"Let me get this
straight. We're stuck here until you can find a world that
doesn't actually need its Stargate, gate out to that world,
butcher the part we need from that Stargate, fly back to the nearest
world with a Stargate, gate back to the SGC, then gate out here to fix
our Stargate?" Jack asked carefully. "Basically hoping like
hell that you can fix it, and it isn't a one way trip?"
"Yes, Sir," Carter
brightly agreed. "Although personally I'd put our odds at better
than 'hoping like hell'."
something!" Jack added brightly, wanting to make a thorough job of it.
"You're assuming by then the Tok'ra - that is, your Dad - will actually
have a ship available so he can come rescue you before you rescue us."
Carter didn't appear
to have a response to that.
commented precisely, scowling into the little camera perched on top of
the TV screen the SGC had thoughtfully sent through to them when it
became painfully apparent Daniel was not going to be home in time to
catch that Chaucer special he'd been yakking about. Not that Jack
didn't appreciate the live video feed. Instead of just hearing a
crowded silence, he got to see Carter’s face fall. He also got to
see her look up and roll her eyes at someone off camera. The
general obligingly took Carter’s place, primed to pull rank
“I just had to gate
in when SG-5 gated out, didn’t I?” Jack complained bitterly.
neutral face suggested this was both asked and answered.
His tact didn’t help
in any way. Jack wasn’t looking to blame anyone, mostly because
the only one to blame for him being stuck here with a Stargate which
was only taking incoming calls was him. Hammond had pulled SG-5
back for a higher-priority mission, Daniel had been just fine and dandy
about staying here all alone. In fact, he’d made it clear he
preferred it that way. Jack was the one with the problem.
He was the one who’d vocally insisted on gating out here to be the big
bad protector of the innocent young archaeologist instead of the airman
Hammond had assigned to fetch, carry and keep a discreet eye on
Daniel. The Stargate literally gave its all to get him here in
one piece. It didn’t help his mood in any way to know that
everyone currently within earshot and/or laughing their collective
asses off in the Commissary knew this.
"We'll dial in every
twelve hours to monitor your situation, Colonel," Hammond assured him,
leaning earnestly towards the camera to give Jack the benefit of his
most paternally concerned look. "We can send through any rations
and supplies you require."
"The search for an
uninhabited world without significant resources may take some time,
Sir," Carter interjected an unnecessary warning.
"How's Daniel taking
it?" Carter asked, all low-voiced concern and dewy eyes.
answered bitterly. "I caught him doing a Mexican wave when the
gate fizzed for a nanosecond and died last time you thought you knew
what would positively, definitely work."
"It's a really
beautiful temple," Carter rushed to excuse her beloved little brother's
complete absence of perspective on the current situation, determinedly
ignoring her C.O.'s pissiness.
"It's the light," a
bright, elated voice called from behind Jack, who stared stonily at his
stubborn, supposed subordinate as he trotted up to say hello.
Daniel was so thrilled to be stranded he was bouncing. "The way
those golden tones bathe the stones of the temple," Daniel sighed
respectfully watched the archaeologist gazing beatifically at the
venerable mellow honey-coloured stone, including a few fascinated
technicians Jack could see peeking into the camera from behind Carter
and Hammond. Ah, the joys of intergalactic video
conferencing. Humiliated on two planets simultaneously.
"Do you need
anything, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond finally prompted Daniel when he
made no move to break the reverent silence.
Jack rolled his eyes
and walked restlessly away as Daniel launched into a protracted list of
absolute necessities, which was going to make Jack's own request for
his Playstation seem stupid and petty. He wandered around the
chamber the Stargate was housed in, curiously scuffing his foot off the
small cobbles paving the floor, which apparently were excitingly unlike
any mosaic Daniel had ever seen, although maybe mosaic was the wrong
Appalled he could
remember this particular informative monologue almost verbatim, Jack
realised it was going to be a very, very long few days. Daniel
turned round, frowning forbiddingly at him as he aimlessly
destruct-tested the cobbles. Jack flipped him the finger, unseen,
as they bid a fond farewell to a palpably amused Hammond. He cut
into the flow of ideas bouncing back and forth between Carter and
Daniel by the simple expedient of hitting the off-switch on the camera.
"Could you be more
careful?" Daniel demanded as the wormhole abruptly disengaged.
this. "No." He stamped on the floor as they walked out of
the gateroom. “I’m not doing the endangered dirt dance again,” he
“I know!” Jack cut
him off, stamping petulantly on another cobble. Even if he was in
no mood to admit it, he had to agree with Daniel, Teal'c, Carter,
Siler, Davis, Ferretti, Hammond, the control room team and the whole of
SG-5, that the floor was the damndest thing he'd ever seen. The
stones seemed to flow in ripples and whorls that reminded him of water
in a pool. Every stone fit perfectly to the edge of each of the
round filling the temple, with no gaps or spaces he could see.
chided him wearily. "Show some respect, please. The temple
is forty thousand years old."
"Why should I?" Jack
demanded, his glare going unnoticed as Daniel walked confidently ahead
of him through the simple opening in the wall that allowed them in and
out of this particular chamber. Jack prided himself on his
spatial awareness but the temple was giddying, all these round rooms
blending one into another, like a maze. The outer walls of some
of the rooms touched, though you could glimpse more chambers beyond,
while others had spaces you could walk through. If there was
logic, a pattern, he hadn't found it. It set his teeth on
edge. "The time, the resources, the ingenuity it took to lay this
damned floor?" He stamped again, for emphasis. "To build
this whole place? It's a waste."
Daniel stopped in
his tracks, gaping incredulously at Jack.
"I know you're
fascinated," Jack said rapidly, trying to head the incipient lecture
off at the pass. "I know you've never seen anything like
it. I also know I can't see any point to it. Who do you
think built this place, Daniel? The rich guy in the silk robes
who got to live in the lap of luxury up here? Or all the poor
schmucks we've got carved into the walls?" He brushed an
impatient hand over one of the interminable bas-reliefs representing,
according to Daniel's best educated guess, the labourers who built the
temple. "How many of these poor bastards were worked to death for
every one of these rooms you're getting orgasmic over?"
parroted blankly. "I'm not! I don't!" He thought
about this. "Do I?" he asked uncertainly.
"Yes," Jack said
unkindly, planting his hand in the small of Daniel's back to shove him
"I can't change
anything that happened in the past, Jack," Daniel told him
exasperatedly. "I can only try to understand it. I think
history was important to these people." Digging his heels in, he
stroked long latex-clad fingers over the face of one of the carved
figures. "They chose to memorialise themselves this way."
He glanced over his shoulder to Jack, frowning again, licking his lip
absently, usually a sign he was thinking furiously.
Jack suppressed a
groan. Lecture looming!
"I've found no
evidence to suggest the people were forced labour, Jack. The town
on the plain below is built to exacting standards, with all the
dwellings equal in the space allotted, each with a clean water supply
and sanitation. Perhaps the people had utopian ideals," Daniel
said brightly. "The evidence base certainly leads me towards that
as a tentative conclusion."
Long experience told
Jack that this wasn't it. Tragically, Daniel was just getting
"SG-5 sampled random
sectors around the town for me before Hammond pulled them back.
The pottery sherds they found are all of similar quality and share
common design features. I can't find any of the obvious signs of
poverty or distress among the populace, or of the social stratification
our civilisation has developed.”
"So they weren't
slave labour," Jack shrugged, refraining from lightening the mood with
a little levity. Daniel hadn’t found his joke about communists
funny the first time. "How about brain-washed labour, doing it
for the love of their alleged god?"
