BURDEN OF COMMAND BY DARCY


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG
Category: ER, angst, H/C
Season/Spoilers: Any
Synopsis: Jack feels the burden of his responsibilities.
Warnings: None
Length: 142 Kb

 

The weather on P2X-136 was miserable. The temperature hovered around fifty degrees but the humid chill made it feel much colder. Both of Jack's knees were lodging formal complaints. The air was so thick it was difficult to tell if it was actually raining. Misting maybe.

An expressionless, wet Teal'c stoically paced the perimeter. Even Carter had lost her initial enthusiasm. Jack watched her sifting through the mud, picking out tiny rock samples and dipping them into some type of testing solution. Testing for... whatever the hell it was she tested for. Her occasional curses letting him know she was okay. Not happy, but okay.

Jack was standing guard over his archaeologist, linguist, friend and lover. Daniel was kneeling on a poncho in the mud with so much unbridled enthusiasm Jack was tempted to smack him upside the head. The fact that the ground beneath him was soft and waterlogged and he was slowly sinking did not seem to deter Daniel in the least. Jack watched with interest, caught up in his favorite past time... Danny watching. Not only were his archaeologist's clothes damp and clingy, but every two minutes or so he would remove his glasses to wipe away the droplets. Jack thought that must be annoying but Daniel seemed unaware and unperturbed by it all. The thought of Daniel having an opportunity to play in the mud brought a smile to Jack's face. He probably never had much of a chance to do that as a kid.

“Hey, Daniel, what do you say we make a few mud pies for Carter and Teal'c?”

Jack's boyish grin was wasted on Daniel who was doing his detail-orientated, oblivious to the world thing. Right now that consisted of getting some rubbings off the base of the giant stone pillar and then trying to keep them dry. The ancient monument appeared to be some sort of shrine erected to an obscure, primeval God known only to Daniel and possibly a handful of geeks scattered throughout the galaxy. The inscriptions had been colorfully described in excruciating detail, complete with hand motions, ad nauseum by his favorite geek.

“Daniel?” Jack tried again to interrupt. The archaeologist's hands and face were streaked with mud and a ghost of a smile passed Jack's lips as he decided he enjoyed a mud covered Daniel.

“Jack?”

“Mud pies?”

A look of confusion crossed Daniel's face as he completely ignored the mud remark. The confusion was quickly replaced with a dazzling, triumphant smile. “Want to go inside the temple, Jack?”

“I thought you said we couldn't get in?” A more honest response would have been, ‘no, not especially'. Jack had been hoping to wrap it up early and get the hell out of here, maybe help a certain archaeologist clean off some of that mud. The humidity was wreaking havoc on his joints and he'd been waiting all day for Daniel's allergies to explode. So far, Janet's miracle drugs appeared to be holding.

“I think we can, if I follow these instructions.” Daniel pointed to the base of the monument.

“Okey dokey,” Jack agreed, making an effort to hide his lack of enthusiasm for Daniel's sake. The idea of spending hours and hours traipsing through the huge abandoned structure, poring over every minute detail was so unappealing. He had been on the verge of calling the mission quits before wonder boy cracked the code. Jack was a simple man. His idea of the perfect evening consisted of a hot shower, a hot meal and a hot linguist, in that order.

The hot linguist in question manipulated the symbols on the temple door for all of five minutes before it slowly swung open. “Wow,” he said, sounding surprised at how easy it had been.

“Hey, hold on,” Jack ordered, breaking out of his sizzling fantasy in time to stop Daniel from wandering inside without him.

“Big wow,” Sam said as she joined them.

Jack clicked on the radio and requested Teal'c to meet them at the entrance, then peeked inside the temple door. It was too dark to see anything.

Daniel was itching to get inside and take a look around. “No one's here. How dangerous can it be?” He grimaced as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Jack didn't bother commenting since Daniel had the grace to flush at the silliness of his own question.

“Here's the big guy now.” Jack nodded in Teal'c's direction.

Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the open door before he and Jack flicked on their flashlights and stepped inside, waving for Daniel and Carter to follow.

“Nothing too exciting, huh, Daniel,” Jack cheerfully pointed out as they passed through yet another dark, lifeless chamber. There were no writings or drawings of any kind. If the entire temple were this boring they'd be out of here in no time. The dim lighting revealed that each room appeared exactly the same as the room before, nothing but blank, empty walls. Jack was starting to feel optimistic about his chances of dining on something other than field rations when they hit the mother lode.

This room was much larger than the outer chambers. The walls were at least fifteen feet high and covered from top to bottom in what looked like a mixture of gold and copper, inlayed with symbols and glyphs combined with pictographs and possibly numbers as well. The high ceiling appeared to contain more of the text and pictures. It was nearly as impressive as the Abydos cartouche. The four of them gaped in wonder.

As soon as Daniel broke out of his trance he chattered non-stop, giving suggestions and directions on how to best record what they were seeing. Sam dutifully panned the massive walls with the video camera while Daniel knelt on the floor and tried to take a few sample rubbings. The text was everywhere; it was impossible to know where to begin.

“And look at this. This looks like...” Daniel seemed to be talking more to himself than anyone else as he pointed out words and symbols, transfixed by the sheer enormity of what it would take to translate all of this.

Jack's worries about his joints and Daniel's allergies disappeared in the wake of the excitement. Daniel's exhilaration was contagious, he couldn't take his eyes off the temple walls and Jack couldn't take his eyes off of Daniel. The archaeologist/linguist positively glowed when caught up in the thrill of discovery. All the painful experiences of the past few years disappeared in those bright blue eyes and were replaced with the wide-eyed wonder of the Daniel Jackson of old. It was rare, and Jack was thrilled that Daniel was still capable of such innocent awe at some of the universe's unsolved mysteries, even if it meant his own visions of dinner and a hot evening at home were shot to hell.

Jack knew exactly what was coming when Daniel finally did tear himself away from the text and walked towards him. The determined expression made Jack want to laugh. The man was so unaware of the power he possessed it was almost frightening. Daniel wanted to stay. That much was obvious.

“Jack, maybe you could, could, you know, contact General Hammond. See if he could give us few more days here.”

The raised eyebrows over the glasses and the little stutter were completely unnecessary. The smiling baby blues were enough to convince Jack to move into the temple and take up residence if that's what Daniel desired. The man has such an unfair advantage, Jack sighed.

Pausing momentarily, Jack pretended to mull over the decision. No need for Daniel to know what a pushover he was. He was feeling magnanimous. Seeing Daniel this enthralled about something caused his own heart to beat a little faster. What the hell, they would be sheltered from the constant drizzle and the air in here wasn't nearly as moist as it was outside. Not to mention he would have Daniel's undying debt of gratitude, which he'd try to collect on as soon as they returned home.

“I'll see what I can do.” Jack was rewarded with a genuine smile before the wall reclaimed all of Daniel's attention.

To emphasize his next point, Daniel reached out and touched a symbol. “Jack, be sure to tell General Hammond that this language...”

The words were cut off mid sentence as a blazing beam of light flashed down from the ceiling, completely surrounding the bewildered archaeologist. In the next instant, Daniel was gone.

“What the hell was that?” Jack yelled, spinning around to face Carter and Teal'c. They both looked as baffled as he did.

“Daniel Jackson appears to have disappeared in the light.”

“Well, I KNOW that, Teal'c.” Jack snapped irritably.

“Carter?”

I-I have no idea, sir,” Sam stuttered. “He was here one second and gone the next.”

“That's helpful,” Jack said sarcastically. He decided to take matters into his own hands. “Hey, who's there?” Jack pointed his P90 up at the immense ceiling. “Hey,” he yelled again. “Where did you take him?”

A smaller beam of light filtered down, accompanied by a voice. I am the Protector of all that is written. The temple has been defiled. The one who defiled it will be punished .

“Oh, for cryin' out loud,” Jack bellowed in disgust, angry at how this was going to spoil Daniel's fun. “We didn't know about the defilement thing. Send our friend back and we'll all get out of here and leave you and your damn temple alone.”

