Pure of Heart
Part One


'Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God'
The Sermon on the Mount.

"OW! That HURT! What the hell was THAT for?"

Daniel rubbed the spot on his upper arm that had just been rather rudely pinched by the man spooned up close behind him.

"What's your problem?" he grumbled.

"Funny," Jack breathed as he not-so-gently-nipped Daniel's ear. "I was about to ask you the same question."

"OW! Christ, Jack, you wanna cut back on your raw meat intake a bit? What do you mean you were about to ask me the same question?"

"Wanna know what's going on," Jack tightened his arms around Daniel's chest, pulling him in even closer to his body. Ah, if that familiar poking sensation in his posterior was any indication, Jack had started without him.

"I've been breathing in your ear for the last ten minutes," Jack continued in a light, teasing voice. "Nuthin. Happy to see something I did could get your attention. Starting to feel a little threatened, here."

"I'm sorry," Daniel murmured, absently stroking one of the strong arms all but crushing his chest. Jack was rubbing up against him urgently, his breath hot on the back of his neck but all he could see, all he could remember.

"Danny? Danny? Oh, for crying out loud."

"Whoa!" Daniel barely had time for the surprised yelp before he found himself rudely flipped flat on his back, Jack leaning over him, upper body braced on the arms boxing in his torso.

"Well, I can see I'm not getting any until we get to what's on your mind," Jack said sternly. "Hadn't planned on being a patient man tonight Daniel, so spill. What's the matter?"

"And to think you gave up your promising career in the diplomatic corps." Daniel reached up and began to absently trace his fingers through Jack's chest hair. The man above him shuddered, emitted a low groan and darted his head down to capture Daniel's mouth in a brief, demanding kiss.

"You are changing the subject," he moaned as he worried Daniel's bottom lip between his teeth.

"Like the new topic?" Wasn't easy to talk around Jack's tongue but it was a new skill he'd had a lot of practice acquiring lately.

"Uhhhhhh huhhhh." Jack's reply was a little muffled. He had moved across Daniel's jaw, his face was now buried in Daniel's neck, and he seemed fully engrossed in what appeared to be a serious application of tongue to skin in aid of licking his way south.

"Thought you wanted to talk," Daniel gasped, discovering he was rapidly losing the ability to speak due to the fact that Jack's mobile mouth had discovered a nipple, and what he was doing to it with teeth and tongue would have scrambled the higher brain functions of anyone. As Jack nipped and kissed the sensitive skin, Daniel kissed reason good-bye.

"Nuuhhhh uuhhhh." Jack's deep tones rumbled through his chest. Daniel entwined his fingers in Jack's hair as his lover collapsed heavily upon him, squeezing the air from his lungs, causing it to erupt from him in a low, ecstatic moan that made Jack writhe over him and rake his fingernails up his arm. Daniel heaved up into him in response, barely having time to cry out his name before Jack's mouth was on his, inflaming his mind and senses with the passionate onslaught.

"Jack," he groaned again into the mouth that covered his. "Jack."

Jack was on him, over him, around him, in him. Not enough. still not enough.

Still. in his mind. the image he could not escape, of HIS cold, blazing eyes. The sound of his inhuman voice.

"This is not finished, Daniel."

Please Jack, make me forget.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The System Lords had departed through the Stargate, back to their distant places of power. The Treaty had been signed, the gate retained, the Earth now safe from the threat of Goa'uld invasion. Daniel had played his own part in this accomplishment, and knew he should have been able to derive some sort of satisfaction from knowing what he'd had to do over the course of the affair had been worth the personal sacrifices.

Putting aside his own not inconsiderable issues with the representatives of the race of beings he most hated in the entire universe in order to serve the higher purpose of saving the Earth. He'd done everything expected of him and more; he'd even saved the life of one of them. Still shaking his head over that one.

But he felt no satisfaction. No sense of accomplishment. Not even a feeling of victory or gain. All he felt was inchoate fear mingled with a lingering and enveloping sense of menace. Because of what had happened a few short hours before the attack on Chronos. Because of Chronos.

Chronos had summoned him to his room - again - and Daniel had grudgingly responded. He'd been expecting this. Surprised it hadn't come sooner. After what he'd said to the System Lord the last time he had been 'summoned' he was actually surprised he was still allowed to be here.

He had been neither diplomatic, nor polite. Chronos had pretty much exhausted his supply of both over the course of the many previous petty tantrums he'd had to endure.

He'd already had several 'audiences' with the haughty Goa'uld that day, each one pretty much the same. He'd been obliged to stand there and make nice while Chronos berated him with a long list of stupid complaints. This was not to his liking. That was unacceptable. Why could he not have this? Why could he not have that? The Tau'ri were foolish children, not worthy of his time or consideration. He - meaning he Daniel was no better than the whelp of a h'thrat - whatever THAT was - and certainly not as clever.

It was somewhere around the point when he and his entire line were being compared to the offal of some other unknown alien life form that Daniel heard himself telling Chronos to shut up. Wouldn't have been half as bad if he had stopped there, but oh no.

He knew full well he would be paying for the 'shut up' later, so he might as well get his money's worth. Daniel found himself feeling sorry Jack wasn't here for the show, if only to see the look on the Goa'uld's face.

Last person who had dared to speak to him like this probably wasn't breathing anymore. The way Chronos was glaring at him if it was up to him a certain archaeologist definitely wouldn't be breathing either.

Screw you, you don't scare me...

"I don't have to take this," Daniel heard himself saying. "My function is to act as a liaison between your kind and mine. Not to be your personal whipping boy. What's more, I don't like you any more than you like me. If you find me offensive, then by all means ask for another liaison. That is a request I will be more than happy to carry out for you. Barring that I'll continue to do my job as long as you understand that I don't take this sort of crap even from the likes of you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some packing to do. I'm expecting to be fired. Can't say it's been nice meeting you."

So he'd walked out and gone to his office to wait for the resulting storm. Hadn't come. No Hammond threatening to hand him his head. No Goa'ulds screaming for his blood. No Jack guffawing, slapping him on the back and saying. "Way to go, Dannyboy!" Nothing. Wasn't quite sure how he felt about that. Whether he was relieved, or disappointed.

Somehow it made 'taking a stand' decidedly less than emotionally satisfying if it seemed as if no one had noticed..

Mind you, he was wishing now he had kept his big mouth shut.

He walked into the room to find Chronos sitting on the low, wide lounge that dominated the far wall of the room. His expression unreadable, the System Lord had raked his eyes up and down his body several times, and then motioned for him to take a seat beside him. All without saying a word, just - staring.

His arms wrapped protectively around his upper body, Daniel had hesitated. For some reason, he found himself reluctant to be in any way close to Chronos. Something felt - icky. The System Lord's eyes flashed at him, and he made the gesture again, this time a little less patiently. Unable to come up with any reasonable excuse for not complying, Daniel reluctantly crossed to the couch and perched on the end of it - as far away from Chronos as he could manage without actually tumbling off the piece of furniture onto the floor.

First words out of the System Lord's mouth Daniel knew he was in trouble. What he wasn't sure of was exactly - how..

"You have revealed yourself at last," Chronos began in the hollow, metallic voice which proclaimed what he was. "You hold your eyes meek, your face soft like a woman. You speak like a slave and do the work of one. Yet - you are the Daniel Jackson - one of the men who killed Ra. Who defeated Apophis. Who killed Hathor. I wished to understand this. How one who appeared to be so soft and spineless could have done such things. It is clear to me now. You hide what you are behind the role of the slave, but beneath it - you burn. You deny it, but you are a warrior in your heart. You interest me."