"I don't understand
how you can condemn an entire culture out of hand!" Daniel snapped,
abruptly losing patience. "Your assumptions aren't just worst
case scenario, they're baseless. There's no evidence to support
your position!" Then he stopped in his tracks again, his face
changing ludicrously. "I'm sorry, Jack!" he apologised
remorsefully. "It never occurred to me - of course you're going
to be sour and edgy, being stranded off-world again so soon after we
got you back from Edora. This is a totally different scenario,"
he reassured Jack, appealing eyes wide and anxious. "Sam is
confident we're only talking a matter of days."
agreed, apparently surprised Jack had to ask.
"Are you still mad
at me?" Jack asked slowly.
"No," Daniel denied,
a little too quickly, a little too decidedly, his expressive face
what I figured.”
“We didn’t exactly
clear the air,” Jack reminded him. “Some of us were too busy
making snide remarks about drawing straws.” He knew he was
pushing it, there was no comparison between his minor, momentary
embarrassment as his kids left him high and dry outside the gateroom,
and the godawful scene with Daniel in his living room. Jack
didn’t think he was ever going to forget the way Daniel’s eyes had
closed, the way he’d gathered himself up and walked away from Jack
without a word, without looking back.
stiff spine, Jack decided ‘mad’ wasn’t the word for it. Nowhere
near. “For cryin’ out loud, Daniel!” he called after his
accelerating archaeologist. “Even Maybourne knows the foundations
are solid! Why’d you think he bought the act!”
Daniel said flatly as he nimbly insinuated himself through another
narrow gap between chambers. “Hammond explained. It’s fine.”
friendship thing we’ve been working on,” Jack deliberately quoted, not
feeling any satisfaction at the expected confirmation of the harshness
of the memory in Daniel’s reflexive flinching. “Is it
solid? Are we fine?”
Daniel froze at the
narrowest point between the two walls, frowning heavily. “You
tell me, Jack,” he invited. “The success of your entire sting
operation hinged on everyone’s acceptance of how much we love each
Astonished by the
definite tone as well as the words, Jack rocked back on his
heels. Love? Whoah! “I never said ‘love’,” he
protested feebly, glaring at his recalcitrant friend.
Daniel looked at him
with something close to pity. “I did, Jack,” he said
proudly. “You just didn’t hear me.” He slithered through
the gap and walked briskly away, leaving Jack staring after him,
open-mouthed and furious at being put in the wrong yet again.
Jack was beginning
to realise Daniel wasn’t mad. He was hurt, and he hated everyone
knowing he was hurt. He hated his feelings were so transparent an
amoral jerk like Maybourne could read him. That his friend could
play him. Not that Daniel – What was Jack thinking? Of
course it had to be this way. This was Daniel, so of course Jack
had to shit all over him from a great height, the first, the only time
he’d dared to come out and claim Jack as his friend. Only took
him four years to trust it enough to speak up, but what the hell!
A sudden realisation
struck him that this was a one-shot deal, that Daniel had taken a huge
emotional risk, revealing a vulnerability his intensely private friend
always determinedly hid. Jack slumped against the wall, scrubbing
his hand across his eyes. The whole friendship thing was
important to Daniel, important enough for him to open up about it when
he believed Jack needed to hear it, needed to know he wasn’t
alone. Like the good soldier he was, Jack had struck at the
unexpected weakness. Scored himself a direct hit. No
He’d rushed into
that stumbling apology to Daniel in the gateroom as Makepeace and the
others were led off for interrogation, refusing to let himself think
about the consequences of what he’d done to him. Even Maybourne
had understood how hard he’d hit Daniel, and it had brought him
straight to Jack’s door, openly salivating. Jack hadn’t just
rejected Daniel’s friendship, he’d rejected Daniel. Dr. Sweet and
Nice wasn’t over that. He might never get over it.
It was those minutes
or hours or even days when Daniel had believed every word of what Jack
had said to him, had completely believed in that comprehensive
rejection of who and what he was, what he thought – hoped – he meant to
Jack. The crack about drawing straws wasn’t important.
Daniel hiding out in the control room when Jack shipped out to Edora,
not able to get it together to say goodbye to Jack, leaving, for all
Daniel knew, forever – that was important. That was everything.
Jack was fooling
himself. The foundations weren’t solid, were they? Daniel’s
whole life had been about hitting the ground running, about getting
along with people no matter what he felt. Jack and Daniel could
and would get along fine. Hunky-frigging-dory, in fact. If
Jack didn’t fix this, and fix it fast, it would all be surface gloss.
No foundation at all.
“Fuck!” Jack spat
“I’ve been right
around the perimeter,” Jack announced without preamble as he strode
into the chamber Daniel was surveying, the largest one they’d found and
the only one that had writings carved high into the walls. Daniel
was perched on top of a narrow platform, painstakingly making rubbings
of each panel of text. The long deceased indigenous types hadn’t
felt the need to make any big, splashy statements of intent. The
symbols were about the same size as newsprint. It took Daniel’s
eyes so long to adjust focus when he had to stop work, everyone -
before they shipped out - had got into the habit of yelling at him to
wait for five before he even attempted to climb down from his platform.
Jack told himself he
was being oversensitive, but he was still conscious the only response
he got to his announcement was a vague grunt. Daniel didn’t even
look up. So much for Jack being helpful. It was looking
like he was going to have to crank it up and find his enthusiastic
place. “This is the only entrance. Here. On the
eastern wall.” Jack parked his behind on the bottom stair,
automatically squaring away his weapon.
Daniel asked from above, at least sounding as if his interest was
Jack placidly confirmed. “Unless we’re talking secret
passages. Which I wouldn’t find, what with them being secret and
all,” he pointed out helpfully.
A sudden clatter
made him turn round just too late to stop a squinting Daniel from
trotting down the makeshift staircase. At least he was holding
onto the railings with both hands, that was something. Jack was
annoyed with himself for tensing up. This was the kind of
reflexive wince he never got past when he caught Charlie taking the
stairs down two – or three – at a time.
It took him a moment
to change mental gears and process the fact Daniel wasn’t going to sit
with him. He turned round to see Daniel sitting a few stairs
above him, eyeing him warily. Jack hated Daniel’s clenched
posture, hated seeing the man trying to hide inside himself. He
was angry knowing he was responsible and he didn't know what to do with
it. Lashing out at Daniel would only make things worse for both
“How much do you
know about burial rites?” Daniel asked, making an effort to sound
normal, like he hadn’t just spilled his guts to Jack.
If Jack pushed the
personal stuff now, he had a feeling Daniel would shut down on him
completely. The best thing he could do was maybe just listen,
give Daniel some space to get his composure back. Keep it
easy. Jack quirked a questioning eyebrow, trying to look like an
ignorant man willing to be instructed. Daniel would have launched
into the lecture regardless, but at least this way Jack scored points
“The first recorded
burials on Earth are those of the Neanderthals,” Daniel
explained. “Seventy thousand years ago!”
Jack obediently made
an ‘oooh!’ face, which had Daniel relaxing infinitesimally.
“Although this was
disputed by some scholars, there is evidence to suggest the
Neanderthals interred their dead. They arranged the corpses in
sleep-like or foetal positions, surrounding them with deliberately
tossed out an obvious cue.
“With the Shanidar
IV remains, the archaeologists found yarrow, cornflowers, St. Barnaby's
thistle, groundsel, grape hyacinths, woody horsetail, and a kind of
mallow,” Daniel informed Jack gravely, refusing to lighten the hell
up. “This constituted deliberate, meaningful interment of
the dead with tools, fauna and food offerings indicating a keen
self-awareness among the Neanderthals as well as a concern for the
human spirit, with burials ritualised to a certain extent. It
also argues a belief in the afterlife. The corpses were interred
with the head facing west, the feet pointing to the east. What
does that suggest to you?” he asked, gesturing eloquently at the carved
walls around them.
Jack looked up
vaguely, trying to think like Daniel. The only thing that
occurred…”The Stargate chamber is on the western side of the temple,”
“I’m not so sure
this is a temple,” Daniel observed thoughtfully. “I hate leaping
to conclusions based on such incomplete evidence…what? You okay?”
he asked Jack as he choked down a resounding hoot of derision.
