to happen like this." He ignored the burning sensation in his nose. "What happened to all those plans you had for fishing your retirement away?" he whispered. Daniel shivered as the breeze picked up. He'd lost weight over the past months. Sam and Teal'c worried about him, but he couldn't speak of the pain he felt. Daniel rubbed at his temples, his head pounding due to lack of sleep. He thought he should be getting better by now, accepting Jack's loss, but he seemed permanently stuck between disbelief and raw pain.

How could it only be six months? How had time kept right on going? How had he managed to live? Daniel stared at the letters carved deep in the stone. He wondered how much force it took to gouge stone, surely less force than it took to gouge a heart. He sniffed, wiping his nose on the cuff of his sweatshirt, not caring if anyone was there to notice. He was not going to cry. The few brief tears he'd shed months ago had to be enough for he feared if he ever released them he would drown. Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose and blinked, the letters wavering and then standing in stark relief. Against his better judgment, Daniel reached out and rested the tips of his fingers on the J of Jonathan. He pressed them into the marble, welcoming the brief pain it brought. "I miss you, Jack."  He couldn't find any other words; except for work, his words had seemed to die with Jack. Daniel bent closer, touching his lips to the stone, the taste of the marble bitter and gritty.

"Goodbye, Jack," Daniel whispered. He let his hand rest over Jack's name as he settled back on his heels. "We have a mission tomorrow. Hannara, it's called." He lapsed into silence once more. The sun was beginning to set and Daniel had at least an hour's drive ahead of him. He brushed his fingers over the roses and then stood, ignoring the twinges in his knees from kneeling too long in wet grass and then he turned and walked to his car.


He looked down into Sam's concerned gaze. She closed her fingers over his forearm and he saw her frown.

"I'm okay, Sam," he said. Maybe if he said it more often it would make it happen. Janet would be proud of him, trying visualizations. Sam didn't believe him though. Maybe saying words without meaning for nearly six months destroyed one's ability to be understood.

Sam sighed, withdrew her hand and gave him a sad smile.

"The Hannarans would like us to attend the gala at the Presidential Palace tonight." She kept her voice low. "I believe our attendance is necessary to seal the treaty."

"Yes. Yes it will be, Sam." Daniel mentally shook himself. He'd lost his concentration while the Hannaran liaison was speaking to SG-1. Lack of sleep could do that, he mused, although he was getting damned tired of being tired. A good night's sleep seemed to be a thing of the past, his rest usually punctuated by nightmares and the sound of Jack's voice screaming in pain and terror. When he'd visited the cemetery yesterday, he should have asked Jack to stop haunting his dreams.

"DanielJackson?" Teal'c was by his side and Sam was gone. "It would be well if you were to rest before our appearance before the Hannaran president and her council this evening."

"Yeah." Daniel placed the pen he was holding on the table, watching it roll and fall off the side. He was too tired to pick it up. "I'll do that."

"Colonel Ferretti, Major Carter, and I believe it would be best to walk to the gala. I will awaken you when it is time to go. We will have time to dine when we get to the palace."

Daniel felt a surge of anger as Teal'c walked beside him to the suite they'd been given at the best lodging in the Hannaran capitol. As if he couldn't be trusted to walk to their room by himself and lie down. At least Lou Ferretti was along this trip instead of Colonel Rivera. It wasn't that Colonel Rivera wasn't a good soldier, but he wasn't Jack. SG-1 was functioning but not well. Sooner or later Sam was going to resign her position, then Teal'c, and Daniel would be alone again. He thought of the letter of resignation he had tucked in a desk drawer. Maybe he'd turn it in to General Hammond when this mission was completed.

He wouldn't be hungry later, he knew. But he would eat because Sam and Teal'c would expect him to. He would choke down food tasting like cardboard and drink the weak Hannaran wine because despite Jack's death he still wanted to live. Some days he was amazed and stunned by his own resilience.

Teal'c settled himself in one of the large chairs in the suite. Daniel was aware of Teal'c's eyes on his back as he entered his own room. He stripped down to his underwear and pulled one of the soft blankets from the bed to wrap around himself and stood by the window looking out over the city.