"I can't even begin to tell you how unimpressed that makes me feel," Daniel said to him in as cold a tone as he could muster. His heart was pounding, he felt suddenly afraid.

Chronos laughed, a truly terrible sound. "Such fire, such defiance. You will be a delightful challenge."

"All I'll 'be' - is going now," Daniel started to get to his feet, only to find himself grabbed and shoved down on the couch. Hard. Hand around his throat, tightening, cutting off his air and his ability to make any sort of call for help.

He hadn't even seen it coming, Chronos had moved so fast. He struggled against the hand and the bulk of the man pressing against him. Somewhere far away, and getting more distant as his vision began to darken he heard laughter and felt a cruel, rough hand roaming over his body touching - invading.

"I think I will have you," he heard the voice, close to his ear.

"You'll have to kill me first," Daniel gasped, striking out blindly at the sound of the voice. He hit - something with his fist, didn't know what, but his desperate effort was rewarded with a low, pained grunt and then as swiftly as he had been overtaken the hand and the weight were gone.

Coughing, his head spinning, Daniel rolled off the couch and pushed himself to his feet as quickly as he could. Chronos was back where he had been before, sitting on the other end of the lounge, looking at him with an amused, superior smile on his face.

Daniel backed away from him, toward the door, trying to get out as quickly as he could but trying also not to fall over in the process. His legs still weren't too steady and he knew he was staggering.

When his hand closed on the doorknob Chronos levelled a look at him that chilled him to the bone.

"Run away, Daniel. I will permit it for the moment. But only for the moment. This is not finished."

The sound of the bastard's laughter haunted him as he bolted from the room and groped his way down the hall as swiftly as he could make his legs move.

He'd barely had time to pull himself together when Chronos was attacked. The subsequent events had been a bit of a blur during which he had been able to lurk in the background and let other people worry about responding to the crisis. Nothing had been required of him which had been just as well, because he hadn't had a thing to give.

Thanks to Sam, Chronos didn't die. After everyone had gone he had been lingering at the System Lord's bedside, still confused, still needing to know what he had meant. As much as dreading he knew exactly what Chronos intended.

Pulling himself out of the trance he was in Daniel was about to back away and get the hell out of there when he was stopped by a the pain of strong, cruel fingers clamping about his wrist. Chronos was awake - looking at him, smiling at him in a way that was making him sick to his stomach.

"This is not finished, Daniel," he said again.

"Oh yes it is!" Daniel hissed at him, suddenly finding the strength and will to rip his hand free from the touch that revolted him. It was a violent, wrenching motion that must have hurt the Goa'uld, but Daniel didn't care. His own damn fault for touching him in the first place.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All of that had happened a week ago and he still couldn't get the words or the look out of his head. Still rolling around in there, still haunting him. He hadn't said anything to Jack. Didn't dare. He loved Jack dearly, but his colonel tended to see more than red in certain instances. Daniel knew very well if his lover found out what Chronos had done to him the results wouldn't be pretty. Jack would get completely obsessed with what he called 'payback' and make both their lives miserable with plotting and fixating until he either figured out a way to kill Chronos or managed to get himself killed in the process.

It was definitely more trouble than either one of them needed. Certainly more trouble than Daniel wanted. So, he wouldn't say anything. He'd deal with it. What were they really talking about anyway, a bully's threats? Nothing more. Time to stop being silly about this, letting the guy get to him. All Chronos was was the biggest, baddest version of the school yard bully he had ever met, nothing more. And like any bully - he made a lot of noise, but that's all it was. Besides, Chronos was half a universe away. Maybe further. What could he do to him from there? Yeah, Daniel, stop being such a wuss already..

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goddam stupid stinking garden hose. What it was doing lyin' around somewhere underfoot where he could get tangled up in it, fall over and sprain his damned shoulder? After getting the better of half the System Lords in the galaxy and a host of other nasties besides, here he was, side-lined and left behind by a freakin' piece of plastic.

Jack stomped restlessly around the control room wrapped in his roiling cloak of cranky. He was aware of the covert look Harriman shot him, knowing full well he was bumming the man out. Hard to relax and do your job when a superior officer was hanging around, obviously in a very bad mood, breathing over your shoulder.

Well, life's tough, bucko, deal with it.

Jack knew he had no business being here. SG-1 wasn't due back for another four hours and he had a mountain of paperwork to review. Administrative crap. The downside of being the second in command of the SGC. Really shouldn't be hanging around here spooking the duty personnel. Really shouldn't.

Jesus, Daniel, hope you're keeping your eyes open out there. Haven't exactly been 'with it' these past couple of weeks.

Crap, but he'd sure picked a fine time to put himself on the bench. Feeling the way he did - knowing what he did. Didn't make him feel any better that he and Daniel had parted on less than civil terms.

Nothing major, same old same old. Something was wrong, he had gone after it, Daniel had pitched a fit and told him to mind his own business. Funny --they had this particular little routine down so pat they could practically phone it in. Didn't change the fact he still knew there was something really bothering Daniel and the way he was holding on to it meant only one thing.

Whatever it was - Daniel was afraid if he found out about it he wouldn't like it. Really, really - wouldn't like it. So by clamming up, what his oh-so-thoughtful lifetime roomie was doing was trying to keep something from him Danny figured would cause him to do something stupid as soon as he found out about it. What THAT could possibly be was what was making him worry so much.

It wasn't about him - or even 'them' for that matter. Nothing like that. This was about something else - something from outside, messing Daniel up. Something that had scared him so bad he was even more scared what would happen if his best bud found out about it.

Never mind, he had ways of making Daniel talk. You have to come home sometime, Jackson, and when you do - show no mercy..

Sighing Jack was about to take pity on the long-suffering Harriman and get the hell out of his control room when the man suddenly stiffened and the all-hell-breaking-loose that was the Stargate kicking into life started happening.

"Off-world activation," Harriman said automatically. "In-coming traveller," he continued.

Jack stepped up to the side of the console to be joined by the General, who had obviously responded to the sound of the warning klaxon.

"Who's due back here now?" Hammond asked the sergeant, knowing the answer as well as Jack did.

"No one, sir. We only have three teams off world at the moment and none of them -"

Jack saw it before the man had time to say it. "SG-1 signal, sirs."

Shit! Four hours early. That couldn't be good! Couldn't be good at all.

Trying to stay calm Jack clenched and unclenched his fists, willing his heart to stop racing as he watched the event horizon belch forward in its activation spasm before snapping back into the familiar, blue pool.

Wasn't long before the figures came through. Sam first. Followed by Daniel's - head - upturned, eyes closed, floating in the air what? - no there was the rest of him, coming through with the large bulk of the black man who was holding him in his arms. Not moving, he's not moving.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard Hammond calling in the medical emergency but he didn't have time for that, had to get down there flying down the stairs, nothing mattered but getting to Daniel..

When he reached the members of his team a part of him registered both Sam and Teal'c looking smudged and dishevelled, as if they had been in a fight. Mind you, they didn't look half as roughed up as the limp man in Teal'c's arms.

He cradled the back of the lolling head in his palm as he moved the shock of hair away from his forehead, revealing the ugly bruise defacing it. Just knocked out. Didn't seem to be any other injuries - that he could see.

As he unconsciously pulled Daniel's head into his chest he shot a furious glare at the dark-eyed man who looked back at him undaunted and unashamed.

"What happened?" Jack barked at him.

Teal'c drew himself up slightly before replying in a distinctly 'you doubt me?' tone of voice.