“Fine,” Jack wheezed.
“But,” Daniel went
on inexorably, “There are some puzzling contradictions here. This
is the largest chamber we’ve found and it wouldn't accommodate any
sizable congregation of worshippers. The layout of the chambers
is puzzling, hardly lending itself to efficient ingress and
egress. I considered a contemplative religion, based on
individual acts of worship, but then how does that explain the
aggrandisement of the ‘worshippers’ in the bas-relief sculptures we see
everywhere?” He glanced at Jack to see how this was going down.
Jack’s ‘ooh’ face
felt as if it was congealing. “The slave-cum-Moonie labour?” he
Daniel frowned at
him, his eyebrows shooting up disapprovingly. It made him look
about fourteen to Jack. It was unsettling to a man who worried he
had surrogate-parent issues to start with. Seeing Daniel so
vulnerable, so quiet and defensive, knowing it was his fault, punched a
whole lot of buttons Jack preferred to think were long-buried.
“I haven’t found any
tools or implements,” Daniel fretted, biting at his lower lip.
“No texts except for these,” he jerked his thumb over his
shoulder. “And yet…look at the floor.”
The commanding tone
had Jack snapping to attention, then getting pissed at himself for
doing the Pavlovian thing. “What about it?”
Daniel stood up and
turned to climb the stairs, jerking his head meaningfully for Jack to
He got to his feet
and climbed gingerly up the stairs to join Daniel on the flimsy
platform. “X marks the spot?” he joked.
“What does that
remind you of?” Daniel prompted him, recklessly resting against the
narrow scaffolding pole that acted as a railing.
warned him, even more pissed his commanding tone bounced right off his
linguist. He nudged Daniel’s shoulder to get him to move
back. Daniel irritably shrugged Jack off. It made Jack all
the more determined to break down this unexpected, unwelcome
barrier. His face hardening, he crowded Daniel, somehow
unsurprised but still upset when his proximity forced Daniel to back
off “What ‘this’?” he asked sharply.
Daniel stamped his
foot on the platform. Hard.
The planks quivered.
“I get that my
respect for the past falls far short of your exacting standards,” Jack
said sarcastically, “But you don’t need to kill us both to make sure I
really get it.”
“I meant look at the
floor,” Daniel said blandly, his lips twitching.
Crap. To avoid looking stupid – again – Jack looked down at the
floor. He kept on looking, tracking the smooth sweeps of cobbles
here and there.
“I really have seen
nothing like it,” Daniel murmured reverently. “It isn't anything
like the ancient tessera mosaics, the paintings in stone we have on
Earth. This relies on form, not colour, each stone carefully
placed to add to a cohesive whole. I know we’re not high enough
to get the full effect, but keep looking.”
Jack was staring his
ass off, wondering what Daniel had got that he couldn’t see.
“This is like those optical illusion posters,” he grumbled. “You
get ten drunks in a kitchen at a party, peering at some psychedelic
tessellated vomit on a poster, one of them trying to convince the rest
he can see a treasure chest at the bottom of the ocean and you can too
if you just squint at the vomit hard enough.”
“What kind of
parties do you go to?” Daniel asked, sounding slightly appalled.
“Not the kind that
have poetry readings and café latte,” Jack retorted snidely.
“How about Strip
The innocent tone
floored Jack. He turned to glare Daniel into submission,
preferably spilling on who got naked and more importantly when, and why
Jack wasn’t invited, which was win win, if it turned out Daniel hadn’t
been to a party since 1987 or something. Then he saw the treasure
chest in the vomit. “I’ll be damned. The event horizon!”
bounced excitedly, making the planks twang distressingly.
Jack grabbed him by
the shoulders and shook him, just a little, for being so damned
heedless. Jack knew he was overreacting even as Daniel snatched
his hands away and took a measured step back, red spots burning in his
“I think this is in
fact a mausoleum,” Daniel said steadily, as if nothing had
happened. “That somehow, the Stargate is ritualised in the
interment. I can’t say precisely what significance it was
ascribed in the belief system of the people, but I think it’s a fair
assumption that it may have been revered as a path to the afterlife.”
Jack stood stonily
listening to the tide of erudition rolling over him, knowing he’d been
slapped down, that he’d crossed a line maybe even Daniel hadn’t known
was there, because it had never been there before, not for them.
Daniel didn’t like to be touched. Jack knew that. Daniel
folded in on himself. Carter, sometimes, he opened up to.
Jack – always.
He was shocked to be
hit so hard by being denied permission to touch. Tease.
Ruffle. Hug. Harass. He did it unthinkingly.
How the hell was he supposed to stop just because Daniel was throwing
up walls against him?
“You told Makepeace
you never trusted my command,” he fired at Daniel.
Daniel fired back. “Have you ever known me to be so unthinking,
so lacking in critical faculty I’d blindly follow anyone merely because
it said ‘colonel’ somewhere on their uniform?”
“You trust me,” Jack
said in a hard voice, needing the reassurance, hating himself a little
for this unexpected weakness.
“I’ve always had
faith in your leadership,” Daniel agreed readily, not answering the
question at all. “You have nothing to prove to me, Jack,” he
help. It was another line Jack wasn’t meant to cross, another
distancing he wasn’t prepared to accept. He didn’t want to hear
that as far as the team was concerned, he and Daniel were fine.
He wanted to know they were fine.
enough. It wasn’t.
For the first time,
Jack had to wonder why.
“I’m on my way!”
Daniel snapped at his radio.
“You said that last
time, and yet, you’re still not here,” Jack said sarcastically.
“I’ll be there in
His radio sneered.
Daniel contrarily slowed down, deciding to enjoy the view. Spread
out in gardened squares, too distant for the decay to show, the small
town glowed pleasingly in the late evening sun as he made his way down
the wide trail to camp. Looking out at the verdant plain, Daniel
was more determined than ever to understand what had ended this
civilisation. His pottery sherds had all been luminescence-dated,
all the pieces were forty thousand years old.
happened here had happened quickly, and yet, he saw no physical
evidence of an extinction level event. The soil was clean and fertile,
water plentiful. His current hypothesis was that some pandemic
had swept through the populace, leaving the civilisation
unviable. Perhaps the survivors had fled through the Stargate,
although, if it held the place he felt it did in the mythology, the
people would have felt they were willingly embracing death.
Daniel was loving it.
confidently off the trail, heading down the narrow, winding path that
led to the camp below, opening out into a sleepy little hollow,
sheltered by overhanging rocks peppered with gorgeous flowering plants
which soaked up the sun high above. They had a clean water source
in a pool located further down the path and the vegetation around them
was so dense no one could sneak up on them, especially with the
electronic perimeter defences Sam had set up before she was called back
to base with SG-5. Not that there was anyone around to sneak.
It was so rarely
Daniel got to stay with an excavation, he was determined to enjoy every
minute to the full, despite the presence of the annoyingly buzzing and
persistent fly in his ointment. “It’s me!” he dutifully called
out as he wandered into camp.
Jack was sitting at
the camp table, arms folded across his chest, lips tight.
Jack's pissed-off spouse act, Daniel took his seat and dove straight
into his yummy lukewarm cannelloni in a can. Jack sniffed
disparagingly as he made a real production job of eating his
dessert. Sparkling dinner conversation failed to trip lightly
from their tongues, which suited Daniel just fine. The faster he
ate, the faster he could get to his laptop and type up his notes.
"Is there anything
you need me to do tomorrow?" Jack asked as he slowly ate a peach slice
from his fruit cocktail.
"To help. What
do you need me to do?"
"You want to
help?" Daniel looked up at Jack, frowning. "Why?" he asked,
somewhat at a loss. The Air Force didn't do merit badges, last
time he checked.
else to do," Jack shrugged.
