Pure of Heart
Part Nine


Thought was the key. Deliberate, conscious thought. Didn't just pass through to Danny on its own, not like feelings. Feelings were different. Feelings spontaneously arose simply from being, not requiring thought to evoke and sustain them. They flowed freely through the silvered cord, slipped back and forth between them with intimate ease.

Feelings were the lifeblood sustaining them. Their bedrock connection to the utter truth of being they knew and experienced of each other. They couldn't be stopped, couldn't be restrained, couldn't be concealed or counterfeited. Couldn't be tainted by lies, deceit, manipulation or trickery.

Emotions were a little different. Emotions couldn't live and grow without mental input. It was possible to feel the joy simply by being. An emotion like hate, anger or fear, you had to make those puppies happen. By thinking about it. Putting all that lovely mental energy into forming the intention to hate thereby birthing the emotion and then further feeding it with more and more twisted thinking, while letting the results of all that work turn your guts into gravy.

Emotions would go through too, but you had some control there. You could stop thinking about it, stop making yourself crazy, stop feeding the monster. By changing what you were thinking about. Stop dwelling on the bad stuff, stop sending poison. Had a choice, had a choice. Just as you could think it bad, you could think it better, too.

Because thoughts were the key. Thoughts wouldn't go through unless you willed them to. Sent them away from yourself. Shot them down the pike. Last bastion between them, last little demarcation line. Last refuge for separated lovers joined as those more fortunate who could see, hold, and touch the one they loved could never dream of, and yet, who still had the need to keep secrets.

Mind control. Thought control. That's how he'd done it. That's how Danny had kept this from him. Kept him from knowing about the deal he'd made with the devil until it was too late to do anything but grieve.

Screw that. You might have given that bastard your word, Danny, but I sure'n hell didn't. Only one I made a promise to was you. You might be a part of me like no one else is, but you don't speak for me. Not when it comes to this. Can't give him my word, Danny. Can't make me break my promise to you. Not going to happen.

So I'm going to be doing some thinking. A whole lot of thinking. Thinking about ways of getting you back. And as long as I keep all these little thoughts to myself you're not going to know a thing about it until the cavalry comes over the hill.

Snakehead can't say you went back on your word if you have no choice.

Yeah, he'd finally figured it out. Thought about it a lot. Worked it out, worked it through, mentally chased it around in his head until he thought he was going to go insane.

Not like he had anything else better to do right now.

Jack sighed and cast another irritable glance out the small round window of the Air Force jet which had been taking him to God only know where for what was seeming to be just this side of forever. He stared unseeing at the banks of fluffy clouds bustling heedlessly beneath the small, swift winged projectile speeding over them. Wasn't any fun at all, so he shifted his gaze back to the compartment he seemed mercifully to be the only occupant of. 'Bout time all the bodyguards and 'we'll tell you what to say' boys buggered off and left him the hell alone. The flight crew had worked it out to stay well clear of him five seconds after he'd come on board.

Yeah, I've got your message from the President right here, bucko.

Things had moved pretty fast in the aftermath of Danny's orb experience. Apparently, Chronos hadn't intended the SGC to be the only lucky listeners. While the powers that be had been frantically trying to figure what was going on and what to do about the big, bad Goa'uld mothership playing 'ring around the Earth' Chronos had tapped into the defence communication network easy as you please and had piped Danny's speech right into the offices of the president and the Joint Chiefs. Following up the broadcast with a little personal rider of his own.

Seemed as if the new 'Protector of Earth' had more to say and wanted to talk to someone up close and personal. Desired an Ambassador be sent to his ship so he could personally further apprise the leadership of Earth of his good intentions. Seemed as if Earth's new best friend was more than noddingly acquainted with the political climate of the little blue marble he was benevolently bullying and the general xenophobic attitudes of the majority of its inhabitants. Seemed he was also aware of the potential security problems for the government of the United States posed by a large, easily discernible extraterrestrial vessel hanging around in orbit. Which anyone searching the skies with a half decent telescope could plainly see.

Seemed the big C knew an awful lot. Hadn't gotten any of it from Danny, though. Jack knew that for sure. No, he'd had other sources of information. Jack hoped the sneaky fucker that got away burned in hell.

So, Chronos was requesting a 'dialogue', and in exchange for getting this request granted he was willing to be quite the stand up guy. Willing to do whatever he could to preserve the status quo and the interests of the United States government, of whom he was making the request. If he got what he wanted he could make the ship disappear, taking care of the security problem and also handily sparing the owners of telescopes world wide any unnecessary trauma and worry. What a guy. Always thinking of others. Made you all misty, just thinking about it. But wait, there's more.

Lest there be any concern for the personal safety of the Ambassador, Chronos was also more than willing to provide his own reciprocal envoy, not only to stand as a security against the fair treatment and safe return of the Earth citizen being dispatched into his care, but also to provide any answers to any questions the Prez and co would care to pose. Couldn't be any fairer than that.

However, Chronos the Considerate also added a careful little caveat. Although it was true because of his promise he couldn't do anything rude like rubbing out cities from space in order to compel compliance, he COULD however, engage in activities which would, while not violating the spirit of his agreement, still make things very difficult for the powers that be if they were determined to be difficult with him.

Little things like plucking people at random off the street, taking them up to his ship, scaring the beejesus out of them and then sending them home with a lovely tale to tell. Having a squadron of def-gliders buzz the Golden Gate Bridge at rush hour and fire an all guns blazing salute at all the motorists. Beaming the Washington Monument to the middle of Red Square. That sort of thing.

And there was just one more detail. Chronos didn't want just any schmoo delivered to the point of his choosing for the encounter with greatness. He had one specific individual in mind.

Which was why Colonel Jack O'Neill, newly appointed and empowered Ambassador from Earth, was sitting in this damned jet all spiffed and shiny in his dress blues. Thinking about thought control and secrets and how he had every intention of killing the System Lord, barehanded if necessary, the second the slightest opportunity to do so presented itself.

Trying not to think, also, about how much he hoped he would also be able to see Daniel.

Wait a minute. They were descending. About time.

Not long afterwards, but not nearly soon enough to suit him, the plane was touching down on a deserted landing strip on what appeared to be nothing more than large, bleak, sparsely vegetated rock in the middle of the a vast, unending expanse of water. Definitely nowhere else to go from here.

They cracked the hatch, lowered the steps and Jack was up and out of the plane before he had time to think about what he was doing. He descended to the salt-worn pavement to find himself the only one standing there. The only living thing around.

"Hey!" he threw back at the airmen who were already starting to haul the hatch back up. From the sounds of the engine, the plane was powering up to leave. "What's going on? Where's the guy they were going to trade me for? Aren't you going to wait for him?"

"You needn't concern yourself with that, Colonel," Aitkins, the more than slightly officious presidential aide who had been sent along to baby-sit and educate him during the trip, called out just before the hatch closed back up again. "We received word the representative presented himself to the authority of Stargate Command about the same time this plane was taking off. We were informed of this, and instructed to depart as soon as we had delivered you to this location. Good luck, Colonel."