"We were proceeding on a tour of the city with the T'kov and his ministers. Men attacked us, and tried to carry off DanielJackson. They did NOT succeed."

The Jaffa ended his report with a delicately lifted eyebrow which clearly stated there was nothing more he needed to say in his defence.

Jack took a shaky breath, mentally berating himself for momentarily taking his shock and fear out on his friend. Truth be told, he owed Teal'c big time for this one.

"I'm sorry, Teal'c," he said sincerely. "It's just - when I saw - I was - I just - thank you."

The need to attempt to stammer anything else was halted by the understanding look in the Jaffa's eyes.

"This is not necessary, O'Neill," he said lowly. "I know."

Then the corpsmen were there with the stretcher, Janet was there gently moving him aside in her calming yet capable way as she briefly looked at Daniel before directing Teal'c to place him on the stretcher. She paused to flash him a reassuring smile.

"Don't worry Colonel, I don't think it's too bad. We'll look after him."

Jack stood for a moment, watching as they carried Daniel away from him, then roused himself from the pall of shock that had settled about him, numbing his limbs.

He was about to start walking after his friend when Carter stopped him with a gentle touch on his arm. He turned to look at her and saw grave concern in her large, blue eyes.

"Sir, I think you should know. There was something really funny about what just happened back there. I don't believe it was a random attack."

"Major Carter is correct," Teal'c was also looking at him in a way that plainly told him he was not going to like what he was about to hear. "The assault was planned. We were led into an ambush. The men who attacked us clearly meant to capture only DanielJackson."

"What makes you say that?" Jack queried, motioning for the pair to walk with him as he started out for the infirmary.

"The whole thing had a really funny feeling to it right from the very beginning," Carter continued. The First Minister - Raaz - seemed extremely anxious for us to go on this tour. He planned the itinerary, talked the T' kov into moving the whole thing forward a couple of hours - and he was scared about something. Nervous, sweating. Like his life depended on making the whole trip happen."

Jack considered what she had just told him for a few minutes before replying.

"So you think the guy set you up? Arranged for you to be in a certain place at a certain time so that these bozos could try to grab Danny?"

"That's what I think, sir." Carter nodded her head. "He kept close to Daniel, hanging back with him, trying to distance him from us. By the time the attack happened there were so many people between us and Daniel we almost didn't see it go down. There's something else. Tell him, Teal'c."

Jack had never seen the Jaffa's face so grim as he delivered his next words.

"One of the men who attacked DanielJackson was Jaffa."

"What?" Jack cried. "Are you sure?"

"There is no doubt. I could sense his symbiote. I could not tell which System Lord he was in service to, but he was unquestionably Jaffa."

"I felt it too, sir," Carter echoed in an unhappy voice. "No mistake."

"Well, I sure in hell don't like the sounds of that. What would a Jaffa want - with Daniel?"

"I think what we should be asking is which Goa'uld sent him, and what do THEY want with Daniel?" Carter supplied in a low voice.

"Was trying not to think about that," Jack muttered under his breath as they continued to make their way to the infirmary.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So how's the head?" Jack asked as he was closing the door behind them.

"For the hundredth time - it hurts but I'll live." Daniel's answer was a little cross.

Jack watched his partner turn and walk down the stairs to the sunken living area, making himself bite back an equally terse rejoinder. Daniel's walls were up. He was grouchy, defensive and scared shitless about something. Jack knew if he blew his stack he would blow whatever slim chance he might have of finding out what the hell was going on with Danny.

What had happened today was no joke - only slightly less not funny than what would have happened if not for the intervention of Sam and Teal'c. What was more, from the way Daniel was behaving Jack was certain he knew more about what had gone down today than he was letting on.

Keep your cool, Jack..

"So, what do you say I cook tonight?" Jack called down to Daniel as he picked up the phone. "What do you feel like, Mario's or - what say we try the new place? Been talking about that -"

"I don't care." Daniel's muffled voice floated up to him. "Suit yourself. I'm not hungry."

GODDAMMITTOHELL!

Cursing under his breath, Jack slammed down the receiver and began to stride angrily towards the stairs. He swarmed down them and rounded the corner impelled by his determination to get to the truth no matter what.

All his righteous indignation died within him the instant he saw Daniel. He froze in mid-stride, shocked and frightened by the last thing he had expected to see.

Daniel on the couch, his back to the room. He had pulled himself up into a tightly compacted ball as if trying to become as small as he possibly could. Which given his not inconsiderable size, was surprising small indeed.

Jack took several hasty steps toward him, feeling a mantle of suffocating fear surrounding Daniel the closer he drew to his side. He bridged the gap quickly, falling to his knees beside him, wanting to crush Daniel to him and cursing the arm in the damn sling preventing him from doing so.

So, he did what he could.

"Danny?" he said softly as he laid his free hand gently on Daniel's trembling shoulder. "Whatever it is - I'm here."

Daniel shuddered the instant Jack's hand touched him, a convulsive sob tore from him as he shuddered again, and then was still. Jack said nothing, just stayed as he was, moving his hand across Daniel's back in slow, comforting circles.

Gradually Daniel's panicked breathing began to slow, deepen, and as Jack continued to silently massage him he began to unfold. Letting his arms go limp, stretching his legs back out and down until he was at last lying close to full length on the couch. Still keeping his face turned into the back of the couch, but the way Jack could feel him melting beneath his palm it wouldn't be long before he could.move his hand up to cup Daniel's shoulder, and by applying a little pressure, gently turn him unresisting onto his back..

The lashes fringing his closed eyes were damp, but his pale cheeks were dry. Jack put his hand on Daniel's chest and began to massage it firmly through his shirt. Rising and falling quickening, the heart beneath his hand beating rapidly, Daniel bit his bottom lip as he turned his head away, his eyes still closed. As Jack watched him a single tear escaped from beneath the shield of his closed lids, its defection seeming to break something loose within. Daniel turned his head back, and at last opened his eyes.

Jack bit back the dismayed cry evoked by the sight of the profound misery in his loved one's azure eyes. Daniel blinked rapidly several times, ensuring the single saline betrayer would have no company before he finally licked his lips and said in a small, almost shamed voice, "I think I'm in trouble, Jack."

"Tell me," Jack said softly as he leaned closer, brushing Daniel's lips gently with his own.

Daniel sighed unhappily and twisted guiltily under Jack's hand, shaking his head. His breathing was becoming, shallower, more excited, he reached his arms up, twining them around Jack's neck, pulling him closer to deepen the contact of their mouths.

"Please," he panted between kisses, "please don't ask me why - just - just - help me."

Jack's hand was under Daniel's shirt now. He clutched at him possessively; seeking to have every inch of him beneath his fingers as his tongue explored the willing refuge of Daniel's mouth with equal determination. Jack slid his hand down Daniel's sleek, heaving stomach, feeling the muscles quiver with anticipation as he darted his fingers quickly beneath the restriction of Daniel's waistband, brushing, touching, then withdrawing again to swiftly work the belt, button and zipper. Releasing it from the garments confining it, Jack took the velvet hardness in his hand, feeling the tip already slick with Daniel's excitement. As Jack's fingers lovingly stroked his supple length Daniel sobbed with pleasure and sucked greedily at Jack's mouth, tongue thrusting moistly as he moved his hips insistently to the steady rhythm of Jack's hand.

Jack continued to kiss him as Daniel's ability to respond began to fall away. Low keening moans echoed in his throat, Daniel's hands were clutching claws clinging desperately to handfuls of Jack's shirt as his body began to spasm uncontrollably, nearing the moment of blissful insanity. Jack kissed him, heard him, felt him, worked him, watched him, waiting for that moment he most loved.

