Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG
Category: H/C
Season/Spoilers: All
Synopsis: Daniel suffers from Jack's mistake.
Warnings: None
Length: 112 Kb


“Sit rep, Carter!”

The radio clicked to life as Jack strained to make out the reply over the constant roar of the M-16’s, P-90’s, grenades and energy weapons. Five injured, three dead, dangerously low on ammo and no way to hold their current position, much less make it back to the ‘gate. They had twenty minutes at best.

“Daniel.” The name died in Jack’s parched throat. Damn it, he should have seen this coming. It had been too quiet, too peaceful. They’d been within two miles of the Stargate and safety when an endless stream of Jaffa came out of nowhere, pinning them down and cutting them off.

“DANIEL!” This time it was a shout and in seconds Daniel was tucked in at his side panting heavily, tense, waiting for his orders.

“You have to make it to the gate and bring back reinforcements.” Jack hated to do it but he didn’t have much of a choice. Someone had to bring back the cavalry and Daniel was the obvious choice. He was a fast runner and experienced under fire. It was less than two miles, the distance wasn’t the problem; the problem would be dodging the Jaffa trying to outflank them. Jack desperately wanted to send someone with Daniel to watch his six, but he didn’t have a man to spare.

Jack couldn’t afford to turn around and gaze into the intense blue eyes; the archaeologist- turned-soldier would be on his own. Instead, Jack’s left hand reached out and captured a fistful of BDU’s while his right continued firing away.

Daniel placed his own hand over top of Jack’s. “Don’t worry. I’ll make it,” he promised. The confident determination tore at Jack’s heart as he fought to put his emotions aside. He was the colonel and responsible for all of them, at the same time, he was only in love with one of them.

Jack kept his eyes on the advancing Jaffa and shouted again to be heard, “Don’t come back, Danny. Send the goddamn marines. That’s their job. Don’t come back.” In the heat of battle, Jack could only hope Daniel understood the feelings and emotions that remained unspoken.

Without the luxury of a proper goodbye, Jack’s hand released Daniel’s shirt and wandered up to the exposed skin at the collar. He gave the familiar neck a firm squeeze and then Daniel was gone.

The next fifteen minutes seemed like an eternity.

“Carter, report!” Jack yelled into the radio.

“Three clips between us, and we’re out of grenades, sir.” The desperation in Sam’s voice rang through the words.

“Hold your position for as long as you can, Major.” Where the hell were the fucking marines? Jack tried not to think about the implications. Daniel could be lying anywhere between here and the gate, bleeding, injured or worse. The worst part was... he couldn’t go check.

Disheartened, Jack jammed the last clip into the P-90, knowing if he was down to the last, the rest of them had to be almost out as well. He had brought enough ammo to start World War III.

“Colonel, they’re here!” the radio crackled.

Daniel made it. The relief in Carter’s voice reverberated in Jack’s thoughts. “Resupply your ammo and start to fall back to the ‘gate.” Daniel made it.

Fresh troops with a whole lot of fire power made their way up to the frontlines as the small perimeter slowly collapsed inward towards the safety of the Stargate.

Jack turned and watched as the ‘gate came into sight, and sighed in relief as Carter dialed home and the event horizon rippled to life.

“Go! Go!” he shouted, motioning to her and what remained of SG-6 and 7, the walking wounded assisting those unable to make it under their own power. Jack waited while the marines slowly made their way back towards the Stargate. The Jaffa were nowhere in sight, though Jack could still hear staff weapons and Zats firing. They must have taken cover once they realized they no longer had the upper hand. Jack ordered the remaining marines and Teal’c through the ‘gate as two energy blasts shot out in his direction. He dove to his left and splashed into the shimmering blue pool to avoid being hit.

“Goddamn it, that hurts!” Jack yelled as his body bounced down the steel ramp. “Close the iris!” He shouted the order out of habit; it was pretty much closed before he got the words out.

The Gateroom was as chaotic as Jack could ever remember seeing it. The medical staff shouted orders, moving from one wounded man to the next in an effort to assess and triage. At least fifty airmen, marines and medical staff were jammed into the room, none of them wanting to leave until they knew their buddies were taken care of. Some were sitting vigil with the dead.

Jack realized at a glance Daniel was not among them. Shit. If Daniel were fine, he’d be here waiting. Jack couldn’t leave to check on him, not yet. He helped out where he could until the crowd finally began to thin out.

“Colonel, what the hell happened out there?” Even General Hammond looked beleaguered. At least four men had died today and many more were wounded. One quick check of the infirmary then an impromptu debriefing, Jack promised.

Two airmen were standing guard outside the infirmary, as per Dr. Fraiser’s orders. The moans coming out of that room made Jack’s heart race. Daniel did not usually moan, he told himself firmly. He tried ordering his way past the guards to no avail. “No exceptions, sir,” he was told decisively. The scene inside sounded almost as hectic as what had just taken place in the Gateroom.

Jack’s frustration level was peaking. General Hammond needed an assessment of the situation as soon as possible, not only to know what the hell the Jaffa were doing on a protected planet, but also to get a more accurate account of those killed and wounded. Jack was aware of that. And he would give him a report, just as soon as he laid eyes on Daniel. He was nearing his breaking point with the stubborn guards when the door to the infirmary swung opened and to his relief, Carter emerged.

“How is he?” The answer to those three little words could change his life.

“Who, sir?” Carter looked as tired as Jack could ever remember seeing her.

“Daniel. How’s Daniel?” Who? Who the hell did she think?

“He’s not in there, Colonel. Thank God.”

“He’s not in there? If he’s not there, then where the hell is he?” Jack was getting tired of this.

“Oh, no it’s a good thing he’s not in there, sir. Trust me... really good. They set up an aid station in the gymnasium for those who weren’t as severely wounded. He’s down there.”

“Thanks, Carter. I’ll just run over there and check on him.” Jack breathed a sigh of relief. First Aid meant Daniel would most likely be able to come home tonight. After the debriefing, he’d collect his archaeologist and they’d get the hell out of here. The thought of Daniel’s warm body wrapped snuggly, safe and sound at his side brought a moment of comfort to Jack for the first time since the mission had gone to hell.

“They’re not letting anyone in there yet either, sir. Janet says it will be sorted out soon.”

Jack decided he would check in with Hammond and give the medical staff a chance to do their jobs in peace now that Daniel’s safety was confirmed.

Three team leaders, including Major Carl McEvoy were already in the conference room trying to explain to the General how the situation had deteriorated from bad to worse so quickly. Jack managed to maintain eye contact with McEvoy, but it wasn’t easy. The man had lost two members of his team less than an hour ago. The adrenaline rush was wearing off and Jack could see the Major’s frantic animation slowly being replaced with shock. Experience dictated the shock would soon to be followed with grief. Four different SG teams had been involved in the fracas at one time or another, plus every available marine. Hell, that had been close. The SGC had come within a whisker of losing half of its off world personnel. Jack gave his report and made a mental note to personally thank the marines when this was all over.

When the meeting broke up Jack realized two things, he was exhausted and he smelled a little ripe. He made a quick detour to the locker room for a quick shower and changed into his civvies before going down to the gymnasium to hustle Daniel out of there.

Unfortunately, Major McEvoy was already in the locker room. “I lost two men today, Colonel. Good men.” Jack nodded, noting the Major had not yet passed into grief; he was still in the lost and bewildered stage.

“I know,” Jack said, resting a hand on McEvoy’s shoulder. He did know. Thinking about his own team caused Jack’s body to involuntarily shudder, a movement he hoped the Major didn’t pick up on. Two teammates gone in the blink of an eye, what would he do if that were Teal’c or Carter or... Daniel? Hastily, Jack rose, feeling more than a little cowardly for leaving. “Let me know if you need anything, Carl.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jack barely heard the acknowledgement as he made a beeline for the elevator and the gymnasium. He needed Daniel. Now.

Shit. The gym was in disarray, but there were only three men left sleeping on cots. Jack saw no need to wake them, none of them were Daniel. He cursed again and caught the elevator to level 18. If Daniel was working, he was going to kick his ass. The familiar office was dark and empty. Jack went to the next logical place, Carter’s office. It was locked. They must be around here somewhere. The SGC was a big facility and Jack was physically tired of searching. He called Carter’s cell from the nearest available phone.


“Carter, where are you?”


“Yes, it’s me,” he said impatiently. “Where the hell are you?”

“I’m home, sir. Doctor’s orders. Why?”

She did sound groggy. “Oops, sorry,” Jack apologized. “I’m looking for Daniel and I figured he’d be with you.”

“Did you check the gymnasium, sir?”

“Yes. He wasn’t there.”

“Then I’m not sure where he is, sir,” she mumbled sleepily.

“Carter, you did actually see Daniel, didn’t you?” Jack suddenly felt a sickening knot forming in his gut.

“Well, no, sir, but Janet did. She’s the one who told me he was down there. Is everything okay, Colonel?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Go back to sleep. That’s an order.” Jack breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes, sir,” she agreed peacefully.

