JD-DIVAS: STARGATE SG-1 JACK & DANIEL SLASH FICTION
BY PHOENIX E

VARIEGATED GREY  BY PHOENIX E

Part Three


Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R.
Category: First Time, Angst.  Drama.  Episode Tag.
Season/Spoilers: Season 3.  A Major re-telling of 'Shades of Grey'.
Synopsis: Shades of Grey from the perspective of one of the members of SG-1 who was left in the dark.
Warnings: None
Length:  560  Kb  I haven't been able to track down an original Part 0 for this one (it's old!)  but it was written some time in early 2001.  I think.

 

'Shades of Grey' from another perspective

I know I've only got myself to blame for this, but I swear, if ONE more person says 'Hey Tarzan, where's Jane?'  to me….

The marine delivers his 'oh so original' jibe and then goes snickering off with his fellows.  Yuck it up, Jar Head.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  I'm willing to put up with it, it's for a good cause, after all.

Every one is so busy having a go at the newly visible and vulnerable Doctor Jackson they're quite forgetting about the recent unpleasantness with Jack O'Neill.

I figure any way I can run interference for Jack and take some of the heat off is aggravation well earned.  I keep them nicely focussed on hating my guts it will be just that much easier for Jack to make the transition when he returns.

To this end I've been making myself uncharacteristically conspicuous during the past week.  Highly visible.  Spending my time hanging out in high traffic areas like the comissary instead of hiding in my office or down at Sam's or in some other more solitary place of customary refuge.  Not holding back when it comes to attitude or voicing certain opinions.  Doing my best to look like the affronted jerk with an axe to grind.

From the reactions I've been getting I seem to be doing a fair job.  Which is a good thing on one hand, and a terribly unfortunate one on the other.

It's the not knowing whom to trust thing.  In order to be convincing on one front, I have to be convincing on ALL fronts.  Including the interactions I have with my teammates.  Because there's simply no way of knowing who's watching.  Or listening.

I can't let the act slip. Not for a second. Not even with Sam and Teal'c.  I can't take the risk with Jack's safety.  Not that I think for a minute either one of them are in any way involved, or they wouldn't be capable of keeping the secret, but I can't afford to take the chance.  I know myself how hard it's been to act like I suspect nothing.  To maintain the fiction of my belief in Jack's guilt.  The more people involved, the greater the chance one of us could inadvertently slip, no matter how good our intentions.

I'm just not willing to risk it.  I'd rather they hated me and thought I was a disloyal scumbag than set them straight for the sake of my ego.  It can take a little bruising for Jack's sake.  Besides, keeping them in the dark will not only keep Jack safe, it will protect them, as well.  They can't tell what they don't know.  Or be made to suffer for it, either.

Sam's struggling.  We had a bad moment on our last mission.  Yesterday.  Another rousing afternoon of daisy picking, only this time, it was soil samples.  As expected.

Anyway, she wanted to talk. I guess what happened on P7B-489 got her feeling more confident we could still trust each other in spite of what's happened.  Whatever Jack has done, we're still who we are.  She hasn't been saying much to anyone about her feelings around what's happened with Jack, and there she was, coming to me finally, opening up.

And I had to shut her down.

I didn't have a choice.  Makepeace was there, listening to every word.  Now, while I might trust Sam, I SURE don't trust him.  As a matter of fact, due to who he is and the interesting tenor of a few of the comments he's let slip he's rapidly rising to the top of my list of prime suspects for the mole. With a bullet.  So, there was no way I could play it any way than I did.

I had to shut down her attempt to try and make sense of everything and maintain some faith in Jack despite appearances. She was looking to me to tell her she still could, and I had to come right back and tell her she was kidding herself. Jack believed everything he'd said.  He really believed what he did was right and justified.  What's more, he'd do it again, if he had the chance.  I should know.  I talked to him.  Heard it from the man himself.  No one knows Jack better than me - right?  So, she could take it from me, it wasn't doing her any good to hold out false faith.