"But there's nothing HERE!" Jack roared at the plane, his angry words completely consumed by the deafening whine of the engine's turbines. He continued to stand alone in impotent frustration as he watched the plane swiftly taxi to the far end of the runway, turn, roar its engines and launch itself back down the runway and off into the blue.

Leaving him standing completely alone, on a rock in the middle of the ocean. All dressed up with nowhere to go.

"So NOW what?" Jack snarled at the sky.

As if on cue the transport rings supplied the answer.

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

So, here they were, sitting all nice and cozy in a bare, stark room with metallic gold walls, furnished only with the huge, throne-like chair Chronos occupied, the smaller, obviously less comfortable chair he had been directed to assume, and the table with the large round ball sitting on it standing between them.

He was here, all right, but it had taken him long enough to get here. The rings had dropped him off in the midst of a brace of stone-faced Jaffa who had 'escorted' him wordlessly through the ship, at length, until they had finally, eventually, gotten him to where he was supposed to be going. Evidently by way of the entire ship, if the number of twists and turns and ups and down and corridors he had traversed during the nickel tour were anything to go by.

By the time he had actually come face to face with the System Lord, Jack had no doubt in his mind the game Chronos was playing. Or that Jack O'Neill was the one being toyed with. The degree to which Chronos seemed to be prepared to go to mess with his head served to more than prepare him for what was undoubtedly going to be the mindfuck Olympics.

He wasn't two minutes seated in the chair before Jack saw just how right he was.

Chronos had opened by smiling magnanimously and offering him refreshments, which Jack had icily declined. An object in Chronos' right hand immediately caught his attention. Something he idly played with while silently, but thoroughly, assessing the man seated before him. Jack could see his fingers working it and worrying it with soothing, almost hypnotic strokes, but he couldn't see what it was. It made a small noise from time to time. A slight, metallic clinking noise. A familiar sound.

Keys. The jangling of keys. That's what the sound was. Keys on a ring, softly tinking together. Chronos was playing with a set of keys. Holding it so the ring and what it was attached to was concealed in his hand, but the keys themselves could swing free. Jack tried to keep his eyes on the mocking dark ones of the man before him, trying not to look, knowing what Chronos was about to do, unable to stop himself from seeing when the System Lord finally revealed what he had been hiding in his hand. The little gold pyramid dangling from the chain attached to the ring.

Danny's keys. The key chain he had given him. Seeing Chronos touching it, holding it, stroking it, dangling it in front of him with such casual, possessive familiarity while he smiled a vast, satisfied challenging smile almost made Jack lose all sense and reason.

Which...was exactly what Snakeyes wanted. Exactly the way the bastard was hoping he would react. Wanted him to lose it, to go nuts on him, giving the poor unsuspecting System Lord every reason to blast Colonel Psycho into the middle of next week. He'd already been screwed around with, run around, held up and wound up in a deliberately planned and executed series of events calculated to raise his frustration level to the breaking point and now this was supposed to drive him over the edge?

Amateur!

Nice try. But not good enough. Let's see what other tricks you've got up those sleeves. Come on, bring it on. Do your worst, I've got your number now.

"I've changed all the locks," Jack drawled casually, casting a negligent, dismissing look at the object in the System Lord's hand as he leaned back in the chair and lazily crossed his legs. "Nice RV you've got here," he continued, glancing briefly about. "What sort of mileage does it get on the highway?"

Chronos eyes narrowed slightly. An unreadable look flashed across his features as he set the key ring down on the table, promptly forgetting about it. Steepling his fingers together he gazed imperiously over the tops of them at the man who grinned impudently right back at him.

"We have much to discuss, O'Neill," Chronos began in a deeply serious tone completely devoid of warmth or mirth. "A matter of grave importance which intimately concerns both of us."

"Not talking baseball scores here, are we?" Jack shot back at him, his voice as cold and dangerous.

Jack could feel the tension, the rank hatred between them crackling like static electricity across the surface of his skin. Mortal enemies did not even begin to describe what they were to each other. Hard to say which one hated the other more. Not hard to say the reason though.

The man both of them desired, though neither one would be the first to say his name.

Jack had come here fully prepared for all of this. More than expecting it. He'd spent some time with Chronos. A lot of time. Hours spent locked in a room with three Goa'ulds and an Asgard, while between them they'd hammered out the fate of the Earth.

Jack hadn't spent the whole time getting himself in trouble by mouthing off when it wasn't his turn. Not by a long shot. Know thy enemy? The Asgard had handed him a golden opportunity to get up close and personal with three of them and he'd used it for all it was worth.

He'd watched all of them. It wasn't long before he realized the only one worth watching was Chronos. So he'd done just that. Watched - and learned.

Watched the haughty Goa'uld sit back and say nothing through most of the conference, leaving the lion's share of the talking and negotiating to Yu while he pretended to be not even interested in what was going on. Indifferent. Bored, even.

Not so. Not so at all. Jack saw what he was doing, and in spite of himself had experienced a pang of admiration for the Goa'uld and his tactics. Behind that pretty boy façade was a mind that was ticking over faster than the speed of light, absorbing everything, assessing everything, even directing the way he wanted the conversation to go by signaling Yu with a nod of the head or a seemingly meaningless, absent gesture. He gave every appearance of being barely a part of the proceedings, certainly not interested in them, nothing more than a jaded, dissipated, slightly bored martinet who wanted to be a million miles away doing something much more interesting.

When in truth he was the one who was in total control of the meeting and by far the most dangerous man in the room.

Chronos had completely run that show from the word go. All the while looking like he didn't give a flying fuck about what was going on, or how the whole thing turned out. He ran it, and he had the final say over how it had eventually gone down. It was completely down to Chronos things had gone as well as they had. Only because of him and the deal they had struck with him. By betraying Nerti to him as the cost of doing business, Earth not only had the treaty, but had retained custody of both Stargates as well.

Apophis might be thicker than mud, but this Goa'uld was no fool.

But then again, neither was he.

So, what's it going to be? Come on; bring it on. I'm ready.

"Enough foreplay already," Jack bared his teeth in a nasty smile which evoked an answering flare of amusement in the Goa'uld's black, bottomless eyes. "You're the one who sent for me. What do you want?"

Chronos inclined his head, then spoke a guttural word at the globe on the table. Jack braced himself as it began to hum and glow softly; springing to life at what had obviously been an activation command.

Crap, crap, crap, no matter what you see, hold onto it. Here we go. You know you're not gonna like this whatever it is...ah, ah god... Danny...

Even though he knew it was coming, still the first sight of Daniel struck him hard and painfully in the pit of his stomach. Almost as bad as in the briefing room. Almost.

No wait, scratch that. Briefing room had been bad, but this was worse. Definitely worse.