“You will be transported to the exterior. You are free to go.”

“WAIT! Just wait a damn minute. We're not going anywhere without our friend!”

“He must be punished.”

“Punished how?” Jack hissed through clenched teeth.

“The punishment for defilement is death.”

“Oh, how did I just know you were going to say that?” Jack fought back the temptation to riddle the temple ceiling with bullets. Now that would be defilement.

“Alright, look, take me. I'm his commanding officer. I'm in charge of him. I decide where we go and what we defile . It's my fault. Take me.”

Do you claim to be the facilitator?

“The what?” Jack yelled desperately. “If it means you taking me where you took Daniel, then yes, that's what I'm claiming.”

Very well, you shall be punished as the facilitator. He who is responsible.

Jack heard Carter yell, ‘sir', before the light surrounded him, rendering him unconscious.


As soon as Jack's awareness level skirted the edges of consciousness, he remembered exactly what had happened. He didn't want to open his eyes to the reality of this prison. He had been in many prisons, both on and off world, and none of them were ever easy. At least no one was poking and prodding at him and he couldn't SMELL any other prisoners. That was always a plus. As a matter of fact, this didn't smell like a prison at all. And what the hell was he sleeping on? It felt soft and padded, more comfortable than his own bed. As the haze of sleepiness lifted he realized he was forgetting something.

“Daniel!” Jack forced himself awake and sat up abruptly. There was no answer to his call; he was alone. He glanced around the room to make an initial assessment.

The cell was large, if you could call it a cell. The decor was quite beautiful, not gaudy like Goa'uld accommodations. It looked more like a swanky room at the Ritz. The walls were a rich beige color with actual photographs of landscapes and bodies of water hanging smartly. The floor was carpeted in a thick, plush burgundy with so much padding underneath that Jack could feel it give when he stood up. The bed he had been lying on was king size and as comfortable as his Sealy at home. There were two fluffy pillows and a few blankets strewn across it for good measure.

The rest of the room was even more puzzling. In addition to the bed, the furnishings included a table and two chairs, a sink with running water and a contraption that Jack assumed was toilet facilities. A long rectangular table ran along the back wall. Jack thought he'd seen it all, but he had to admit, he'd never seen a prison like this one. Upon closer inspection, he found that the back table was filled with food. A basket of what appeared to be fresh bread and rolls looked most appealing. He picked one up and sniffed it, checking to see if it was real. It smelled delicious.

There was also a huge bowl of various fruits along with a platter of cheese. Jack lifted the lid of another platter to reveal what looked and smelled like a roast. He eyed the two pitchers at the far end and found they were filled with cold water. After a tentative sip, he threw caution to the wind and guzzled down a few greedy gulps. Hunger and thirst overrode his sensibilities as he broke off a piece of the bread and popped it into his mouth, savoring the taste and taking another sip of water to wash it down.

After sampling the chow, Jack walked the perimeter of the room and was disappointed to find there were no windows. There was something else though, something disconcerting. It took a second to realize what it was. Escape would be pretty near impossible, the room had no door. The transporting light device must be the only way in or out.

A wave of anxiety swept over Jack at the sight of Daniel's pack leaning up against his own at the foot of the bed. Did that mean anything? The punishment was death. Surely they hadn't already carried out the sentence. Speaking of that, he'd never asked what the punishment was for facilitating . Jack pushed the thought of Daniel's sentence out of his mind. A society that treated its lowest members, its prisoners, this well had to be civilized and somewhat reasonable, he told himself.

When Jack checked his watch he was shocked to find that he had been sleeping in that soft comfortable bed for over ten hours. He offered a silent prayer that Daniel was fairing as well.

“Think, damn it,” he muttered out loud, running a hand through his hair. Jack O'Neill had little patience for waiting around. He willed something to happen and was shocked a few minutes later when something actually did.

A section of the wall disappeared. Jack ran to the back of the room where a third of the side wall seemed to have vanished. He was so relieved to see Daniel sitting in the adjoining room that he abandoned all sense of caution and protocol and hurried towards him.

“Jack!” Daniel yelled as Jack was forcefully thrown back by the invisible force field that separated the two rooms. Jack howled in pain from the impact.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked, jumping up in alarm, his voice near panic with concern.

“Goddamnit that hurts!” Jack yelled. “I'm fine,” he added irritably, angry with himself for his stupidity. It felt like his skin had been burned where his body had touched the shield but the pain was already subsiding and the skin remained unblemished.

Daniel appeared to relax at the sound of Jack's yelling. He approached the opening and peered into the Colonel's cell. “Gee, Jack, nice digs.”

“Not bad, huh?” Jack acknowledged, rapidly recovering from his ill-advised confrontation with the barrier.

Jack cautiously took a few steps closer to get a peek into Daniel's cell. He sighed heavily at the sight. Daniel's cell was a true prison. It was about a quarter of the size of Jack's room and looked like something out of the middle ages. The walls and floor were made out of stone with no furnishings whatsoever aside from a bowl filled with some disgusting looking gruel and a bucket, which Jack assumed was to care for all of his personal needs. The only comfort was a pitcher of water set beside the bowl. There was one positive note to Daniel's cell; it had a door. A heavy, solid-looking, locked door, but if they could figure out a way to knock out the energy field, they could combine their efforts to work on the door.

“I must have gotten the officer's quarters,” Jack quipped.

“Well, at least I didn't wake up naked,” Daniel responded with a smirk.

“Yes, there's that,” Jack agreed, pleased that Daniel was in such high spirits. “Any ideas on where we are exactly?”

“In relation to the temple, no, but at least we're on the same planet. It will give Sam and Teal'c a better chance to track us.”

“How do you know?” Jack hadn't even thought of being on another planet but still wondered how Daniel could be so certain.

“Well, the dampness and the temperature for one thing.”

Jack's sheepish silence must have clicked on a light in Daniel's brain. “Jack, what's the temperature in the officer's quarters?”

“I don't know, seventy, seventy-two maybe.” Despite the guilt there was no point in lying. Jack was in shirt sleeves while Daniel had his jacket zipped up and was occasionally hugging himself for warmth. He hoped they wouldn't be here too long.

“So, what exactly are YOU in for... vacation?”

Before Jack could think of a witty comeback the stream of bright light was back. The beam was narrow and went from ceiling to floor accompanied by the annoying voice. Jack stuck his hand through the beam and swiped at it to no affect.

The Guardian is in place. The sentence shall be carried out. Justice is served.

“Justice?” Jack shouted with all the attitude he could muster. “This isn't justice!”

Daniel interrupted. “We meant no disrespect. We were unaware of your customs and laws.”

It is as it has always been. It cannot be changed. We will not speak again.

“WAIT!” Jack yelled. “I'm the, the facilitator, remember? The one responsible. Punish me. Let him go.”

The ordinances have stood for a thousand of your years. They cannot be changed.

Jack's mind raced. “Well, at least let us switch places. This is my fault. My punishment should be greater.”

When the heart of the defiler stops beating, the guardian will shut down, the door will open and you will be free to go and live out the rest of your appointed time. His death will be on your hands. Is this not the greater punishment?

“You fucking bastards!” Jack yelled in frustration, punching the air. He lived with Charlie's death every day of his life, and just incase that wasn't enough, he had every dead airman, marine and civilian killed in the service of the SGC since the inception of the program on his conscience. The last thing he needed was a lesson in responsibility.

The light disappeared. Daniel raised an eyebrow at Jack. “Well, that went well.”

The Protector's implied carelessness was still eating away at Jack. “I hate these fucking temples. I've had it.”

Jack watched Daniel fold his arms across his chest, worry his lower lip and try not to smirk. “I'm not kidding, Daniel. Do you hear me? I mean it. That's it. NO MORE!”

“Calm down.” Daniel's soft tone proved to Jack that the genius hadn't missed the massive mound of guilt the Protector had just heaped upon him. “Sit down. Talk to me.”