No one knows Jack better than me.  That's why she was asking, looking to me to give her hope and I had to take it all away from her.

No one knows Jack better than me...that's why she believed me.

I had no choice.  Not simply because Makepeace was listening, but because I don't want her doing the same thing I did.  Connecting the dots. Safer for both her and Jack if she doesn't.

I'm not too proud of it, but I did it.  She'll be hurt and confused for a little while. I sure know how that feels, and I'm really sorry she has go through it as well, but it won't be for long.  I'll make it up to her. Honestly, I will.

However, in the meantime, she's not too happy with me.  Again.

Teal'c isn't talking at all.  Not that that's anything unusual.  I haven't got a clue what's going on behind those all-seeing eyes, but he continues to be the absolute epitome of inscrutable, unswerving, albeit tacit support.  Whatever he's thinking he's keeping it to himself, being exactly what he always is.

Teal'c.

I don't know whether to be worried, or relieved.

The comissary is pretty deserted this time of night. Now the comedians have cleared out there's only me and a couple of technicians sitting here, burning the midnight oil over a cup of coffee.  Ugh.  It's gotten cold while I've been sitting here contemplating the latest state of my universe.

I'm a little shocked at how hard this isolation is hitting me.  How difficult going it alone is proving to be.  It's not like I've never had to do this before.  Not like I've never been in a situation where I'm the only one watching my own back.  Being on the outside, being the object of scrutiny and contempt.

All old, familiar territory.  This whole thing should be water off a duck's back.  Second nature.  No sweat.

No big deal.

Not the case.  I feel way too exposed, and far too vulnerable.  For once, being on my own feels painful, unnatural, even.

I hate it.

I guess the whole, 'part of something' has come to mean more to me than I realized.  It snuck in and made itself at home in my psyche when I wasn't looking.  I've come to rely on their support.  More than that, it's become part of what I consider to be 'normal'.  Accepting it without questioning it, it's just the way things are.  The way - the way they SHOULD be.

Being part of them has become part of being me, and I don't even know when it happened.  I haven't got a clue when me and me against the world became me and them, but there it is.  I've grown accustomed to having them in my space.  Come to need them in my life as a requirement for it being worth living.  Needing them.  Needing…..needing…..him.

I can't do this right now.  Things are hard enough to deal with already without...complicating them.  So...  I won't.  Think, think of something else.

If I'm feeling like this, alone, cut off, a stranger to my friends what must - what must HE be feeling...

Something ELSE!

Something else, something else.  The situation.  Okay, that's safe enough.  Where are we now, where do we go from here?

So far, everything seems to be going the way it's supposed to.  The SGC is getting on with it, SG-1 is getting on with it, Jack O'Neill is rapidly becoming history and Daniel Jackson is a loud-mouthed jerk.

I've been keeping a close eye on Makepeace.  Which hasn't been hard, seeing as how he's rapidly developing a new taste for my company.  As a matter of fact I'm rather surprised I've managed to give him the slip for as long as I have.  Hopefully he finally went home or something.  I guess I should be doing the same.

I'm guessing our new leader has managed to work a few things out.  He wants to settle in for the long term as the brightest star of SG-1, and even he isn't so arrogant as to not be able to notice a large part of getting the team to play ball with him has everything to do with how he treats the civilian component.  Hammond has been painfully solicitous of us over the past week. Of SG-1 in general, and me in particular.  It's been masterfully subtle, but in his own way he's ever so effectively made it crystal clear I have not only his ear but also his unqualified support. Not that he's come out and hit Makepeace over the head with it or anything, but he's nevertheless made the 'mess with the boy and you'll deal with me' message plain.

Makepeace is more than getting if it comes down to a matter of George having to chose which one of us gets taken off the team due to any 'irreconcilable differences', it won't be ME.

So all of a sudden the colonel seems to be seized with this burning desire to be my new best friend.

I think I liked it better when he was picking on me. Take a hike.  The position is already filled.  As is the other one you're temporarily usurping.