Daniel arched off the couch with such force it seemed as if his spine would snap. He screamed as Jack tightened his grip, feeling the convulsive power of Daniel's release shooting through his hand and spewing forth its milky, orgasmic fallout.

Messy, but satisfying..

Jack rained kisses over the beloved face contorted in the mask of ecstasy, the sight of it his most dearly coveted reward and pleasure.

I did this to you...

Then, as he knew they would, the tears began. Jack caressed his face tenderly as Daniel lay quietly beneath him and wept without a sound, not moving as a silent stream poured from his closed eyes, one heavy tear after another. He still didn't know what Daniel was hiding from him, but he leaned forward, kissed a salty cheek and offered the only other consolation he had.

"I'll speak to the General in the morning," he said softly. "I'll get him to stand SG-1 down - at least until I am back to active duty, longer if I can. I promise you Danny; you're not going off world without me again. Okay?"

"Okay," Daniel echoed remotely, moving his head against the couch in a faint nod, his eyes still closed.

Well, guess he would have to settle for that for the moment. Jack gave Daniel a quick peck on the cheek as he said, "all right then. Come on, let's go to bed."

Jack lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling through the darkness, listening to the steady, deep breathing of the man sleeping pressed up close to his side. Daniel slumbered peacefully. Jack was glad of it, but honestly hadn't been expecting it. Had been almost hoping, in fact, for a troubled dream with its resultant verbal revelations. Daniel talking in his sleep had been Jack's last hope of finding out what was going on.

His bedmate had picked a fine time to feel secure..

Well, Daniel might be feeling safe enough to slumber, but Jack was far from easy enough in his own mind to allow a similar state to claim him. Damned if he was going to stay in the dark much longer. Lying around in the dark was bad enough. He'd already told Daniel about the conversation he was planning to have with Hammond. Keeping Daniel safe at home was only part one of the plan. He had a little assignment for each of the two remaining members of SG-1...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"DanielJackson, I would speak with you."

Daniel started at the unexpected sound of Teal'c's voice. He had been so busy concentrating on the information scrolling past him on the monitor he hadn't heard him come in.

"Whoa - Teal'c! Want to give a body some warning?" Daniel grinned at him. "Gonna have to start my heart up again!"

The Jaffa knit his brow at him as he considered what Daniel had just said.

"This is - an expression. You are not actually in need of medical assistance."

Daniel laughed as he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms across his chest.

"Yes, it is and no, I'm not. Now that we've established that - what can I do for you, my friend?"

"That is why I am here, DanielJackson," Teal'c continued in a deep, grave voice. "Because I am your friend. "

It was Daniel's turn to feel concern, and it weighed heavily on his face as he leaned forward, his interest and empathy fully trained on the man before him.

"What is it, Teal'c - is something wrong? What can I do? How can I help?"

"I wish to ask your advice. I am concerned for my friend. He is in trouble. Very serious trouble. I do not know how to help him because he will not divulge the nature of his problem. What do you think I should do?"

Daniel's face suddenly became sad and shuttered; he looked briefly at Teal'c with deep regret and then darted his gaze away and ducked his head down, hunching over and in on himself as he pulled his arms tightly across his chest.

"Maybe your friend respects your wish to help and is grateful for your intentions, but feels silence is his only option," he replied in a guarded voice.

"There could only be two reasons he would feel he needs to be silent," Teal'c continued quietly, his deep, powerful voice washing mellowly across Daniel like a verbal caress. "He would remain silent from shame and guilt. If he believed the revelation of the matter would cause him personal embarrassment and cast him in a dishonourable light. Or he would remain silent if he felt he needed to protect another. If he believed someone else would suffer harm if the truth were known." Teal'c paused momentarily, the absence of his voice within it suddenly making the room seem smaller, less warm. Daniel said nothing, nor did he look up at him.

"I do not believe it is the former." Teal'c continued once more. "My friend is not capable of such petty, self-serving cowardice. Therefore it must be the latter. He seeks to protect someone he loves. While his intentions are noble, I think he has forgotten anything that brings HIM harm, even when he is seeking to do good, harms everyone who loves him."

Daniel shook his head. "He hasn't forgotten. It's just - sometimes it is necessary and unavoidable that some small sacrifices are made by a few - or one - in order to serve the greater good. The good of others - which is more important than - one relatively unimportant individual."

"That is where you are wrong!" Daniel started and looked up as Teal'c's voice suddenly flared forth in anger. "You are neither unimportant nor any less deserving of consideration. Or protection. You should perhaps consider the possibility you unintentionally dishonour the very ones you seek to protect by presuming to decide FOR them what they do and do not need to be shielded from. You further dishonour them by removing from them the chance to be of assistance to you when you sorely require it of them. This is something they do not wish of you, nor do they thank you for it."

It was Teal'c turn to be cowed into silence, as Daniel's piercing, solemn stare impaled him. "You speak of honour? Very well, Teal'c - tell me what you say to this." Daniel continued in a low, slightly dangerous voice, his eyes holding the much larger man before him, the power of his words undeniable.

"What if the divulging of this dearly sought confidence brought about - a war? What if I do what you urge - unburden myself - and what if this confession causes two men - two dear men of honour who would feel bound by their honour to seek on my behalf something I don't even want which - their subsequent actions - supposedly to 'help' me - most likely resulting in dire - even fatal consequences? How would knowing I was responsible for this help me? How would having it happen help - anyone? If you can tell me that - or better yet if you can promise me this will not happen - if you can give me an absolute assurance breaking my silence will not bring this about, then yes, Teal'c, I'll tell you what you want to know."

Daniel was silent, his body taut with unspoken emotion, his eyes bright and furious. Teal'c held his searching, imploring gaze for a few seconds more, and then lowered his eyes as realizing he could not give the man before him what he wanted made him feel deeply sorrowful and ashamed.

"I am sorry DanielJackson, I cannot."

Daniel bit his lip and turned his head abruptly away. "Then I'm sorry too, Teal'c, but I can't help you. Any more than you can help me. Will you excuse me now, please? I - I have a lot of work to do."

"As you wish," the Jaffa bowed his head, turned slowly and started to walk away, feeling the sorrow of the man behind him mingling with his own regret. Wordlessly he left the room, closing the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, THAT certainly hadn't gone the way he had planned!

Jack sat in his office, frustration ripping through him in the wake of Teal'c's report. Damn! Damn damn damn! Damn, crap and damn! He'd been so sure Teal'c would have been able to get it out of Daniel. So positive Daniel considered his secret potentially dangerous only to himself so he would have felt safe confiding in Teal'c. That way, even if Teal'c had been unable to tell him about it at least he would have known what the problem was and been able to take whatever action was necessary - on his behalf. Now they were both firmly and completely shut out. Damn!

All this had gotten him was the certain knowledge whatever it was - it was even worse than he thought. Oh, wait a minute - wasn't strictly correct. That wasn't the only result. Something else had come out of his bumbling attempt to help. Instead of just him worrying about it there was now in Mudville the added joy of one very large and unhappy Jaffa angsting around the joint. Jack now had company as he went quickly and quietly insane. A pair of pissed off bookends, both of them wondering what could possibly be so bad Daniel was afraid both of them would go berserking off into the blue as soon as they knew what it was. Dammit Daniel, what in the HELL have you gotten yourself into?