Jack almost refused. He didn't want to relax; he needed to be doing something. It wouldn't be long before Daniel's allergies kicked in and who knew what would happen in the cool dampness. Of course, Daniel could successfully argue that patrolling the perimeter of a room with no doors wasn't exactly doing something.

The aroma from the food was tempting, making Jack's stomach growl and for a brief second he almost grabbed a roll before mentally kicking himself. He wasn't about to munch on rolls and cheese while Daniel forced down his slop.

“So, whatcha wanna talk about?” Settling down with a sigh, Jack leaned against the back wall, his knees drawn up mimicking Daniel's pose. They sat side by side, within arms length, the invisible Guardian between them prohibiting them from touching.

“Is that real food you have in there, Jack?”


When Jack was positive Daniel was asleep he left his customary spot on the floor and snuck over to the food table. A full week had passed, and although he knew he had to eat some time, he couldn't bring himself to eat in front of Daniel. He picked out what looked like a banana and quickly wolfed it down while restlessly pacing the perimeter of the room. The pacing usually drove Daniel crazy but Jack felt it helped clear his head.

Daniel began coughing in earnest today. It had started the first night of their imprisonment and progressed to the hoarse, raspy voice that Daniel sported this morning. He had tried to cover it with curt answers and good humor. That might have worked if not for the hollow wheeze of the chest that was impossible to ignore. Jack inwardly cringed at the implications.

They both agreed that the Protector was no longer around. Their needs were being met by the Guardian. The bright light would flash and in Jack's case, the previous day's food would disappear and be replaced by a fresh supply. The water pitchers were refilled twice daily. Every twelve hours the lighting would dim for precisely eight hours, marking time. In Daniel's room the Guardian was far less active. The bowl of food and the pitcher of water were replenished and the bucket emptied. Daniel's cell would be in total darkness if not for the light filtering in from Jack's accommodations.

As sophisticated as the Guardian was, they both agreed the system was automated. It was frustrating knowing there was no hope of reasoning with it, or evoking any sympathy. They had both gone over their cells in excruciating detail, searching in vain for a means of escape. Daniel was wearing down and they were no closer to finding a way out of this mess than the day they arrived.

“Jack?” Daniel called out sleepily.

Daniel's voice was rough, the slight rattling in his chest audible, he was obviously congested.

Jack flinched at the sound of his name. “I'm right here, Daniel. You okay?” Jack stopped pacing and returned to the invisible wall. He was tired of lying down. Much of the day was spent sitting side by side against the wall. For the eight hours of semi darkness they both stretched out on the floor, on their sides facing each other. Close enough to reach out and touch if not for the invisible barrier. All this inactivity was driving Jack insane. He could only imagine the affect it must be having on a sick Daniel.

“Yeah, I'm okay,” Daniel mumbled, pulling himself up against the wall. “I thought I was alone for a minute.”

“Nope, didn't leave without ya. Go back to sleep, Daniel, I'll be right here. Doesn't look like I'm going anywhere.”

“No, it's easier to breathe when I sit up.”

Jack nodded. What he wouldn't give to lie Daniel down in that big, comfy bed, feed him some of the soup provided today and cover him up with that thick blanket. He was going to kick someone's ass when they got out of here.

“Why don't you stop pacing and come talk to me.” Daniel coughed at the effort.

The pacing stopped as Jack sat down a few feet from his cellmate. “How about I tell you what I'm going to do with those light guys when we get out of here.”

A groan escaped Daniel's lips as he shot Jack an annoyed glance.

“What?”

“I think we've already covered that subject. Several times.”

“Ah.” Maybe he had hashed out his plans of revenge in detail over the past several nights. “Okay. What do you want to talk about?”

“Anything. Preferably something that doesn't involve vengeance.” Daniel turned his head towards Jack and gave him a stern look.

“Such as?”

“I don't know... anything. How about you tell me what you were like as a kid.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Hey, this isn't going to turn into you asking questions and me sharing intimate secrets because we're giving up, is it? Don't even go there.”

Daniel's laugh was interrupted by a cough. “I'm not, honest. I'm just bored and I want you to talk to me. So what were you like? Did you play sports?”

“Some.”

“Were you wild?”

The gray head tilted back in thought. “Not really. I could have been if my parents hadn't kept such a tight rein. Although, I was kicked off the baseball team in my senior year for drinking beer. I got my ass in big trouble for that little stunt.” Jack shook his head at the memory. “The Air Force smoothed out all the rough edges.”

“Yep, real smooth,” Daniel murmured.

“How about you? Did you do anything wild?” Somehow, Jack doubted it.

Daniel sighed in thought. “I got suspended for swearing at the French teacher once... in French.”

Jack laughed out loud. “That was dumb. Should have used a different language.”

“I was ten.”

Jack cupped his hands behind his head and relaxed. “When I was ten I liked to build forts.”

Daniel smiled brightly, making Jack smile back.

“I'd bribe my best friend's little sister to sit in the fort and I'd have the neighborhood kids guard her. Then I'd sneak in and rescue her. I was patient, I always won.”

“Practicing, Jack?” Daniel chuckled in amusement.

“Practicing?”

“Always the hero.”

Jack turned away, a sudden burst of acid shooting up the old esophagus. Apparently he hadn't practiced enough. All he wanted to do was rescue Daniel.

With a yawn, followed up by a short coughing bout, Daniel lay back down on the stone floor while Jack guiltily stretched out on his thickly padded carpet. The bed was out of the question. Every evening was pretty much the same. The lights would dim and the two men would lie down, their faces only a few feet apart as they rehashed the day's events and attempted to get some rest.

“Um, Jack?”

“Yeah, Danny?”

“I didn't tell you this before because I wasn't sure, but today... I'm sure. Daniel paused to sneeze a few times before continuing. “The past few days my food has been... less.”

“Less? Less than... tasty?”

Daniel made a face. “No, less in quantity. I wasn't positive at first but I marked the bowl and every day it's... less. Today it's about half as much as it was the first day.”

“What about the water?” Jack inwardly sighed, waiting for what he knew would not be good news.

“It's less too. Same, about half of what it was initially.”

“Carter and Teal'c will find us long before you run out of water,” Jack said with more confidence than he felt. His fists clenched in rage at the unfairness of the situation. Why couldn't he be the one in the REAL prison? “Anything else you haven't been telling me?”

“Uh...”

Jack froze at Daniel's hesitation. He wasn't expecting anything else. What could be worse than a dwindling food and water supply? “What?”

“I'm cold.” Jack relaxed at Daniel playfully stating the obvious.

“I know. Just hang in there. Teal'c and Sam won't give up.” That much was true, but whether the rescue would be before Daniel ran out of water was a huge nagging worry.

“Jack, if we get out of this, will you keep me warm?” Daniel was hugging himself in his jacket and for the first time Jack forced himself to acknowledge how dire their situation was. Not only did Daniel have very little food and water that would apparently be gone soon, but he was also sick. His chest and lungs seemed to be filling up with fluid and getting worse by the hour. He could barely talk without coughing.

“Yes. WHEN we get out of this, I will.” Jack promised.

“Will you let me crank the heat up even when you're hot?” Desert boy was always cold. Jack remembered the times he had admonished his partner for turning up the thermostat to what Jack considered unreasonable temperatures.

“I will.” He meant it too.

Daniel scrunched his face in thought. “If I'm freezing and you're already in bed will you let me warm my hands and feet anywhere I want to on your body?”

“Yes.”

Daniel's laugh turned into a coughing jag before he managed to sputter, “You won't. You hate that!”

“I will.” Jack answered solemnly. He didn't feel like laughing. He'd remember his own comfort while Daniel suffered through the cold dampness of the cell and he'd warm Daniel's hands and feet. If only he'd get the chance, he'd let Daniel do anything he damn well pleased.