But, here again, I have to put aside my natural inclination to tell him to go intercourse himself, not just for the sake of the smooth functioning of the team, but for the opportunity his change of attitude will give me to find out a bit more about how the man's mind works.  Discover what he really thinks and feels about certain matters touching on the recent actions of Jack O'Neill.

Even though making nice with him turns my stomach.

It's been a week now.  A week since I last saw Jack - and spoke to him. A week since the bad guys looked him up. Something's up.  I don't know how I know this, but I just do.  The same way as I know something's up with Makepeace as well.  The inordinately cheerful mood he's been in today, as well as his determined overtures towards being my buddy are all telling me he knows something I don't making him feel mighty happy and secure.

I KNOW it's got something to do with Jack, but I don't know how I know.

Something's going to happen.  Soon.

 


  This has to be the stupidest idea in the entire history of stupid ideas.  Me.  In a bar.  With Makepeace.  With alcohol.  Alone.

Well, as alone as you can be in a noisy, dark, smoke-filled room packed with a bunch of rowdy, horny and inebriated men.  Most of whom are looking at you because the star attraction just happens to be sitting in your lap.

Yes, ma'am.  They're - they're lovely.  Worth every penny you paid for them.  Now, if you wouldn't mind, would you please get them out of my face and show them to some other deserving soul.

It might not be possible to actually DIE from embarrassment, but if it were, it would be a mercy right about now.

'Sheena' shakes her tawny mane at me, coincidentally setting everything else aquiver before leaning over in a painfully theatrical flourish and planting a loud kiss on my flaming cheek.  Then she pinches it, pushes her long, lithe and extremely unclad body up from my lap.  After blowing me a kiss she bounces back to the stage and……resumes.

The place still rings with the masculine hoots and hollers accompanying her every move.  I feel so 'special' I wish the ground would open up and swallow me.  I can honestly say this is one particular 'male bonding' ritual Jack and I have never shared, nor have I ever felt my life was somehow lacking for not having experienced it with him.

Makepeace is thumping me on the back, laughing with the unbridled enthusiasm only booze brings.  "Hey GENIUS!"  he chortles.  "Book Boy!  I think she LIKES you, you lucky dog! Look at his face!  Blushing like a virgin.  What's the matter, Doc, don't like girls?"

"I like them just fine," I grumble, crossing my arms across my chest and trying to move away from the hand settling on my shoulder.  "It's just if I happen to find one naked on my lap I'd rather it be at least partly my idea.  And as a rule I don't work with an audience."

Evidently Makepeace thinks this is just the funniest thing he has ever heard.  He roars and thumps me on the back again, so hard I'm almost sent sprawling onto the table.  Ah, I see we've passed drunken companionable and moved onto sotted, friendly abuse.

"Doesn't work with an audience!" he howls.  "Yeah, I'll bet you don't!"  He hooks an arm around my shoulder, hauling me abruptly back until I'm caught in the crook of his arm, staring into his flushed, leering face.

"So, what do you say, Doc?" he jeers.  "Do you do 'good work'?  Do ya?"

This is getting…….weird.  Also not going anywhere near where I want the conversation to go.  I'm here for one reason and one reason only and it isn't for getting rubbed by the Queen of the Jungle.  Or pawed by one of her fans.

"Jack's never complained."

I don't know what made me say that.  Not - not like that.  It sounds like I said - but that's not what I meant, because, of course, it's never been like THAT - I meant WORK, but that's not what it sounds like because Makepeace wasn't talking about WORK but - shit!

I've had a little too much to drink myself.  That's it.  Been trying to pace myself, but I've overdone it. That's all.  Gotta be more careful.

Fortunately Makepeace seems to have latched onto the 'Jack' part of my statement and is oblivious to the context.  He's let me go, gone suddenly somber, is muttering something about heroes and bleeding hearts.

Ah.  Now we're GETTING somewhere!

He reaches forward, grasping his beer bottle, then swings it around as he turns back to me, his fist describing a drunken arc that nearly takes the bottle accidentally into my face.