Well, he had one final ace in the hole. Carter. He'd sent her out to pay a little visit to the Tok'ra. To see if they could shed any light on the matter of this mysterious Jaffa. Somebody out there had to know SOMETHING. What was more, they had better start sharing soon or he was going to start breaking things. Ah if only all the problems in the world had one large neck he could wrap his hands around and just - squeeze..

One thing was for damned sure - there was no way Daniel was going through that gate until he had some answers. The boy was - grounded. Period. The general was one hundred percent with him on this one. No point in taking any stupid chances. And for once, Daniel wasn't arguing with him about it either. No Stargate for Daniel. No how, no way. No exceptions.

Two days later the message from Abydos came.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are moments which stand out in time; moments which seem above and apart from everything which has come before or will come after. Moments which hold eternity itself within the finite beat of their constituent seconds.

Jack found himself in one of those moments. It had started ordinarily enough. The images flickering on the squawking box in front of him lost their appeal when contrasted to the sight afforded him on the other end of the couch. Daniel was curled up there, engrossed in a book, completely oblivious to the man who watched him raptly, studying him minutely, drinking in the very sight of him.

It was if he had never seen him before, was looking at him for the very first time. His eyes roaming lingeringly over every inch of Daniel's face and form, searing details, seeing all with new, besotted eyes. The curve of his cheek, the provocative bow of his mouth, the way his chestnut hair swept down caressing, feathering across his forehead, partially obscuring his eyes, those mysterious orbs themselves veiled by lowered lids. The strong, clean line of his jaw, set in concentration as was the slightly furrowed, intelligent brow, creased between his elegantly shaped eyebrows.

Jack's loving gaze followed the sweeping curve of Daniel's neck, roamed across his broad shoulders, happily wandered on along the shapely swell of his muscular chest. This was definitely getting good.

Daniel picked that moment to slightly shift his position on the couch, to the considerable delight of the man who was watching him. He pulled his legs up closer in order to change the angle of the thighs supporting the book he was reading and in the process wriggled that most delightful ass a little deeper into the cushions of the couch. Jack found himself becoming irrationally envious of the upholstery..

What could you say when contemplating - perfection. Completely lost in the act of beholding the outward beauty of the man beside him Jack found something exceptional stirring within him. It seemed to come from a place inside him he did not even know existed, and as if with the clarity of a light shining down upon him and out from within in that single lucid instant he could see deeper, farther, more completely than he had ever been able to see before. Somehow, what was most apparent to the eye was the least of what was most beautiful about Daniel. It wasn't what Jack saw with his eyes that suddenly made the moment transcendent - it was what he saw with his heart.

Then at the most possible, perfect instant Daniel unexpectedly elevated his gaze, looked directly into his eyes and smiled. Kicking him instantly from the realm of the transcendent straight to the truly sublime.

"What?" Daniel grinned at the man staring at him completely transfixed. "I grow another head or something? What's with the goofy grin? How many beers have you had? Hey - I was reading that!"

The book was snatched from Daniel's hand. It may have landed on the coffee table, but just as likely ended up on the floor. Either way, Jack couldn't have cared less. All he wanted to do was drink in the man before him and to that end reached a hand out to firmly clasp the back of his neck and pull him swiftly toward him.

Daniel's expression was puzzled. He was a little surprised by the unexpected serious earnestness of Jack's expression. More than slightly awed by the stark honesty of his completely focussed and directed passion.

Jack continued to draw him closer, pausing when Daniel's face was mere inches from his own. He allowed his eyes to roam rapaciously over Daniel's visage, claiming it and marking it just before he claimed the rest of him. He knew his voice would be almost too thick to allow it to issue forth but still he knew he had to try. Because Daniel had - had to know.

As he beamed his devotion into the blue eyes before him Jack stammered, "There are - I cant. I - I - don't have - don't know any words big enough for this. Or good enough - for you."

Jack closed his eyes and moved forward, falling into the tender, warm wonder of Daniel's lips, eagerly parting, softly yielding beneath his, tasting sweeter, promising everything, only the beginning of delights..

The phone rang. Daniel started and abruptly jerked away. Jack groaned at the unwelcome separation and tried to pull Daniel's head back toward him, wanting only to reconnect with that amazing mouth.

"Jack, the phone."

"I know where the phone is," Jack grumbled, sucking on Daniel's lower lip.

"It's ringing," Daniel persisted.

If you have to be single-minded about something, why not make it something worth while. "Busy," Jack panted. "Kissing now."

Daniel gently pushed away from him. "It could be important. One of us should get it."

"Machine?" Jack moaned hopefully.

"Not turned on," Daniel said as he got to his feet. "I'll be right back. Keep the motor running."

"Ah for crying out loud it's probably just someone selling something!" Jack called after him. Crap. Just as it was starting to get interesting. Jack picked up the remote, turned off the TV and settled back on the couch to await Daniel's return. He hoped it was soon, because he was definitely already up to speed. Answering machine might not be turned on, but he sure as hell was.

Daniel did return, with such a grim expression on his pale face Jack immediately forgot everything else and jumped to his feet to rush over to him.

"What is it? What's the matter?" he asked as he reached Daniel's side.

Daniel's eyes were heavy with worry. " I have to get back to the base. That was the general. A message just came through from Abydos. Kasuf needs me. Skaara has - disappeared."

"Coming with," Jack said firmly as he grabbed Daniel's arm and started marching them both toward the door.

"Was hoping you would say that," Daniel returned gratefully.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Third Chevron encoded." the voice from the control room vied with the familiar mechanical clanking of the activated, spinning inner wheel of the Stargate. Daniel paced restlessly, irrepressibly, his teeth mercilessly worrying his bottom lip as he waited for the dialing process to complete.

"Fourth Chevron Encoded."

Jack wanted to reach back and slap Daniel still. He knew his partner was worried but he was also trying to listen to the general and Daniel's agitation wasn't helping his concentration.

"Fifth Chevron encoded." The voice droned on.

"I want you to report as soon as you are apprised of the situation," Hammond was saying. Inform Kasuf whatever resources he may require are at his disposal. We'll do what we can, Colonel, as soon as you let us know what is needed."

"Sixth Chevron encoded."

"I'm sure Kasuf will appreciate it, sir." Jack answered him.

Dammit Daniel! Settle! Gate won't dial any faster if you run around in circles in front of it!

"Seventh Chevron encoded."

"Good luck, Colonel. Doctor Jackson, give Kasuf my regards. My hopes for a satisfactory resolution to this situation."

"Seventh Chevron locked."

Locked and loaded. And. thar she blows!

"Iris deactivation signal has been transmitted and received sirs. Clear to proceed."

The words were barely out of Harriman's mouth when Daniel was charging up the ramp and hurling himself through the newly born event horizon.

"Daniel!" Jack barked. "Wait! Don't. ah geez, wait up."

Jack felt a sudden chill ripple through him as he watched the cool alien blueness devour Daniel's body. Suddenly something felt - bad. Really bad. And it wasn't simply because Daniel had gone through the gate without him. Without giving him a chance to say the words..

He didn't know why, but he wished he could reach right into the wormhole and pull Daniel back. Not logical, not rational, but suddenly what he wanted more than anything in the world. Daniel back here in the gate room, never having set foot through that huge dull ring of vast uncertainty.

Too late now. Jack sighed and stepped forward, surrendering himself to the irresistible pull of the unknown.

Hammond sent his hopes after the men who had vanished before his eyes, waited a moment longer until the gate winked out and stood inertly, sullenly still once more. He was starting to walk out of the room and had only taken a few steps when the lights on the gate began to dully glow, the alarm klaxon sounded, and Harriman's voice dutifully reported.