The guards initially posted outside the infirmary were gone, the halls were eerily quiet and this time Jack had no problem gaining entrance. Doctor Fraiser was sitting at an airman’s bedside, offering some encouragement. God bless her. Jack knew it would be days before she would get a chance to go home. “Doc, one minute?” he whispered.

She rose to meet him. “What is it, Colonel?” Her eyes were bloodshot from the strain of the day.

“It’s Daniel... you did see him?”

“I didn’t treat him, Colonel. He was sent to the gymnasium.”

“So everyone says, but did you see him? With your own eyes?”

“No, my place was in here with the more severely wounded.”

Jack felt liked he’d been sucker punched.

“Is something wrong, Colonel?”

He didn’t bother answering as he took off at a run for Hammond’s office. The General was hunched over his desk when Jack burst through the door.

“Daniel?” was all Jack could get out.

“Major Carter said she believed Dr. Jackson was fine. Is something wrong with him?”

“Forget all that, General. Did you see him? Did you see him come through the ‘gate?”

“Well, no, Colonel, but you know yourself how chaotic it was in there. I didn’t see everyone that came through.”

Jack looked at Hammond with growing horror. “No. He came through alone, for reinforcements. You sent the marines, for God’s sake.”

“Colonel, I sent the marines because you and SG-6 missed two check-ins.”

Jack’s body went limp as he bonelessly collapsed into a chair. He checked his watch. Four hours. Four fucking hours since they’d left P3X-716. His head slumped forward into his hands, while Hammond looked on with growing concern.

“Colonel, what is it?”

“It’s Daniel, sir. I left him behind.”

“It’s clear!” Carter yelled from the Control room, already out her seat and racing to join the teams gathered in the Gateroom.

“You have a go, Colonel.” General Hammond’s voice boomed over the microphone.

Jack stood ready at the base of the ramp, his hands gripping the P-90, his pack weighted down with more ammunition than most believed prudent or necessary. Jack knew better. He closed his eyes in an attempt to will away the images floating before him. Images of Daniel’s lifeless body, beaten and tortured, left in a brutal heap near the Stargate. Or worse, Daniel greeting him, appearing in perfect health, smiling, Jack smiling back until the brilliant blue eyes fixed on him... and began to glow. Jack shook the thoughts from his mind, knowing that the worst would be if they didn’t find Daniel at all, if he had disappeared without a trace.

Whatever happened, one thing was certain, this was his fault and he was going to fix it.

Thirty-six hours had passed before the MALP and the UAV proved there was no activity at the Stargate and three SG teams were allowed back to P3X-716 to search for the missing archaeologist. Thirty-six fucking hours. The Jaffa were finally gone and Jack silently prayed Daniel was not gone with them.

Jack ordered a standard search pattern encompassing a two-mile radius of the Stargate. If Daniel was still here, he was seriously injured or he would have dialed home the second the Jaffa left.

It took than less than thirty minutes to discover Daniel’s fate.

“Colonel, over here!” Carter yelled.

Something in her voice scared Jack as he took off at a dead run. What he saw explained Carter’s misgivings. Daniel was lying on his back, his glasses nowhere to be found, not that he could have worn them. His left eye had disappeared between the horribly puffy cheek and brow. Jack had no way of knowing if the hidden eye was damaged. The apparent cause of the swelling was the wound on Daniel’s face. Blood had dried and crusted over the top of the sore, but small drips of gunky fluid still managed to seep out and rest on the once smooth skin. Jack noted Daniel’s black t-shirt was also moist from the sticky combination of blood and pus.

Jack dropped to his knees and grabbed Daniel’s hand, the only part of his lover’s body that appeared unaffected, and gave it a hard squeeze. Daniel’s eyes fluttered for a brief moment. “Jack?” he moaned.

“I’m right here,” Jack answered miserably, shaking himself out of his horror induced paralysis.

“Why did you leave me?” Daniel whispered.

Holding tight to Daniel’s hand, Jack didn’t trust himself to speak. He watched with admiration as Carter overcame her revulsion and assisted an SGC medic in assessing Daniel’s wounds. She gloved her hands and tentatively reached out to touch one of the lesions oozing on Daniel’s face.

SG-3 and 9 returned and the eight team members stood hovering over Daniel, their mouths opened in horror. Realizing how much Daniel would hate this, Jack ordered them to spread out and form a perimeter. The Jaffa were long gone but there was no need for Daniel to be gawked at as if he were the star of a goddamn freak show.

Carter helped the medic slowly cut off Daniel’s shirt and Jack tried not to reel in revulsion from the sight of his lover’s torso. The majority of Daniel’s chest and arms were covered in grotesquely swollen, raw open wounds. Jack tore his eyes from the sight, eternally grateful Daniel was no longer conscious and forced himself to meet Carter’s gaze.

“What exactly is that?” Jack watched Sam’s gloved finger touch one of the sores and once again admired the effort she was putting in to remain impassive.

“I’m not positive, sir, but if I had to guess, I’d say bite marks. She glanced at the medic and he silently nodded his agreement. It looks like some type of creature or creatures were...” She faltered at saying it aloud. “Well, bite marks, sir.”

There was no need to finish the sentence. Jack understood the implications. While he’d been going to briefings and enjoying a nice, hot shower, Daniel had been lying here on the ground, alone, surrounded by Jaffa, forced to remain quiet while slowly being eaten alive by some ravenous alien creatures.

“Sir, I think it would be helpful if we could catch one of the animals that did this and take it back with us.”

Jack nodded slowly, not the least bit interested in capturing one himself. Teal’c came to his rescue and volunteered. Jack ordered Major Wilkes and SG-9 to assist in panning the area to look for something capable of inflicting this kind of damage. Personally, he had no desire to see whatever had caused the wounds. Once he saw what the critters looked like, it would be too easy to envision them swarming over Daniel and feasting on him for their evening meal. Just the thought made Jack weak; he could do without the visual. He closed his eyes and squeezed Daniel’s hand again, concentrating on keeping it together for Daniel’s sake.

When it was deemed safe to move the unconscious archaeologist, a couple of airman gently lifted the stretcher and carried him the short distance to the gate. The sores covering Daniel’s body were detestable, but it could have been so much worse, Jack reminded himself. Daniel could have been discovered and taken by the Jaffa, forever lost in the vast network of Stargates.

Why did you leave me? Daniel’s confused, semi-conscious question tore through Jack’s guilt-ridden consciousness and he had no clear answer. He had been so relieved at the time of the initial rescue that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion and for that, Daniel had paid the price.

Jack surveyed the remaining members of his team as the three of them sat outside the infirmary waiting for Fraiser’s assessment of their fallen teammate. Carter’s eyes were red and Jack wasn’t sure if it was due to lack of sleep or crying. His 2IC rarely shed any tears in front of him and for that he was eternally grateful, though he was aware Daniel had held her hand numerous times through a myriad of tears. The Colonel supposed it was a military thing; him being her CO made crying a little awkward. Today’s bleary eyes were probably the result of both worry and weariness. Her head was slightly bowed as she anxiously chewed her lower lip.

Teal’c’s normally stoic expression was replaced with one of concern. The slight change would not be noticeable to most people but Jack wasn't ‘most people’. He could easily pick out the subtle differences in Teal’c’s demeanor.

The apprehension of listening to the diagnosis Fraiser would offer was nothing compared to the thought of going inside and actually seeing Daniel. A sickening feeling of dread was slowly churning Jack’s guts to mush. Normally, he’d be pacing up and down the hall, ranting and raging at any medical personnel unluckily enough to pass by. He would be demanding to see Daniel and begging for an update. He was ashamed at how the three of them sat quietly in unspoken agreement to wait it out, afraid of what they’d learn, and even more afraid of coming face to face with the horror that had befallen Daniel in the hours he had been unwittingly left behind.

“This is my fault, sir.” It was Carter who finally broke the silence.

Jack flinched at the words. He so did not want to go there right now.

“Not now.” He hoped she’d take the hint. He really wasn’t up to soothing and consoling.

She might have dropped it if Teal’c hadn't jumped in to grab his slice of the guilt pie. “I also must share in the blame, O’Neill.”

The headache that had been threatening Jack’s temple seized the moment and began pounding in earnest. For once, Colonel O’Neill did not want to be the Team Leader. He wanted to be Jack, the anxious, horrified lover of Daniel Jackson. He wanted his friends to comfort and console him, absolve him for his actions. But that wasn’t the way it worked. He was the commanding officer, in charge and responsible, and in this case, one hundred percent guilty.

Jack rubbed at the offending temple. “No,” he said softly, hoping they’d let it go. He had no desire to air his personal laundry list of mistakes.

“I’m the one who told you he was in the gym, sir.” Carter’s bottom lip trembled slightly and Jack silently prayed this would not be one of the rare times she broke down in front of him. He let out a heavy sigh and put his own needs aside. He was the Team Leader, and right now his team needed reassurance.

“Carter, you gave me information based on what you believed to be true. It’s my job to take a headcount in situations like that and confirm the dead, the wounded and the” He faltered slightly before continuing. “And the missing.”

“I was your confirmation.” He had to strain to hear her.