He knew Chronos was watching him, knew also he wasn't giving him anything to see. He had a grip. He was handling it. Wasn't giving anything away.

God, Danny. So beautiful. He hadn't forgotten how beautiful. Just hadn't had much of a chance lately to visually appreciate what he remembered.

Danny was sitting on the floor in front of a large, low table surrounded by a nest of cushions occupied by a lot of other people of various shapes and sizes all dressed in long white dresses. They appeared to be having a meal, and it looked like a lot of animated, friendly conversation was going on. There was no sound. Jack couldn't hear them, could only see them.

They were humans, and whoever they were, they looked like nice people. Danny was being pretty quiet, looking around with large, slightly haunted eyes. The black, sunken smudges beneath them were painfully, starkly emphasized by the pallor of his face. Occasionally he would try to smile, but there was no conviction in the effort, no sincerity in the show. His attempts to make the smile look less painful only made it more so.

He'd lost weight. Jack could see it in his face. The pinched look, skin stretched just a little too tightly over those exquisite cheekbones, the line of the jaw too sharp, too stark. Cheeks slightly hollowed.

Jack loved that face, had spent many hours studying it, knew its every curve, nuance, line, angle, expression better than he knew his own. When he'd seen it in the crystal ball in the briefing room it had been a mask, a façade Danny had put up to hide behind while he spoke the words which had broken his heart.

Well, the mask was down now. Put away. Now Jack could see everything hanging on that most beloved visage. Plain as the darkest day of his life. He could see what speaking those words, knowing he had heard them had done to Daniel. Not like he didn't know it already - not like he hadn't felt it. Still, it was bad. Seeing it - really seeing it - made it all just so much worse.

Chronos favoured the orb with a tender glance, placing a proprietary hand upon it, stroking it fondly as if by so doing he was blatantly, intimately caressing the man it displayed right in front of Jack. His eyes lingered hungrily on Daniel's image, then he looked searingly at Jack, forcing him to meet his eyes, his expression clearly challenging, daring Jack to dispute the truth of what his mouth was now saying.

"As you can see, he is well."

Chronos said nothing else, waiting for a response. A reaction.

Jack did not oblige him.

"I regret, my beloved will not be able to join us," Chronos continued smoothly, unperturbed by this initial failure. "He is aboard my flagship, which is orbiting Abydos. It will remain there until I return. Once our business is concluded. I had thought to bring him with me - he does not like to be away from my side - you see how much he misses me - "

Another expectant pause, the scathing stare as he searched for a reaction. Still didn't get one.

" - but, he is still a little homesick for this primitive little planet of yours. I thought it would be too unkind for him to see it, missing it as he does."

"And it didn't occur to you seeing his adopted home world would upset him as much?" The reply was quick, but unemotional. Chronos understood what he was saying.

I know why you really left him behind so cut the crap.

"Ah," Chronos smiled, affecting a deeply distressed tone. "How thoughtless of me. It indeed had not occurred to me seeing Abydos would prove equally distressing to him, but I thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have been sadly remiss, woefully inconsiderate. I shall have to remedy this immediately. How do you put it - make it up to him? I shall have to devote extra time, a lot of extra time to consoling him when I return to him. Ah yes, he will require much comforting, I can see that. Do you not agree?"

Jack couldn't stop the spasm of horror ripping through him at the thought of Chronos leaving here going back to Daniel...'comforting'...touching him..

Somehow he kept his face impassive as he tried to stop his guts from heaving out through his throat. In the orb, the image of Daniel suddenly froze, his eyes widened, his face wrenched with brief fear and helplessness. His head dropped heavily to the arms folded across his knees and stayed there. His shoulders shook.

Crap! Danny! Okay, it's okay! Don't. Don't be sad. Don't give in to this.

Jack tried to concentrate, to focus, to send comfort and reassurance to Daniel, looking at the orb to see if he could notice any response to his efforts. But Chronos was still talking. Distracting. Pulling him away from his attempts to render his own comfort.

"Daniel enjoys it when I comfort him. He enjoys it very much. Let me show you how much."

Crap. That one went home. Jack could feel the sparks of hot anger flare within him, bursting forth, firing themselves at his adversary before he could call them back. Chronos smiled in quiet triumph as he barked another command at the orb.

Jack suddenly discovered cool, calm, collected and controlled was going to be a little harder to hold onto now. Especially as the sound of loud, familiar, passionate moans filled the room.

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

How many times had he seen Danny, just like this? Sprawled bonelessly beneath him, the epitome of abandonment, utterly helpless in the throes of the consuming, subsuming desire he could be made to feel and express so completely. A willing slave to his own delight, eager putty in his lover's equally eager hands, completely in the thrall of the passion he had no ability to resist. Joyfully surrendering all hope of control or reason to the one who knew no greater pleasure himself than taking Danny to that place of blissful madness and beyond.

Head thrown heavily back into the pillow, eyes closed. His flushed, shining face contorted with ecstasy, mouth agape as desperate, irregular pants mingling with urgent moans and low, pleasured cries issued from it. Licking his lips, just like that, oh, oh god then biting them, grimacing suddenly. Knowing what it mean Jack held his breath, waiting for it. His reward, Daniel's expressive mouth twitching in the secret, lustful smile - his... smile. only he could ever see it - only for him. And there it was, the sweet, small gasp just before...then wildly thrashing, gulping harshly as Danny sucked in his next breath, his smooth, sweat-kissed chest suddenly heaving with it, letting it back out in the shattering cry of pleasure ripping from him.

Beautiful. He was so beautiful.

As many times as he had seen this, in spite of the reason he was seeing it now, Jack still couldn't avert his eyes. He stared raptly at Daniel's image in the orb, transfixed by the force of his own desire. Why it had happened, how it had happened, though the hands making Danny moan and shake and cry out were not his - none of that mattered. Once he'd been lucky enough to be able to see this - luckier still to have been the one who made it happen. Once the sight before him was the only one he lived to see. Just as now, the only reason he wanted to keep on living was to be able to see it again.

In that instant all Jack could see was the one he loved the way he loved him the most. Nothing else mattered.

Something had happened to the sound. He couldn't hear the sounds Danny was making any more, but he could still see him. Daniel's mouth continued to move, a flood of words and sounds he couldn't hear pouring from it. His body jerked erratically, head began to frantically toss from side to side. His breathing becoming wilder, his writhing movements more desperate.

All these indicators telling the man who knew the meaning of Daniel's slightest murmur his lover was swiftly approaching orgasm. Jack knew he should look away but he couldn't, still couldn't. Couldn't stop himself from watching the hand he could now see, the hand doing these things to Danny, making him.making him.. bringing him... moving knowingly across Daniel's shuddering body heading unerringly for the spot it knew so well would send him screaming over the edge. The hand...

Sonofabitch lying rat bastard! Well, Sam did say the whole damned house was bugged. Guess this pretty much proves it. Hope you got your rocks off good and heavy watching us you sick fuck!