"Off world activation."

What? No one was expected back! Hammond halted, casting his eyes up to the man in the control room, awaiting his report.

"SG-1 signal, sir," Harriman announced as the long, dark figure of their resident alien reached his side. Teal'c, the expression on his face focussed and intensely engaged.

SG-1 - how can that - they only just went through..

Hammond had his answer soon enough, as Samantha Carter emerged from this new event horizon. Her eyes brightened noticeably when she saw the general standing at the bottom of the ramp, and hurried down it toward him.

"Major," he greeted her as she reached his side.

"General Hammond," she replied. "We have to contact Abydos immediately. We might have a serious security problem."

"Abydos?" the General responded. "Doctor Jackson was requested to return to Abydos by his father-in-law. A personal matter. The colonel went with him. They've only just gone through."

Carter's eyes widened in alarm. She unconsciously gripped Hammond's arm with the force of her concern.

"Dial up Abydos!" she yelled up to the man in the control room! Hurry! Teal'c! We need zat guns and TERs! Now!" The large black man was already moving.

She turned her worried gaze back to the astonished man beside her. "Sir - I 'm sorry sir, but there isn't any time to waste. We have to get to Abydos as soon as possible. The Tok'ra just got a very disturbing report from one of their agents. He's actually on the ship, just managed to find out where it is. That's why I came back right away. To warn the base. Chronos' flagship is orbiting Abydos. I believe Daniel and the colonel could be walking into a trap."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack stepped through the event horizon into the gate room of SGC Abydos. He bounded down the stairs and was making his way toward Daniel when suddenly he drew himself up short and looked around the converted chamber of the pyramid wherein the Abydonian gate resided.

It was too quiet. Where were all the duty personnel? There should be at least five guys here. Only man he could see was Captain Andrews, and he was just standing there behind the console, staring. Where was everybody else? Where was Kasuf? And what the hell - what was wrong with Daniel?

Daniel was standing beside the DHD, twisted sideways at an impossible angle which shifted his upper body well past his centre of gravity. He shouldn't have been able to remain standing upright like that - should have fallen over - but there he was. His arms seemed to be pinned to his sides; he was struggling to move them but couldn't. Clawing at his left wrist - what was he doing - trying to rip his GDO off, fingers struggling with the Velcro. His head was thrown back; there was a strange, distorted rippling around his throat and a narrow shimmering band around his upper body.

This was getting pretty bizarre, but it was not nearly as bizarre - or terrifying - as the sounds he was making. Daniel was emitting strangled, guttural choking noises, obviously struggling to breathe, his face turning red as if something was clamped around his throat - squeezing.

Daniel's GDO flew across the room, his legs went limp, eyes rolling back in his head. He hung there in the air, lifeless as a rag doll, the rattle in his throat getting weaker with each second. Jack swore and started to move toward him again, reaching for his gun. Didn't have to be able to see it know there was something there to shoot at.

"Colonel O'Neill," Captain Andrews said abruptly. Jack skidded to a halt mere feet from Daniel, brought up short by the sight of the zat gun in Andrew's hand. Pointed right at his chest. He knew he wasn't going to make it to his pistol but he had to try.

The sound of zat going off and the pain were pretty much simultaneous. Jack crashed to the floor, convulsing with agony as the energy of the zat gun roared through him, scrambling nerve endings, sending his entire body into uncontrollable spasms. Diving through the pain he struggled to remain conscious, to halt the random jerking of his body, fought to make his arm and hand work. Had to get to the gun, had to make it...

He continued to struggle vainly, his wavering sight doggedly locked on Daniel. A strange, low hum sighed through the vast chamber, there was a pale glow behind and around Daniel, and suddenly Jack found himself looking into the dark and mocking eyes of Chronos.

Shit. Of all the Goa'ulds it could have been why did it have to be him...

Jack gritted his teeth against the pain still ripping through him, cursing himself for a fool. Everything Daniel had done for the past month, the strange way he had been acting --the pains with which he had guarded his secret - suddenly it all made terrible, blinding sense.

Something must have happened when Chronos had been on the base with his two other slimy friends - something Daniel never told him about. That's why he had been so scared! Chronos had done something to his Danny and whatever it was - it had gone on right under his nose! Why hadn't he made the connection, he had seen all the signs - had seen the way the scummy bastard had looked at Daniel. It had made his skin crawl then, made him swallow his anger and the urge to rip his Goa'uld head off and stuff it down his neck more than once, but he just hadn't - hadn't thought - hadn't even considered the Goa'uld would ever have done more than look and leer. Shit - why hadn't he put it together?

Ah Daniel, I've been an absolute moron.

Flanked by the huge, black Jaffa towering over him, Chronos mercilessly dangled his trophy. The Goa'uld had his arm wrapped possessively around Daniel's chest and was holding him from behind, pressing him tightly up against him. To Jack's considerable relief it looked as if he had loosened the hand still clutching Daniel's throat. He was slumped in Chronos' grip and barely conscious, but he was breathing. Jack took a deep breath. The pain was letting go a little - he could almost move his hand.

Get to the pistol, Jack - now! You've still got time. Make that arm move!

Chronos took in his effort, sneered at him and then bowed his head as if in a gesture of gratitude.

"I thank you for bringing me my new favoured one, Tau'ri," the gloating Goa'uld laughed at him in his creepy hollow voice. "I assure you he will bring me much pleasure. However that will not be a concern of yours much longer."

He turned his glowing eyes upon the rigid form of the only other man in the room. Andrews. Probably been Nish'ta-ed like everyone else in the area. Shit.

"Wait until we have gone. Then kill him."

"Yes my lord," Andrews returned in an empty, mechanical voice.

Jack's fingers were brushing against the butt of his pistol but he couldn't make them do anything else. Daniel was definitely coming around, and he'd heard what Chronos had just said. He reacted strongly, starting to struggle anew against the man holding him. His renewed movement drew the System Lord's attention and he smiled widely as he gripped Daniel's jaw between his fingers, turning his head toward him.

"Behold what you shall never taste again," Chronos laughed, deliberately holding Jack's eyes as he cruelly, brutally possessed Daniel's mouth with his own.

Daniel moaned in protest, his hands flew up to the arm wrapped around his chest and then beat ineffectually against the hand constricting his throat again, implacably squeezing. The Jaffa looked at Jack his expression cryptic, pressing something on his wristguard. The transport rings descended; Chronos continued to maul Daniel's mouth and choke him while mocking Jack with his eyes.

All Jack could do was stare helplessly at the terrified blue ones of the man he loved, looking back at him, begging him to do something, anything - not to let this happen, but most of all - not to let himself be killed.

God - Daniel had heard, he knew what was about to go down. Knew Jack would be gone, and he would be lost. No one would ever know what had happened to him. There were only instants left - the rings had almost finished descending. He had to make the vow. If he said it - if he promised it, then he would have to live to keep it. If Daniel heard it, he would know there was no way no how he was dying! Had to let him know that..

"I'll find you, Daniel!" He cried. "I'll find you! I promise!"

Somehow, in that very last instant Daniel managed to jerk his head away. He turned toward Jack, caught his eyes, showed him he understood with one quick, parting glance. Understood, and believed. Then he was gone.

Jack could finally move. He had his hand on his pistol - at last. But it was too damned late. Andrews was walking toward him, his death in his hand. As Jack stared at him, swearing, he suddenly became aware of new illumination in the chamber, coming from behind them. Like light reflecting off the surface of a pool, spilling fluidly, wildly into the interior of the pyramid. So much going on - hadn't remembered hearing it activate, but the light behind him, around him, told him a welcome story

Stargate. Someone had activated the Stargate..