"Batteries dead on
your Play Station?" Daniel asked sympathetically.
suddenly, a broad beam of a smile, replete with affectionate amusement,
reaching out to take Daniel by the scruff of the neck and give him a
wondering what he had to do, how he could get it through to Jack he
didn’t want him touching him. It wasn't safe for either of
them. Everyone knew how close the two of them were, Daniel
thought bitterly. Jack couldn’t know how much closer Daniel
wanted, no, needed to be. When Jack had shot his career down in
flames and flounced off into early retirement, Daniel had gone to
Jack's house hoping Jack would understand he couldn't cut himself off,
that he was needed, wanted. He'd said nothing of what he was
feeling, putting his trust in the least part of what he felt for
Jack. What he'd believed Jack felt for him. He'd had no
doubt they were friends. He'd trusted that.
"You going to eat
that?" Jack asked brusquely, imperfectly disguising paternal concern.
hungry." Daniel shoved the meal away, taking a long drink of
water instead. "There is something you can help me with," he said
Jack looked up from
the report he was reading, surprisingly attentive. He amicably
followed when Daniel pushed back his chair, though he moved ahead to
lead the way back up to the main trail. When they reached it,
they stood side by side at the edge of the trail, Jack obediently
taking out his binoculars.
"You see those
larger buildings?" Daniel asked, pointing to the roofed square in the
centre of each sector of the town. "It's possible those are
public buildings, town halls, courts of law, schools,
repositories. You get the idea?"
"Got it," Jack
reported confidently, scanning the townscape. "What am I looking
for in these public buildings?"
"Texts," Daniel said
softly, unable to resist watching the way the setting sun gilded Jack's
cheek and jaw. "Clay tablets, papyrus scrolls - although even
with storage in sealed earthenware jars, which was the norm in ancient
abruptly, halting in surprise when he found Daniel far closer than
Daniel jerked back,
desperately wishing he could act with any semblance of normality around
Jack. He was lucky Jack didn't have a clue about his feelings,
wouldn't see anything except appropriate awkwardness between them.
"I…" Daniel was
staring into Jack's melting brown eyes. Couldn't seem to stop
staring. He also couldn't remember what he was saying.
Jack looked at him
expectantly. "You what?" he prompted.
For a heart-stopping
moment, Daniel thought he'd said that out loud. Jack put his hand
on Daniel's shoulder, meaning nothing but reassurance, looking hurt
when Daniel shakily shrugged him off.
"We need to talk,
Daniel," Jack said gravely.
Talking was the last
thing Daniel wanted to do. He swallowed with difficulty, his
throat suddenly painfully dry. "I have to get back to my
transliterations," he interrupted more harshly than he intended.
"Just - just check out those buildings and film anything you find for
"Sure," Jack agreed
sullenly, scowling at him.
What could Daniel
say? He didn't make assumptions about sexuality, but he'd seen
the fallout from Jack's confident heterosexuality on more than one
mission. If he had any hint Jack was attracted to him, he would
speak up. He would. He needed Jack too much to refuse the
risk. He just had to know he wouldn’t hurt Jack with feelings he
couldn’t return and would take responsibility for.
Right now, Daniel
would settle for not being nervous and unfortunately nauseous when Jack
stood too close to him.
As always, he set
his personal standards high.
They walked slowly
back to the camp, Daniel feeling choked and claustrophobic when he
thought about the long night ahead of them. Camp beds weren't
comfortable at the best of times for a man his size, but when he
thought about tossing and turning restlessly with Jack close enough to
touch…Sadly, nauseous was the appropriate adjective.
He was far too old -
and staid - to have a crush. Especially his first.
something and marched off into the tent, his stiff back radiating
offended hauteur. Daniel took a seat where he could see Jack
coming, because he never heard him. He didn't want to topple off
his chair in shock or anything. He powered up his laptop, fished
his journal out of his pack, determined to make sense of all his
theories and the evidence he'd collected so far. Determined to
work until he dropped. Or Jack came to fetch him.
He opened the
word-processing software on his laptop, clicking on his current mission
log. Sometimes he resented the duplication of effort in
transcribing his key arguments and conclusions from his journals,
especially when copies of his files wound up in NID hands. Other
times he grudgingly admitted it could be useful to review, and there
had been one or two occasions when he'd had a startling new idea which
had paid off. Mostly it was a just another red-tape pain in the
ass. Tonight it was the best he could do, with Jack skulking on
his cot, being gorgeous and sulking at him because he was being mean
Daniel read his
notes carefully, then began to type. Then he read what he'd
typed, deciding it would be quicker to delete it and type it again than
it would be to correct the typos. He typed it again. Then
he closed his document and sat sneaking looks at Jack over the top of
Reluctantly, he had
to admit lack of concentration was merely an irritating symptom of his
deeper, annoyingly rooted problem, all smug, smirking, straight,
clueless, and intensely aggravating six-two of it. Along with the
concomitant hormonal fallout.
What he didn't know
was what to do about this irrational, inexplicable, impervious
Daniel still wasn’t
used to the way he would be watching Jack move, admiring his easy,
competent grace, then his gut would clench and his cock would
fill. He didn’t need to touch. He would see himself fucking
Jack, taste it, those long legs wrapped around his hips, Jack's heels
digging into his ass, urging him deeper, harder…
He sighed, shifting
uncomfortably on his chair, his cock throbbing. Sadly, Daniel
wasn't the type of man who could just hurl himself at someone he was
interested in. In fact, the last time he'd managed to even smile
at someone in anything approaching a mildly flirtatious manner, he'd
wound up fielding the Destroyer of Worlds, a homicidal colonel and an
realistic about himself and his situation, Daniel had to admit he
literally couldn't imagine a scenario in which he could tell Jack how
he felt. It wasn't even as if he was hot enough Jack could be
persuaded to give him a try. Daniel couldn't be anything but who
and what he was and thus far, the doctor of archaeology wasn't doing it
for the colonel in any way. An hour ago, Daniel was standing in
front of Jack with his tongue hanging out, and Jack hadn't even noticed.
assertively about his sexual needs if Jack was attracted to him was one
thing. Daniel was guiltily aware that if Jack even came off as
repressed, he wouldn't hesitate. He'd do something.
Abjectly humiliating himself in front of his dearest, apparently
straight, definitely career military friend was unthinkable. That
scene in Jack's living room was just too close and too hard for him to
Jack had rocked his
world. He’d held on to his faith in Jack when he’d lost
everything else, and to be robbed of it that way had left him too
shaken to put his trust in anything. He’d never imagined he could
be afraid to turn to Jack. They’d always been there for one
another. He’d believed…He was wrong, though. He was in love
with Jack but he hadn’t known he was dependent.
What was it Jack had
said to him? That he was a bright guy, that he had to have sensed
something. He'd been so hurt he'd sensed nothing at all, he
hadn't thought, just reacted. Got himself the hell out of there,
out of Jack's house and away, realising for the first time how easy it
was for Jack to take him down because he was too open. He'd let
Jack get too close, felt too much for him, needed him too much to have
any kind of perspective and Jack was gone, long gone before he could
right. They did need to talk about what had happened, but Daniel
wasn't ready. He didn't have perspective. Right now, he
needed to stand apart, keep faith with himself. He'd never lost
his dignity in his life, always making a choice before acting, always
taking responsibility for the consequences of his choices.
He was in love with
Jack, though, and he was dangerously close to losing himself.
Having some nice, warm sex and spending private time alone with his
friend could not be the sum of his ambition.
It distressed him
how pathetically little this was to ask of life, especially as the odds
of life putting out were squat, and how much he was willing to
compromise to get it.
There had to be more
for him than Jack.
"There's a bat on
Daniel looked up
slowly from his laptop, so as not to disturb the bat. "So?"