Gripping the arms of the chair for support, Jack ducked his head, biting his bottom lip almost to the point of drawing blood in order to prevent himself from laughing. Okay, that was good, that was really smooth. Had to give Chronos bonus points for that one. Setting him up, trying to make him crazy being jealous of - himself!

Even as he was laughing inwardly at the whole mad absurdity of the situation the larger part of him burned fiercely in hot triumph at the real meaning of what he had just seen.

Danny still only smiled that smile for him. Still only looked like that, responded like that, lost it like that when HE touched him. For all his power, Chronos couldn't make Danny be like that with him. If he could, he would have shown him.

Yeah, he'd already known it. And should have known better than to fall for the trick, even for a split second. But for just that one, fleeting instant, dammit, he had. The camera doesn't lie?

No, Danny, love, it sure doesn't.

Still desperately clutching the arms of the chair, his face contorted and set against the howling, hysterical, triumphant laughter he wanted to just let fly, Jack looked up in time to see Daniel jerk violently up from the bed, his head bent back, his mouth gaping wide in a soundless, orgasmic shriek. Jack felt his heart lurch and fill with love.

Good for you, it was so good for you. Made it good, didn't I? It's all right. I know I did. I can see.

His loving reverie was shattered by the low sound of Chronos' voice softly uttering a single word. The scene in the orb froze, holding Daniel's image motionless, captured in the moment of ultimate ecstasy.

"What say you now of the faithfulness of your lover, O'Neill?" Chronos goaded in a low, cruel voice. "As you can see, he takes as much delight from me as he ever did from you. Perhaps - more."

Jack lowered his head again, tightening his grip on the arms of the chair, breathing harshly as he struggled to bring the laughter under control. Chronos was mistaking his reaction, thinking what he was seeing was jealousy, rage. He didn't realize his opponent was on to him. Jack had no plans of correcting this mistaken impression.

"I'd say Danny seems to be having himself a pretty good time," he rasped his reply, forcing the words out, trying to make his voice sound as harsh as he could. Getting a handle on it, calming down. No laughing. Not yet, anyway.

"Is he not.. exquisite? Truly exceptional?" Chronos purred, rubbing the orb with slightly smutty eagerness. "So, responsive, so - so willing. But I do not need to tell you this, surely. The sounds he makes, especially the one - just before.."

The System Lord's voice trailed away. Jack raised his head in time to catch it. The fleeting, unguarded moment of deep, desperate longing on the face of his adversary. The burning, envious desire in his eyes as he looked upon the suspended image of Daniel transcendent in a perfect, incandescent moment of pure bliss.

A moment he knew he was not responsible for, but the man he sought to deceive was.

Eat your heart out, shithead. Never gonna happen. Not for you.

Mine!

Time to damn well start proving it!

Jack let go of his death grip on the chair, shook out his hands, stretched back out, folded his hands casually in his lap and favoured the System Lord with the most inscrutable smile he could muster. Chronos' gaze instantly snapped to his face. More than plain he had the Goa'uld's full attention. Also more than plain he was a bit unsettled by the sight of Jack's calm, accepting aspect and relaxed posture. A reaction he definitely had not been expecting.

But he recovered admirably and quickly assumed a suitably superior air and expression as he listened to Jack's next response.

"Have to go with you on that one," Jack nodded amiably as if agreeing with the last observation. "You gotta love him when he howls like that. But for my money, - if I had to pick a favourite moment, I'd have to go with some of the other things he can do with that mouth. Believe me, it isn't just for talking. Danny can give one serious tongue bath. You haven't lived till he's licked you from one end to the other. But surely, I don't have to tell you that."

Chronos froze, his mouth slightly open in utter surprise. Knocked for more than a bit of a loop.

Fasten your seat belts, bucko, 'cause you're goin' down.

"Oh - sorry," Jack moved his shoulders slightly in a faint, apologetic shrug. "You mean he hasn't done you yet? I find that rather... surprising. It's one of his most favourite things. Danny really has this - oral - preoccupation. This thing about his mouth. Yeah. That's a good way of putting it. Must be part of the reason why he likes to talk so much. He really, really likes to do things with his mouth. He likes to... lick... things. Really likes to lick things. He especially likes to lick.. MY thing."

Jack paused momentarily, giving the rage he was seeing building in Chronos' eyes time to get going before he drove the knife the rest of the way home.

"Ah, you didn't know that? Wow, that's weird. What's the matter - doesn't he like to lick YOUR...thing?"

Jack crossed his arms across his chest and glared defiantly at the man across from him. The soulless eyes locked onto his were glittering obsidian pits of cold, bottomless fury. Harder than black diamonds they held his eyes for many long deadly seconds, promising much, none of it good, and still delivering the desire for screaming, merciless retribution as Chronos finally threw back his head and began to laugh.

It was a hollow, mirthless, echoing sound all the creepier in its unnatural vehemence. Man who laughed like that definitely had nothing good on his mind. Nor did he take too kindly to the joke being on him.

Pretty safe bet he was a mighty sore loser as well.

Chronos finally stopped laughing, his smooth and ageless visage possessed by a snarling smile. Unless he was a mighty poor judge of character it looked very much as if the gloves were now, officially - off.

"You have proven to be as amusing as I judged you to be during our previous encounter," the System Lord began in a smooth, controlled, more than slightly condescending tone. "It would also seem you possess a small degree of - situational flexibility. As well as more self-possession and control than I would have credited you."

"Gee...thanks," Jack drawled sarcastically. "Sweet talk all you want, I'm still not going to the prom with you. Neither, for that matter, is Danny."

Chronos completely ignored the rude rejoinder, pursing his lips as he narrowly scrutinized the man before him.

"I can see you might briefly pose some fleeting appeal to someone such as Daniel, but try as I might, I cannot discern what it is about you that causes him to persist in this absurd and irrational attachment to you. Not only is it not logical, it is also inconvenient."

"What can I say?" Jack grinned broadly at the System Lord. "To know me is to love me."

Chronos' dark eyes glittered with a flash of momentary excitement. "Then maybe Daniel only thinks he knows you. We shall see, shall we?"

Crap! Don't like the sounds of this!

'Tell me something, Jack," Chronos spat out his name as if speaking it scorched his tongue. "What would you do to keep Daniel safe?"

You did this to Daniel, too, didn't you, you bastard. Threatened him with me. Threatened you'd hurt me. If he - if he didn't...

Jack swallowed his anger, laced his hands together behind the back of his head and leaned lazily into the chair. Generally working himself into the most relaxed and comfortable position he could assume.

"Taking the Fifth on this one, babe," Jack tossed the response back at him. "Next question."

"You refuse to answer?" Chronos blinked in visible surprise. Definitely not the response he was expecting.

Good.