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The rings were gone. They were gone. Jack was gone. He was lost.

In his utter misery Daniel let his head fall back against Chronos' shoulder, as he drew huge, shuddering breaths into his burning lungs. He remained slumped in defeat and despair, not bothering to attempt to reclaim his weight from the man who was holding him up. No point. No point struggling. Nothing he could do now. What did it matter anyway? What did anything matter anymore now - without Jack?

Jack had promised - but that had been just to try and make him feel better. A last ray of hope thrown to him from love in a vain attempt to comfort.. When he knew very well there could be no hope. Jack was dead. Had to be. Had to be. Daniel closed his eyes and willed himself to join him.

Chronos nuzzled his neck happily, causing Daniel to involuntarily shiver with revulsion. The Goa'uld laughed into his ear, mistaking his reaction.

"So eager so soon," his voice grated like sandpaper against his senses. "Do not fear, I will come to you soon enough, my pretty one."

The System Lord turned to the huge man at his side, transferring his burden to his First Prime. Daniel did not resist or react as he felt the black man 's huge hands close around his shoulders. Chronos lingered at his side for a moment longer, levering Daniel's head up by placing a bent finger under his chin.

"Ah Nah'tak - is he not beautiful?" Chronos beamed a proudly possessive look at him. "Take him to my chamber and have him prepared. Make sure Delios performs his duties - correctly."

"I understand, my lord," the First Prime bowed. "I obey." Nodding, Chronos turned abruptly on his heel, striding away.

Nah'tak leaned down to address Daniel in a voice he found surprisingly - kind.

"Can you walk, Tau'ri?" he said. "Or would you prefer I carry you?"

Suddenly affronted by the notion of being carted about like a child, Daniel abruptly straightened up and vehemently shook his head.

"No - no - I can walk. I can - I'll walk. Thank you."

"That is good," the tall man patted him on the shoulder and then took his hands away. "Come then, Tau'ri. You belong to Chronos now. That may be hard for you to understand, but it would be better for you if you learn to accept it, and quickly. Now, he wishes you to come with me."

Puzzled by and yet somewhat bolstered by the apparently kind tone of the man who was one of his captors, Daniel sighed and fell into step beside him. He knew his ordeal was only just beginning but for now, it seemed he was to enjoy a space of peace and respect. Possibly an extremely fleeting one, but he would take it.

"Daniel," he said quietly as they walked down the wide, curving corridor of the ship. "I'm Daniel."

The Jaffa nodded. "I am called Nah'tak. First Prime to Chronos. I am sorry for your unhappiness. Sometimes the will of the gods seems hard. But it is not given to us to question them or their wisdom. I know you do not understand what has happened to you, but I offer you the consolation that perhaps things will not be as unpleasant for you as you expect. It rests with you. Accept the will of God and all will be well. Resist, and you bring your own undoing upon yourself."

"I'll try to keep that in mind," Daniel returned in what he hoped was a polite voice. His mind was starting to work again, racing with the implications of what he had just heard, and the impressions flooding into him about the man walking beside him. As strange and as unlikely as it sounded, after everything that had just happened, here in this mad, alien, hostile place, Daniel knew he had just found a friend..

However, that 'friendship' would definitely be mitigated by Nah'tak's obvious complete and total devotion to his 'God'. Something never to be unmindful of.

Nah'tak led them down a corridor that terminated before a pair of huge double doors which appeared to consist of a golden frame into which were set enormous, ornately carved panels of gleaming black marble. The archaeologist in him could not help but notice, even in the brief space of time allotted to him to be able to study them, that the carvings had a distinctly Greek flavour to them. More stylised and austere than your classic renditions, but still definitely evocative of them.

Nah'tak paused before the twin portals. "We have arrived at the personal chamber of Chronos. I will give you a small piece of advice, which will serve you well if you are indeed the clever man I think you are. There is an order to all things, and so there is here. You may be newly most favoured of Chronos, but there are certain places where this will not protect you against the lesser ones who serve him. This is one of those places.

"Delios is First Maintainer of the Household of Chronos. He loves his position and his power, but he does not serve from love of god, but for love of what he has achieved. Therefore he is always fearful of losing it. He is right to be fearful, for one day, he will. Be aware that fear will make him antagonistic toward you. He was most favoured once. Losing the regard of the god did not worry him when there was no one to take his place. He will not welcome your assumption of a status that was once his, whether you wish the honour or not. "

More good news. Trying to not be overwhelmed by his grief and dismay, Daniel could only manage a slight nod to indicate his comprehension as Nah' tak pushed open the doors before them and ushered him into what waited on the other side.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel found himself standing in a room that was smaller than he expected, as well as a lot more austere. The walls were gleaming white, adorned with a few tapestries and wall sconces, but other than that, they were bare. The only furnishings in the room were directly in the middle of it. A big round low table around which were arranged, in a semi circle, four large, wide, deeply upholstered, blood-red Roman-style reclining-type couches. They all faced a massive, intricately carved wooden chair with a generously cushioned seat and thick armrests. It was directly opposite and facing the door, and when looking at it the first word that sprang to mind was 'throne'.

An audience room. Outer reception room. Screening area you had to get past before going any further into the 'holy of holies'.

Daniel didn't have any more time to devote to contemplating the purpose of the room for he realised it had one other feature. It was occupied. And judging by the way the man standing beside the throne was staring at him; he had to be Delios.

He was a tall, slightly thin, extremely handsome man in a cold, chiselled way. Black, hostile eyes glittered at him from a starkly featured, closed face. He was dark-skinned, with long, thick jet-black hair meticulously arranged in a braided, beaded coif. Pretty nifty robes too. Gold armbands and chains. Obviously a man who put a lot of time and energy into his appearance.

Delios quickly strode up to Daniel, grabbed his chin between the thumb and first finger of his right hand, and snapped his head roughly from side to side as he ran narrowed, cold eyes across the visage he examined. A contemptuous sneer curled his thin lips.

"THIS is the Tau'ri?" he said in a creepy Goa'uld voice. Well, that answered that question.. "I had expected a more - impressive specimen. You are a disappointment, Tau'ri."

"Daniel." Daniel snapped, jerking his head away from the other man's grip. "You're no Yul Brynner yourself, pal."

The dark eyes flashed gold at him. Delios snarled and drew his hand back, clearly meaning to let him have it across the face. Well, this was getting off to a good start.

"You will speak when spoken to!" Daniel closed his eyes and waited for the blow, only to hear a low cry of pain from the man in front of him. He opened them again, to see Delios looking up at Nah'tak, his wrist firmly imprisoned in the tight grip of the Jaffa.

"I do not think Chronos would be pleased to learn you presumed to discipline his Favoured." Nah'tak's deep voice was full of implied threat. "Do not forget your place if you wish to keep it. Remember, Chronos has chosen this man. It would be wiser to call him friend than enemy."

"Chronos will tire of him soon enough," Delios snapped back at him, in Goa' uld. Daniel pretended he did not understand. Might be interesting to see what he could learn if they thought he didn't know what they were saying. "As he has tired of all the others. He will be a dead husk floating through space before we reach Anderas."

"Perhaps," Nah'tak returned, still not letting go of the wrist in his fist. "However, if I stood in your place, I would not risk my life on that assumption. Tread carefully with this one, Delios. He is not like all the others. I warn you now, as a friend. I will not warn you again."