"Whoah!  Sorry!"  he grins.  "Guess I've had a little bit too much to drink."

I hear Jack's voice in my head giving the ritual response but I won't listen.

Makepeace takes a long pull on the bottle, then it's back to me.  The hand on the shoulder is back as well.

"Don't sweat it, Doc," he begins in a lower, conspiratorial tone as he draws me closer.  "You'll see.  The whole damned bunch of them are gonna see, one day.  Jack's a hero. He's not afraid to do whatever it takes. He understands we can't let anyone stop us from protecting ourselves!  No one! This is war, dammit!  He knows that! You'll thank him one day.  They all will.  You'll see.  Ya gotta trust me, I know what I'm talking about."

I'm sure you do.  Was pretty positive you did, but now, I know.  Thanks.

"Jack's okay, ya know," he continues to burble, a crafty expression on his face.  "Hammond's letting him go.  To 'Eudora.' " He snorts extravagantly with the smugness of knowing more than he's saying.  "Eudora.  Yeah, right.  Jack O'Neill is going to retire off world and spend the rest of his life porking the natives and going to seed.  Jack O'Neill.  That's rich.  But Hammond bought it.  He's letting Jack go.  Tomorrow."

I'm suddenly glad Makepeace is as drunk as he is because he's completely missed how hard that little piece of information has just hit me.  I'm here fishing for minnows and I've just landed a whale.

One word.  Eudora.

I'm both exhilarated and utterly terrified.  Eudora clinches it.  What was until now speculation has just been confirmed as fact.  Jack's not going to Eudora to retire.  Never in a million years.  When he told me about Laira he said he'd promised to go back one day.  Meant to keep the promise, but not in the way she'd probably be hoping.

He wanted to go back, just to see how she was.  How 'they' were, if there was indeed a 'they'.   He owed her that much.  And he wanted me to go with him.  I wasn't too sure about that part, about why, but he was insistent.  WE were going back to Eudora.  To see if there was a little Jack O'Neill.  Or Jill.

Of course I told him I'd go with him. Go anywhere he asked me to go.  Goes without saying.  Beats me why he wants me to go with him THERE, but then the 'why' isn't really important.  Jack wants me to go, I'll go.

That's why I know if Jack was REALLY going back to 'Eudora' it wouldn't be without me, and it wouldn't be……to stay.

'Eudora' means he's on his way.  Bought his ticket to ride right into the nest of thieves.  He's not going to 'retire'; he's walking into the lion's den. Tomorrow.

Alone.

Tomorrow.  Oh, god.

Makepeace has just set me completely free from one kind of worry and plunged me knee deep into yet another.  Now I don't need to trouble myself wondering whether or not Jack really is a thief and a traitor, I only have to worry about him staying alive.

Oh yeah, this is much better.  Real load off my shoulders, here.

Makepeace brandishes his bottle at me, indicating I should pick mine up as well.  I comply; he grins foolishly and clanks his beer loudly against mine.

"Here's to Jack O'Neill!"  he announces resoundingly, and quite sincerely.  "A fucking Hero! A real American!  God bless him!"

That's something I can certainly drink to.  Without reservation or restraint.

It's the truth, Makepeace.  Truer than you know.

God bless him, indeed.  And while you're at it, keep him safe.

 


It seems Makepeace's information was right on the money.  Jack's  here. He's here.

Here, but not for long.  He arrived at the mountain less than ten minutes ago.  Conducted straight to the gateroom by an armed escort.  No stops, no detours, no chats along the way.

Straight to the gate and be gone with you.

There are a whole lot less people in the gateroom for his last, ignominious send off then there have been in the past, welcoming him back.  When he was the returning valiant warrior and not disgraced and disavowed, walking away into oblivion.

Never to return.  Never allowed to return.

Sam, Teal'c, Janet and Hammond are down there with him.  No sign of Makepeace.  Still sleeping last night off, I expect.   Just as well.  The way I'm feeling about that two-bit traitor I don't even want him on the same PLANET as Jack.  Not fit to breathe the same air Jack does.