"'Course I refuse to answer. What - you think I'm stupid or something? I'm supposed to get all scared and go 'oh please, whatever you want, please don't hurt him' while you trot out your little list of ways you have come up with for me to compromise myself, our relationship, my duty, my trust, my country, my world, all to keep Daniel from harm, while you record the whole thing to boot? So you can use it against me, twist it around, and have a grand old time playing it over and over, listening to me grovel. Making Danny listen to it, too? In yer dreams!

"Answer the question? Why the hell should I? You and I both know there's no reason why I should. There are no teeth in that threat. You're not going to hurt Daniel. He's in no danger from you, if I answer you, or if I don't, and you're not going to take it out on him if I refuse to play your stupid little game. Which I do, so there!

"So, yeah, I'm not answering it and you can't make me. What I would and wouldn't do for Danny is none of your goddamned business. Next question! Haven't got all day here!"

Chronos smiled faintly as he thoughtfully stroked his chin. "Excellent," he murmured. "I must say, O'Neill, you are marginally intelligent. For a human. Certainly you possess a larger capacity for rational thought than I originally deemed you to, based upon our former encounter."

"Okay, that's it," Jack sighed impatiently as he irritably rubbed his face and pushed himself to his feet. Chronos did not pull back as Jack firmly placed his palms on the table between them, leaning toward him confrontationally on braced arms. "Can we just leave the dance floor and get down to it already? You didn't go through all the trouble of getting me here just to try and wind me up or to have the unforgettable experience of trading insults with Jack O'Neill. You are going to tell me what you really want right here and now, or I am going to walk out that door behind me and go home. 'Cause I've had just about as much of you as I can stand. No offence, by the way."

"None taken," Chronos grinned wolfishly, evidently deriving a great deal of delight from the enthusiastic, honest expression of Jack's heart-felt hatred. He also rose from his chair, moving around the table, coming to stand at Jack's side before he resumed speaking.

"Your analysis of the situation is correct. I do indeed have a purpose for wishing you to attend me other than engaging in this invigorating exchange of pleasantries, as enjoyable and educational as it has been. As diverting as this activity has proven to be, I will now, as you say - get.to it." He paused, darting a quick glance at the orb beside them, licking his lips as he did so. "I wish to return home, thus I will dispense with our business as to be able to do so as soon as possible."

"Bottom line it for me, pal," Jack shot testily back at him. "Not getting any younger, here."

"It is, of course, about Daniel I wish to speak."

"Pretty much figured that. What about him?"

"It is very simple," Chronos paused and smiled, his cold eyes boring into Jack's soul. "If any part of you is capable of acting in Daniel's best interests, in putting aside your own selfish desires for his sake, I wish now to appeal to it.

"I wish you to renounce him."

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

"Daniel, will you not try some? It is very good. Nalla has prepared it especially to honour your presence."

Daniel blinked, reluctantly rousing from his lethargy at the sound of his name. A large, shallow bowl containing something hot was pressed into his hands. He could feel the radiation rising from the liquid surface along with a delicate odour evocative of...chicken soup.

Oh God. It's everywhere.

Tomas had been the one addressing him. Off to his left, the young woman he referred to - his sister, peered shyly at him from behind the strong bulwark of her brother's wide shoulders. Several small children, ranging in age, he estimated, from two to six, clustered about her, eyeing him with large, dark eyes filled with childish wonder. Beautiful, dark-haired, dark-eyed replicas of the woman who had given them life, so they could grow up to fall into the hands of the being who would have surely, eventually taken their mother's life.

The thought of that happening hit him so sharply, struck him as so terribly obscene, a shudder of revulsion tore through him, causing his hands to shake violently. Ariana was still close to him, having just passed the bowl to him; she quickly moved to take it from him again before he spilled its contents all over his lap.

Which, he realized with shame, he would have done if not for her assistance.

Daniel lowered his head, trying to still the trembling in his body. He'd met so many of these people fleetingly, briefly, when Ariana and Tomas had brought him into the human enclave. Commending him to members of dozens of constituent 'clan' dormitories before conducting him to the section of the enclave where their clan ate, slept and lived.

He'd felt overwhelmed and bewildered by the sea of faces. Young faces, all of them. He couldn't remember seeing anyone who appeared to be older than their mid forties. Beautiful faces, almost exclusively. All about him youth, beauty, perfection.

That in itself was alarming enough in the possibilities it suggested to him. But what he had found the most deeply disturbing was the overwhelming placidity and acceptance of the people themselves. Too innocent, too trusting, almost as if they were somehow - arrested in a child-like emotional state. Too much like cattle, or lambs to the slaughter.

Probably much too close to the truth for him to be able to feel comfortable thinking about it.

They were pleasant, friendly, very kind; all things he very much needed to experience right now. Daniel knew he should just let it go, just for a moment. Stop thinking about it, stop letting it disturb him, just - kick back and relax for a few blessed hours and soak in the adoration. God. God, if only he could. A sea of wide, concerned, innocent eyes stared at him as he clenched his fists and bit back the scream in his head fighting to surge forth from his chest.

Run! All of you! For God's sake - run!

God help him, he hadn't known. Or hadn't cared to see. Even though it had been all around him, the whole time he'd been here. He'd been too wrapped up in his own paltry tragedy to open his eyes to the larger wrong happening right under his nose.

He wasn't the only captive here. Far from it, he had plenty of company. The ranks of the repressed were legion. The only thing which made him unique was the essential quality of the awareness of that salient fact he possessed. But they didn't.

No, amend that, just a little. While it was true the majority of Chronos' humans seemed blissfully unaware of the true horrible nature of their condition this ignorance did not blanket the human population in its entirety. There were isolated sparks burning brighter, ones who quietly questioned. Those who were coming to realize living as pampered slaves bound for a bright future as an ambulatory fleshy outer covering for another's will was perhaps not what nature had intended for human beings after all.

The 'Will of God' - be damned.

He'd seen it, he knew about it now. Right now it was almost to big to get a handle on it, but having had his eyes opened, Daniel knew he couldn't walk away. There would be no refuge in turning a blind eye. He wasn't sure what, if anything he could do, but he knew he had to do - something.

But not now. Now he had to come back, get a hold of himself. Ariana and Tomas were peering at him with deep concern; he was frightening them. Tomas was drawing closer to him reaching out, putting an arm around his shoulders... touching...

Daniel had recoiled from the contact before he even realized what he was doing. His heart racing with terror, the need to flee coiling his legs beneath him, propelling him up into Ariana's strong hands pressing on his shoulders, pushing him firmly back down again. Tomas' olive complexion was white with shock. Daniel was still trying to collect his terror-strewn wits, trying to unsuccessfully burble out an apology for his reaction. Furnish to the frightened young man an explanation for what he had just done even though he hadn't quite managed to discover it for himself yet.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he finally was able to mumble. Ariana's hands were gentle and soothing upon him, stroking his head, his shoulders, his back with firm, calming movements. "I - I don't know what made me do that."

"I have not offended?" Tomas asked, with real concern. His tone edged with just the hint of understandable trepidation.