Two nights later their situation remained unchanged except for the fact that Daniel's condition had worsened and his food and water supply had dwindled to a point where it barely sustained life. The only thing keeping Jack sane was Daniel. Despite the coldness, the chills, the low-grade fever and the incessant coughing, Daniel's spirits remained high. Jack cursed himself for the times Daniel had pulled him out of despair with his careful questions and thoughtful observations. Jack was well aware it was a prison game desperate men played to keep themselves from focusing on the graveness of their situation, but he didn't care it. He played anyway. Tonight was no different.

“Jack, when was your best Christmas ever?” As soon as the lights would dim and he and Daniel were settled on the floor, face to face in their customary positions, Daniel would come up with a subject he wanted to discuss and Jack would go along to keep from going crazy.

“The last one before Charlie died. Charlie's last Christmas.” Jack closed his eyes and thought for a moment.

“Tell me about it,” Daniel coaxed.

“I don't think I want to do this.” Jack stood up abruptly. He needed to get some water, his throat suddenly dry. He hoped Daniel would respect his wishes and think up another topic by the time he got back. You will be punished as the facilitator .He who is responsible. In the case of Charlie, Jack decided he definitely had been the facilitator. With a shaking hand, Jack poured out a glass of water and took a sip. He quickly discarded the cup before returning to lie back down and face his thirsty cellmate.

Daniel waited until Jack was re-situated. The intense eyes told Jack Daniel wasn't willing to let this conversation go just yet. His voice was gentle and comforting. “It's not fair to Charlie that his memory only evokes overwhelming sadness.” Daniel spoke quietly and Jack had to concentrate to hear him. If he spoke any louder it would bring on the coughing fits.

“I can't help it,” Jack answered just as softly.

“Sure you can. Tell me about that Christmas.”

The concern behind Daniel's soft command helped Jack ignore the other voice pounding in his head... accusing him. The facilitator. The one responsible .

“Jack,” Daniel tried again. “It's okay to remember the good times.”

Maybe. It was just so damn hard. He took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on what Daniel was saying. Maybe it wasn't fair to Charlie. “That last Christmas,” he started. “I was home, for a change. The three of us went out in the woods together to cut down a tree. Charlie and I took turns with the ax. He was just getting old enough to do things like that with me.”

Daniel's encouraging smile gave him the courage to continue. “Sara and I got him the bike he'd been begging for. We hid it and brought it out after he'd opened all his other presents. He was trying so hard not to be disappointed.” Jack's features lit up at the memory. “The look on Charlie's face when I rolled out that bike was priceless. I'll never forget that.”

“I don't think you've ever shared such a good memory of Charlie with me,” Daniel said thoughtfully.

Jack's confidence rose. “We'd usually go over to Sara's parents in the afternoon, but that Christmas we were snowed in. Charlie and I spent the entire day together, playing with his new games and toys. It was one of the best times I spent with him. Just... you know, hanging out, being his Dad.”

For the first time Jack let himself feel the joy Charlie had been without experiencing the searing pain.

“He had a light, Danny. A spark.”

“He loved you, Jack.”

“Yeah, he did,” Jack acknowledged, scrubbing a fist across his eyes to ward off a few tears that threatened to fall. Tears that for once, had nothing to do with guilt, self-loathing and sorrow. It felt so damn good. Jack looked over at Daniel in awe and closed his eyes, wondering if it was right to love a person as much as he did Danny. Maybe that's why he was being punished... he didn't deserve such happiness.

Jack hesitated before asking the same question. He knew Daniel hadn't exactly seen the best of what the holidays had to offer, but he must have had a few good years somewhere along the line. And what the heck, if Jack was brave enough to spill his guts at least Daniel could do the same. “So, when was your best Christmas?”

Daniel grinned at Jack and then shyly looked away. “The last one,” he said without hesitation.

Jack smiled broadly. He had meant the best Christmas in the past, but Daniel's response pleased him no end. “Yeah, that was a great one!” he agreed. Jack watched Daniel close his eyes and relive the happy memory.

Last year had been their first Christmas together. When Jack discovered Daniel was somewhat of a scrooge he immediately decided to single handedly turn Daniel's view of the holidays around. While Daniel had bought Jack a present, the gifts Jack purchased had overflowed from beneath the tree to fill up a quarter of the room.

Jack closed his eyes and remembered the look of shock and delight on Daniel's face when he realized that all the packages had 'Danny' written on them. “For me, Jack? All of them?” Daniel had asked in stunned amazement. Maybe Jack couldn't make up for all the lonely Christmas's Daniel had suffered through, but he could give it one hell of a try. They'd spent the entire Christmas morning opening presents and drinking coffee. Jack had been thrilled to see Daniel slowly and carefully unwrapping and savoring each precious gift.

No one knew Daniel Jackson like Jack O'Neill and every gift was a unique treasure picked out especially for him. Books, clothes, CD's, gourmet coffee beans, chocolate and a wide variety of toys and games that Jack was sure Daniel had missed out on as a kid. That assumption had proved correct as Jack found himself happily explaining the joys of bouncing a Super Ball and the million and one uses of Silly Putty. Jack had spared no expense and it was worth every penny to see the wonder shine in his lover's eyes.

“Wait until next Christmas,” Jack promised boldly as Daniel's coughing fit jolted both of them back to reality.


Jack couldn't stand sleeping in the bed or eating food when Daniel was wheezing and freezing and starving on the floor a few feet away from him.

“Don't be ridiculous, Jack,” Daniel said irritably. “What good does it do me if you're to stiff too move because you're too stubborn to use that bed?”

Jack shrugged helplessly. He didn't care what Daniel said. He couldn't bring himself to do it.

“And eat whenever you want to. Just eat. I know you must eat some time. You're not the one starving to death.”

Daniel was right, he did eat, but only when Danny was sleeping. Jack hated every mouthful. And then Daniel instituted the food game, and he hated that even more.

Jack stretched out on the floor. His face no more than a few feet away from the face he loved.

“If you insist on sleeping on the floor with me, at least get a pillow. I would.”

As weak and tired and sick as Daniel was, Jack took pride in the fact that his stubborn linguist still managed to sound bossy.

To appease Daniel, Jack grabbed a pillow off the bed and lowered himself to the floor, the invisible Guardian making the short distance between them seem like miles. Guilt was Jack's constant companion of late and it overwhelmed him now, lying on the plush carpet with the pillow under his head while Daniel shivered on the stone floor inches from his grasp.

"I'd trade places with you,” Jack whispered.

“I wouldn't let you. Your back and knees wouldn't be comfortable in my accommodations,” Daniel weakly pointed out.

Jack didn't even smile at the attempt at humor. He didn't give a damn about his back or his knees. This was his fault; he was in charge... the facilitator. Jack thought back to all the deaths and disasters he had knowingly or unknowingly facilitated . He couldn't do it any more. Even if Daniel survived, he was done. And if Daniel didn't...

“Jack?”

“Right here, buddy.”

“Tell me what you have to eat in there today.” Daniel's voice was thick and hoarse as he made the request.

“Danny,” Jack pleaded. He hated this food game. For some reason, Daniel seemed to enjoy it.

“Please, Jack. Tell me.”

Reluctantly, Jack rose to his feet. If he were going to do it, he'd do it right. After clearing his throat and suppressing a sigh, he eyed up what was on the far table. “On today's menu we have an assortment of muffins, a selection of perhaps three or four.”

“Blueberry, Jack?” Daniel squeaked out between coughs.

“Yes, I believe there is a blueberry muffin. And for the entrée,” Jack lifted the lid that was covering the dish. “We have some type of stew with a mixture of vegetables. Definitely carrots and something else that's... green.”

The stew didn't seem to elicit much interest. “Dessert?” Daniel asked eagerly. Dessert was Danny's favorite part.

Jack cringed when he checked the desserts. “Chocolate.” He felt as if he were torturing Daniel, mindful that the reality was the reverse. He was the one being tortured.

“Bring over the muffin and the chocolate.” Jack halfheartedly obeyed Daniel's order.