Just as well Makepeace isn't here.  Not sure if I could stand to see him taking bows in the face of Jack's disgrace.  Not sure I could stop myself from…..from…….

Oh boy.  It's not hard to make it look like I'm upset.  No acting happening here at all. I'm furious.  Seething.  Almost homicidal.  I'm not normally given to settling things with my fists but right now I seriously want to punch something. I'm hugging myself so tightly I might crack a rib or two, trying to keep my hands under control. Everyone in the control room is giving me a wide berth.  Not looking at me.  Definitely not talking to me.

Wise decision.

I'm so angry at everything making this whole unjust charade necessary I'm having a hard time seeing.  Watching Jack take that slow, lone walk up the ramp.  Head held high.  Shoulders squarely set in a 'screw you' stance.  His friends and comrades in arms form a line behind him, watching him sorrowfully as he travels those last few feet up to the gate and out of their lives - probably forever - and suddenly, achingly, I wish I could be there as well.

Impossible.  Not just for the sake of the 'act'. But I couldn't be that close to him and still be able to let him go out there alone.  If I was down there right now I'd blow the whole thing by doing something stupid like flinging myself into the event horizon after him, and after everything we've both been through to get him this far, having the geek screw it up for him at the last minute 'cause he doesn't want his friend to have to go out there alone…..

Well, it would be stupid.  So I'm not taking any chances.  That's the only reason why I'm not down at the bottom of that ramp right now.  It's got nothing at all to do with the fact I know there's no way I could look at him and not have him see…….

Nothing.  He'd see nothing.  Forget it.  Moot point, anyway.  He's all but gone.

Saluting him.  They're saluting him.  He doesn't look back, but somehow he knows.  He pauses, for just a second, but still doesn't look back.

Then he's gone.

All of a sudden I have to look away.  I can't watch the gate shut down.  The sound of it snapping to silence is bad enough.  I can still hear it ringing inside me as I bolt from the room.

I don't know where I'm going, but I know it won't be far enough.  There isn't anywhere I can go to escape the terror. The agony of uncertainty, knowing he's out there, on his way, not bound for safety as Sam and Teal'c believe, but going alone into God knows what.

Now we wait.  We pray.  Sounds like a good idea.  Couldn't hurt.  I believe I'll start with the celestial pantheon of the Azani of P6G-581.  Forty-three of them.  Not counting Zod, who's considered a demi-god but who's been picking up in popularity in the last decade with the merchant class.

Let me see.  Azadal, V-nya, Keltiki, Thant.  Then comes...Darami.  That's the one. I can work with this.  This will keep me busy.  Just have to get the prayers straight, now.

The Veddalla is for Keltiki.  The Shirapa...Thant.  No, I'm seeking protection.  I should start with the Auvaya.  Go straight to Dyrma.  The Guardian.  The Auvaya. The petition for protection and intercession for those in peril afar...

 


"All right, let's make this quick.  Carter, Doctor Jackson, run your tests.  Let's see if the intel was right about Naquadah deposits here."

Another day, another planet.  The intrepid members of SG-1 follow their fearless leader out into the unknown on their endless quest for...stuff to put in little bags and bottles.  Woo Hoo.

Flowers and dirt and now rocks, oh my.  Hate to say it, but I'm getting bored.

Quite a pastoral setting the gate is sitting in.  Picturesque. Prosaic. Pretty.  Pleasant.  Palatable.  Piquant.

Tedious, monotonous, insipid, repetitious, never-ending...

Oh yeah, definitely bored.

Never thought I'd ever find myself wishing for a few Jaffa to come springing up out of the bushes simply to give me something to do.  Something that didn't involve having way too much time with nothing to do but think. Cerebrate.  Cogitate.  Deliberate.  Ratiocinate.  Ruminate. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight….

"What?  Sorry, Sam, sorry.  Just….never mind, let me get that."