"It isn't bothering
you?" Jack asked in a voice that suggested, 'it should!'.
"It's not like it's
sucking my blood or crapping down my back," Daniel replied
soothingly. "It's just reading my journal."
Jack strove for
"Don't shoot the
bat, Jack," Daniel instructed him unkindly.
Jack glared at him,
then tried to psyche him and the bat out by storming over to the table,
flinging back a chair, tossing himself into it and yanking it up to the
table with a terrific clatter.
Daniel and the bat
looked at him.
bastard, isn't he?"
"Yes," Daniel agreed
"I was talking to
"Even the bat thinks
you can do better with the cheap insults, Jack," Daniel observed
mildly. He was disappointed when the bat decided three was a
crowd, withdrew its meagre diversionary presence and flapped
erratically away into the night.
watched the bat until it was out of sight. "Coffee?" he offered,
abruptly switching his attention back to Daniel.
shrugged, willing to buy whatever time he could get. He was
worried by the unwontedly grave look on Jack's face. He also
wished he'd never opened his big, fat mouth and blurted out a truth
Jack had been blind to and was now seemingly determined to talk about.
Bracing himself for
the inevitable confrontation, and knowing Jack, it would be only the
first of many until he got to the bottom of this problem between them
and fixed it, Daniel saved his mission log, powered down the laptop and
shoved it aside, gratefully accepting the coffee Jack handed him.
He jumped when Jack's finger slid over his, coffee slopping over the
rim of his mug.
impatiently, eyes tight in a suddenly forbidding face. "I fucked
up, didn't I?" he said stonily.
His heart aching,
Daniel slowly nodded, then looked down at his hands, clasped tightly
around his mug.
"I hurt you," Jack
recognised. "I'm just now getting how much." There was a
heavy silence. "There isn't any point to me saying I'm sorry, is
Daniel sat in
silence, unable to say anything that would comfort Jack. He
didn't have it in him to lie a man he loved, with whom he was in love,
so he sat silent, figuring that was a condemnation all its own.
"I know what it took
for you to say that to me," Jack promised. "When you came to my
house - the whole friendship thing," he elaborated unnecessarily.
Daniel glanced up
fleetingly, flushing and miserable.
"You can forgive me,
can't you?" Jack asked quietly.
thought. Which was why he had to keep his distance. He had
to keep faith with himself. Loving Jack, it was both the best
thing and the worst thing that had ever happened to him. He'd
never seen himself clearer or been closer to losing who he was.
He'd always stood apart. He'd always had to. He hadn't even
known how much he depended on Jack until the support that had become so
necessary to him had been yanked away, leaving him lost.
Daniel summoned up a
murmur of reassurance, a swift, shaky smile, because it was expected of
him, because Jack couldn't know the depth of the hurt he'd inflicted,
because, ultimately, he would always forgive Jack. In time.
He needed time.
He jumped out of his
skin when Jack abruptly reached out and touched his hand, pulling away
instantly. He muttered an incoherent apology, upset and angry
with himself and with Jack, who couldn't take no for an answer.
Was he really going to have to spell it out?
When Daniel glanced
up, Jack was pale, a stark, arrested look in his eyes. "I'm
sorry," Daniel breathed.
"Don't be," Jack
said roughly. "Bed," he ordered tersely. "You look dead on
The thought of being
cramped up in the tent with Jack, both of them upset, suffocated Daniel.
refusal had Jack up on his feet, grasping Daniel roughly by the
shoulder to haul him up from his chair and hold onto him even though he
was rigidly resistant.
Jack didn’t attempt
to talk to him. He held up both his hands, but didn’t back off,
instead herding Daniel into the tent. They undressed in stiff
silence. Daniel, for the first time in what felt like forever,
self-consciously turned his back to Jack. A sudden hard-on would
be something even Jack wouldn't be oblivious enough to miss.
"Daniel?" Jack said
suddenly, casting a swift look over his shoulder at Daniel, then
looking as quickly away. "I worked at our friendship too," he
Daniel believed him. But there was just enough truth in the
differences between them that he'd believed Jack when he said there
wasn't much of a foundation. Just enough doubt in his capacity to
hold anyone. Just enough mistrust in himself and in Jack.
He'd never realised how much of himself he'd given to Jack, how much
their friendship defined him. Fear had fuelled his belief, fear
of himself, his feelings, his judgement, fear that he meant so little
to Jack when he needed so much.
Jack had meant to
break faith with him. He'd needed Daniel to believe him for the
sting to work. He'd done an admirable job. Daniel's trust
in Jack was shaken, and that, more than anything, was what held him
back from sharing how he felt. He didn't doubt Jack had deemed
himself choiceless, he understood why it had to be him who baited
Jack's trap for Maybourne, why it wouldn't have worked with anyone
else. He also knew Jack's motives didn't materially affect the
outcome. Jack had broken the connection between them, and he
seemed now to understand that.
desperately sorry for that, but he didn't trust himself, let alone
Jack. Not with his friendship. Not now. It was too
hard. He didn’t know where they went from here. He was
exhausted fighting himself, and to have to fight Jack too, who was just
getting warmed up?
Jack. Really." He summoned up a quick excuse for
smile. "I'm fine." Even he winced at the familiar brush-off.
The way his gut was
churning, Jack gave up all pretence at sleep at around 0100 and sat on
his cot watching Daniel sleep. If Daniel hadn't worked himself to
death the whole time he'd been stuck on this godforsaken waste of
space, he would still be lying staring at the canvas too. As it
noiselessly over to the other cot to tweak the unzipped, tangled
sleeping bag comfortably over Daniel, wondering how a tall man who was
all legs could fit himself into such a small, defensive space. It
hurt him that even in sleep Daniel couldn't relax with Jack anywhere
What had he
done? What the fuck had he done?
Daniel was a smart
guy, a shrewd one for all his invincible innocence. He knew Jack,
trusted him like maybe only Charlie ever had. Jack had counted on
that. He hadn't been able to tell Daniel anything about the
mission or the danger their off-world alliances were in and he'd been
so sure Daniel would work it out, that he'd clue in and make it easy
for Jack to make it up to him.
He'd never factored
in hurting Daniel this much, never understood until now how much a part
of Daniel he was, that he was pretty much all Daniel had, a friend to
him in a way no one else could touch. The depth of Daniel’s
feelings had blinded his friend's judgement. Jack should have
known that Daniel's trust was just too hard-won for him to bounce right
back from a seeming betrayal.
found himself smoothing the fabric of the sleeping bag, freezing as
Daniel stirred, his hand hovering awkwardly, his instinct to soothe
warring with unwanted awareness he wasn’t welcome to any longer.
He stood hesitantly
at Daniel’s bedside, watching him. He thought it was strange he
should notice how fine-boned Daniel was with the moonlight glancing off
his face, how slender he'd stayed despite the respectable muscle bulk
he carried. From this angle, looking down…with the ridiculous
sweep of his long lashes, the high cheekbones, the soft, generous
mouth, Daniel seemed almost - almost…
Unnerved by his odd
reaction, Jack snatched his hand away, prowling over to his cot,
feeling guilty for even looking.
He wasn't allowed to
touch. Daniel wanted him the hell away. If space was what
Daniel needed, Jack should be backing off as far as Daniel wanted him
to be. Strictly for now. A simple strategic
withdrawal. He understood this. He was trained for
this. Thinking tactically was part of who he was. He just
couldn't do it. As hard as Daniel pushed him, Jack was pushing
back. The impulse to touch was irrational and irresistible and he
didn't know where the hell it was coming from.
Lying down didn't
help him relax any. He found himself rolling onto his side to
watch Daniel some more. He didn't want to say it. He didn't
even want to think it, but he was beginning to understand that Daniel
was right. He'd never felt this much for a man before. Not
even close. It had always been easy for him to have his buddies
knowing only as much about him and his life as he chose to let them in
on, easy to keep his distance from everyone.