Stretching back out on the rug, he faced Daniel, no more than a few feet between them. “Now eat it, Jack. First the muffin.”

Looking at the shining blue eyes and pale starving face, Jack felt nauseous. Daniel's clothes were already beginning to hang on him and even though he tried to hide it, Jack noticed how Daniel's hands shook with weakness. The last thing Jack felt like doing was eating. “Not today, Danny, please.”

“Yes, Jack, eat it. For me.” The pleading in Daniel's voice was all it took and Jack dutifully choked down the muffin. Daniel watched, absorbed in the process.

“Now the chocolate. Nice and slow. And let me see it before you eat it.”

Jack held up the hunk of chocolate. Daniel's smile appeared genuine. “How's it smell?” he asked.

“Like chocolate.” Jack wasn't sure if Daniel truly enjoyed this daily food torture or if it was a subterfuge to get him to eat. If it was the latter, Jack was going to kill Daniel when they got home. He smiled at the thought and silently prayed for the chance.

“Okay, Jack, nice and slow.” Daniel rolled his head back, closed his eyes and smiled. His mouth mimicking Jack's, chew for chew.

“How was it?” Jack asked, as he swallowed the last morsel, relieved that the game was over for another day.

“Delicious. What do you think, Belgian or Swiss?”

“Maybe Belgian,” Jack said absently, thinking of all the things he was going to indulge Daniel with if they ever got out of here. Chocolate and muffins moving to the top of the list.


Daniel's coughing fit jolted Jack awake. “Danny, Danny you okay?” It was a stupid question and Jack was tired of asking it.

This time was bad. Daniel was panting and couldn't seem catch his breath. With great effort he pulled himself up on all fours and forcefully tried to clear his lungs. Jack cringed at the attempt, realizing Daniel was choking on his own phlegm, his lungs drowning in fluid.

One, good, long look at Daniel and Jack had to acknowledge what he'd been denying for the past three days. Daniel was dying. He was rapidly deteriorating before Jack's eyes. His food supply was no more than a few spoonfuls, and in another day or two that would dwindle down to nothing. His water supply had lessened considerably. Once Daniel ran out of water, Jack knew it wouldn't take long for the unfathomable to become a reality.

Daniel was drenched in sweat, causing him to shiver almost nonstop. Even his jacket was soaked through. His fever must be spiking. How could he, the team leader, the Colonel, the great Jack O'Neill, savior of the Earth and a handful of other planets, just sit here and watch this happen? Tears sprung to Jack's eyes as he spied the useless backpacks. Daniel's filled with antibiotics, Tylenol and allergy medication.

His lover was dying before his eyes, while he lived with every conceivable comfort. Is this not the greater punishment? He gritted his teeth. “Hang on, Danny. Please, hang on,” he pleaded.

“I'm fine, Jack. I'm just... c-c-cold,” Daniel stuttered through chattering teeth.

I'm fine? The extent of Daniel's love crashed into Jack with overwhelming force. The ‘I'm fine' was for HIM, to keep HIM calm, to ensure HIS survival. All the talks and the fucking food game, it was all for him. Oh, God, Danny, don't leave me.

Jack's head throbbed and his heart pounded as he paced his luxury cell like a caged animal. He couldn't bear another second in his temperature controlled seventy-two degree environment watching Daniel freeze to death. The pent up rage rose to the surface and burst within him.

In a moment of total frustration and blind fury, Jack flung himself at the force field that separated the two of them and screamed from the pain of the impact. When he was finished, he hurled himself into it again.

“Stop, Jack! Please, stop!” The effort of shouting threw Daniel into another wave of uncontrolled choking and sputtering.

The fear and alarm in Daniel's voice snapped Jack back to reality. He sat down on the rug as close to Daniel as possible, his body shaking at the stinging pain the Guardian had inflicted. The burning was already subsiding and all Jack wanted to do was to hurl himself into it once more, to hurt himself again and again, to suffer like Daniel was suffering.

Jack drew up his knees and folded his arms over the over top of them. “I'm sorry.” His voice was hollow and weak even though Daniel was the one dying. Regret and remorse washed over him for everything he had ever said or done, for everything he had ever facilitated . Jack rested his head in his arms and broke down and cried soundlessly at his helplessness.

“Jack,” Daniel said, barely above a whisper to avoid another choking bout.

“I'm sorry,” Jack whispered again. He kept his head lowered in his hands, his shoulders still shaking with occasional sobs, too ashamed at his loss of control to look Daniel in the eye.

“Don't do that again, Jack.”

The authority Daniel managed to put into the whispered order shocked him. “I won't,” he promised softly.

“I want to tell you something.”

The sobs lessened but Jack didn't raise his head from his knees. He was military, the Colonel, trained to be strong and under control. He was supposed to know what to do, but he had let Daniel down. The reasons behind the regulations that strictly prohibited fraternization with team members seemed painfully obvious.

“Jack, look at me,” Daniel whispered, his throat hoarse and raw from the relentless coughing. Jack laid down mirroring Daniel's pose, positioning his elbow on the rug. He lifted his head and rested it on his closed fist, locking his puffy red-rimmed eyes to meet Daniel's unflinching gaze.

“Guess when I fell in love with you?” As weak as Daniel was, Jack could still catch the tenderness in his voice. He recognized that Daniel was doing it again, calming and distracting him with soothing words.

“Guess,” Daniel insisted in a quiet tone that made Jack strain to hear him. Incredibly, Daniel flashed one of his patented Daniel Jackson smiles. Jack was humbled by his lover's fortitude, knowing how taxing this conversation must be for him.

“I-I don't know,” Jack answered hesitantly. Sometimes, it was hard to understand why Daniel loved him at all.

“When you were gone for three months on Edora,” Daniel smiled.

Jack could only nod.

“Sam worked day and night to figure out how to get you back. There was nothing I could do. I felt so helpless.” Daniel paused to clear his throat and ward off another fit. “Like you do now, Jack. I couldn't sleep or eat. I rarely went home. My feelings went way beyond friendship and natural worry. One night I was lying in bed looking at a picture of the four of us and it just hit me that I loved you. That I was IN love with you. Just like that.”

Daniel paid the price for the admission with a coughing fit so intense Jack feared he was going to choke to death right in front of him. When it eventually subsided Daniel whispered, “I never expected you to love me back.”

Jack didn't take his eyes off of Daniel's as he blinked back tears.

“Now your turn. When did you fall in love with me?”

Daniel's revelation was made it difficult for Jack to respond. How could he lose Daniel now? Cold fear crept its way into Jack's heart and squeezed.

“I always thought it was right after Sha're died. You were always there for me.” Daniel whispered encouragement.

The pounding in Jack's head intensified. How could he have Daniel this close and not be able to touch or comfort him? He wondered if this is what hell was like.

“It's okay if you don't remember.”

Jack tried to focus for Daniel's sake. It was hard for him to remember a time when he didn't love Daniel. It had been so long. But loving someone and being IN love with them are two different things. He thought back to Earnest's planet, when a young Dr. Daniel Jackson declared his intentions of staying behind. Back then, he loved Daniel's enthusiasm and passion, but he wasn't IN love with him. Jack remembered the times they had given Daniel up for dead, on Nem's planet and then again on Klorel's ship... those were excruciating memories. Back then he had grieved for Daniel as his teammate and friend.

But there was a moment when he knew. He'd never planned on telling Daniel because it was long before Sha're died and he wasn't sure if Daniel would want to hear that. “It wasn't then,” Jack stated.

“No?” Daniel sounded slightly disappointed.

“Remember when we held Apophis prisoner in the SGC?”

Daniel nodded, slightly confused at the relevance.

“That's when I fell in love with you.” Jack thought back to the young and hurting Dr. Daniel Jackson. How painful it must have been to have Apophis right there in the infirmary, reminding him of his failure.

“But, Jack, that was before Sha're.”

“Yes,” Jack admitted.

“Why?” Jack could see Daniel's fevered brain working on the answer. “Why then?”