"No. No, not at all," Daniel shook his head lazily just before he laid it down upon his drawn up knees. Ariana's hands seemed to be working a welcome magic upon him. His limbs were becoming relaxed, heavy; a warm, welcome lassitude possessed him. Not the shocked, blood chilling numbness of before, but a cleansing disconnection from his brain which seemed to be going to sleep along with the rest of him.

Daniel closed his eyes and drifted toward the waiting ocean of temporary oblivion Ariana's ministrations were gently nudging him toward. Wouldn't be long. Wouldn't be long...

Somewhere he could hear the voices. Laughing at himself as part of him still strained to make out what they were saying while the rest of him was shaking its head while going - 'can't you ever just forget about it - even for a second?'

The part that sounded like Jack.

Oh, he'd been trying so hard not to think about Jack. He didn't know what was going on in his lover's world, but whatever it was, it wasn't good. Hours of cold-banked, low-boiling fury. At him, at their circumstances, at something else. Daniel didn't know what, but Jack's slow, but steady approach to his combustion point had been as much the goad to Daniel's earlier meanderings as his own need to move away from what had just happened to him.

Numbing himself out had been the only way to distance himself from what had happened next. The anger, rage, despair, the violence of the emotions ripping through his lover had stabbed him just as keenly. It had been too much. Just too much. He'd run away.

But now, not resisting as the sounds of Tomas and Ariana discussing him began to fade away, as the hands soothing him gentled him gradually into the bliss of forgetfulness Daniel discovered he was not alone. Before him all around him, opening to him, enfolding him was an ocean of love. Liquid and golden, pouring into him, filling him. Jack. Jack loved him. Whatever was wrong, whatever had happened, didn't matter, it was nothing, blowing away along with yesterday's regrets and today's misunderstandings.

Jack loved him.

He was almost there, almost perfectly one with it..

Pulled away. The hands which had brought him here, taking him away again.

No. Please. Not yet.

"Daniel! Daniel! Oh dear, I'm sorry. You have to get wake up. Oh Tomas, this is so unfair!"

Daniel lurched abruptly back into unwelcome full awareness, steadied by Ariana as his body swayed awkwardly with a brief bout of disorientation.

"What?" His tongue stumbled over the words as he shook his head. "Where - what's happened?"

"They've sent word," Tomas answered quickly. "Chronos has sent for you. Delios is looking for you."

Daniel's hand flew to the collar around his neck. "He won't have any trouble finding me - thanks to this." He spared a moment to cast a regretful look at the kind faces ringing him. "I should go," he began again, gathering himself to rise. "It's probably best he doesn't find me here."

Ariana and Tomas rose with him, intending to escort him back the way they all had originally come. Though the large man stood close to him, Daniel was quick to notice Tomas did not touch him.

"I should like to come back, sometime, if that's all right?"

"You are welcome here, Daniel," Tomas nodded to emphasize his approval. "Visit us as you can."

Oh, I intend to.

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

Even though a spirit of perverseness had driven him to make Delios' job as difficult for him as possible the Goa'uld eventually did succeed in tracking him down. Daniel smothered a smile as he took in the rather irritated expression on the First Maintainer's face.

This was probably the most walking Delios had had to do in a long time.

"Where have you been, Tau'ri pig-dog?" Delios snapped at him.

Ah, he'd gotten that one from him. Evidently, the Goa'uld could be taught.

"What's it to you, Shit head?"

Delios favoured him with a withering glance as he grabbed him firmly by the arm and began to propel him down the corridor.

"To me? Absolutely nothing!" Delios sneered. "I couldn't care less if you fell into the shield generator."

"Now that's not true," Daniel muttered. "You'd enjoy it, you know you would."

"Don't provoke me then!" Delios grumbled as he made them move faster. "Lest we find out first hand whether I would or not. Come! Quickly! Chronos wishes me to bring you to him. He is most insistent you attend him immediately."

"Why?" Daniel panted. They were almost running. Delios was hiding it well under the brittle façade of attitude he was handing him, but the Goa'uld was more than nervous.

Something was definitely - up.

"How should I know? Be quiet! I find your pointless questions irritating, the sound of your voice even more so."

So of course Daniel continued to rattle on inanely about the most banal things he could think about. Delios suffered in silence until they reached their destination.

The Stargate room.

Delios immediately released his arm, and crossed to a control console beside the DHD. He touched a small crystal, which began to glow

"We are ready," he said, in Goa'uld. "Tell them to activate their gate, now."

Daniel continued to watch Delios in puzzled fascination as he stood waiting for what was obviously a signal his request to whoever - had been carried out.

It took several minutes, close to ten, but eventually Delios' patience was rewarded by an amplified guttural confirmation in Goa'uld.

Guess that meant they were going now.

Delios deactivated the channel and crossed swiftly to the DHD. Daniel watched with absent interest as the First Maintainer began inputting the chevrons of the address their destination.

Where Chronos apparently was. Yippee.

It wasn't until Delios had depressed the fourth chevron Daniel realized what he was doing. He knew this address. Knew it better than he knew his phone number. Certainly had dialled it more times.

Earth! Delios was dialling the address for Earth!

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

"I wish you to renounce him," Chronos announced in a low, deadly voice.

"Excuse me?" Jack roared.

"I would have thought the meaning of the sentence was clear enough." Chronos crooked an eyebrow at him, his expression just short of impatiently indulgent. "We are speaking the only language you are capable of understanding, are we not? Perhaps I was incorrectly informed of your ability to comprehend it. Shall I speak more slowly?"

Just one red flag too many. He'd been good. Lord knows, he'd been more than good. He was sick of being good. Right at that instant, all Jack O'Neill knew was that the cause of all of Danny's pain and suffering, the walking piece of crap who'd taken Danny, hurt him, held him against his will and had been rubbing all of this in Jack's face from the moment he'd gotten here, was standing right before him, large as life, twice as ugly and within handy strangling distance.

He'd lunged forward and had both hands fisted into the front of Chronos' dress before his mind registered the fact he'd moved. He barely had time to snarl out something which sounded like, "I'll kill you, you bastard," before a titanium-like grip suddenly clamped around his neck. As the alarming sensation of his throat rapidly constricting accompanied by a distressing feeling of weightlessness threatened to overwhelm him, he also became dimly aware there was no longer a floor under his feet.

Ah. That would be because he now appeared to be dangling on high on the end of the hand crushing his throat. A fair distance from the floor. He could be in trouble.

Oh, so not cool.

Oh yeah, this was definitely not good. Getting more than a little hard to breathe.

Chronos held him suspended as easily as he would have hefted a feather. The expression of lustful hate on his snarling, jeering face and the deep, abiding pleasure the Goa'uld was getting in the accomplishment was something Jack knew he was not going to be forgetting for the rest of his life.

Which wasn't going to be too much longer.

"I could tighten my fingers and crush your throat, right now." Chronos panted, his eyes glinting with obscene delight at the notion. "Quickly. Easily. Happily. Extinguish you in an instant."

