Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Angst.  Drama.  First Time.  Friendship.  Off-World Stuff.  Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 3. A sequel to 'Shades of Grey'.
Synopsis: Repairing their friendship leads Daniel and Jack into seduction.
Warnings: None.
Length: 456 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story

"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'."

"I forgot 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.

“Crap,” Jack 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 long-distance.

“I just had to gate in when SG-5 gated out, didn’t I?”  Jack complained bitterly.

Hammond’s carefully 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.

Jack grimaced.  "Shocker."

"How's Daniel taking it?" Carter asked, all low-voiced concern and dewy eyes.

"Ecstatic," Jack 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 dreamily.

Everyone else 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 term.

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.

Jack considered this.  "No."  He stamped on the floor as they walked out of the gateroom.  “I’m not doing the endangered dirt dance again,” he informed Daniel.

“Cryptogrammic soil is…”

“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.

"Jack," Daniel 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?"

"Orgasmic?" Daniel 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 along.

"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 warmed up.

"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."


Daniel nodded earnestly.


"Yes," Daniel 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 shuttering.

Yep.  “That’s what I figured.”

Daniel impatiently turned away.

“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.

Watching Daniel’s 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!”

“You explained,” Daniel said flatly as he nimbly insinuated himself through another narrow gap between chambers.  “Hammond explained.  It’s fine.”

“This whole 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 other.”

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 survivors.

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 passionately.

“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.

“You’re sure?” Daniel asked from above, at least sounding as if his interest was piqued.

“Actually, yes,” 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 of them.

“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 for trying.

“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 placed flowers…”

“Flowers?” Jack 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,” he suggested.

“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 supplied helpfully.

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 follow.

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.

“Daniel,” Jack 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.

“Oh.”  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 Twister?”

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!”

“Exactly!” Daniel 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 cheeks.

“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.

“Absolutely not,” 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 promised.

It didn’t 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.

It wasn’t 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 two minutes.”

His radio sneered.

“Daniel out.”  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.

Whatever had 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.

Evidence was infuriatingly sparse.

Daniel was loving it.

He turned 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.

Blandly ignoring 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.

"There's fuck-all else to do," Jack shrugged.

"Batteries dead on your Play Station?" Daniel asked sympathetically.

Jack smiled 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 quick shake.

Daniel shivered, 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.

"I'm not hungry."  Daniel shoved the meal away, taking a long drink of water instead.  "There is something you can help me with," he said slowly.

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 libraries…"

Jack turned abruptly, halting in surprise when he found Daniel far closer than expected.

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 doubt…"

Jack waited.

"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.

Love you.

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 me, please."

"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.

Jack grunted 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 and standoffish.

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 his screen.

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 attraction.

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 anxious Jaffa.

Being ruthlessly 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.

Speaking out 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 take.

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 even think.

Jack was 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 your head."

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 words.

"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.

"Edgy little bastard, isn't he?"

"Yes," Daniel agreed solemnly.

"I was talking to the bat."

"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.

Mesmerised, Jack watched the bat until it was out of sight.  "Coffee?" he offered, abruptly switching his attention back to Daniel.

"Sure," 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.

Jack tutted 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 there?"

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.

Always, Daniel 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 your feet."

The thought of being cramped up in the tent with Jack, both of them upset, suffocated Daniel.

His instinctive 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 promised seriously.

Intellectually 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.

Daniel was 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?

"It's okay, 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 was…

Jack slipped 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 near him.

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.

Restlessly, Jack 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!

Say it, 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 hour.

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 offensive move.

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.

Unconsciously, 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 for.

"Daniel?  Come in, Daniel!"

Daniel responded 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.

"Because I 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 interjected unexpectedly.

"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?"

"Pictographs!" Daniel breathed.  "What do they depict?  Is there a religious…"

"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.

Daniel prudently 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?" Daniel blurted.

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 with excitement.

He cleared his throat loudly.

Daniel frowned, 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.

Daniel finally 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?"

Daniel seemed suitably shocked at the mere suggestion.  He also looked slightly shifty.

“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 can…”

"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!”

“Daniel!” Jack 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…”

“Fascinating?” Jack asked witheringly.

“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 anything.

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 expectantly.

Dutifully, Jack opened his mouth.  Nothing came out.  He pulled a disgusted face.

Appearing concerned 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.

Jack was 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 mean?”

“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.

"Jack, please," Daniel insisted, pulling away from him again.

This time, Jack let go.


"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 beneath his.

"I won't let you fall," Daniel promised, mistaking the cause of Jack's unaccustomed hesitance.

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.

Jack smiled 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 Daniel's cot.

Jack rolled 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.

Daniel carefully 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.

Jack looked thoughtfully at Daniel's preparations for his feeding and entertainment.

Daniel belatedly 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.

"Daniel?  Come in, Daniel!"

"What?" Daniel wheezed as he climbed steadily up towards the plateau that held the mausoleum.

"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 curves.

Jack was shit-scared.

Just because he couldn't touch, he was looking?

What the fuck did that say about the touching?!

He watched 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 a judgement.

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 already there.

Jack had broken something fundamental between them.  He wasn't sure now he could get it back.

And all this looking wasn't helping!

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 anything.

"Crutches?" he 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.

Practically 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 platform.

Jack's boonie - which he'd refused to take off - tilted slowly, menacingly up in Daniel's direction.

"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 forever!"

"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 him.

"In this archaeological paradise?" Jack said scathingly, giving the chamber they were working in the finger.

Daniel shrugged, 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 check-in.

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.

Considering his 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 colourlessly.

"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 whispered.

"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

Feedback makes the difference between writing and posting; please contact me at biblio@jd-divas.com

Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only. 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.
Click here to visit our sister site Stargate SG-1 Solutions for the latest news, views, interviews, episode guide and transcripts, and the Stargate Wiki  

[an error occurred while processing this directive]