Jack wasn't sure he could explain it properly but he decided to give it a try. “The way you looked past Apophis and saw the host. I couldn't have done that. I was in awe of your compassion.”

“It wasn't the host's fault,” Daniel said firmly.

“No, but he was wearing Apophis's face. When you spoke to him in Ancient Egyptian it was so beautiful. Hell, I didn't have a clue what you were saying but I was riveted. I still remember some of it. You told him he'd be buried with honor, pass through seven gates and see his wife and children again. I couldn't take my eyes off of you.”

Daniel smiled weakly.

“When you left the infirmary and said you'd come back, I thought it was too much for you. But you did come back, just like you promised. You came back with a statue and told the poor bastard the statue would take his last breath and carry his soul back to Egypt .” Jack paused at the powerful memory. “That's when I knew I loved you, Danny,” he confirmed.

“Wow.” Daniel answered. “Um... Jack, just so you don't think TOO highly of me, you probably don't know that I did threaten to kill Apophis in his bed if he didn't tell me where Sha're was.”

Leave it to Daniel to try and diminish his actions. “I bet that was before we met the host. Besides, it doesn't change anything.”

“And then you kept your love hidden all that time?” Daniel asked thoughtfully.

“Yeah,” Jack nodded. “For your sake. For Sha're. And I was scared of it," he admitted. "I didn't know what to do with it.”

“Lucky I made the first move, huh?” Every word was an effort for Daniel, yet miraculously, he carried his end of the conversation.

“YOU made the first move? Wrong, my wayward archaeologist. I made the first move.” Jack knew Daniel was hoping for an argument and didn't want to disappoint him.

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“Did not.”

I think it was mutual,” Jack finally conceded so Daniel could save his strength. “I was so worried about it,” he reminisced. “And then it just happened. It wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. I love touching you.” Jack's voice hitched on the last words. He'd give anything to be able to touch Daniel now.

“I like touching you too.” Daniel tried to chuckle. “And yeah, it was easier than I thought it would be. Well, except for the actual sex... that took us a little longer to get the hang of.”

Jack laughed at the memories of their first awkward attempts at actual penetrating sex. Even Daniel managed a ghost of a smile, no doubt remembering Jack's impatient yelling and Daniel's calm suggestions based on a not so helpful book he had purchased. Neither of them had much experience and Jack had insisted on Daniel taking him first. That way Jack figured he could learn what NOT to do. Plus, he knew Daniel would be more patient and controlled. Thinking back to their first time made Jack glad he had stuck to his guns. It hadn't been all that pleasant. It struck Jack that even then he had trusted Daniel more than he trusted himself.

“We got it down pretty good now though, don't we, lover boy?” Jack's grin faded when he remembered their circumstances. Daniel had outwitted him again. He had all but forgotten his ill fated run in with Guardian. How the hell did he do that?

“Could you do something for me?” Daniel asked, suddenly sounding very serious.

Jack's eyes narrowed. If this was going to be some kind of dying request he wouldn't have it. He couldn't. Not now, not ever.

Jack maneuvered as close to the Guardian as possible in order to hear Daniel. “I wanted to take the statue back to Egypt and place it in the ruins of the temple at Karnak , the temple where the host was a scribe. Jack, promise you'll take it if I... if I can't.

“You'll take it yourself.” Jack whispered hoarsely.

“Please, promise, Jack. I told him I would and it's even more important in light of what you told me.” Sweat beaded on Daniel's face at his effort to breathe with fluid-congested lungs. Jack stared as one drop slowly made its way down Daniel's fever-flushed face. His lover was too weak to wipe it away; he simply scrunched up his heated face at the sensation.

“I promise.” Jack found he didn't have the strength or desire to argue. He said the words but felt like a traitor for making the vow, afraid that the fates would interpret it as a deathbed promise, a sign of weakness, an indication he was giving up. The slight contentment on Daniel's face made it worth the risk.

Jack began to doze. It was quiet, too quiet. Too quiet... Daniel's breathing... Jack suddenly sat bolt upright, “Daniel!”

Daniel simply looked back at Jack, raising a hand at him, signaling not to worry. His noisy, rasping breath sounded after a moment, a little faster than before. The sound was music to Jack's ears.

“Sorry,” Daniel panted. “Tired,” he whispered. “So tired, never knew... breathing is such... hard work.”

The moment Jack was sure Daniel was asleep he sat up and positioned himself against the back wall and took up watch. It was quiet except for the constant, comforting hissing of air fighting its way in and out of Daniel's wet lungs, interspersed with weak bouts of coughing. Jack found himself terrified to sleep... afraid that in the morning he'd wake up to silence. It was irrational, but somehow he felt that if he kept his eyes on Daniel, somehow Danny would be okay.

What the hell? He must have dozed for a second or two. Jack forced himself awake and then calmed at the sound of Daniel's loud, painful struggle for air. He must have been dreaming, he could have swore he heard...

“Colonel!”

“Carter? Carter, in here!”

Jack could hear them working on the door. “They're here, Daniel,” he said comfortingly. “Just a little longer, buddy.” Daniel was unresponsive and didn't seem to hear him.

“Carter, just blow the fucking thing up! Daniel's sick. Really sick.”

“Are you both away from the door, sir?”

“Yes! Blow the damn thing!”

With the help of little C-4 the door opened in a matter of seconds. SG-3 and a medic had accompanied Teal'c and Carter. While the medic worked on getting an IV and some antibiotics into Daniel, Sam worked on shutting down the force field. Teal'c took Jack's rather loud suggestion, against Carter's better judgment, and fired, first a zat, and then his staff weapon at the guardian. Neither had any effect.

“If I could find a control panel, I'd have more luck, sir. Do you see anything like that in there, Colonel?

“Carter, I don't think they'd be stupid enough to put the control panel in here, do you?” Between his worry for Daniel and his own state of exhaustion, Jack's sarcasm was reaching new heights. He was also slightly embarrassed at his accommodations as he caught his teammates and SG-3 looking in astonishment at the contrasting cells.

“Sorry, sir,” Sam mumbled.

“Just get Daniel to the gate. Come back for me after he's in the infirmary,” Jack said as civilly as he could.

“I will stay, O'Neill,” Teal'c offered generously.

“I can stay too, sir. SG -3 will be carrying Daniel back on a stretcher. It's not that far to the gate, Colonel. They won't have any problem. Teal'c and I can stay behind and concentrate on getting you out of here.”

“NO!” Jack worked on maintaining a steady voice. “I want you two to go with them to, to keep an eye on Daniel.” The look in Carter's eyes proved to Jack that his theory was ridiculous. He wasn't going to take his eyes off of Daniel. Not now. They were so close. If he couldn't be there, then Sam and Teal'c were the next best thing. They were family too. They'd keep Danny safe.

“Please,” Jack added weakly.

“Very well, O'Neill, we shall accompany Daniel Jackson to the Stargate.”

“Yes, sir. As soon as he's in Janet's care we'll turn around and come right back for you.”

“Thank you,” Jack whispered, suddenly aware of how tired he was as he watched their final preparations. Teal'c and Carter positioned themselves at Daniel's side. Jack hoped the nightmare was almost over. Fraiser would fix Daniel up. She always did.

“Ready?” Sam asked the medic. Jack watched the marines easily lift Daniel's stretcher and move toward the opened door.

“We'll be back for you, sir,” Carter promised.

Jack waved them off.

A few minutes after Daniel was out the door the force field lit up and then dissipated. Jack took a quick glance around as the food and furniture disappeared in a flashing beam of light, leaving his room as sparse and cold as Daniel's. He threw on his jacket, grabbed the backpacks and crossed into the cell that had been mocking him for weeks. After glancing around for a few seconds he jogged down the corridor, yelling for Carter and Teal'c to wait up.


“I'm fine and I am NOT going to take that.” The gruffness in Jack's voice brought an exasperated Doctor Fraiser scurrying into the room. The nurse who had been trying to administer the meds looked a little rattled at the Colonel's abruptness.