"Gaaaaak!" Jack replied.

"But I will not. I have promised Daniel I will not harm you, given him my solemn vow you will know no misfortune at my hands. I will spare your life for his sake, although I should kill you for having dared to lay hands upon me. Do not ever do it again. My vow may protect you from my vengeance, but there are many, many others who do not enjoy this same dispensation. Remember this. Remember also this moment, O'Neill. Ponder how simple a thing it would be for me to have killed you, as simple as it would be for me to also snuff out another in your stead. Govern yourself accordingly. I will not warn you again."

Chronos opened his hand, stepping back as Jack's released body tumbled to the floor.

Jack crumpled to his knees, barely managing to support his upper body on braced, shaking arms as he struggled to pull air into his lungs through his bruised and burning throat.

That was really stupid, Jack. Crapface is stronger than the Hulk on steroids. Maybe trying to go medieval on his ass isn't the smartest way to go here. Not without a bazooka, and lots of backup, anyway.

"Made your point," Jack gasped as he forced himself to his feet. "I get it already. You're the all mighty and the all-powerful, and I'm the scum on the bottom of your shoe. But you still need something from me, or I wouldn't be here."

"I require only one thing of you," Chronos snapped. "Your obedience. You are the final obstacle to Daniel's acceptance of his place at my side. He has severed all ties with his former life, divested himself of all his former obligations. Including his - vow - to you. You have heard him state as much."

"Against his will!" Jack retorted indignantly. "You made him do it, threatened both his worlds if he didn't!"

"That is incorrect," Chronos glared sternly at him. "But it matters not. However it was accomplished, it is done. Daniel is sworn to me. He is mine. He must be made to truly understand this, for he does not as yet fully believe it. This is your fault. You will renounce him, so he will have no choice but to accept there is nothing of his old existence to cling to. He will embrace his new life then. He will embrace me. You will make this possible now through your repudiation of him."

Jack glared at him, crossing his arms across his chest. "Bite me," he spat out between clenched teeth.

Chronos flushed, an ugly expression twisting his face as he began to stalk menacingly toward him. Jack jerked his arms down to his sides, clenching his fists angrily, tensing his body to meet the Goa'uld's advance head on.

"You will not?" Chronos hissed. "You would truly do this to him? Condemn him to continue to exist in perpetual unhappiness? Are you that selfish? That inconsiderate of Daniel's well-being? Can you truly think of nothing but yourself? You claim you love him. Your refusal proclaims this is not so!"

Jack felt himself taking a confused step backward; the words coming out of Chronos' mouth were so unexpected and so - bizarre. Jack struggled to get over it and focus, 'cause the Goa'uld wasn't done.

"Daniel clings to the absurd sense of obligation he feels to you because of the vow he made to you even after he has forsworn it. This attachment prevents him from accepting his situation thereby knowing true happiness. Don't you understand? You are making him miserable! You must do this. You must release him! You must make him believe you have turned your back on him. His happiness is in your hands - and the blame falls to you as the cause of his misery if you will not!"

Jack knew his mouth had to be hanging down around his knees. He thought he'd just about heard it all - but THIS! This was taking twisted and turning it into an art form.

"Goddammit, you are one sick fuck! Sit on it and rotate!"

Chronos glared at him through narrowed eyes, his lips set in a white line of annoyance.

"I had anticipated this. I had hoped I had misjudged you, hoped Daniel's high opinion of you was indicative you were a better man than I believed you to be. I had hoped it would not come to this. But I see you leave me no choice."

Chronos turned toward the orb on the table, hurling an exotic phrase at it. Daniel's shining image shivered from existence to be replaced by the less than inspiring visage of a man Jack took to be one of Chronos' Jaffa. The tone of the System Lord's voice indicated he was asking a question of the face in the ball. He received a short, curt response. Another word made the face go away and the ball then sat there, dark, silent and still.

Chronos turned back to him, his face bearing the mark of the executioner. Jack had seen such a look in other eyes more times then he cared to remember. It was never good. But as many times as he'd seen it, never had it scared him as much as it was scaring him now.

"They are ready for us. It is time to end this. You have my word, O'Neill; you will do as I wish. This is your final chance. I give you the opportunity to accede to my wishes without penalty. We need go no further if you agree to comply of your own free will. I ask you again, and for the last time. Will you renounce Daniel?"

"What do you think?" Jack answered, jutting his chin stubbornly at the glaring man before him to punctuate his resistance.

Chronos nodded thoughtfully. "That is your final answer?" he murmured quietly. "Very well. The choice is made. Understand the blame for what follows is entirely yours. Upon your head alone fall the consequences of your selfish disregard for Daniel. You will come with me now, and we will finish this."

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

More walking. Tracing straight, sterile, coldly golden corridors in the maze of the ship's interior. Chronos stalking grimly at his side, Jaffa forming a barrier of flesh, blood and metal all around them.

Wherever they were going, once again the System Lord was taking his damned sweet time getting them there. No doubt trying to fake him out, hoping he would get freaked out contemplating this 'penalty' he'd been threatened with and cave before Chronos had to make good on his threat. 'Cause whatever he had in mind, Chronos didn't want to have to do it.

He really didn't. Jack wasn't exactly sure how he knew this, except from what he was able to gather by snatching glances at the System Lord as they rapidly paced through the ship. Chronos wasn't his usual cheerful, awful self. Not inwardly giggling and outwardly gloating at the prospect of getting to inflict something unspeakable on some poor, unsuspecting slob because Jack wasn't playing by his rules. If anything, the Goa'uld looked like he'd rather be ripping his own arms off than being about to do whatever it was he was about to be doing.

Jack realized this made him more nervous than anything which had happened since he'd arrived here. Because of him, some poor innocent was not going to be having a good time very soon. He felt bad about it, but there was nothing he could do.

One more reason why Chronos wasn't going to be sullying the universe by breathing its air too very much longer.

They seemed to have reached the end of the last mile; the parade came to a halt before a closed bulkhead door. Chronos turned to favour him with one, last, disgusted look.

"This is your doing!" he intoned ominously before pressing his hand to a raised symbol in a panel in the middle of the door. Jack couldn't help but notice with some trepidation his Jaffa escort drew uncomfortably close on either side of him as the door slid open and he was compelled to follow Chronos through.

The second he saw who stood in the middle of the small private chamber Jack understood why the Jaffa had him hemmed in on both sides. Strong arms were grabbing him, restraining him, holding him, keeping him from rushing forward mindlessly to joyfully embrace the last person he'd been expecting to see.

Who was just now turning around, responding to the sounds of people entering the room, for the first time seeing him.

"DANIEL!" Jack howled, hurling himself fruitlessly against the arms restraining him, preventing him from crossing the small space between him and the incarnation of everything that meant everything to him in his life.