The Hannarans didn't believe in building up, they believed in building out, so the view from the second story didn't allow him to see very far. He could make out the brightly colored canvas awnings of the market. Times past he would have been begging for a chance to visit and mingle. They would walk through the market tonight on their way to the palace. It would be enough. Daniel sighed and rested his head against the glass, shivering at its coldness. Maybe he would lie down. If he was lucky maybe for an hour or so, he wouldn't dream.

"Daniel?" A hand brushed over his forehead. "Hey Danny." Warm lips covered his and a large hand brushed over his chest.

He groaned at the warmth and Daniel pushed his hips up, allowing his lover better access. He didn't want to open his eyes. He was warm, he was safe. He could smell Jack's unique scent and his aftershave.

"C'mon. Open those baby blues," Jack teased and Daniel turned his head a moment, smiling before complying. The smell changed as he did so, a smell of hot blood and death clinging to him like a shroud. Jack's face was streaked with blood, a piece of white bone showing on his forehead. His lips were contorted in a parody of a smile, a grimace of death.

"No. No!" Daniel held out his hands, pushing away from Jack's living corpse.

"Why, Daniel?" the voice asked. "Why me? Why didn't you save me?"

"I tried!" Daniel screamed. "I tried!"

"You failed." Jack continued pressing his body against Daniel's until Daniel was trapped and couldn't move.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Jack. It should have been me." Daniel began gasping for breath. "Forgive me, please."

"There is no forgiveness, Daniel. None at all." Jack gripped Daniel's hand, pulling it up to the gleaming bone. "Feel this? Can you feel it, Daniel? Feel death? No forgiveness. My death will forever be on your hands."

Daniel couldn't breathe. Jack's hands held him tight, smothering him, and there was no escape.


"DanielJackson, do not fight us."

Daniel opened his eyes to find Teal'c and Sam sitting on either side of him.

"Sorry," he whispered when he caught his breath. "Just sorry. Is Lou…?"

Sam shook her head. "Don't, Daniel. Please don't." Tears shimmered in her eyes. "Are they all this bad?"

Daniel debated turning his head away but this was Sam. He couldn't keep hurting her for something neither of them could control. He nodded.

"Yeah. They usually are."

Teal'c helped him sit up and held one hand at Daniel's back while he concentrated on slowing his racing heartbeat.

"Will you see Janet when we get home, Daniel? I'll go with you if you want me to," Sam said softly. "You're killing yourself. I don't want you to die too."

"DanielJackson, it is not your fault O'Neill was executed. I know you believe it to be so. But O'Neill would not hold you accountable for his death. He would not wish you to die also."

Daniel scrubbed at his face, noting how cold his hands were. "I know. I know Jack wouldn't want this, but I…"

"Teal'c and I aren't Colonel O'Neill, Daniel. We can't take his place. But never doubt we love you too. Never ever doubt it."

He nodded as he looked up. "I don’t." He shivered as the sweat began to cool on his body.

"There is time for you to take a shower, DanielJackson." Teal'c reached and offered Daniel his hand. Daniel took it, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.

"Laewin said we would have time to walk through the market on our way to the palace if you would still like to do that, Daniel." Sam smiled as Daniel nodded his consent.

"An hour then?" Sam pointed to her watch.

"I'll be ready."

Daniel watched them as they left the room.  Teal'c was right, Jack wouldn't only want Daniel to live, he'd want him to enjoy life. To live the life Jack couldn't. He closed his eyes, still able to bring up a vision of Jack's face and for the first time in months, found his own mouth curving into a small smile. "I'll try, Jack," Daniel whispered into the empty room.

"Thank you for bringing us to the market, Laewin." Daniel saluted their guide with his mug of steaming tea. He took a sip, letting the liquid warm him. Even the crush of people in the market place didn't take away the chill in the air. It was winter on Hannara and, even though the sun provided light until well into the evening, the air was cold and brisk.