Goddamn it. He really couldn't take reliving the horrible moment when his knees had turned to rubber and his gut had clenched in understanding. “Could we not do this right now?” His nerves were shot and the apprehension in his voice came out sounding more like anger.

“Yes, sir.” She looked up at him with wide, red-rimmed eyes.

“Good.” Why did he always feel like such a bully?

Teal’c had been listening thoughtfully to the conversation and felt the need to throw in his two cents. “Perhaps this is what the Tau’ri refer to as ‘no-fault’,” he offered in earnest.

“Have you recently purchased car insurance, big guy?” Jack scrubbed furiously at the uncooperative temple.

A look of confusion crossed Teal’c’s face. “I have not, O’Neill.” The slight snort from Carter made the headache worthwhile.

Jack opened his mouth to offer some type of explanation to the Jaffa and quickly shut it as Janet emerged from the infirmary. She was wearing the all too familiar, determined, solemn look that spoke volumes. The three of them stood as one.

Janet raised her hand to keep them silent and attentive. “I want to go over a few things before I let you in there.” She eyed the weary group with sympathy and directed most of her words at Jack.

“Daniel has approximately thirty bites on his body. Some of them are fairly large like the one on his face and others are quite small. A few of them are infected. He’s resting on his left side which is relatively wound free.” She paused for a second letting them process the information, their silence giving her strength to continue. “He’s uncovered, wearing a pair of gym shorts. The bigger wounds are covered with gauze pads but it’s best to leave the others exposed to the open air to dry out. The bite near his right eye is very large and very swollen but his eye doesn’t appear to be affected, it’s just hidden under the swelling. We’ll know more once the swelling goes down and Dr. Moore, the ophthalmologist, examines him. Daniel’s been medicated for pain, he’s uncomfortable and right now he’s sleeping. You can all take a peek, but try not to wake him.” The doctor’s eye caught Jack’s. “Any questions?”

It took Jack a minute to find his voice. It sounded hollow and small when he did. “Is he going to be okay?”

Fraiser answered as best she could. “I know it’s not what you want to hear, but I honestly don’t know. The bites may scab over and heal in a week, or worse case scenario, they may lead to all kinds of complications. We’re dealing with alien saliva, which means alien bacteria and organisms. I have no way of knowing how it will affect him. The sheer number of wounds may make it worse. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Jack nodded, unusually subdued and not clamoring to get inside. He felt Carter’s hand on his arm.

“Daniel’s tough, sir. He’ll be fine.”

“Yes, he is,” Jack answered, choking down his emotion. He covered her hand with his own, grateful for the comfort.

Janet radiated confusion as she stood in the doorway, no doubt wondering why the members of SG-1 weren’t pushing past her to get a glimpse of their beloved civilian. “Would you like to see him now?” she volunteered.

They took a moment to steel themselves and collectively set their perceived guilt aside as they entered the infirmary to face their teammate, friend, brother, and lover.

Despite Fraiser’s words none of them were prepared for the sight that lay before them.

Jack froze a step behind the others when he heard Daniel stir. It was Teal’c who grabbed Daniel’s uninjured hand. “Jack?” The sleepy confusion was obvious as the only functioning eye struggled to open.

“It is I, Daniel Jackson.”

Daniel squinted at Teal’c. “Is Jack okay?” he asked shakily.

Jack snapped out of his trance and stepped up to the bedside. “I’m here, Daniel. I’m fine.” A faint smile crossed the linguist’s lips as he fell back into a drug-induced sleep.

Long after Carter and Teal’c had gone, Jack tracked down Fraiser in the commissary and pleaded his case on why he should be allowed in the infirmary at Daniel’s side. She gave in easily, probably wondering why he hadn’t asked sooner. He would have, but he’d been too busy cowering in his office berating himself over his mistakes.

Mistake? A mistake is picking up the wrong brand of coffee, not leaving a teammate behind to be served up as the main entree of an alien buffet. An error in judgment, a blunder, too neat and easy. How about dereliction of duty, negligence... Colonel O’Neill, how do you plead? Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

He didn’t think it possible, but exhaustion finally won out and Jack fell asleep in the hard infirmary chair, Daniel’s mutilated body on display in full view, condemning him.

“Get off me! NO!” Daniel’s scream sent a jolt through Jack, shocking him out of his own nightmare.

He watched helplessly, trying to figure out where to grab the frantic man without causing further pain. “Jack, please. Please help me. Jack!” In the throes of the dream, Daniel called to him, begging and pleading for rescue.

Grabbing the flailing wrists, Jack leaned over the bed. “It’s okay, Danny, I’m here now. You’re okay. You’re safe.”


“I’m here.” A lucid, relieved look passed over the half of Daniel’s face that still looked liked Daniel. The relief was short lived before the pain took over and he began panting in and effort to ward it off. The commotion had attracted the on duty nurse.

“Are you sure that’s enough?” Jack held Daniel’s hand while the nurse administered the prescribed sedative.

She nodded as she went about taking Daniel’s vitals. “Maybe you ought to call Fraiser and have her come down here and take a look at him.” Jack could feel Daniel calming from the injection

“He’ll sleep now, sir.”

“She should come down here,” Jack demanded as he sat back down in the unforgiving chair.

“Doctor Fraiser needed a few hours to check on her daughter. She’ll be back soon, Colonel.”

Jack ran a hand through his hair and sighed. Of course Janet would be back as soon as she could. Was he really going to begrudge her a few hours with Cassie? The nurse wrote on Daniel’s chart and informed him she’d be in the office if needed. He nodded miserably. He was relieved Daniel’s features had relaxed considerably and his breathing had evened out. Jack took his lover’s hand gently in his own and attempted to make peace. It was difficult.

“Daniel, can you hear me?” A barely perceptible squeeze of his hand urged him to continue. “I’m sorry. I thought you had made it to the ‘gate.” Tears welled up in Jack’s eyes. “I believed you were safe.” The marred body and the hideously swollen face mocked his words.

“Danny?” Mercifully, Daniel appeared to be blissfully sedated. Jack gently massaged Daniel’s scalp and spared no detail in disclosing his thoughts and actions during the thirty-six hour ordeal.

When he was finished, he leaned forward and whispered, “Please forgive me.”

Jack wasn’t sure whether it was real or wishful thinking, but he chose to believe the slight pressure he felt on his hand was Daniel granting him absolution.

It had taken a little bit of fast talking and whole lot of begging, but Jack had finally convinced Fraiser Daniel would be better off at home, Jack’s home. After a week in the infirmary, Daniel’s dark mood had not lifted and Fraiser was becoming as worried as the rest of his anxious teammates. As soon as Daniel returned from his latest battery of tests, he was going to have his wounds soaked in the whirlpool and the antibiotic cream applied. Jack was going to sit in on the session to be sure he understood exactly what needed to be done in order to properly manage Daniel’s care and treatments at home.

“Give us a minute?” Jack motioned to the nurse who wheeled a slouched Daniel Jackson into the room. Jack glanced around before giving Daniel’s shoulders a quick, feather light hug and placing a gentle kiss in his hair. He crouched down despite the strain on his weathered knees, and placed his hands on the armrests of Daniel’s chair. “Good news, Danny.” Jack ignored Daniel’s non-response and continued, “I sweet talked ole’ Doc Fraiser into letting you come home tomorrow.”

That drew a response, though not the one Jack had been hoping for. Daniel’s head jerked up immediately, his eyes pleading. “No. I-I-I’m not ready, Jack.”

Jack was unmoved, wondering if Daniel was still angry for leaving him behind. He wouldn’t blame him, but the wide blue eyes held more fear than anything else. Fear of what? “Sure you are, Daniel. The doc would never release you if you weren’t ready.”

“B-but my baths...”

“I know,” Jack said confidently. “That’s why I’m taking you over there right now to make sure I understand how to do them properly.”

“But, Jack...” The misery in Daniel’s voice was obvious. Whatever the problem was, Jack was bound and determined to get to the bottom of it.

“No buts, Daniel.” He stood up and waved off the nurse who had entered the room to escort Daniel. “I got him.” Jack leaned down and whispered in his lover’s ear. “Everything’s going to be fine. Trust me.”

At the words, Daniel rolled his head back and closed his good eye, but did not protest. Jack couldn’t decide if that was a good or bad sign as he took in the sight of his lover. After seven days, the swelling on Daniel’s face had only gone down slightly, if at all. Jack knew the wounds were slow to heal, but he hadn’t had to face what that meant until today. Before volunteering to care for Daniel, all he had to look at was a patchwork of gauze. This would be tougher, but he was willing, he needed to get Daniel home as soon as possible so they could both begin to heal.

Jack braced himself, determined to remain expressionless as the bandages were removed to reveal the larger, open sores that covered Daniel’s once handsome body, a body ravaged because of Jack’s own carelessness. He was aware of Daniel studying him for signs of rejection.

Jack exchanged looks with Fraiser and noted her effort to sound casual as she ran through the instructions while demonstrating her words regarding Daniel’s care.