Everyone but Daniel
Jackson. Daniel, he…Crap!
O'Neill. Suck it up and spit it out.
Daniel, he loved.
For what good it did
him right now.
When Daniel awoke,
blinking furiously until the world wavered into focus, he automatically
checked for Jack. Jack's sleeping bag was rolled neatly on the
camp bed. He got up and went to look outside. He didn't
find Jack, but he did find a note. Jack had gone into the town as
instructed. Daniel meanwhile was instructed to eat for God's
sake, to play nice with all his shiny toys, and to radio check every
He shuddered at the
thought of food, but helped himself to a steaming mug of coffee,
cradling it between his hands as he watched the morning sun streak the
grey, lightening sky with vivid colour. He pondered Jack's
absence, wondering if maybe it meant he was finally getting the
hatefully necessary message that Daniel needed space.
Maybe. Although it was just as likely this was designed to lull
Daniel into a false sense of security while Jack worked out his next
Daniel drained his
coffee in several scalding, noisy gulps, tossed the mug onto the table,
scooped up his journal and his pack, then headed off towards the
mausoleum. He was insensibly cheered by the opportunity to
excavate. Surveying a site had its charm, but the perpetual
pressure to solve the mysteries of the universe by lunch, file in
triplicate, then move on, was wearing. Daniel knew it was
romantic in the extreme to believe a few more days here would enable
him to understand the civilisation that had died or deduce what
happened to the people, but he could gather enough evidence to
hypothesise to his heart's content once they returned to base,
especially if Jack found him texts.
The language was new
to him, excitingly alien. Right now he didn't have enough data to
even determine what kind of language it was. The glyphs were
abstract, so he was confident about ruling out pictographic and
alphabetic. That left ideographic, logographic and syllabic - or
perhaps a combination? Ancient Sumerian, after all, was
logosyllabic! Even with this preliminary gathering of data, he
could see the language was sophisticated, with many hundreds of glyphs,
both main signs and affixes. A larger sample would help him
identify the appropriate reading order.
Daniel had been picking up his pace. He didn't notice until he
found himself running a few steps. He was embarrassed by his
eagerness, but not enough to slow him down.
He wanted to lose
himself and find this language, these people.
It was what he lived
irritably to the peremptory summons, straining over from the sector of
wall he was working on to tweak his radio into reach. "What?" he
demanded ungraciously, eyes already returning to the column of text he
was so close to completing the rubbing for. The last one in this
panel, then he could…
"You're still alive,
then!" Jack made it sound like an accusation.
"I checked in!"
Daniel retorted indignantly.
"Four hours ago."
"I've talked to you
every hour, on the hour," Daniel complained confidently.
radioed you, and last time you demanded to be excused any more
quote 'pointless' discussions on the subject of your ongoing health,
safety and general welfare on account of being dead."
"It could have
worked," Daniel argued sullenly. "It wouldn't even be necessary
if you had any semblance of the most basic human curiosity. Any
normal person would be fascinated by those ruins."
"I am," Jack
"You are?" Daniel
asked suspiciously. "You've been bitching and whining about the
heat and the dirt and the smell and the bat crap since 0600."
"I was so fascinated
I fell off the dais and twisted my knee," Jack retorted
blisteringly. "I can't walk, but on the upside, I got you a
spectacular panning shot of the roof! It's painted. Covered
in those picture thingies. Whaddya call them again?"
Daniel breathed. "What do they depict? Is there a
"Thank you for your
concern," Jack interrupted loudly. "My knee hurts like crap, it's
swelling like crazy and I doubt I can limp back to camp. If you
can fit me into your busy schedule, Daniel, could you swing by and
collect me? I need to use you as a crutch. Thank you so
very goddamn much."
"I'm on my way,"
Daniel answered meekly.
"I know perfectly
damned well you're only hustling because you're dying to see the
pictothingies," Jack's already impressive volume rose dramatically.
killed his radio.
Then he realised
he'd forgotten to ask which building Jack was located in. He
clicked his radio. “Jack?”
"Yes?" Jack hissed
in response to his hail.
"There's a dais?"
Jack was not
surprised to see Daniel pelt into the centre of the hall, come to a
dead stop and gaze up at the ceiling, mouth falling open, quivering
He cleared his
sidling towards him, apparently steering by sound, his whole attention
fixed upwards. Even Jack, a veteran of elementary school
painting, thought the pictothingies were fairly cool.
“This is odd,”
Daniel observed thoughtfully, biting his lower lip. He came to a
vague halt in front of Jack. “Pictographs don’t fit with the
level of technology and sophisticated architecture. They don’t
constitute a writing system as such. Like Ignace Gelb, I’d
classify them merely as graphic notation allowing for human
intercommunication through a stable set of marks and signs.”
"I'm not going to
ask who Iggy is, so get over it and move on," Jack responded crisply.
deigned to glance down, frowning disapprovingly at Jack’s legs.
“I know your knee hurts, Jack, but did you have to elevate it on the
only intact amphorae?” he asked reproachfully. Ignoring his
injured teammate’s speechless indignation, Daniel knelt, dubiously
eyeing Jack’s knee. “I should examine it.”
“You are talking
about my knee, right?” Jack demanded. "Not the big honkin' jar?"
suitably shocked at the mere suggestion. He also looked slightly
“I’ve examined it,”
Jack supplied. Daniel glanced inquisitively at the jar.
“Got it strapped up." Daniel coughed slightly, avoiding Jack's
wry eyes, dragging his errant attention wounded-knee-wards. "When
the general checks in tonight, you can get me some heat packs and
muscle relaxant. Fraiser knows the drill. In the meantime
"You weren’t kidding
about the dais!" Daniel yelped. "I've never seen anything quite
like this, Jack, with all these terraces on different levels.
This is incredible!”
snapped, hefting his splinted knee between both hands and pointing it
at his primary health care provider. “Focus!”
“No, but don’t you
see? This is…”
“Yes,” Daniel agreed
simply, looking up again, bright-eyed. “The culture that produced
the writings I found at the mausoleum was infinitely more sophisticated
than that which produced these pictographs. A true pictograph
functions as an image whose meaning is communicated through its visual
form - literally as a picture of something - whether the communication
is effected through substitution or translation into language or
not. There are few if any true pictographic writing
systems.” Daniel glanced at Jack to see how this was going down,
very surprised he'd been allowed to get even this much out unchallenged.
Jack agreed there
was some justification for this. He always shut Daniel up.
Always. It was one of their things. Daniel talked quick
enough to get out a sentence or two of extraneous exposition but Jack
always nailed him in the end.
He couldn’t seem to
summon up the enthusiasm for their usual routine and was reluctant to
admit even to himself he was afraid this time Daniel wouldn’t bounce
back from it and nail him in turn with a few more frightening facts he
didn’t see coming just to make sure Jack knew he wasn’t winning or
Still eyeing him,
Daniel went slowly on, almost inviting Jack to interrupt like he was
supposed to. “Egyptian and Hittite hieroglyphs, the Babylonian
pictographs which were precursors to cuneiform: these all used
ideographic, logographic, syllabic, and phonetic principles to
represent concepts, words, or sounds.” Daniel looked at him
opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He pulled a disgusted
now, Daniel leaned closer and rested the back of his hand against
Jack’s forehead. “You don’t seem to have a fever,” he said
uncertainly, taking his hand away.
quicker. He caught Daniel’s hand and held it, watching steadily
as Daniel tugged ineffectually, his face first paling then flushing
furiously. Trapped very close to Jack, Daniel sat back heavily on
his haunches, his brilliant blue eyes widening behind the reflecting
lenses, his breathing quick and shallow, snuffing warm over Jack’s
skin. Still holding on to Daniel, Jack quietly processed every
reaction, wanting to know what kind of defences Daniel had thrown up
against him, how far he could safely push as he worked to close this
unacceptable distance between them.