Daniel had to admit he was enjoying himself. Being in an alien culture, watching the trading and the selling of goods foreign to him, was still exciting. Lou Ferretti was taking in the sights and had a look of wonder Daniel remembered seeing from Abydos. Taking a bite of the vegetable pie Laewin bought them, Daniel nearly choked at the heat of the spices. He caught Sam's eye and smiled as she made a face. For the first time since Jack's death he believed he'd be able to survive. He heard a chuckle bubble from his lips as Sam took yet another bite and widened her eyes as the afterburn of Hannaran spices hit her. Daniel felt Teal'c behind him, could feel the body heat of the other man. He took a deep breath and realized he was alive; he was happy; he was smiling and laughing and wanted to explore this culture. It seemed surreal. Jack wasn't by his side, wasn't waiting for him back on Earth, but was with him. Daniel imagined Jack's reaction to the Hannarans, could hear some of the comments Jack would have made and it didn't hurt.

"Hey Doc," Lou came closer, speaking softly. "How are you doing?"

"I'm," Daniel took a deep breath and looked around, "I'm getting there, Lou." He tensed as Lou gave him a clap to the shoulder.

A bell began to chime nearby and Daniel saw people scurrying to the food vendors who were dispensing food freely.

"Laewin?" Daniel asked unsure of what was happening.

"The market closes. The remaining food is given to those who are unable to buy it."

"Ah, yes." Daniel nodded as he watched a young woman with two small children walk by, her apron filled with vegetable pies and a small cheese.

"Come," Laewin beckoned. "We will finish our journey."

They continued along the street with the crowd which thinned as they approached the end of the market stands. A few vendors carried baskets and they moved ahead of Daniel and the others. He saw them stop and then noticed the huddled forms of what he assumed to be homeless people.

"Laewin? Those people?" Daniel nodded towards them.

"The vendors feed them. They are outcast, but what is left is theirs."

"Outcast?" Sam asked.

"They are useless. They cannot serve their masters any longer."  Laewin stopped as Daniel came to a halt. "Is something wrong, Daniel?"

"Their masters? You mean they are slaves?" Daniel watched as a few of the forms scuttled back into the shadows of a side street with their food.

"What is a slave?" Laewin tilted his head.

"A slave is someone who belongs to someone else, is their property."

"Then, no, they are not slaves. Their masters find them useless. They are no longer of value."

"They were slaves," Teal'c said. He looked at their guide and then back at the one person remaining. "They have been discarded."

Daniel took a deep breath. Discarded as if they were  worn out machines. He looked at the vegetable pie in his hand, feeling his appetite disappear.
One man sat alone, his hands sweeping the ground for bits of food remaining from the others. Daniel took a step in his direction ignoring Laewin's cry of dismay. He could hear Sam tripping over words in her haste to explain his actions and Lou's shout for him to come back.

"Sir." Daniel approached the man, hating to see another being cringe at his words. "I have food for you." He halted when the hands ceased their movement. For a moment he saw Jack's hands in those long fingers. "I have food."

The man made a harsh sound almost animal like and began pulling himself away from Daniel's direction. A cloak covered most of his body but as he dragged his body away the cloak caught on the rough stones.

"No," Daniel whispered. He would never be able to tell anyone how he knew who it was. He would never know himself. He only acted. He took three steps forward and knelt on the ground next to the man, pushing back the cloak's hood and gazing a face he thought he'd only ever see again in dreams.

"Jack," he whispered. "Oh God, Jack."

A scarred hand came up from the ground and patted his face before falling away.

"Daniel?" Sam was yelling and then she was at his side, kneeling beside him, seeing what he saw. "My God, my God," she kept whispering over and over.

"Is this possible?" Even Teal'c sounded astonished.

"Holy shit," Lou breathed.

Daniel shifted until he was sitting on his bottom. He pulled Jack close in an embrace, ignoring the smell of unwashed clothes and body. He threaded his fingers in Jack's hair, longer than Daniel's had been when they first met. Jack's head rested in the crook of his arm and Daniel bent to place a kiss on Jack's forehead. He brushed fingers over Jack's beard.
"It's me, Jack. It's Daniel. Oh God, you're alive. You're alive." He repeated the phrase unable to stop.

"You know this outcast?" Laewin asked. Daniel let Sam answer not wanting to take his eyes off Jack.

"He…we were told he was executed months ago. On another world." Sam's voice was steady. Daniel was impressed. He doubted he would have been coherent. "His name is Jack O'Neill. Colonel O'Neill. He is our leader."