The ugly wounds covered both the front and back of the archaeologist’s body. From what they had ascertained from Daniel, he had been zatted on his way to the ‘gate and had eventually woken up on his back with the voracious alien creatures feasting on him. One of the bat-like, flying rodents had clamped down on his face, causing one of the worst bites on the still swollen, oozing right cheek, frighteningly close to his eye. Daniel had valiantly fought them off but had grown weak from the multitude of bites. They did ‘shoo away’ with a bit of effort, but in the end, Daniel had been too weak to sustain the effort for very long. He had ended up rolling onto his stomach and passing out again, this time with his face buried in the ground and his arms wrapped protectively over his head. Jack pushed the vision from his mind and reminded himself things were finally beginning to get better.

Three days ago Janet had called him in with the bleak news that none of the wounds appeared to be healing. None of them had scabbed over, they were just as open and moist as they were the first day they had brought Daniel home, and she was growing increasingly concerned. Something in the alien creatures’ saliva was retarding the healing process and with the number of bites Daniel had sustained, the doctor had no idea if the condition was temporary or not.

Jack was more than concerned. Would Daniel be permanently scarred and in constant pain, spending the rest of his life wrapped in gauze and in danger of infection because of Jack’s recklessness?

Then yesterday, Fraiser called him in, practically beaming when she reported that two of the smallest, shallowest bites were beginning to show the first hints of healing. It was the first bit of good news since the ill-fated mission and Jack allowed himself a few moments of unadulterated relief. Daniel would heal. He had not permanently disfigured the man he loved. It was just going to take longer than an average Earth wound, but in the end, Daniel would be fine. Jack was practically giddy with the news. The only disappointment was the fact that the good news had not seemed to do much to cheer up Daniel.

Right now Fraiser’s main concern was keeping the wounds clean, getting the swelling down and clearing up any infection while keeping Daniel as comfortable as possible in the process. She had come up with a regime of two baths a day and a schedule of antibiotics and ointments to accomplish the job.

Initially, she had been reluctant to allow Daniel to leave the infirmary. The Colonel successfully lobbied that he had a whirlpool tub at his house. He was positive he could give Daniel the care he needed and hopefully lift his sagging morale as well. Fraiser had to admit Daniel was miserable in the infirmary. He didn’t make eye contact with anyone and barely spoke unless asked a direct question. She wasn’t sure of the cause, but she couldn’t remember ever seeing Daniel Jackson as defeated in words and gestures as he had been this past week.

Daniel had not acted all that excited to go home either, but Jack insisted once Daniel was out of spotlight of the infirmary, he would improve. The baths were normally given by the staff nurses and with two a day, one in the morning, and the other late afternoon or evening it wouldn’t be long before every nurse on the mountain had bathed him. For someone as modest and unassuming as Daniel, Jack had successfully argued Daniel would be far more comfortable with one caregiver in the privacy of Jack’s familiar home.

Doctor Fraiser couldn't disagree with his logic. She would personally demonstrate everything that needed to be done to insure quality care and the least risk of infection. She promised if he still wanted to take on Daniel’s care after understanding all it entailed, and if the beleaguered archaeologist agreed, she would okay it. Fraiser also advised him in no uncertain terms that she would be making plenty of calls and visits to check in on one of her favorite patients.

“Colonel, this is the perfect water temperature, warm, but not too hot.”

Jack dutifully felt the water, keeping one eye on Daniel, who sat slouched in the wheelchair with his head bowed. This had to be humiliating for him. To hell with the treatment demonstration, he would give anything to wheel Daniel out of here right now.

Fraiser measured out two ounces of Betadine and poured it into the water. “This is Betadine,” she said matter of factly. “It will help draw out the infection.”

Jack watched in morbid fascination as the water turned a dark, rusty, orange color.

After the Betadine was incorporated into the whirlpool, Daniel stood up and the nurses helped him out of the shorts and began removing the 4x4 gauze pads that were covering the larger bites.

“Hey, I’m sure he can do that himself.” Jack forced himself to remain rooted and steady instead of crawling away in horror. He kept reminding himself that this was Daniel, his Daniel, and Daniel needed him and Jack was going to be there for him, every step of the way, for as long as it took for Daniel to recover.

“Actually, sir, he can’t.” Fraiser helped the nurse remove the random patchwork of gauze. “You have to cover these up again after the bath.” She gently pulled at a particularly stubborn square and whispered, “Sorry, Daniel,” as the gauze finally gave.

To the casual observer Daniel appeared stoic, but Jack could see the brightness of his eyes and the tiny lines pulling at his jaw, and understood the extent of pain and humiliation his partner was suffering.

“Remove the gauze squares carefully. If they stick to the wound, you can use a little saline to help remove them. That'll make it easier. I’ll send a bottle home with you.”

Jack watched Daniel’s barely perceptible wince. “Yeah, looks like that’s working real well,” he sniped.

Fraiser ignored the sarcasm but Jack was pleased it elicited a hint of a smile from Daniel. She’d better send a couple of bottles home because Jack was going to soak the hell out of those pads if it would save Daniel from any bit of pain.

Jack jumped forward to take the place of one of the nurses trying to help Daniel into the whirlpool and inadvertently grabbed a sore on Daniel’s upper arm. “Agh,” Daniel yelped before regaining control of his emotions.

“Sorry. I’m sorry,” Jack grimaced in sympathy. “I didn’t see that one.”

“I’m fine. I’m fine.” Daniel gritted his teeth and stared at his bare feet. “Could I have a little privacy, please?” he asked quietly without looking up.

“Certainly,” Janet answered. As soon as Daniel was situated in the tub, she nodded for the nurses to leave. “He needs to soak for at least ten minutes for it to be of any value.”

Jack nodded his understanding. “Colonel, can I see you outside?” Jack followed her into the hallway. “Are you going to be okay with this, sir? I’m sure Daniel would understand if you wanted to wait until he was a little less... tender before you took him home?”

“It hurts him. I get that.” Jack was unyielding.

“Yes. I wish all of this wasn’t necessary, but it is.” Janet made a few notations on Daniel’s chart.

“What’s in that stuff, anyway?” Jack asked with a hint of anger.

“The Betadine isn’t what’s hurting him, Colonel. Anytime you have an open wound like that it’s going to hurt. It would hurt just the same in clear water. Actually, once he’s settled in, it probably feels pretty good. It’s getting the bandages on and off and the initial contact. It’s the same with the antibiotic cream. The cream doesn’t hurt, but applying it to the wound does.”

Jack nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Daniel was sitting in that whirlpool right now, suffering by himself, and it was Jack’s fault.

“What about more pain killers?” Jack mentally willed himself not to pull away when Janet touched his arm. He did not need or deserve comfort; he wasn’t the one with gaping sores covering three quarters of his body.

“Every thing that can be done is being done. I don’t like to see him suffer any more than you do, Colonel.”

Jack nodded apologetically. “I know,” he whispered.

“Are you sure you can do this?”

Of course he could. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for Daniel. Jack pulled himself together. “No problem, Doc. I’ll have him back to his old annoying self in no time.”

Fraiser checked her watch. “Okay, good,” she smiled. “Let’s get back in there. I’ll show you the best way to apply the antibiotic cream and then you can replace a few of the bandages.”

“Sure thing,” Jack said, returning the smile. “Just give me a second.”

As soon as Fraiser was out of sight, Jack headed for the men’s room and checked the stalls. When he was sure the room was empty, he quickly and quietly leaned over one the toilets and promptly threw up his breakfast.

“Home sweet home.” Jack threw the truck in park and jumped out. He quickly went around to the passenger side door to help Daniel out. From all the shifting and fidgeting, Jack knew the ride home had been torturous. Hell, just dressing Daniel in a pair of loose fitting sweats had been painful. Fraiser had offered a free ambulance ride but Daniel had flatly refused.

Jack unlocked the front door and guided a wobbly Daniel to the sofa. The pain pills tended to make the archaeologist sleepy. Once Daniel was secure on the couch, Jack headed back outside to unload the truck. It took a few trips with an entire box devoted to medical supplies.

Upon his return, Jack was pleased to see Daniel was exactly where he'd left him. He started going through the box, putting some of the medications and supplies in the bathroom and hauling the rest into the bedroom.

“Jack.” Jack paused at the weary voice. “Put those in the spare room, please.”

“Sure,” Jack agreed readily. If Daniel were going to spend a lot of time in bed he probably didn't feel like staring at medical supplies. “I’ll put the cream and some of the gauze in our bedroom so we won’t have to get up every time you need it.

Jack clearly heard Daniel’s audible sigh. “I’m going to sleep in the spare room, Jack.”

“What?” That statement made him stop hauling and take notice.

“You heard me.”

“Okay. Why?” Jack set the box in question down in the hall between the two rooms and jump down the few steps to face his partner.

Before he had a chance to say anything, Daniel gave his version of an explanation. “It’ll be easier.”

“Just sleep in our bed.” Jack took the chair opposite the sofa and tried to sound casual. He wasn’t in the mood for an argument.

Daniel gritted his teeth against the pain and finally released some of his pent up frustration. “Do you understand that this hurts? We can’t touch, even accidentally.” He took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. His face muscles relaxed slightly and his voice became softer, “It’ll just be easier. That’s all.”