“Wha…” Daniel husked
painfully, swallowing with obvious effort, staring back at Jack as if
mesmerised. “What all of these systems share in common is a - a
higher order of graphic representation that puts the elements of the
system into logical relations with each other.”
“So?” Jack asked
softly, looking steadily back.
“So…I - I would
hypothesise that these rudimentary pictographs and the lack of logical
relation between the representations suggests a civilisation in its
earliest stage of development. No similar pictorial elements are
present in the writings in the mausoleum, none of the forms or symbols
I’ve found in that language are present here.”
“What does that
“I have no idea.”
Jack didn't say
anything; he just kept looking, feeling as if for the first time he was
questioning his assumptions about what he was seeing. He was
shocked by how off his perception of Daniel was. He'd always seen
someone young and innocent, wide-eyed and puppyish in his eager
enthusiasm. He'd seen what he wanted - maybe needed - to see, all
of Daniel's empathic vulnerability, his sweetness and gravity, his
compassion and the serious, studious mind that demanded Jack's
protection. He'd been ignoring the rest.
His Daniel was
handsome. Not in some polished, plastic
movie-star-look-but-don't-touch way, but real, warm and feeling, and
very human. In Daniel's speaking eyes and lush mouth, his
sensitivity, Jack again saw what he uneasily understood as beauty.
He didn't like
it. He didn't like looking at Daniel and not knowing what was
going on with either of them.
Daniel insisted, pulling away from him again.
This time, Jack let
"Make like a
crutch," he ordered tersely, disturbed by where this falling out with
Daniel was taking him. Jack tensed up as Daniel's arms slid
"I won't let you
fall," Daniel promised, mistaking the cause of Jack's unaccustomed
Jack grimly hauled
himself up, using Daniel as a counter-weight to keep him braced and
balanced. He was sweating and swearing by the time he was steady
on his feet, Daniel's arm around his waist, his arm around Daniel's
shoulders, a strong, slender hand clasping his wrist.
"Let's give this a
shot," Daniel coaxed him, taking a slow step forward.
Jack moved with
Daniel, trustingly leaning his weight into his capable friend.
Daniel took it without so much as a grunt, simply walking forward
again. "You're going to be carrying me up that hill," Jack warned
him, biting off the words.
"I could leave you
on the side of the trail. Toss a tarp over you when it rains,"
Daniel generously offered.
Jack almost bought
it, but the bantering tone was strained and edgy. Daniel sounded
like Jack felt, and he was so tense he was practically twanging.
Jack didn't know what was going on with either of them, and he hurt too
much to care.
"Jack?" Daniel asked
as they emerged into the strong sunlight.
perfunctorily at his friend's obvious anxiety.
"You're jarring your
knee with every step!" Daniel fretted, protectively tightening his grip.
"Ya think?" Jack
snarled. Daniel stopped, impulsively turning to him, so they
wound up practically nose to nose. Staring. Inexplicably
conscious of the slim, supple strength supporting him, Jack was the one
who looked away. "I'm fine."
By the time they
reached camp, Daniel was as exhausted as an increasingly frayed and
abusive Jack. He was limping so badly, Daniel was practically
carrying him. Daniel had passed from conversation into
monosyllabic encouraging inanities as soon as they'd started to
climb the hill, the rest periods coming more frequently and taking
longer each time, with Jack frankly gutting it out - as he put it - to
make it back to camp.
When they finally
lumbered into their tent, Jack toppled onto his cot with a guttural
groan, lying face down in his pillow, hands cradled protectively over
his head. Daniel sank to the ground, breathing hard, sweating and
shaking. He had only a short time to settle Jack, then he needed
to haul ass up the hill to report in to Hammond and take advice and
medical supplies from Janet. He got painfully to his feet.
"I'd better check
your knee," he warned Jack as he made his way unsteadily over to the
field medical kit perched on the small table that stood at the foot of
painfully onto his back, pitifully pale and totally pissed.
Daniel helped Jack
struggle out of his jacket and lie back down, then grabbed the pillow
from his camp bed, dropping it by Jack's so he could elevate the
swollen knee as soon as he'd checked it. "I'll ask the general
for an ice box," he said, trying to cover his nervousness as Jack
unbelted his BDU's and hitched his ass up. Daniel took over then,
his fingers skimming over the hot skin of Jack's thigh. He was
mortified that he could even notice the sensuous chafe of fine hair or
the ridges of powerful muscle when Jack was hurt, but he'd never fooled
himself he was perfect. He looked all he could, while he could.
It took time and
care to get Jack out of his BDUs, his boots and socks, which left Jack
limp and Daniel - to his shame - hard. He fought not to invade
Jack's privacy, but the fleeting glimpses of heavy balls and the proud
swell of Jack's cock beneath the thin fabric of his shorts defeated
Daniel's attempts to focus. His fingers trembled as he delicately
unwound the field dressings Jack had braced his knee with.
"How is it?" he
asked. "I'm far from being an expert on your little ACL problem,"
he added seriously.
"Does it look as bad
as it feels?" Jack strained his head up to look, then collapsed,
his forearm across his eyes. "Oddly, no."
Looking at the
fierce swelling, Daniel winced. He delved into the medical kit
and extracted the ibuprofen, two caplets at 400 mg strength. "Did
you eat?" he asked.
Jack snatched the
pills and swallowed them down dry, which pretty much answered that.
lifted Jack's leg and slid the pillow to rest under his knee.
"I'll get you some water and your music," Daniel offered, heading out
of the tent to break out a fresh bottle of water from the ration
boxes. He grabbed some energy bars, too, then detoured to the
camp table they'd both been using as a base of operations to pick up
Jack's new National Geographic, Time and TV Guide
magazines, sent through to them by Sam last evening.
Jack was looking
pathetic when Daniel slipped back into the tent. He sensed Jack
was going to milk his infirmity for all it was worth. He hastily
slid the chair which was home to Jack's high-tech mini hi-fi and CD's
within reach, placed the neat stack of magazines beside the CD case,
the water and energy bars on top of those.
thoughtfully at Daniel's preparations for his feeding and entertainment.
recalled Jack's radio and put that on the chair too.
Robbed of genuine
cause for complaint, Jack contented himself with sniffing
disparagingly, indicating that even though nothing achieved his
exacting standards of patient care, he would magnanimously make
do. For Daniel's sake.
"I forgot your
blankie," Daniel said sympathetically, solemnly handing Jack his MP-5.
Then he showed some
hustle, running a few steps, then walking a few, then running
again. He was more tired than he was prepared to admit from the
three hour haul it had taken to get Jack from the town to camp.
The time he was making, he'd be lucky to make it to the Stargate in
time for the communication window. Gritting his teeth, Daniel
picked up his pace and ran. Jack really needed the ice he'd
suggested to take down the swelling, or Daniel would have stayed in
camp and radioed in.
His radio clicked.
wheezed as he climbed steadily up towards the plateau that held the
"I need to pee."
Even after Daniel
returned with the promised ice, muscle rub, painkillers, crutches and a
ton of overly-officious medical advice he seemed determined to follow
to the letter, Jack couldn't relax. He hated having Daniel out of
his sight, but he was jumpy as a scalded cat with Daniel right in front
of him, which meant he was almost as jumpy as Daniel was.
His knee was
blessed, icy numbness, Daniel was lovingly heating two cans of
spaghetti, fragrant coffee was scenting the evening air and Jack was
looking at Daniel's ass. He hadn't meant to. He didn't want
to. He couldn't stop. He looked away, then looked
back. He closed his eyes, then opened them. He peered over
the top of his magazine and under his arm. He'd been around this
ass for three years. There was nothing feminine about these
Jack was shit-scared.
Just because he
couldn't touch, he was looking?