"We need to take him home, Sam," Daniel whispered. He could feel Jack's bones under his hands.

"I will arrange for transport." Laewin answered. "It will take some time and I must impart this news to our council."

"I'm with him." Daniel looked up to see Lou pointing to Laewin. "Get Jack back to the hotel for now. Holy shit," he said again under his breath.

"Yes. Yes," Sam agreed, already turning her attention back to her CO. "Sir? Sir? Can you hear me? This is Major Carter. We are going to take you home."

Jack burrowed his face into Daniel's chest as Sam spoke. Daniel heard a small grunt that might have been a word.

"Can you walk, sir?" Sam asked. Daniel shook his head at her holding Jack tighter.

"I will assist you, O'Neill." Teal'c bent and placed an arm around Jack's shoulders and slid another under his knees.

"It's Teal'c, Jack," Daniel whispered into the tangled hair. "He's going to lift you and we're going to take you home."

Jack's hand tightened in Daniel's jacket and he made a strangled noise.

"Please, Jack." Daniel shifted, transferring the bulk of Jack's weight to Teal'c's arms.

Teal'c stood, his face grim. He looked at Daniel.

"I know, Teal'c. I know."

"We will take you to our lodgings, O'Neill," Teal'c announced. "There we will make arrangements to take you home."

"I'm here, Jack. See, I'm right here with you." Daniel placed a hand on Jack's head, matching his stride to Teal'c's. He hoped the streets were empty and there would be no one to watch their progress back to the suite.

Daniel imagined he could hear whispers as they walked in the more upscale area of the city. He wondered if the cloak was required clothing for the outcasts, a badge of dishonor and shame. Anger at what had been done to Jack, no, not only to Jack but the other outcasts, fueled his progress.

"DanielJackson," Teal'c warned him once when Daniel's grip on Jack caused the other man to let out a weak cry of pain.

"Sorry. I'm sorry, Jack." Daniel loosened his hand and then stroked Jack's chilled cheek.

They arrived at their building, a hotel of sorts for people who came to the city on official government business. Sam entered first and Daniel caught a glimpse of her as she ran up the stairs to open the door to their suite.

"No. No. No." One of the clerks came out from behind a counter, shaking his hands at them. "No. You can not bring an outcast in here. You must take him back where he belongs. Put him on the street."

The rage building in Daniel exploded and he took a step towards the Hannaran. He twisted a hand in the alien's uniform and let the force of his anger carry them both towards the counter until their progress was blocked.

"Listen." Daniel didn't yell but his voice was threatening. He found a secret satisfaction in seeing the terror in the amber eyes of the clerk. "He *belongs* to us. He will stay with us. He is not an outcast. His name, yes your outcasts do have names, is Jack O'Neill and your people made him a slave. Don’t ever call him an outcast again or I will take great pleasure in cutting out your tongue and stuffing it down your pompous throat." He twisted his hand even more, bunching the shirt beneath his fingers.

"Forgive me, sir. I did not know of his importance." The clerk brought up his hands to his forehead as Daniel released him.

"You will inform us when Colonel Ferretti and  Laewin arrive with our transportation," Daniel continued, only stopping when Teal'c once again called his name.

"O'Neill is distressed, DanielJackson." The reproach was gentle and Daniel bowed his head.

'Focus on Jack. What Jack needs,' he chanted in his mind as they walked up the steps. Sam had the door to their suite open and was standing in the middle of the room.

"I began running some warm water. I don't know if we should bathe him or not. If he's injured." Sam chewed on her lower lip.

"I think a bath yes." Daniel jerked his chin in the direction of the bathroom. "Maybe some food, Sam? Some water, juice?"

Sam nodded. "I'll arrange for it." She let out a breath before wiping at her face. "He looks so…my God, Daniel, he's alive."

 Daniel pulled her into a hug, reassurance for her and, if he admitted, for him, and followed Teal'c into the spacious bathroom.

"Would you like my assistance?" Teal'c asked as he lowered Jack to the bench lining one wall of the room.