It wasn’t the pain talking, it was anger. Anger at what? Him? Jack looked down at his hands. “Tell me the truth, are you mad at me?” He thought this had been settled in the infirmary, but apparently Daniel still had issues. Not that he blamed him.

“No. It’s not you, Jack. It’s just... easier.”

“So you said. If there’s a problem we should be talking about, let’s talk about it. Hiding out in different rooms isn’t going to solve anything.”

Daniel’s features hardened considerably as he met Jack’s eyes with a steady stare. “Okay, then, yes, I have a problem with you. You left me there. I’m sure you didn’t mean to and I’m sure I’ll get over it, but I don’t want to sleep in your bed right now. Satisfied?”

Jack swallowed hard and studied a small bottle of pills on the coffee table. “I’ll sleep in the spare room,” he said quietly. “You’ll be more comfortable in our bed.”

“No.” Daniel sighed and rubbed at his good eye.

Jack stood up. “Why not?”

“Because in a day or two you’ll come crawling back in and since it’s your bed too, I won’t be able to say ‘no’.”

“I won’t.”

“Yes, you will. You can’t help yourself. Please. Could you please just let me do this? I need a little time.”

“Okay. Time it is,” Jack sadly agreed.

Somehow, the boxes seemed heavier than before. After Jack deposited Daniel’s belongings, he spent a few extra minutes rummaging through Daniel’s dresser drawers to gather up some sweats and shorts. Then he moved the pile of clothing from their room to the spare room, surprised by how much it hurt, but he was willing to give Daniel the time he needed.

Daniel spent the remainder of the afternoon lying on his left side, asleep on the sofa. Jack managed to get some food and medication into him a couple of hours ago but now it was bath time. Twice he had casually pointed out to a sleepy Daniel that it was time for his evening soak. Both times Daniel had answered ‘ten minutes’ and now another hour had passed by and Daniel was once again pretending to be asleep on the couch.

It wasn’t easy but Jack managed to take a knee on the floor beside Daniel’s head. “Hey.” Jack gently rubbed his hand through the soft golden brown strands. “Time to give you a good soak before Fraiser has our heads.”

After a few uneasy minutes of silence, Daniel succumbed to the inevitable. “I wish I could do this myself,” he mumbled, allowing Jack to help him up and gingerly walk him to the bathroom.

Even though Daniel was only wearing boxers, Jack noted how the good eye welled with tears when so much as a hint of the fabric grazed over one of the bites.

“Let’s see what we got here.” Once he had the bath water running at the correct temperature, Jack began removing the gauze pads as gently as possible. Daniel closed his eyes, bit his lip and concentrated on remaining still.

When Jack was finished, he surveyed his lover. He couldn’t get past it. Daniel was suffering as a direct result of his error in judgment. If SG-1’s archaeologist had been out with another SG team and this had happened, the Colonel would have shown no mercy.

Jack couldn’t help staring at Daniel’s naked body; it was a living accusation, every wound giving testimony against him.

“I know it’s disgusting, Jack. You don’t have to stay in here. I’ll call you when I’m ready to get out.” Daniel’s abrupt tone snapped him back to reality.

“I’m fine. That’s not what’s bothering me.” Jack helped Daniel into the tub and saw tears glisten in the blue eyes at the initial contact of the water washing over his damaged skin. Jack sat his ass firmly on the edge, measured out the Betadine and watched the fresh clean water turn to rust.

“It’s okay to admit you’re repulsed. I saw you flinch.” Daniel let out a sarcastic chuckle, the conversation a welcome distraction from the pain.

“Stop it, Daniel. If I flinched, it’s only because you did and I hate to see you hurting like this.”

“You mean you hate to see me like this. Period.”

The image of a pirate flashed through Jack’s mind as the blue eye stared determinedly. “Don’t twist this around. Of course I hate to see you like this. You can’t get comfortable. You’re in pain. You’re infected. You’re...”


Jack proceeded with caution. Even drugged up on painkillers Daniel could kick his ass in a debate. “I brought you home to take care of you. You’re you. I do not, nor could I ever, find you repulsive.”

“You don’t?” The challenge issued in those two little words was obvious.

“No, I don’t.” Jack stood his ground.

“Then why did I wake up holding Teal’c’s hand?”

He had no acceptable answer. Son of a bitch, there it is, Jack thought wearily. Game, set and match. As always, I’m fucked.

Jack opened the door and ushered Sam and Teal’c into the living room.

“Where’s Daniel?” Carter asked after a quick scan of the room.

“Shh, he’s upstairs,” Jack said, nervously licking his lips.

“He does know we’re coming, doesn’t he?” Sam sounded suspicious as she sat down on couch.

“Not exactly.” Jack cleared his throat and shrugged.

“Colonel!” The Major sprung back to her feet.

“We do not wish to upset Daniel Jackson, O’Neill.” Teal’c joined in.

“Look, he hasn’t seen anyone besides me and Fraiser since we’ve been home. Doc said he could take short walks and non-tiring trips, but he refuses to leave the house.”

“After what he’s been through, maybe he just needs more time.” Sam and Teal’c picked up the jackets they had just removed and put them back on. “Tell him, I’ll call him,” she said decisively.

Jack took a step toward them, keeping his voice low in case Daniel was awake. “Wait, a minute. Let me at least go up and tell him you’re here. Let him decide.”

“It has to be his choice, Colonel. I’m not sure if I’d want to see anyone yet if I had been through what he’s been through.”

“We’re family, Carter. We’re all he’s got. He needs us. All of us.”

Carter shrugged her shoulders as Teal’c answered for both of them. “We shall wait, O’Neill, but we will adhere to Daniel Jackson’s wishes.”

Jack hurried upstairs to the bedroom. Daniel was awake and from the tenseness of his body, on high alert. Jack kept his tone as casual as possible. “Hey, Carter and Teal’c came by to see ya.”

“I told you I don’t want visitors.” Daniel sounded agitated as he rolled over to face the wall, a recent habit Jack was beginning to despise.

“Come on, Danny. They just want to say hello.” Jack sat on the edge of the bed and spoke softly.

“How many times do I have to say this? I don’t want to see anyone.” The stubborn voice was insistent.

“Hey, they’re not any one.” For the first time since P3X-716, Jack felt annoyance creep into his voice. “It’s Carter and Teal’c.”

“So what?”

“So what? So we’re a team, Daniel. More than a team. Don’t make light of that.”

Jack could barely make out the muted reply.

“What?” Jack asked, not truly comprehending what he thought he heard.

“They weren’t there either. They left me, same as you did.” Daniel repeated it loud enough to carry downstairs.

Jack was shocked at the outburst. It was rare for Daniel to blame anyone but himself for his misfortunes. Jack headed back downstairs just as Sam and Teal’c reached the front door.

“You heard that?”

“It’s okay, sir. He’s right. I was home in bed sleeping while he was...” She still couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“I, too, failed to notice Daniel Jackson’s absence,” Teal’c offered immediately, more than happy to shoulder his share of the guilt.

“He didn’t mean it, guys. He’s just tired.” Jack tried to sound convincing.

They both nodded. “Call us soon as he’s up to it,” Carter said sadly.

Teal’c bowed his head in agreement.

As soon as Sam and Teal’c were out the door, Jack stormed back upstairs. Hurting or not, guilty or not, this was over the line.

“What the hell is wrong with you? If you need to blame someone, blame me. I was in charge. Blame me!”

Daniel remained silent, staring at the wall.

“Did you hear me? Answer me, damn it!”

The whispered, “got it” softened Jack considerably. “It was rude, Daniel. It’s not like you.”

To Jack’s surprise, Daniel turned to face him with a look of horror. At least he thought it was horror. It was hard to tell with one side of Daniel’s face still swollen and expressionless.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.”

Firmly planted in the doorway, Jack wavered between his desire to comfort Daniel and his desire to hold on to his justifiable rage a bit longer. The anger felt surprisingly good.

“Could you please call them and tell them I... that I didn’t mean it?”

Daniel’s shaky voice made the decision for him. Thrilled to see a guest appearance by the Daniel Jackson he knew and loved, Jack quickly entered the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. He found a rare patch of smooth skin on Daniel’s forearm and rubbed it gently with his finger.

“What was that all about?” That earned him a shrug of the shoulders. “Are you okay?”

Nervous fingers picked at the light sheet. “I-I didn’t mean it. I just, I just don’t want to see anyone right now. Could you please tell them, Jack?”

“You can call them yourself. It’s Carter and Teal’c, they’re family. They’ll understand.”

A blood-curdling scream reverberated through the house as Jack jumped out of bed and ran down the hall to the spare room. “Daniel!” Daniel was thrashing about, his arms swiping madly at imaginary flying rodents while his legs frantically kicked at the sheets.

Jack tried to grasp Daniel’s shoulders and pin him to the bed in an attempt to wake him, but the move only seemed to add fuel to the intense fire of Daniel’s nightmare. “Get off of me!” Daniel screamed hysterically, same as he did every night since he’d been home. “Get them off of me!” The longer the dream went on, the more panicked Daniel became.