What the fuck did
that say about the touching?!
broodingly as Daniel walked towards him, carefully carrying the hot
food, looking about as happy to be cooped up with Jack as Jack was to
be cooped up with him. Cooped up and looking.
Jack sat up,
swinging around to rest his back against the side of the tent, settling
his foot on the other chair Daniel had thoughtfully provided for
him. He regretted that crack about Daniel being sweet and nice as
much as anything else he'd said. It was the truth, and he guessed
Daniel knew it was the truth, which was why it had stung so much.
From Jack, it could have been a kindness, but instead it came out like
He got tongue-tied
trying to explain away this stuff to himself, let alone to
Daniel. He couldn't find the words to explain he'd never known
anyone like Daniel, that he was pretty much crazy about him, about all
those good things that were so - so Daniel. It was Jack's
privilege to look out for Daniel, to keep his friend who and what he
was, as much as was humanly possible with the job they did.
Everything that hurt Daniel hurt Jack too. Hurt all of them.
Lying on his ass
with his leg in the air had given him a lot of time to think. And
worry. He was starting to understand why he'd hit Daniel as hard
as he had, and that this was about both of them, but not in any way
that wasn't going to keep him up nights brooding for a long time to
come. He had a cold certainty that Daniel had believed every word
Jack had said to him because some place deep, and dark, Daniel was
Jack had broken
something fundamental between them. He wasn't sure now he could
get it back.
And all this looking
Daniel balanced his
can of spaghetti on the bed, then took a long drink, arching his head
as he gulped the cool water down.
Jack watched a bead
of moisture slip from the corner of his mouth and slowly slide down his
throat, soaking into his T-shirt. Noticing he was under scrutiny,
Daniel lowered the bottle, eyes questioning.
"I'd kill for
coffee," Jack blurted.
Daniel was totally
cool with that. He willingly hopped up and loped out towards the
fire and the omni-present pot of java, stooping gracefully, his BDUs
straining over the curves of his ass.
Jack's heart was
pounding sickeningly, leaving him giddy and breathless.
He told himself it
was the pain and the meds. The sleepless night. The worry.
He was just looking.
It didn't mean
asked, striving for a normal tone as Daniel came back into the tent,
obligingly handed Jack his coffee and sat on the edge of his cot.
"If I leave you here
all alone, you'll radio me every five minutes," Daniel said simply, his
eyes glinting, refusing to even pretend Jack would obey the order to
stay on his ass and rest his knee. "This way, you can annoy the
crap out of me where I can keep an eye on you."
"I'm a Special Ops
colonel. I get paid to keep an eye on you." Horribly
conscious that he was currently earning every nickel, Jack pettishly
applied himself to his coffee, which was fixed exactly how Daniel had
trained him to like it.
"I'm not the one
who'll be straining my knee," Daniel retorted pithily.
You aren't the one
who'll be watching my ass either, Jack thought shakily.
desperate for some everyday bickering to take his mind off - stuff - he
foolishly asked Daniel to hypothesise his ass off. When Daniel
choked on his coffee and gaped at him, astonished, Jack slowly went
red, Daniel went pale, they both got twitchy and neither of them could
think of a word to say. Daniel probably thought he was dealing
with some kind of ibuprofen-induced psychosis or something.
"If you're really
interested," Daniel shyly offered, failing to resist the lure of an
audience that couldn't hobble away from him.
His eyes fixed on
eloquent hands, Jack gruffly mumbled that he was.
"It's not the end of
the world," Daniel said positively, peering over the edge of his
Jack's boonie -
which he'd refused to take off - tilted slowly, menacingly up in
"So it's going to
take a little longer than we thought to get us out of here."
"A little?" Jack
asked challengingly, pulling off his sunglasses, all the better to
glare with. "Carter has no Dad, no ship and no freakin' clue
where to find that Stargate we need. At this point, it could take
"Sam already found
an uninhabited world," Daniel reminded him soothingly.
"She also found a
rich deposit of trinium," Jack retorted waspishly. "Which means
strip mining in the SGC’s immediate future, not search and rescue."
They both thought
about this in silence. "I'm not pleased to be stranded," Daniel
said after a while. It didn't sound terribly convincing, even to
archaeological paradise?" Jack said scathingly, giving the chamber they
were working in the finger.
wandering down to sit on the bottom step of the stairs leading up to
his platform. Nothing but realistic about her chances of getting
Colonel O’Neill to obey her order to keep his ass in bed, Janet Fraiser
had thoughtfully sent through a wheelchair so Jack could rest his knee
as much as possible while sharing his misery. When the limited
entertainment offered by his Play Station palled, Jack turned to
prodding the bas-reliefs with a crutch. After Daniel had forcibly
confiscated each of his crutches in turn, Jack had taken to vengefully
wheeling himself around the chamber, circling Daniel like a vulture.
It was apparent Jack
was going to continue getting on Daniel's last remaining nerve until he
either capitulated like a good boy and allowed Jack to make him feel
better, or he shot Jack dead with his own MP-5. Daniel was going
to ask Hammond how much time he'd serve for the latter during the next
This was one of the
times Daniel reluctantly had to accept that in some ways his friendship
with Jack was like a balanced stalemate between equal opponents.
His determination to walk his own path was matched only by Jack's
determination to take care of him. Unfortunately, Daniel was
finding it impossible to ignore Jack's blatant unhappiness. Not
that Jack was above dramatising for a sympathetic, and in his extremely
biased opinion, gullible, audience. Regardless, Jack needed to
talk and was doing an excellent job of making Daniel feel like an
unutterably selfish bastard for refusing to.
options, none of which struck him as being palatable, Daniel decided
that maybe he could help Jack by talking, but not about himself.
He took a deep breath. "We hurt your feelings, didn't we?" he
said straight-forwardly, startling Jack out of completing a flawless
figure of eight. "You turned in an Oscar winning performance but
still…" He trailed off unhappily, watching as Jack wheeled over to park
himself directly in front of him. "Did you really think we'd
believe you were a thief, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly. "Or were
you hoping…?" This was more difficult than he thought.
"Were we supposed to work it out?” he asked haltingly. “The clues
were there, and we know you."
Something flared in
the dark eyes fixed on Daniel's.
"I screwed up," Jack
said so softly Daniel had to strain to hear him. "Yeah, I figured
you knew me. I also know you. I got you all off-balance and
kept you there, kept you reacting and feeling, not thinking. Even
Makepeace. This is not even funny, Daniel." He shook his
head in aggravated disbelief. "I picked him as my
replacement. I know what he can do in the field, but I also knew
he'd wind you up so tight you'd be too busy to figure anything
out." It was Jack's turn to fall into edgy silence. "Hell,
I was the one who drew up the SG-1 mission schedule, guaranteed to
nickel and dime you kids to death."
And keep them
safe. "So you can't complain it worked like a charm?" Daniel
asked ironically. Jack's hesitation was all the answer he
needed. "You can buy it intellectually, Jack, the
rationalising. You needed us to believe you for the sting to
work. You did everything you could to make us believe the
unbelievable, to not recognise in you the man we all knew."
"I did a damned good
job!" Jack fired at him, head tilting proudly.
"Yes," Daniel agreed
"It'll be a long
time before I put it behind me."
The soft admission
stunned Daniel into reaching out instinctively to rest his hand
comfortingly over Jack's, clenched white knuckled on his thigh.
Jack's hand turned at once in his, taking him in a strong grip.
"I'm sorry," Daniel
"I hurt you. I
can't blame you for being hurt," Jack said steadily.
"You do though."
Jack reached out,
his fingertips resting gently over Daniel's cheek, the intimacy leaving
Daniel breathless and trembling. "You do know me, Daniel."
Jack's caressing tone made it sound like a promise.
His face burning
beneath Jack's cupping palm, heart beating erratically, Daniel wondered
if Jack knew himself.
On to Part Two
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