Daniel sat down beside Jack, supporting his slumped frame with one arm and his torso. "I think maybe to get into the water. And then some clothes. I have some extras in my bag."

"Yes." Teal'c began unfastening the button holding the cloak shut at Jack's throat. He slipped the cloak out from under Jack's legs and threw it into a corner.

"Take it with you, Teal'c. Give it to them downstairs and tell them to burn it."

"Nnnnno." The word was barely audible and Jack's voice sounded as if he'd swallowed glass but the tone of command was unmistakable.

"Okay," Daniel agreed. "Okay, Jack. You with us? Huh?" He tilted Jack's head up so he could look into his face.

In the light of the bathroom the milky film covering Jack's eyes was more noticeable. He noticed a new scar near Jack's left ear, a wound never treated.

His questions went unnoticed and Daniel wondered if Jack was sleeping with his eyes open. He eased Jack's arm through the short sleeve of the silky shirt Jack was wearing, nodding in approval as Teal'c did the same. They froze when they caught their first glimpse of Jack's torso, crisscrossed with new scars and a few never-healed wounds that appeared infected.

"I will hold him up while you undo the rest of his clothing," Teal'c murmured.

Daniel nodded. They didn't know what Jack had gone through and so far Jack had tolerated Daniel's touch, almost seemed to crave it. Daniel frowned as Teal'c hoisted Jack to his feet, noticing Jack didn't take any of his weight on his own legs. Bending, his fingers unlaced the thread bare trousers Jack wore. They slid to the floor and Daniel knelt, sweeping them out of the way. Jack's feet were bare covered with oozing sores matching the ones on his torso. He took in the gauntness of Jack's legs, the paleness of the skin, the long scars running the length of them, the twisted ankles, and prayed he wouldn't throw up.

"Let's get him into the water."

He forced emotion down. Daniel stripped off his own shoes and socks, his shirt and pants, keeping on his boxers. He walked up the few steps leading to the sunken tub and got in.  The water was warm but not too hot. He sat on the ledge inside and accepted Jack's pliant body from Teal'c.

Jack bucked violently in Daniel’s arms as the water hit his skin, and Daniel belatedly came to the realization that the water would be painful to his open wounds. He was hard pressed to keep Jack from sliding under the water or hitting his head on the tiled edge. Teal’c grabbed Jack’s legs until Daniel could maneuver one of his own over Jack’s in an attempt to hold him still.

Jack howled loudly and Daniel flinched at the sound. “Sorry, sorry,” Daniel whispered against Jack’s ear as Jack finally began to still, the short struggle having exhausted his weakened body. Jack twisted against Daniel’s side and tried to hide his face against Daniel’s shoulder. His gasping breaths suddenly turned into a hacking cough. They eventually eased off as Jack relaxed, his breath rattling slightly in his chest whenever he exhaled. Daniel simply sat back in the warm water, holding the shivering man who he had never thought to see alive again.

"I will return, DanielJackson, O'Neill." Teal'c rested his hand on Jack's head a moment and Daniel saw him close his eyes. He wondered if Teal'c was saying a prayer to a god he found to believe in.

Daniel began shaking despite the warmth of the water, and he felt his throat thicken when it finally hit him that Jack was alive. Sick, injured, lost… but alive! He buried his face in Jack’s filthy hair and allowed himself a moment to relish the thought that Jack was back with him, wondering what had happened to him and how he could have come to this planet. Then he sniffed loudly, swallowed, and set to cleaning the filth from the beloved body in his arms.

With one arm supporting Jack against him, Daniel reached over and grabbed the container of soap, then a washcloth. He managed to awkwardly pour some soap onto the cloth and holding it over the back of Jack’s shoulder, he spoke gently to him.

“Jack, this might hurt a bit, but I need to start getting you clean. I’m going to be as careful as I possibly, can, okay?”

There was no answer and somehow Daniel hadn’t expected any. He began to clean Jack’s grimy body, passing the cloth over the bony back and too-thin ribs, careful of the infected wounds. Jack shuddered at his touch and Daniel wondered if he was causing him pain.

“You okay?” he asked. Jack just burrowed his face deeper against Daniel in reply.