“Daniel!” Jack tried again to no avail. He had no need to wonder what the ordeal on the planet had been like for Daniel... he was treated to a nightly reenactment, sometimes with encore performances. Every night, the terrified archaeologist found himself back on the planet fighting off mutant alien bats that were once again threatening to eat him alive.

“Wake up!” It took all of Jack’s Special Forces training and experience to subdue Daniel enough to wake him. It was difficult to avoid Daniel’s aggressive punches and kicks while being careful not to grip any of his wounds. He finally trapped both of Daniel’s wrists and cautiously straddled his lover so as not to place any weight on his sore, swollen body. Both men were sweating profusely by the time Jack gained the upper hand.

“Daniel!” A well-placed shout in Daniel’s ear eventually did the trick. Finally the left eye popped open and Jack cringed at the tell tale terror clearly present in the huge blue orb. As soon as the terror gave way to recognition, Jack carefully rolled off the trembling figure and lay down on the bed beside Daniel to catch his breath.

Enough is enough, Jack decided. Tonight he was not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Tonight Daniel was coming back to their bed to sleep at Jack’s side where he belonged. Jack was positive Daniel would sleep better knowing he wasn’t alone. And if Daniel did have a nightmare, Jack was sure he'd be able to sense it and wake his troubled partner before it turned into a full blown, out of control trauma like it did every night in the spare room.

When Daniel’s breathing evened out, Jack tugged on Daniel’s arm and whispered, “Come on, Danny.” He was dismayed to see Daniel had already turned his back, feigning sleep.

Hoping to leave no room for argument, Jack spoke in his firmest Colonel voice. “This is ridiculous. I told you, I'll be extremely careful not to touch the sores. You’ll be fine. Come on.”

Jack tugged at the sheet Daniel had pulled up to his chin.

"I’m fine.” Daniel refused to look at him, responding with his patented favorite answer.

Jack leaned over and spoke gently in Daniel’s ear, moving slowly, careful not to touch the sensitive skin. “You’re not fine. You have nightmares every time you close your eyes, sometimes two or three a night. We’re both exhausted. All I’m saying is let’s try being together for one night. It might help if you’re not alone.”

Daniel rolled over and Jack winced at the pain he saw flash in Daniel’s good eye at the sudden movement. “I am alone, Jack,” he said angrily. “I was alone. You left me alone.”

The familiar lump formed in the back of Jack's throat as the man he loved hurled the accusation. It wasn’t the first time Daniel had said those words to him and he had no snappy O’Neill comeback to counteract them. He HAD left his teammate and lover behind. He had no defense. It shocked him Daniel was holding a grudge. He had explained and apologized more than once. Each time Daniel insisted he understood, that Jack should not feel guilty and that he didn’t blame him, but this was the third time he had voiced angry words to the contrary.

Jack swallowed hard and decided he had to shelve his guilt for now and find out what the hell was going on in Daniel’s brilliant, though often times, messed up mind.

“I did do that,” Jack answered calmly, taking Daniel’s hand in his. “But I’m here now, Daniel. Let’s go to bed.” At the last words, Jack once again pulled on the light sheet.

“No.” Daniel was facing Jack with a look Jack could only describe as on the brink of panic. It wasn’t a look he often saw on his lover.

Jack kept his voice calm and reassuring. “I know it hurts. I won’t touch you, not even accidentally. I promise.” Jack made the vow and then patiently waited for Daniel’s answer.

The only response was the pink that crept up Daniel’s face from the base of his neck as he stared up at the ceiling, looking like he’d rather be anywhere in the universe but here. Finally, Jack heard a whispered, “No, I can’t.”

Jack gingerly ran his hand through Daniel’s sweaty hair, the only place he knew for certain he could touch without causing pain. “Tell me why. Tell me and we’ll fix it.”

“I-I want to sleep here, alone.” Daniel whispered. “Please.”

This was going nowhere fast. “Okay.” Jack closed his eyes and gave in with a sigh. He had another idea that might work.

After a quick trip to the basement, Jack was back in Daniel’s room with the frame of an old cot that had been in storage forever. He maneuvered it around the dresser and unfolded it on the far side of Daniel’s bed to ensure Daniel easy access to the door and the bathroom. The old hinges creaked and groaned as it unfolded. Daniel was awake in an instant.

“Jack?” The fear in his voice was evident.

“Yeah, just me, go back to sleep.” Jack quickly set up the makeshift bed and then went out in the hall to rummage through the linen closet for some sheets.

Daniel struggled to sit up in the dark. “Um, what are you doing?”

“I thought I’d bunk in here with you for awhile,” Jack answered cautiously, making quick work of the bed linens.

“Oh, okay,” Daniel agreed sleepily.

“Okay? No arguments?”

“No, no arguments, Jack. I need you here with me. You can fight off the monsters,” Daniel said softly.

“Yeah. I can do that for ya.” Confused at the sudden change of heart, Jack lay down on the thin, lumpy old mattress and tried to sleep.

Jack removed that last gauze pad from Daniel’s back. “You have a go,” he said playfully as Daniel stepped into the tub for his evening soak. “You know, most of these don’t look as, as... icky as they did before.”

“Is that your medical assessment, Colonel?” Daniel settled himself into the soothing warm water.

“You know how I like to get all technical. Do you feel better?”

“I can see out of my left eye.” Daniel closed his right eye and squinted out of his left to prove his point. “Except, everything is blurry without my glasses,” he conceded.

Jack sat on the edge of the tub in his customary spot. Seeing Daniel every day made it difficult to notice the progress, but there was definite improvement. The swelling had gone down, albeit slowly, and Daniel’s left eye was beginning to reemerge. Soon Daniel could try wearing his glasses again. That would certainly make him happy.

Jack nodded at the glasses comment and noting Daniel’s good mood, decided to test the waters. “Maybe I’ll soak in there when you’re done. My back’s been bothering me.”

“Really?” Daniel’s eyes narrowed in thought.

Damn him. The genius knew exactly where this heading, but Jack decided to go there anyway. “Might help to sleep in my own bed.”

“Subtle, O’Neill.”

“What do you say? Can we give it try?”

Daniel let out a sigh. “You can sleep in your bed anytime you want to.”

“See, that’s the problem. I don’t want to without you.”

Daniel shrugged and sunk lower into the tub to allow the water to slosh up to his neck.

It was hard to believe his understanding archaeologist was still holding a grudge. Jack decided to ask outright. “Be honest with me, Daniel, is there a part of you unable to forgive me?”

“What? No. No, Jack.” Daniel sputtered at the suggestion. “That was never your fault, or Sam’s or Teal’c’s, it was no one’s fault but my own.

“Your fault?” Jack asked, suddenly confused. “How could it be your fault?”

“I let you down.”

Where the hell was this coming from? Following Daniel was like following Alice down the rabbit hole. After a certain point, nothing made sense.

Daniel swirled his hand around in the orange water to avoid Jack’s eyes. “I didn’t make it to the ‘gate. I could have gotten you all killed. I’m sorry. After all these years, I guess I’m still not much of a soldier.”

Unbelievable. “Daniel, look at me.” When he had Daniel’s undivided attention, he continued. “This is not your fault. I’m sure you did the best you could. But if you really thought it was your fault then why...?”

Daniel cut him off. “I never blamed you, Jack. I know I hurt you. I’m sorry.”

Jack didn't speak twenty-three languages, but he prided himself on interpreting Daniel-ese. He was still missing something but decided to let it slide for now and accept the apology. “It’s okay. Let’s get you out of there before you turn into a prune, a giant, overripe, rotten prune.”

Daniel smirked and stepped out of the tub and onto the mat.

“Wow, these are definitely better,” Jack observed as he gently patted Daniel dry. They had the routine down to a science. The ointment was on the sink and Jack snagged it and lightly smeared some on each of Daniel’s wounds. When he was finished, he taped fresh gauze pads to cover the larger bites and surveyed his work. “You know when we started this, you had eleven bites that needed to be covered, only five left.”

Daniel nodded as he pulled on his baggy sweatpants and headed to the spare room for an oversized shirt.

Jack followed. “So, our bed tonight?” If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. He was nothing if not persistent.

“I’d just rather not.” Daniel turned his head away from Jack’s outstretched hand.

“Okay. Can you tell me why?”

“I-I don’t want you to see me.” Daniel turned from the dresser, his head bowed.

Jack’s mouth dropped open in amazement and he had to force himself not to smile. “Um... Daniel, you're kidding, right?”

The only response was Daniel’s hand moving to rub at his jaw.


“No, I’m not kidding. I’d rather wait.”

“Wait for what?”

“Wait until I look better.”

Jack thought hard but had to admit he had no clue what the man was talking about. “I see you every day. I BATHE you twice a day. I know exactly what you look like. Why am I telling you this? You know this.”

“It’s not the same thing.” It bothered Jack that Daniel refused to look him in the eye.

“You're still you.” He hoped that simple statement would be enough.