Sam's gotten a reading and she nods we should head off to the right.  Hey, why not, it's why we're here.   I pick up my end of the big, black box and trundle off after her like a good boy.  I really could care less what Makepeace says to me today.  He can chew me a new one all he wants, I've quite lost my taste for the conflict.

He hasn't come near me since Jack left. Neither, for that matter, have Sam and Teal'c.  We're three walking sacks of raw, seething grief and there doesn't seem to be any immediate remedy for what ails us.

I could put a stop to all of it with a few choice words, but now, more than ever, my lips have to be sealed.   Can't put their minds at ease, can't share my own worries.  Just have to hold on and wait until this whole thing plays itself out.

Teal'c is lingering in the clearing.  Giving the place a thorough visual once-over.  No reason to suspect he needs to, but, making sure, that's just what he does.  No way anything or anyone is going to take us unawares, even on a day as seemingly innocuous and unthreatening as this.

I violently wish him somewhere else right now.  Watching someone else's back.  Someone who might need him much, more than we do.

I'm suddenly startled by a hand dropping firmly on my shoulder.  Makepeace.  Damn, didn't even hear him coming.

Oh God, what NOW?  Doesn't he EVER get tired of being the last thing anyone wants to see coming at them?

"Carry on, Major," he says brusquely to Sam as he begins to haul me after him.  "Doctor Jackson, a word, if you wouldn't mind."

I have a choice?

He doesn't let go of me until he's taken us both out of earshot and Sam's line of sight.  His release is as indelicate as his invitation to this little tete a tete, and from the way he's glowering and pacing, he's got something on his mind.

That'll be an interesting change.

I'm so not up for another confrontation with him.  My cup of woe just about runneth over, and if he pisses in it one more time I'm going to drown.

"I think I might have myself a little problem, Doc," he says finally as he comes to a stop in front of me.  Uncomfortably close.  Definitely violating the personal space barrier.  I try to take a step back and find myself up against the trunk of the tree he's put between us and the others.  Here we go again.

"Problem?"  I reply.

"Yeah," he nods his head slowly, deliberately as he closes the gap once again.  "Big problem."

"I'm very sorry to hear that."  I'm keeping my voice calm, but non-confrontational.  Holding his eye.  The menace in his stance and tone is unmistakable.  I'm not going to give him any grief.  I just want to get through this as painlessly as possible.  Just want it to be over.

I just want the whole thing to be over.

"You could be a lot sorrier than you know.  Depending on what you know."  He grips the trigger guard of his MP-5 and hefts the weapon between us.  So the barrel is resting against my chest.  No mistaking the meaning there.

"What DO you know, Doc?" he asks softly.

"Me?"  I shake my head and shrug.  "Not a damned thing.  Clueless, here.  I haven't the foggiest what you're talking about."

I wish that were true.   Colonel Loose Lips Sink Ships here has worked out he might have run his mouth a bit indiscreetly while he was in his cups the other night.  Figured out I just might have guessed he's not exactly what he seems to be.

So now he's trying to decide whether or not he needs to put a bullet in my brain in order to protect his cover.  Not that he'd do it here, this very minute, but we both know he won't even think twice about doing it as soon as he safely could, if he feels he has to.

Makepeace getting paranoid and going homicidal on me is the very last thing I need right now. Enough.  Enough.  It's just  - enough.  I can't deal with this.

Yes I can.  I can.  I can, I can, I'm the frigging little red engine of I damned well can.  Besides, what choice do I have? I'm the one who had to play Secret Agent Man and get the goods on the bad guy, can't lay this at anyone's door but mine.  So I guess I'd better stop whining and start dealing with the consequences of my own stupidity.  No damned wonder Jack didn't want to let me in on what he was planning.  I'm doing such a FINE job of things here on this end.   Moron.

Okay, how shall we deal with this?  What would someone like Makepeace understand?  Got it.  Go for the 'I can be bought' option.  What the hell, if Jack can be a thief for the cause, I can be a whore.  It'll make Makepeace happy, it's what he expects.  Just reach down there in the stamina bag and go for it.  One more time, for Jack.