Daniel's eyes widened, enlarging to an almost impossible degree. His mouth hung open in dazed, dumb shock, the colour completely leached from his face by it, leaving his frozen visage a ghastly, bloodless white. He wavered dangerously as if he was going to fold in on himself and summarily crumple to the floor. Jack raged against the Jaffa holding him, wanting only to take him in his arms as Daniel stared at him and clutched himself desperately as if hold himself up.

"BE STILL!" Chronos thundered at Jack. Daniel flinched at the sound of his voice, taking a reeling step backward as if he had been actually, physically struck. That terrible, terrified reaction was what caused Jack to cease his struggling, not the interdiction from the System Lord. Jack stood quietly, panting heavily with the force of his anger and his former exertions, fully aware he was still firmly restrained even though he'd given up the fight. He spurned the dark cold eyes of the System Lord searing into him, choosing instead to see only Daniel.

Beloved eyes met his. Bewildered and frightened eyes. Eyes full of longing, yet brimming with shame. Eyes asking for forgiveness, wishing to spare him, needing to hold him, sorrowing he should see him like this.

Eyes deeply, bitterly regretting the only one they'd wanted to see for so long was finally here.

Daniel was wishing his lover a million miles away because he knew what was going to happen. What was more, Daniel would gladly have given his life to have kept Jack from ever knowing, seeing or being a part of it.

Too late, far too late, Jack began to comprehend all that he saw in Daniel's eyes. Began to understand how wrong he had been in all his former assumptions and certainties.

There was a way Chronos could use Daniel against him. There was a way he could hurt Daniel and punish Jack for resisting him.

There was a way Chronos could get him to do whatever he wanted.

The bastard was right. He was going to get his way after all.

Shock paralysed Jack; horror closed his throat and froze his breath in his lungs. He could only stare numbly at Daniel as he tried to make his own apology for the terrible thing he was about to do to him.

Far better that than what Chronos had planned.

But things were moving too fast for him. He knew he had to - but couldn't - couldn't form the words, never mind speak them.

"Daniel!" Chronos' voice oozed across the room as he held out his hand to the man he was summoning. "Come here."

It was a steel-shod demand delivered in a misleading covering of silken smoothness. The man compelled by it jerked toward Chronos, his terrible reluctance to obey betrayed in his every unwilling movement.

His face beginning to burn with shame, Daniel stopped in front of Chronos, only to be scooped into the arms of the serpent and turned to face his former lover. Blatantly displayed as Chronos moved into him from behind, the hands firmly clutching his shoulders pulling him tightly into Chronos' chest. Daniel closed his eyes and gulped down a shudder as Chronos nuzzled his neck, his wet, sucking kisses forcing Daniel to turn his head back and lean it into the man behind him.

"You see how much Daniel enjoys my touch," Chronos chuckled softly against Daniel's neck. His hand began to absently caress Daniel's skin, lazily travelling down his bare arm and up again, until it came to rest on the clasp fastening the shoulder of the belted gown he was wearing. As his hand hovered over the clasp he left off kissing Daniel long enough to turn favour Jack with a venomous look of hatred. "You shall see much more, I promise you."

He turned back to Daniel, deliberately, lingeringly licking the side of his face as his fingers quickly opened the clasp securing the shoulder of his gown. A small whimper escaped Daniel as the pieces of the garment fell away from his shoulder; his eyes flew open and sought Jack's as the cool air of the room struck the exposed skin of his naked chest. Jack wasn't sure how it was possible he was still able to breathe; the terror and humiliation and deep sorrow in Daniel's eyes sundered through him until they burned holes into his very soul.

He had to end this now. Chronos wanted those words out of him, and Jack knew without a shadow of a doubt the System Lord was fully prepared to go as far as laying Daniel out on the floor and fucking him right in front of him if that was what it took to get him to say them.

He'd get what he wanted all right. No way this was going any further. This was stopping right now.

Jack was still trying to get a jaw wired tight with shock to move as he struggled to overcome the burden of Daniel's eyes. Incredibly, somehow Danny knew what this was all about - and was trying to - trying to tell him no. He couldn't hear him say it in his head, should have been able to, but somehow wasn't, didn't understand that, but even so, what Daniel was trying to tell him was deeply, painful clear.

No matter what you see - no matter what he does - don't!

Oh god, Danny, I have to. I can't let him do this to you.

Chronos was licking and nipping much more avidly at Daniel's neck and shoulders, with an enthusiastic, vocally appropriate accompaniment. He'd moved his hand around, splaying it across Daniel's bare, shuddering chest, massaging it with slow, sensual, familiar strokes. Daniel was visibly trembling now, biting his lip almost to the point of drawing blood as Chronos caressed him, his hand coming at last to rest on his exposed, puckering nipple. He played with it lightly at first, then continued to flick at it and tease it mercilessly with his fingers as he raised his head and wrapped his arm around Daniel's waist, hugging him more tightly.

Daniel's body was violently shaking. Staccato, panting, panicked gusts of air were erupting from his mouth. Tears began to spill from his eyes generated by mingling humiliation and fury at the merciless, unwelcome stimulation he was being subjected to. Chronos unexpectedly and roughly tweaked the nub knowingly, causing Daniel to sob with self-loathing as his body appreciably bucked in an involuntary answering response. Chronos lifted his head and grinned wolfishly at Jack, pleased at the way Daniel had just demonstrated his evident familiarity.

You see, I DO know how to touch him!

Jack decided he wouldn't be satisfied until he'd personally unravelled Chronos' guts and spread them over every single planet in the known universe.

And that was just for starters.

"Beloved," Chronos purred into Daniel's ear as he began to move his hand across Daniel's chest, sneaking it under the fabric which still draped one side of it, questing for the as yet unrevealed twin to the nipple he'd been formerly abusing. "O'Neill has come to pay us a brief visit. He has something very important to tell you, do you not, O'Neill?"

Jack was barely aware of what Chronos was saying. He was getting too worried by something the System Lord couldn't see. Crap. Oh crap. God, Danny. Oh God. Don't do this. Don't let him do this to you.

This wasn't about power games anymore. This had just gone way beyond all that. Chronos couldn't see what was in the eyes of the man he was using as a pawn in his latest little bid to get his own way, but Jack could, and what he was seeing was, he was sure, not a part of the System Lord's plan.

Danny was hovering on the brink of the abyss and Chronos was blithely, unknowingly pushing him straight into it.

Jack tried to pour himself out to the man who was staring dumbly at him in mute misery, tried to latch onto the dying light still attempting to bravely flicker in the face of the horror closing all around it. Jack reached out with everything he had to cross the distance between them, to grasp at the flailing tendrils of the swiftly unravelling cord of Daniel's very sanity, before what remained of it was completely undone.

"Chronos - for God's sake - stop it!" Jack cried out, his sudden movement toward Daniel immediately arrested by the Jaffa still holding onto him. "Stop it - you don't understand - he can't take any more!"

Too late. Daniel smiled sadly at him. And then he shattered.

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