The archaeologist’s cheeks were pink with embarrassment as he stretched out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. “I don’t want to bring this body and these memories into our bedroom. Can you understand that?”

“You don’t have to be perfect.” Jack flopped down and gently reached over to touch his favorite clean spot on Daniel’s arm.

“You like me perfect.”

The response was so immediate Jack was certain Daniel believed it to be true. Is that the impression he gave? How many times had he told Daniel he had a perfect body? That didn’t mean he wouldn’t love an imperfect one.

Jack swallowed hard and carefully placed his hand over Daniel’s heart. “This is what I love. I love you.”

Daniel remained silent.

Jack kept his hand over the rapidly beating heart. “That first day in the infirmary. I admit I was scared, worried...”

“Repulsed?” Daniel filled in the blank, except this time the anger was gone. “It’s okay. Even I have a hard time looking at me.”

“Have you heard a word I said?” Jack shook his head in disbelief.

“I heard you. I’m repulsive and you love me.” Daniel placed his own hand over Jack’s and smiled.

“No, you’re a stubborn idiot and I love you.”

Daniel chuckled and rolled onto his side, his back already sore from the few seconds of lying on it. “Now that we’ve cleared that up... okay.”

“Okay? Okay what?”

“Okay, I’ll try sleeping in our bed.”

“With me?” Jack felt the need to double check.

“No, with General Hammond. Of course with you.”

Jack jumped off the bed and began hauling Daniel’s medications and supplies into their room before the smart mouthed linguist changed his mind. On the last trip, he pulled the blankets off the bed, knowing the sheet was all Daniel’s body could easily tolerate.

“All set!” The enthusiastic Colonel was back in a flash.

“That was quick.” Daniel stood up and started out of the spare room, with Jack trailing close behind. “Wait, my pillows.”

“I’ll get’em. You just keep moving.” Jack grabbed the pillows and made it back to the bedroom in time to watch Daniel carefully lower himself into the comfortable bed.

“You all set in there? Ready or not, here I come.” Jack jumped onto the mattress and made it shake.

“Jack, settle down. It’s not like you can touch me.”

“Right, no touching. I know that.” Jack raised an eyebrow. “You're sure about the no touching?”

“Yes. Positive.”

The firmness of Daniel’s ‘yes’ only made Jack try harder. “Hm, I could throw my arm across your ass. Oh, wait, that wouldn’t work, big ass boo boo there.”

The sound of Daniel’s laugh pleased Jack no end. He was having a hard time figuring out where to put his hands, they automatically gravitated to Daniel’s warmth. In the end, he tucked them under his pillow and then leaned over to place a tender kiss in Daniel’s hair.

Once they both settled, Daniel rested his good cheek on Jack’s chest, his fingers gently playing in the short gray curls. “Thank you for taking care of me, Jack.”

“Not a problem. Sweet dreams, Dannyboy.”

The next morning Jack situated Daniel in the tub for his morning ritual and then happily went about moving the rest of Daniel’s things from the spare room to their room. He hurriedly returned the lumpy cot to the basement and ran back up the stairs to help Daniel out of the tub. A huge grin broke out on Jack’s face when he found Daniel in the kitchen dressed in his customary loose fitting sweats.

“All by myself,” Daniel bragged. “I do need you to cover up the bite on my shoulder and the one on my back. I couldn’t reach them.” He was sounding like his old self again, almost, but not quite babbling. “I’m in the mood for seafood. Maybe we could get take out for dinner?”

Daniel was beaming as he lifted his shirt and Jack made quick work of covering the last of the wounds.

“I have a better idea. How about I take you out to dinner and treat you to all the seafood you can eat, and we invite Carter and Teal’c to join us?”

The lightheartedness was immediately replaced with a tightly walled-off Daniel. Jack sighed, hoping this would not end up like the last time he’d tried to coax Daniel out of the house, or the last time he’d invited Carter and Teal’c over.

Daniel answered with a shrug.

“You want seafood and you said you’d like to see our friends, so what’s the problem?” Jack continued carefully.

“I don’t know if I’m up to going out.” The good mood quickly vanished.

“Why not? I think it would be good for you to get out.” This time Jack was not willing to let it slide.

The dark, angry Daniel emerged. “YOU think it would be good for me?” The raised eyebrows and the glare spoke volumes.

Jack sighed at the all too familiar tone, but held firm. “Yes, I do. Fraiser said it would be okay for you to take quick trips to the store or go out to eat once in a while. You know you’re feeling better.”

Daniel attempted to fold his arms across his chest, but stopped mid gesture when he remembered it would hurt. “What if I told you I don’t care what Janet said, or what you think. You’re not me, Jack. You don’t know what this is like. I know what it’s like to be... different, and I’m not going to be gawked at and ridiculed while I’m trying to eat dinner.”

What the hell was he talking about? Jack’s ‘Daniel radar’ flashed him a red alert. It was time to get to the bottom of this and have out with Daniel, one way or another.

“You can’t hide in the house forever.”

“I am not ‘hiding’ in the house. I’m sick.” Daniel pulled up his shirt and waved his hand in front of his torso. “Did you happen to notice this?”

“It’s me,” Jack said quietly. “Me, Carter and Teal’c. No one is going to gawk at you or ridicule you. You know you’re safe with us.”

“Unless you all decide to leave me there.”

Jack’s guilt gave way to anger. “Fuck, Daniel! What do you want me to say? How many times can I tell you I’m sorry? If you can’t forgive me then maybe it’s time to...”

Daniel looked panic stricken. “Jack. Stop. Don’t say it. Please, stop.” The fear in the trembling voice stopped Jack cold.

“I can forgive you.” Daniel stared at his hands. “Actually, there’s nothing to forgive. I don’t think... I never thought any of this was your fault.”

It suddenly occurred to Jack what Daniel was doing. It was so obvious Jack couldn't believe he hadn’t realized it sooner. It was such an ‘un-Daniel-like’ tactic he had failed to recognize it. The sneaky little bastard had been using Jack’s own guilt to avoid doing things he didn’t want to do. The question now was why.

“I don’t understand.” Jack pulled out the chair beside his crestfallen, silent linguist and sat down.

“No. You wouldn’t.” Daniel spoke softly, his fingers restlessly tapped the table.

“Explain it to me.” Jack placed his hand over Daniel’s to quiet them.

The sad blue eyes looked up with the patented, self-depreciating smile.

“Come on. You owe me that much,” Jack encouraged.

Daniel took a deep breath to steady his nerves. “I’ve always been different. When I was twelve years old, I could speak five languages and read hieroglyphics, but I had no idea how to be a twelve year old. While my classmates were struggling to memorize the presidents of the United States, I could name all the Pharaohs of Egypt and the dynasties of China.

“Yeah, so... you were smart.” Jack had no idea where this was heading.

“I was a four-eyed, brainiac freak. The kind of guy you would have shoved into a locker.”

Jack kept his hand on top of Daniel’s and remained silent.

“I never wanted to be different. I used to pretend I didn’t know the answers. I hated drawing attention to myself. I hated kids laughing at me.” Daniel hung his head and continued quietly. “I just wanted to be like everyone else.”

Jack was starting to get the idea. “Daniel, I mean this in the best of ways. You could never be average, like everyone else. You’re special.”

Daniel stared at Jack’s hand covering his own. “Now I look like,” he pointed to his red, puffy cheek, “this. I don’t want people staring at me, laughing at me. It brings back too many painful memories.”

Jack squeezed Daniel’s hand. “I don’t know if people will stare at you or laugh at you, I doubt it, but it they do... fuck’em. Let’em stare. Who cares?”

“I do.” Daniel said quietly.

“Hey.” Jack waited patiently for Daniel to look up at him. “You’re not that scared, lonely kid any more. You have friends and family that love you. It’s time to leave the pain of the past, in the past.”

After a few minutes of worried silence Daniel offered up a true smile, the one that made Jack run out for a can of gourmet coffee during a blizzard and sit through hours of mind numbing foreign movies with subtitles.

Jack grinned back. “What about me? Do I get an exemption? Can I stare? I can’t keep my eyes off of you. Come on, Daniel, come out to dinner with me.” Jack was proud of the slight blush his comments elicited. He raised Daniel’s captured hand to his mouth and gently kissed the back of it.

“Okay. I’ll try. But promise me if I want to come home you’ll take me home.” The trust in Daniel’s eyes pleased Jack no end.

“Promise.” Jack released Daniel’s hand and stood up. “And for the record, I've never shoved anyone into a locker.”

“No one?”

“Well, no one who didn’t deserve it.”

Jack wanted to pump a fist in the air, jump up and down, and yell, ‘yes’ when he heard Daniel on the phone later that afternoon, inviting Carter to dinner. He also heard his linguist awkwardly stumbling over an apology. He wanted to kiss Carter for letting him off the hook so easily as the subject quickly turned to the choice of restaurant. Next, Daniel got a hold of Teal’c, with the same results.

“Daniel, you ready?” Jack checked his watch again and shot a worried glance in the direction of the bedroom, hoping Daniel wasn’t stalling, thinking up an excuse to back out. Five more minutes passed before Jack took matters into his own hands to check on his reluctant dinner companion.