As gentle as Daniel tried to be, Jack moaned and squirmed whenever the soap neared any of his open wounds. Daniel knew they needed to be cleaned and then disinfected. They’d get some food and antibiotics into Jack, and then hopefully they’d be able to get him home to Janet very soon. He concentrated on cleaning the dirt from the more or less uninjured parts of Jack's body, deciding to leave the worst for last.

Daniel had to stop several times when Jack had a coughing fit. His earlier exertions seemed to have triggered the cough, and the rattling sound worried Daniel.

The water quickly turned a dark brown as the dirt came off. Twice Daniel had to change the bathwater before he was finished.

“Jack, can you turn onto your back?” Daniel coaxed as he pulled on his arm, trying to turn Jack around so he could wash his hair. With Jack’s head balanced on his stomach, Daniel lathered the long, matted locks, seeing bits of dirt, twigs and bugs appear when he rinsed the soap off. Jack seemed to enjoy Daniel’s fingers in his hair so Daniel took some time massaging his scalp. Jack lay with his eyes closed, a small grunt of appreciation escaping him once in a while.

As he fingered the long hair, Daniel was determined to get it cut as soon as possible. It was so matted that it would be impossible to pull a comb through it, and anyway, Daniel like Jack’s hair shorter.

Realizing he had been putting off doing the worst part of the bath, Daniel swallowed hard and began cleaning out the more serious wounds. Thankfully by then Sam and Teal’c had returned and they were able to hold Jack down as Daniel performed the grisly task as Jack began twisting in pain once more, crying out or coughing as the cloth touched the open wounds.

“Sssstop!” Jack screamed as Daniel tried to wash the open wounds on Jack’s feet.

Daniel stopped, looking at his friends helplessly.

“Do you want me to do it?” Sam offered. Daniel knew she had more experience treating wounds, but he shook his head, needing to do this himself. Steeling himself, he ignored Jack’s cries and by the time he’d finished, he was shaky and weak-kneed, and several times had had to fight back the urge to vomit.

With the water draining from the tub, Sam rinsed the soap residue from the two of them. Teal’c reached down to pick Jack up in his arms and Sam wrapped him up in a large fluffy towel. Daniel left the large tub more slowly, needing a few seconds to try and get himself under control. He leaned over the sink and took a few deep breaths, toweled himself off and entered the bedroom.

Daniel pulled on pants and a T-shirt, pulling two pairs of socks from his pack. Jack's feet were probably cold. With the weight he'd lost, Jack would chill easily. Daniel grabbed up an extra T-shirt, figuring they could layer Jack's clothes to keep him warm on the trip back home. The transport Laewin would be arranging would be open air, Daniel was sure. He made a mental note to tell Sam they'd need as many blankets as possible.  Daniel took a last look around and then grabbed his shaving kit, the need to see the beard gone overwhelming. He cursed himself for his selfishness and saw his hands shaking as he held it. Bile choked his throat and Daniel swallowed it down. He didn't have time to get sick.

An inhuman howl sounded from the bathroom and Daniel hurried into the room with his supplies.

"Jack. Jack." He sat on the floor next to Jack who was trying to push himself in the small space under the bench. "Hey. I’m here." Daniel stroked damp hair back from Jack's face. As Jack burrowed into his arms, Daniel looked up into Sam's stunned face.

"What happened?" he asked.

"He became agitated when you left the room, Daniel. I was cutting his beard while Teal'c held him. I thought it would make him a little more comfortable. " Sam sounded shaken. "Daniel, I think…his eyes…I don't…"

"I know, Sam." Daniel placed a hand on Jack's chin, turning his face towards the light. Jack's eyes no longer appeared brown, a milky white substance covering the irises. He brought his hand close to Jack's eyes, looking up at Sam when Jack didn't blink, seeing her lips press together.

"Jack?" Daniel bent close to his friend's ear, whispering his name. "Jack? Can you see us? Do you see me?"

Jack turned his head towards Daniel's voice, one thin hand coming up and wavering in the air until it was captured within Daniel's own.

"Can you see me, Jack?"

There was an incomprehensible sound and then Jack's broken voice rasping, "Nnnno."

Bringing Jack's hand to his cheek, Daniel let Jack stroke his skin, the motion seeming to provide comfort.