Jack.

"Mighty rough universe out here, Doc," Makepeace continues, obviously not convinced by my heart-felt attempt at feigning ignorance.  "Mighty rough.  Things can happen.  Accidents…..can happen.  I'd really HATE to see one happen to you."

I'll bet.

"Well, that makes two of us," I smile at him.  "That's why I'm VERY careful to stay away from places where I don't belong.  I don't need trouble, don't go looking for it, and don't do or say anything that'll make it come to my house."

He flashes me a crooked grin of contempt.  "Mr Lilly-Livered Pacifist, huh?"

“Colonel," I force myself to smile smugly at him as I continue,  "I don't really know what you're on about and between you and me, I don't really GIVE a shit, either. What you get up to is nothing to do with me.  I've got my own interests to protect.  I don’t believe in biting the hand that feeds me.  Not any more.  I did the 'rebel without a clue thing' four years ago.  Stood up for my 'principles,' and where did it get me?   Out on the street, ruined, disgraced - a laughing stock.  Well, guess who's got the last laugh now?  I've got a sweeter deal now than any of those narrow-minded, self-important assholes will ever see in their entire lives. Security, respect, clout, no competition, unlimited budget and manpower, the ear of a sympathetic general.”

Ah, that one scores a few points, I see.  The geek likes power, does he? And people who have it?  Well, doesn't EVERYONE?  This is almost too easy.

Time to let him know I can be bought in other ways as well.

“And I take home more than you do." I add provocatively.

His eyes widen, just a bit.  Evidently something he didn't know.  I let it sink in before continuing.

"I'm going to make trouble - for ANY reason whatsoever -  and risk losing all this?  For what? The opportunity to go back out into the 'real world', to be welcomed back into the loving embrace of my peers? After the way I left, I turn up after four years of deadly silence without so much as a paper to my name and no more proof of my crackpot theories then I had when I left and they're going to be rolling out the red carpet for me?  I don't see it happening.  Do you?”

Just about there, he's almost convinced.  I affix him with an earnest expression, giving it my all.

"I admit it.  I've developed a taste for Chateubriand.  Somehow, the thought of going back to Kraft Dinner doesn't appeal to me. If you know what I mean."

Oh yeah.  That did it. He's starting to chuckle, backing away. He thinks he's got my number.  And it's written in big green letters on the wall of the men's room.  Geek for sale.  Daniel Jackson, whore.  Will look the other way for cash and keeping his high-powered gig.  He’s probably checked out my personnel file, seen enough there of where I came from to make him wonder if I wouldn't be too keen to go back.  Jack once said a little truth helps a big lie go a very long way.

Now I've just told Makepeace everything he's suspected all along about me is true.  Daniel Jackson the so-called 'do the right thing' guy is really just as much up for grabs as everyone else is.

Shit.  Bad example.

He's grinning at me, moving in again.  I try not to flinch as he pats me lightly on the cheek.

"Glad to hear it, pretty boy," he breathes.

Yeah, that's me.  Pretty, all right.  Pretty contemptible.  Slip a twenty in my shorts and I'm yours.  Like any other good, hardworking 'professional.'  Looks like I do my best work with an audience after all.

"You've got a mighty pretty face," he continues, still making with the 'come hither' voice and the hand on the cheek.  I'm thinking I might have just offered him more than I realized.  " I'd hate to have to mess it up.  Hate to have to mess YOU up.  I think we might be able to find a reason or two to keep you around after all.  What say we get together later and - talk...about it?"

That's a definite 'ten' on the 'omigawd' meter. Fabulous.  I've just gone from the frying pan to the fire.  Makepeace is no longer planning to cut short my dear, young life. No worries on that score.  He doesn't want to KILL me, he wants to...

Dammit to hell, now I've saved my neck I've got to worry about saving my ass.  Why don't I EVER see this shit coming before I'm knee deep in it?