“Colonel O'Neill!” Doc Fraiser admonished, entering the room.

“Look, Doc, I let you do your examination. I don't want the sedative. There's nothing wrong with me.”

“Colonel, you're exhausted.” She took the pills from the relieved nurse who hightailed it out of there.

“I want to be here when Daniel wakes up,” Jack mumbled in lieu of an apology.

Fraiser took pity on him. “Daniel is heavily sedated. This is a mild dose, Colonel. You can sleep right here on the adjoining bed and I can guarantee you'll wake up before he does.”

Jack finally agreed. They had also offered him a ride home if he wanted to sleep in his own bed. Fraiser had informed Hammond that Jack had nothing wrong with him that a good night's sleep wouldn't cure. But going home was not an option. Only Daniel and the Protector would have understood the irony. Jack envisioned himself curled up in the comfort of his own temperature-controlled house, sleeping in his own bed, maybe watching a little TV, grabbing a midnight snack, while Daniel lay unconscious in the infirmary, burning up with fever and unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator. That was just not going to happen. He could have stayed on the planet if he wanted to relive that nightmare.

Janet was right. Six hours later the sedative had worn off and Jack was sitting in a chair at Daniel's bedside, guarding, watching, and protecting. Carter and Teal'c were under doctor's orders to get some rest after weeks of nonstop, exhaustive searching. It was 0300 and aside from a young nurse periodically monitoring Daniel's vitals, the two of them were finally alone.

Fraiser's assessment ran through Jack's mind. Pneumonia, bronchitis only one lung functioning properly... she hesitantly revealed that Daniel's high fever could also have caused some brain damage and they'd have to wait until he woke up to properly assess that.

Jack never entertained the possibility. He pulled his chair up close to the bed and held Daniel's hand under the covers. “Hey, Danny,” he whispered. “I know you're in there and I know you're fine, but you have to wake up and show everyone else. Carter and Teal'c are worried about you. Carter gets all teary-eyed looking at you. I know how much you hate that.”

Jack rested his head beside Daniel's. It reminded him of lying in the cell only now he could touch the beloved face. He stroked the back of his hand gently down Daniel's pale, hot cheek before repeating, “I know you're okay, but you need to show them.” Jack started to doze in that awkward position for a minute or two before his neck began protesting and he retreated to the adjoining bed.

Daniel never stirred. He hadn't been conscious since before they'd been rescued. Jack shuddered to think of what would have happened if another day had passed in that cell.

The next afternoon, under duress, Jack agreed to a shower and a meal in the commissary, reluctantly leaving Teal'c and Carter to stand watch over Daniel. He was back in less than an hour.

“No change, sir.” Carter looked strained.

“Relax, Carter. I've known Daniel to sleep for fifteen hours after a mission and that's with no drugs, right?”

“Yes, sir,” she said quietly.

Jack could see she wasn't convinced. “Hey, he's tough. He's gonna be fine.” He nudged her shoulder with his own to get a quick smile out of his 2IC.

“Carter, I never properly thanked you and Teal'c for rescuing us. Although, I'm sure you could tell how grateful I was from all the bellowing and swearing that took place on the planet.” Jack was pleased to get a chuckle out of her at his unique brand of gratitude.

“And, Teal'c, you too. Thanks, buddy.”

Teal'c bowed his head slightly. “It was nothing, O'Neill,” he said to Jack's amusement.

The three of them spent the afternoon in the infirmary, talking softly and laughing but mostly just being together, keeping Daniel safe. Jack felt more relaxed than he had since stepping foot on P2X-136, comforted by the four of them being together. All they needed now was for Daniel to wake up.

Jack flatly refused to go home. Carter finally left for the evening and Teal'c retreated to his room on the base, promising to check in on his friends in a few hours.

Fraiser was the last one to leave. She wanted to talk to him in private. From the look on her face Jack could see it wasn't going to be good news and he tried to brace himself.

“Colonel, if Daniel's not awake in the next twelve hours, we're going to have to assume there's been some brain damage and do further testing. You might want to prepare yourself for that possibility.” The glare in Jack's eyes belied his verbal agreement.

When he was finally alone with Daniel he quietly got out of his bed and pulled up an uncomfortable chair. He gently pushed Daniel's hair off his forehead and then continued stroking through the fine strands. “Hey, Danny. Me again. It's time to wake up now. I know how much you like to sleep but we have a lot of stuff to do.” Jack silently pleaded for the chance to gaze into those wondrous blue eyes one more time. “I have to buy you that dinner I owe you. I'll spring for somewhere nice. Maybe one of those fancy Eastern restaurants you like so well. Hey, I promise I won't even complain about it.”

“Pretty soon it'll be Christmas, Danny. I know it seems far away, but it's just around the corner and I have a ton of shopping to get done for you. I can't get anything done sitting around here, can I?” Jack continued his gentle massage of Daniel's scalp while he spoke.

"Come on, Daniel." This was not going to happen. He wouldn't let it. He positioned both elbows on the bed and then rested his weary head in his hands. After a few minutes of silence he sat back up and slipped a hand under the blankets to find Daniel's hand.

“Time to wake up, Danny,” he tried again, giving the hand a hard squeeze. “We have to go on our trip... our trip to Egypt . We have to place the statue in the ruins of that temple you were talking about, remember? Just like you promised. You always keep your promises. Maybe you could show me some of the dig sites you played in when you were a kid. I'd really like that.”

Jack was just nodding off when he felt Daniel squeeze his hand and struggle to open his eyes. The linguist couldn't speak because of the breathing tube. “Nod if you're okay?” Jack ordered, wiping a few stray tears. Daniel nodded and Jack ran to get the nurse on duty who promptly called Doctor Fraiser.


Jack watched closely as Daniel ate pizza and joked with Sam and Teal'c. His alert system had been running at defcon three since they'd escaped the planet. His finely tuned 'Danny' radar was tracking as he searched his weary lover for signs of fatigue. Only Jack on high alert would have picked up on Daniel's excessive blinking and his inability to fully concentrate on the words being spoken. It wouldn't be much longer before Jack would have to, not so subtly, kick his friends out and get his archaeologist to bed.

Jack loved when the four of them were together like this... safe at home. No bad ass systems lords, no lurking Jaffa , no billion and one techno bugs, not even one crazy Unas wandering the streets of Colorado Springs . Besides, none of those enemies worried Jack. He was confident fighting off earth's foes and protecting his team against tangible danger. It was those fucking temples and ancient ruins that rendered him helpless and kept him up nights. Daniel was an archaeologist, climbing around in the unknown was what he did. Jack couldn't change that any more than he could stop a section of a wall from crumbling, or keep a ceiling from collapsing... or a stream of light from transporting them against their will.

He had organized this little get together for Daniel. The self-proclaimed workaholic had been getting bored at home and it was getting harder and harder to keep him resting as per Fraiser's orders. Jack absently wondered if his efforts could be considered 'facilitating'. Maybe facilitating could be a good thing. He'd have to ask his personal genius about it when they were alone.

“Jack, what's the temperature in here?” Daniel's voice broke him out of his thoughts.

Jack looked at the sweat threatening to drip down Carter's forehead and the few beads sitting precariously on the top of Teal'c's bald head. He noted Daniel was dry. “Why?” he asked casually.

“Well, for one thing, Sam and Teal'c are sweating.” Daniel sighed at having to point out the obvious.

“Carter, you hot?” His 2IC tried not to laugh at the obvious, threatening scowl.

“Uh, no, sir, quite comfortable,” she agreed lightly.

“Teal'c?”

“I am fine as well, O'Neill. My symbiote keeps me cool even in extreme temperatures.”

Daniel smirked and even Jack had to choke down a laugh.

“Turn it down,” Daniel ordered, rolling his eyes as he made the request.

“Everyone's fine,” Jack said innocently.

“Well, I'm hot, okay? So turn it down.”

“Okay, okay,” Jack grumbled.