"We're going to get you cleaned up a little more," Daniel soothed, alarmed when Jack began to pull away and try to curl into a fetal position.

"We will not put you in the bath again, O'Neill." Teal'c knelt on Jack's other side, placing his hands on the floor to either side of Jack's body, not touching but close enough to deal with any fight Jack might put up.

At those words, Jack relaxed, his arms coming away from his chest.

"Will you let MajorCarter finish her task?" Teal'c asked. At Jack's slow nod, Teal'c motioned for Sam to come closer. She used the scissors to cut the whiskers as close to the skin as possible. Daniel was pleased to see Jack lay still for the most part.

"There. All done, sir." Sam smiled as she finished. She glanced at Daniel, motioning to Jack's hair. Daniel frowned and shook his head. He didn't want to overwhelm Jack with more than he could handle.

"I thought I'd shave you, Jack. Remember how you always told me you hate having a beard?" Daniel got out his battery operated razor. It would do an adequate job for the moment. He turned it on, switching it back off when Jack twisted his head to the side.

"It's just my razor." Daniel spoke as if he was trying to calm a skittish wild animal. "Feel." He reached out and placed the razor in Jack's cold hand, sitting back on his heels as Jack began skimming his fingers over it.

"It's okay." Daniel scooted closer. "Will you let me do this for you?"

Jack held out his hand offering the razor back to Daniel.

"Thank you." Daniel accepted it. He moved behind Jack, tilting Jack's head back to rest on his chest. "We're gonna be fine, guys," he said to Sam and Teal'c. "Aren't we, Jack?"

No answer again except a small humming noise.

Sam nodded. "I'm going to see what I can find out about our transportation."

"If you need assistance, DanielJackson, I will be available." Teal'c gave a little bow and accompanied Sam from the room.

"Teal'c?" Daniel called before the other man got through the doorway. He waited until Teal'c turned. "I just wanted to say…" Daniel patted Jack's shoulder when the muscles tensed under his hand. He swallowed hard, his throat tight. "Thank you. You and Sam."

"You are most welcome." Teal'c regarded them both a moment longer before walking into the hall.

"This isn't going to hurt," Daniel kept his voice low and soft, "not hurt at all. You're going to feel a lot better when we're all done." Daniel expected Jack to pull away when the razor touched his face so he was prepared with his other hand to support Jack's head and gently guide it back into place. "See," he continued speaking as he started to shave off the beard, "it's fine. No problems. Just relax. I'm here with you."

Jack tensed a few more times but Daniel's litany of reassurances seemed to calm him enough that Daniel could finish the task.

"Feel better?" Daniel stroked Jack's cheek. At some time during the proceedings, Jack's eyes had closed. He bent closer listening to Jack's slow even breaths. "Let's get you dressed. Get you warmed up."

Pressing his lips to Jack's cheek, Daniel shifted Jack enough to guide first one arm then the other through the sleeves of the T-shirt. The shirt hung on him, the sleeves loose. Getting the pants on Jack was a little harder due to Jack's inability to help by lifting his legs or his hips. Daniel was breathing hard until he was done, but he managed. He propped Jack against the wall slipping the two pairs of socks over Jack's icy feet after dabbing some antibiotic cream on the sores, smiling when he heard a soft hum.

"You like that huh? Feels good?" Daniel moved to Jack's side once more and pulled him into an embrace, unable to stop touching the miracle of a living breathing Jack. Under his hand, Jack's heart beat a rapid rhythm.
"I'm going to get you to the bed," Daniel whispered into Jack's ear pausing as Jack's hand gripped his shirt. He closed his own hand over that tight fist. "No, don't worry. I'm not going to leave you."

Their position against the wall was awkward. Daniel pushed his back into the wall and used his thigh muscles to slowly move the two of them upright. He paused, hard breathing and sweating. Jack may have lost a substantial amount of weight but was making Daniel do all the work.