Delios flushed angrily as Nah'tak allowed him to pull his arm away. "Very well," he said crossly, still in Goa'uld. "Come with me, Tau'ri," he snapped at Daniel and began to walk toward a door that led out of the room to the right.

Daniel didn't move. Didn't look at either of the men, but studied them covertly out of the corner of his eye. The look on Nah'tak's face was particularly interesting. The Jaffa didn't buy his act. Somehow he knew Daniel knew exactly what they had said.

Delios repeated his instructions, this time in English, and a lot less patiently. Daniel sighed and followed Delios into the next room. Given what he had just heard, he was very glad to see Nah'tak following right behind him. Daniel wanted to be alone with Delios only slightly less as much as he wanted to be alone with Chronos. Which was completely not at all.

He could wake up from this nightmare any time now..

Passivity ended on the other side of the door. Delios had four other guys kowtowing to him in Chronos' boudoir, and he needed every single one of them to get Daniel out of his clothes. The captive fought bitterly, but he was in due course efficiently and ruthlessly stripped, hands tied behind his back and strong-armed through a heavy curtain partitioning off the rumpus room from the bath.

A man on either side of him helping him on his way, Daniel found himself in another glittering white room dominated by a huge, square sunken bathtub. More like a small pool than a bathtub. It was very large, deep and quite full of water. Alarm shot through him as he felt himself being tumbled into it. He sank beneath the water, pushed himself up again, but no sooner had his head broken through to the surface then there was a hard, heavy hand upon it, shoving him back down under again.

He had been in the middle of taking a breath of air when he had been forcefully resubmerged. He inhaled water instead, found enough terrified strength to push against the hand holding his head under once, came back up coughing, only to be shoved back down again.

The tub was too deep, too big, too slippery. With his hands tied behind his back he couldn't fight back, and he thrashed about futilely, unable to find a solid, non-slippery surface to push against. He could feel his lungs starting to burn, a strange, alarming lethargy stealing over his body and suddenly - didn't care. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. A quick, clean ending to his pain. Maybe since Jack was gone he should just stop fighting and go.. Better this way..

Huge strong hands gripped his arms, he felt himself being hoisted from the water as if he was weightless, something soft and warm was wrapped about him, massive arms supported him as he coughed and heaved, barely able to stand.

Nah'tak looked down at the sodden man hanging in his arms as his body shook with racking, broken coughing. He was frightened, but he would be fine. Once he had assured himself of this, Chronos' First Prime turned his attention to the defiant man who glared back at him, not denying he what he had just tried to do or particularly repentant of his actions. Nah'tak inwardly marvelled at Delios' stupidity. There would indeed soon be a cold corpse floating in space, but it would not be Daniel Jackson's.

"Take your men and go," Nah'tak said coldly. "I will see to Daniel's preparation myself."

"This is not your place," Delios retorted stubbornly.

"Leave now or I will tell Chronos what just happened here. I assure you, he will believe me."

Delios' eyes flickered slightly. He made a small hand motion to the attendants and all five men walked swiftly from the room.

Daniel was breathing more normally now. He was also struggling to get to his feet and away from the man who was holding him. Nah'tak looked back down at him again, giving him an admiring look he did not see.

This was a brave man. A man with great spirit, large of will. A very clever man. One not easily dismissed or disposed of. Nor would it be wise to underestimate him or take anything about him for granted.

His god had chosen well when he had deigned to look with favour on this one. This man alone was worthy of the honour which had been bestowed upon him.

"How do you fare, Daniel?" Nah'tak asked Daniel as he helped him to stand and then reached beneath the towel and untied his hands.

As he gratefully chafed his released wrists Daniel shook his head, laughed bitterly and replied, "Don't much care for the bath, thanks anyway. Can I do it by myself next time?"

"We shall see," the Jaffa smiled at him. "Come, we must prepare you. Chronos will come for you soon."

Daniel's face paled as he heard those words. Nah'tak felt a pang of sympathy for the man's obvious distress. He was sorry to see Daniel still did not understand how lucky he was. He would be much happier if he would accept. He hoped for Daniel's sake he would learn this soon. Chronos was wise, but he was not a god of infinite patience. He very much liked this man, and did not want to see anything happen to him.

All was in the hands of his god.

Daniel could feel a strange numbness beginning to steal over him as Nah'tak guided him into a curtained room adjoining the bathing chamber. He idly wondered if he was starting to go into shock. He continued to submit to the Jaffa's direction with bemused indifference and found himself in some sort of mirrored dressing room. Everything sure was - white... The glare was starting to hurt his eyes. Shoulder. right shoulder was hurting. Odd. Oh well, what did it matter..

Daniel stood passively as Nah'tak gently and thoroughly rubbed his body dry. He watched unconcerned as the Jaffa produced what apparently was to be his new garment - what little there was of it. Daniel supposed he should be grateful he was being allowed to wear anything at all.

What amounted to little more than a wide belt with barely adequate attached front and back panels was fastened about his waist. If the guys back home could see him now - they'd definitely be seeing a lot more of him.. Daniel was suddenly seized with an almost irresistible urge to giggle hysterically, but managed to suppress it.

Nah'tak's huge hands were gentle upon him as he led him to a bench in front of the large cabinet beside the mirror. Sitting Daniel down he carefully towelled his hair dry, then retrieved a brush from atop the cabinet. The passages of the brush through his hair were deliberate, careful, soothing, as were the stroking motions the man made upon his body as he massaged him lightly with something that smelled like musky sandalwood.

Daniel let his head droop as the lethargy continued to steal over him. Nah' tak's presence was strangely calming, strangely reassuring. Though they looked nothing alike, the fierce, quiet dedication with which he performed his ministrations reminded Daniel of Teal'c. There definitely was something within this man evocative of his strong, noble friend.

Thoughts of the friend he would probably never see again mentally spiralled Daniel wrenchingly back to all the other beloved faces he had been torn from and would also never see again. Especially the one he most desperately needed, wanted to see.

Thinking of him brought forth almost inconceivable pain and loss. The grief at last burst out of him in a sob which carried his name.

"Jack."

He had no more will or strength left to hold them back. The offerings of his sorrow seared rivulets down his cheeks. He wished they had the power to burn him completely, reduce him to uncaring, inert dust which could then just - blow away. From somewhere far away in a world he no longer cared to be a part of he heard Nah'tak say something about needing to bind him again, felt cords lashing his arms behind his back, securing his ankles together. It didn't matter anymore.

He was lifted, carried, laid back down again on a soft, yielding surface. As soon as Nah'tak released him Daniel rolled away, burying his face in the fleecy bed covering he was lying on. No comfort came as the tears for Jack went out of him.

Nah'tak stood over Daniel, troubled by his distress. Daniel had spoken a name - somehow he knew it was the man who had come to Abydos with Daniel. Who now was dead, by the will of Chronos. Daniel spoke his name in sorrow, and now he wept as one whose heart was irretrievably shattered.

It must have been that this Jack was dear to him. Perhaps much more than that, if the size of Daniel's grief for him was any indication.

Again, he sorrowed for him, but there was nothing that could be done. Jack was dead, and Daniel had been smiled upon by God. In time, he would see this. Chronos would dry his tears. He would know true happiness. Nah'tak had great faith this would be so. He carried this hope with him as he withdrew from Daniel, wishing to grant him the respect of solitude in his grief. Silently he slipped from the room, closing the door on the sound of muffled sobbing, and took up his station on the other side of the portal, waiting for the arrival of Chronos.

As did the man he left behind, with much less hope, and considerable dread.

~~FINIS~~
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