“He's been a little... crazy.” Jack heard Daniel whisper apologetically.

“Hey, I heard that, Daniel. I have not been crazy.” Jack returned and was standing in the doorway, covertly observing Daniel for any more indications of tiredness.

Jack watched Daniel purse his lips in exasperation, before deciding to change the subject. “I was wondering, guys, just how exactly did we escape from 136?”

Jack raised his hand. “You don't remember anything?”

“No, nothing. I must have been pretty out of it.”

“Well,” Jack started, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. “I melted down the silver in the utensils and combined it with the chemicals used in the, a... waste facilities. Then I took the batteries and a few wires out of the radio and with that I built an energy disrupter, once I deactivated the force field...”

“Sam and Teal'c?” Daniel interrupted wearily.

“Yeah,” Jack shrugged.

“That is correct, Daniel Jackson,” Teal'c confirmed.

“Well, thanks, guys.” Daniel smiled contently at his friends and attempted to stifle a yawn.

The almost yawn wasn't lost on Carter or Teal'c, neither wasted any time in saying their goodbyes. It would be foolhardy to hang around any longer and wait for the Colonel to bodily throw them out.

“Don't feel bad, sir.” Carter said, patting her CO's shoulder on the way out. “It could have worked.”

As soon as Carter and Teal'c were out the door, Daniel let out the huge yawn that had been threatening. “I'm going upstairs to take a shower.”

“I'll be right up,” Jack said, giving himself a few minutes to tidy up the kitchen and load the dish washer before heading up for a shower of his own.

By the time Jack was ready for bed he was surprised to find Daniel sitting up, leaning against the headboard waiting for him. He expected his recovering partner to be zonked out liked he'd been every night since they'd been home.

“I brought you something.” Jack set the little bag on the nightstand. He'd been bringing food and water to set beside the bed in case Daniel woke up hungry or thirsty during the night. The fact Daniel was awake now meant he must be feeling better. Now would be a good time to spring the surprise on him. He reached into the nightstand and pulled out an envelope before slipping under the covers to sit beside Daniel.

“Jack...” Daniel always protested Jack's nighttime provisions.

“Sh... wait. I have a surprise for you.” Jack couldn't keep the silly grin off of his face as he handed over the envelope. Daniel's eyebrows rose as he bit down on his lower lip with anticipation. Despite his protests, Daniel loved surprises. Especially Jack's surprises.

“Open it,” Jack encouraged.

Jack was lost in the smile that lit up Daniel's face as he took out the plane tickets. “Fraiser said we could leave next week. Ten days, Danny, me and you alone in Egypt .” Jack's mind conjured up images of cool sunsets, warm sand and hot archaeologists.

“You always said Egypt wasn't your thing.” The brief, brilliant smile turned into a frown.

“Did I? Well, I changed my mind. Egypt is SO my thing.” Jack decided he would do or say just about anything to get back that blessed radiance. He leaned over and kissed Daniel's forehead.

Daniel wasn't convinced. “Jack, I don't want to seem ungrateful, but you have to stop this.”

Jack put on his best disappointed pout. “You don't want to go to Egypt with me?”

“Yes,” Daniel said immediately. “Yes, Jack, I do want to go to Egypt with you. I've wanted to take you there since we met. It's just that this whole guilt trip you seem to be wallowing in is driving me insane. You have to admit, your hovering is out of control, even by your standards.”

“I just want to take care of you,” Jack whispered. “Can't you let me take care of you?”

“I did. I did let you. But I'm not sick any more.” Jack felt Daniel's arms wrap around his neck as he was pulled in for a hug. “I'm not sick any more and you have nothing to be sorry for,” Daniel said softly into Jack's ear. “You came with me. You saved me. I wouldn't have made it in there by myself. I would have given up.”

Jack snuggled his head in the warmth of Daniel's shoulder. It had been a while since he'd been able to let go of his responsibilities and accept some comfort. It felt so good. Daniel held onto him for a long time.

“Why do you take that 'facilitating' stuff so seriously?” Daniel asked, finally releasing Jack from the embrace.

Jack pulled away from Daniel and studied his hands. “Because there's a ring of truth to it. That temple light thingy was right about some things... I am the CO... the 'facilitator' of a lot of things, some of which has gotten people killed.”

“No, Jack. It doesn't have any truth to it at all. It's a bunch of crap,” he said determinedly as he reached out and touched Jack's face to get his full attention.

“They were pretty technologically advanced. They must know something we don't. When I left it all disappeared.”

Daniel sighed heavily before making his argument. “The Goa'uld are technologically advanced. Do you accept their moral standards?”

“No, of course not.” Jack smirked and looked up at Daniel hopefully.

Placing his palms on Jack's cheeks, Daniel lifted his lover's face to meet his gaze. “Listen to me, the Protector was a sham. Can you imagine the Asgard or the Nox doing something like that?”

“No.”

“No. It had no moral value or implications at all. It was a cruel and meaningless punishment with no other purpose than to inflict suffering. You need to stop making it into anything more than that.”

“No moral implications at all?” Jack tried to get his head around to that idea.

“None.” Daniel sounded so confident and Jack reminded himself that Daniel was the expert at this kind of stuff.

“I'll think about it,” Jack nodded, relieved at Daniel's assessment of the validity of the Protector's judgment of him.

“Good, you think about it.” Jack was still sitting up, his pillow propped against the headboard and this time it was Daniel who snuggled in against his chest. “Wait until you see Egypt , Jack," he mumbled. "I'm going to show you amazing things.” Jack's hand cupped the back of Daniel's head. He had something pretty amazing right here in his arms.

Daniel's quiet voice was filled with enthusiasm at the thought of sharing his passion with his lover. “We'll go into the temple ruins of Karnak at Luxor . I have a pretty good idea of where we can leave the statue.”

Jack gave Daniel a squeeze and nodded his agreement.

“Did you know that the temple at Karnak is the world's largest religious structure? Just think, Jack, Apophis's host was a scribe there. It really is incredible, isn't it?”

“It really is,” Jack agreed, moving his hand to rub Daniel's shoulder that was snuggled up against him. For the first time since P2X-136, Jack heard the hint of excitement creeping back into his lover's voice.

“I'll show you the old dig site where the Stargate was discovered at Giza .” For a second, Daniel attempted to sit up but Jack held him in place, unwilling to let go. Daniel relaxed again and continued rattling off their itinerary.

“It's a little more remote, but I'll take you to the site where my parents discovered most of their artifacts, including the cover stone.” Jack continued rubbing Daniel's shoulder, absently speculating on how remote the site was... wondering if they could make love there.

“Even though we've been off world and have seen unbelievable wonders, Egypt will still wow you, Jack. I promise.” Jack was feeling pretty wowed already.

“We could take a boat ride down the Nile . The delta of the Nile ...” Daniel stopped himself abruptly and this time, succeeded in pulling away from Jack's grasp. His face had a slight blush to it as if he suddenly realized Jack was more than likely bored to tears by his rambling. He stammered out an apology. “S-sorry, Jack. Listen to me going on and on boring you to death. You probably...”

Jack planted a light kiss on his archaeologist's lips to quiet him. “I was listening, Danny. I was. Every word. Tell me more.”

“Tomorrow, Jack,” Daniel promised happily, letting out a big yawn. “I'll tell you more tomorrow.” With that, Daniel leaned over to turn off the lamp on the nightstand and almost knocked over the bag of nightly provisions Jack had set there.

“So,” he asked with a hint of sarcasm. “What's in the bag?”

“A blueberry muffin,” Jack mumbled, kissing Daniel's hair as he stretched out and settled in for the night.

Daniel shook his head at his lover. “Um, Jack, I don't really like blueberry muffins.”

“But, on 136... why did you ask for it?”

“Because you do.”

A smile crossed Jack's face. He had known it all along. “I can't wait until you're a hundred percent, Jackson,” he said sweetly. “I am so going to kick your ass.”

FINIS

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