"Okay," Daniel said when he caught his breath. "Let's see about getting you to the bedroom. You're gonna need to help here, Jack." Daniel took a step, supporting all Jack's weight. "Come on, just a few steps. I've got you. Don't worry." But when Daniel looked down he realized Jack made no effort to move his legs. Maybe he couldn’t support his weight, Daniel thought. God they needed to get Jack home. He wanted Jack home safe in Doctor Fraiser's infirmary away from this place that held such horror for Jack. He wanted Janet to look at him and tell him Jack was going to be okay, tell him Jack was going to see and walk and talk.

"Do you need some help?" Sam came down the hall as Daniel maneuvered Jack towards the bedroom.

"Nearly there, Sam." Daniel hated the way Jack tried to hide his head when Sam spoke. "Right, Jack?" He smiled at the small grunt Jack gave.

Sam walked ahead of them, entering the room and pulling down the covers. She stepped away when Daniel approached the bed with Jack.

"Here, Jack. Bend your legs." Daniel placed his knee against Jack's and nudged him. "It's the bed. That's all." He smiled when Jack complied. "Great. You're doing great." He kept his arm around Jack and guided him onto his side, lifting Jack's legs to the bed when the other man made no move to do so.

"Ah, ah." Jack's breath came in little puffs and Daniel sat on the bed next to him. "You hungry, Jack? Thirsty?" Daniel placed his hand on Jack's forehead, smoothing the wrinkled frown appearing at the question. "Some food? You want to eat?" He motioned for Sam to leave, to bring them something. "To drink?"

"Eeee," Jack murmured.

"Yes, eat," Daniel answered, not liking the slurred sound of Jack's speech.
"You're going to need to sit…"

Loud voices from the outer rooms penetrated their sanctuary and Jack tossed his head from side to side. He clutched Daniel's thigh, his fingers digging into muscle.

"Nnnno. Nnnn." Jack's eyes were opened wide and he began trying to scratch his face.

"No." Daniel caught his hand, surprised at the strength Jack displayed. "No. Stop it. Jack, stop it."

"Hur. Nnno hur."

"I won't let them hurt you. I promise." The voices were closer and Daniel could hear Teal'c's voice above them all although he couldn't make sense of any words over Jack's harsh breathing.

The door banged open, causing Jack to cry out.

"What's going on?" Daniel kept one hand on Jack's shoulder, rubbing it. "President Griffor?"

The woman inclined her head. "Laewin and your Colonel Ferretti brought us word you insisted an outcast belongs to you."

"His name is Jack O'Neill. And I'd like to know how he wound up on Hannara," Daniel spoke quietly, not wanting to distress an already frightened Jack.

"They told us he was dead. We saw his," Sam looked over at Jack and Daniel before continuing, "his execution on another world."

The president frowned. "There are those Hannarans who deal in flesh."

"Who sell slaves?" Daniel asked. "Who grow rich while others die?"

"Yes. Do not delude yourself, Doctor Jackson. I am sure there are those who do the same on your world," Griffor said. "It is not allowed by our laws, but some cling to the old ways."  She stepped closer.

Jack shifted away from her as if he sensed her proximity. The rest of the Hannarans in her entourage surrounded the bed.

"He has the wasting sickness, Honor." One of the Hannarans bowed.

"I see. Yes I see."

"The wasting sickness?" Sam asked.

"Do you not see his eyes? His legs? He does not move them, does he?" Griffor asked Daniel. "His speech can not be understood?"

Daniel nodded.

"It is the wasting sickness. Your Jack O'Neill must be a strong soul for most do not survive the blinding."

"He survived it." Daniel looked up at her and saw her frowning once again. "How do we heal him? Do your healers know how to cure this disease?"

"I am sorry. I do not know what he once was," Griffor continued. "It is rare for one to survive to this point."

"There are no medicines?" Sam asked. Daniel heard the determination in her voice.

"Yes. There are medicines. But I have never seen one recover fully from this state." Griffor motioned one of her aides to her side and whispered something in his ear. "We will provide you with the medicines you need and will accompany you to the Portal."

"Hang in there, Jack." Ferretti bent over the bed a moment before leaving the room.

"Jack," Daniel bent low as the others filed out of the room. "Jack, you hear that? We're going home. You're going home."

Continue on to Part Two

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Daniel Jackson was written out of Stargate: Click here to help get him reinstated
babs, JoaG, 2003.
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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