He paused in the bedroom doorway, watching an unaware Daniel scrutinize his face in the full-length mirror. After a few minutes, Jack slipped in behind Daniel and rested his head gently on his lover’s shoulder, both of them watching each other’s image in the mirror. “You ready?”

“I look like freak,” Daniel frowned.

“Yeah, but you’re my freak.” A well-placed kiss on Daniel’s nape softened the remark considerably.

“You’re not helping.” Daniel twisted slightly, his eyes never leaving the mirror.

Jack’s arms tightened around Daniel’s waist. “Actually, you look more like you’ve just stepped out of the ring after going ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Honestly, you really don’t look any worse now than you have after a lot of missions.”

“Thanks... I think.” Daniel’s eyes were still glued to the mirror, but Jack saw the hint of a smile in his reflection.

“Here, try these.” Jack’s removed his hand from Daniel’s waist for a second as he fished around in his pocket.

“My glasses!” Daniel’s face brightened for an instant and then fell. “They’ll never fit.”

Jack waved off the protest and stepped out from behind Daniel to face him. He carefully unfolded the glasses and gently placed them on the slightly swollen face.

The gesture produced a brilliant smile. “They fit! I can see again. You know what this means, Jack?”

“The swelling’s gone down?”

Daniel ignored the comment and rambled enthusiastically. “I can read, I can go on the computer, I can get back to work...”

“Whoa! Slow down. How about we just work on getting to dinner for now.”

“Right, dinner. Let’s go.”

Jack turned from his own reflection to face Daniel and kissed him lightly on the lips.

The droopy eyelids and the stifled yawns were all the evidence Jack needed to conclude that Daniel was bone tired. It made perfect sense; this was SG-1’s first off world mission since the disaster on P3X-716. Over the years, Jack had learned that playing in ancient ruins was much more tiring than it looked. The four of them ate dinner around the evening campfire and drank a few cups of coffee, happy and content to be together and safe for the first time in two months. It was 2200 hours and the conversation was fading in favor of sleep, his team waiting expectantly for their routine orders.

“Do you want me to take the first shift?” Daniel finally offered as the silence became a little obvious.

No. What he wanted was for Daniel to skip his watch completely and go right to sleep. The determined look on the archaeologist’s face stopped Jack from presenting the idea.

“Yeah. Sounds good. You take the first watch, Teal’c will relieve you, then Carter, then me.” There were a few nods and a ‘yes, sir’.

Jack reluctantly returned to his tent even though he had no intention of sleeping. He positioned himself at an angle to enjoy a full view of the fire and his weary archaeologist. Teal’c retired to his tent while Carter, bless her heart, poured another cup of coffee and moved closer to Daniel.

The night was clear and still, and even though the whiz kids spoke softly, it was no effort for Jack to overhear their conversation. Not my fault sound travels so well, he convinced himself.

“You okay?” Sam’s shoulder gently nudged Daniel’s with the question.

The Colonel’s ears perked up. Careful, Carter, you’re heading into dangerous territory.

“Fine,” Daniel answered, taking another sip of his coffee. Jack could have predicted that response without eavesdropping.

“You look tired.”

Jack grimaced and sat up, leaning against his pack to support his back. Bad move, Carter. He folded his arms across his chest and braced himself for Daniel’s diatribe on how ‘fine’ he was and how he didn't need to be coddled by overprotective teammates.

“I am a little tired,” Daniel conceded. “Don’t tell Jack,” he added, reaching for a refill.

Jack snorted indignantly and then covered his mouth hoping the Bobsey twins hadn’t heard him.

“The colonel was so worried about you, Daniel. We all were. But especially the Colonel. He blamed himself.”

Damn her!

“It wasn’t his fault, Sam. If it was anyone’s fault, it was mine for getting zatted before getting to the ‘gate.”

Jack shook his head in amazement and forced himself not to join in with his own two cents.

Carter drained the last of her coffee. “I told the Colonel you were in the gym. He only trusted that information because it came from me. I’m sorry.”

Jack rolled his eyes. Oh, for crying out loud, would you two kiss and make up and call it a night.

In the light of fire, Jack could see Daniel raise his index finger to his lips. “I’m sorry too, Sam. I never meant to exclude you and Teal’c in my recovery. I’ve never considered myself vain, but I guess I had a problem with looking so out of place. I was hoping to hide out until I was well. It’s hard for me to be dependent. I missed you guys.”

“Remember when you switched bodies with Machello?” Sam reached out and touched Daniel’s shoulder.

Jack felt a chill run through him. Thanks for bringing up that fond memory, Carter. Jack could hear the smile in Daniel’s hushed answer. “I was an old man and you loved me anyway.”

“A very old man,” Sam confirmed.

Score one for Carter.

“I’ll remember that the next time I get maimed, disfigured or age a couple of decades.” Daniel dumped the remnants of his cup into the fire and turned to Sam. They hugged fiercely for a moment and then said their goodnights.

Jack checked his watch. Forty minutes of Daniel’s two-hour watch was gone. Way to go, Carter. Jack laid back down on his sleeping bag and propped himself up on an elbow, silently observing Daniel clean up the campsite and then slowly walk the perimeter to stretch his legs. Not too far, Danny. Jack was just about to jump up and stop Daniel’s wandering when the archaeologist headed back to the fire and put on another pot of java. Whew, that was close.

Daniel’s head rolled from side to side while his eyes blinked rapidly at the fire. Any minute now he would start playing with his fingers and then roll his mug between his hands. It all meant one thing... Daniel was exhausted. Twenty-five more minutes. If the man wasn’t so damn stubborn Jack would go join him right now. If Daniel’s head began to bob, Jack decided he'd risk his lover’s wrath to be at his side. Better to have Daniel annoyed at his CO for coddling than to have him angry with himself for dozing during watch.

Before Jack could determine where Daniel was on a sleep scale of one to ten, Teal’c emerged from the tent he and Carter shared. Saved by the Jaffa in the black t-shirt.

“Teal’c, you’re early.” Daniel sat up straighter and rubbed at his eyes while Teal’c settled in beside him.

“I am well rested, Daniel Jackson.”

Jack cringed. Too obvious. That’s never going to fly, big guy. To Jack’s shock, Daniel nodded his acceptance. Damn him! Jack was positive if he ever tried that line, Daniel would hand him his head.

“It is good to have you back with us. Major Carter and I were most concerned.” Teal’c bowed his head in Daniel’s direction and poured himself some water.

“Teal’c, about what I said the day you and Sam came to visit me... I didn’t think, I mean, I didn’t...”

“You have already apologized. It is of no concern, think of it no more.”

Jack watched Daniel rest a hand on the Jaffa’s forearm and raise his eyes to meet Teal’c’s. “Still, I’m sorry for having said it. And I’m sorry for shutting you and Sam out.”

“We missed you, my friend.” Teal’c was a good man, he bowed his head slightly, his huge hand patting Daniel’s.

Next thing Jack knew, Daniel had taken Teal’c up on his offer to start his watch ten minutes ahead of schedule. Will wonders never cease?

Jack quickly pulled his sleeping bag away from the opened flap and closed his eyes. He listened to Daniel’s quiet movements as he entered the tent and prepared for a night’s rest. A smile sprung to Jack’s lips as Daniel moved his sleeping bag closer to Jack’s before settling in.


He didn’t stir. It was best not to appear too eager.

“Jack, are you awake?”

“I am now.” He tried to sound grumpy but it was difficult in light of Daniel’s closeness.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. I just wanted to say I’m glad I’m back.”

“We are, too. We all missed you.” Jack opened his eyes and smiled.

“I know. Thanks.” Daniel wiggled around and settled into to his sleeping bag.

“For missing you?” Jack perched his head on his elbow.

“For loving me when I wasn’t perfect.”

“That was easy. Love is perfect even when we’re not.”

“Profound.” Daniel opened his eyes and raised his eyebrows. “Dr. Phil?”

“Smart ass. I’m not entirely sure what it means but for your information, my mom used to say that.”

“Ah, Mama O’Neill. She’s right,” Daniel said thoughtfully. “Love is perfect.”

Daniel’s innocent expression made it harder. It took every ounce of military training Jack possessed to keep from jumping into Daniel’s bag and kissing the shit out of him.

“Go to sleep,” Jack advised gruffly. Aw, hell, even his own rules were made to be broken. On impulse, he leaned over and kissed Daniel’s forehead.

“Jack!” Daniel jerked his head back in surprise while Jack tried not to laugh at the indignant shock.

“Geez, we’re off world,” Daniel scolded.

“That was a chaste kiss,” Jack hastily explained. “One I’d give to any one of my teammates.”

“So you’d kiss Teal’c on his tattoo?” Daniel openly scoffed at the notion.

Jack grimaced at the image. “If he needed it,” he mumbled defensively. “Hey, I kissed you when you were...”

“Repulsive? Icky?”

“No. Just not... perfect.”

“Yeah, you did,” Daniel sighed happily. “You sure did. Good night, Jack.”

“Night, Daniel.”


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