Don't lose your head now, calm down, Daniel, maybe it's not so bad.   At least you know you're not going to be dodging bullets anymore.  As for dodging other things, what are we really talking here? A couple of days.  That's probably it.   I just need to keep him off my back for a couple of days.  Pretty sure it won't be any longer than a few days.  Now Jack's one of the 'Merry Men' he won't waste any time busting the ring.

One thing for sure, I definitely want to be there to see the look on Makepeace's face when Jack O'Neill comes home.

"Is there a problem here, DanielJackson?"

Teal'c's low, deep voice booms so abruptly at my side I almost jump out of my skin.  He's rounded the tree and come upon both of us so unexpectedly.  Thank you, Teal'c!  Your timing, as always, is impeccable.

 Makepeace is taken equally unawares.  He leaps away from me as if he's been scalded by my proximity. There's a hint of fear in his eye, for just a fraction of a second.

Oops.  Possibly ANOTHER problem, Colonel?  How long has Teal'c been there?  How much has he heard? How much does HE know?  Whatchaya gonna do about it?  Off him too? See if he comes as cheap?  This day just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it, Colonel?

I know how you feel.

What the hey, I'll cut him some slack. Let's just wrap this up and go home.  Then I'll stick like glue to my buddy the Jaffa until Jack comes home.  I'm…..tired.  Who am I kidding?  I passed tired days ago.  Running on caffeine and nervous tension tends to wear after a bit.

"No, Teal'c no problem at all," I smile at him as I reach out and clasp his shoulder. Trying NOT to looks as if I'm holding on for dear life.  Which I am.  God, I SO am……… "The colonel and I were just catching up about the other night.  He didn't realize civilians couldn't hold their liquor."

Teal'c's eyebrow shoots so swiftly up his forehead it nearly achieves escape velocity.  Makepeace appears equally surprised.

"Very well," my friend says softly. "If you are sure.  I also came to inform you Major Carter requires your assistance."  He shoots a glance at Makepeace as if daring the man to challenge his assertion.

"By all means, Doc," Makepeace gestures back toward the clearing.  "If Carter needs help, get going.  The sooner we get this over with, the better.  We're pretty much done here, anyway."

Oh, I'd go along with that.  Definitely done.

 


We step through the event horizon to a gateroom filled with marines.  With guns. Lots of guns.  Definitely striking an incongruent note.  Not that this isn't a sight which hasn't greeted our return many times before, but hardly under these circumstances.  It's just - us - coming back on schedule, from doing nothing more dangerous than getting a concussion from falling over from boredom.

So, what's going on?

Hammond is waiting for us as we reach the bottom of the ramp.  He's got a strange expression on his face, something hovering between anticipation and - disappointment.  Warning bells starting to sound rather stringently.

We're stopped at the bottom of the ramp and quickly, efficiently relieved of our weapons and equipment.  Okay, now I KNOW something's wrong.

"Welcome home, SG-1," the general says finally.  "I apologize for the rather unorthodox greeting, but if you wouldn't mind," he pauses, gesturing toward a group of marines standing in front of the blast doors, "please join those gentlemen over there."

I glance at Sam and Teal'c as we walk toward the spot the general has indicated.  They haven't got any more of a clue what's going on than I do.

Ah, this is interesting.  Teal'c has subtly steered us away from Makepeace. Bringing us to a stop a noticeable distance from our ersatz leader before moving to stand behind us like a long, dark, silent sentinel.  Glaring fixedly at the man who has been clearly designated not 'one' of us, as if daring him to approach.

Makepeace takes the hint and doesn't chance it.  He's looking mighty worried.  Can't imagine why.

I've barely had time to recover from the strangeness when the gate begins to whine with life.  Incoming wormhole.  Incoming traveler.  Someone...coming home?

The event horizon explodes into existence before us then settles meekly back into the soothing pool of blue.  I've lost count how many times I've seen this sight in the last three years.  It's never seemed more beautiful than it does right now.  Hope casts it in an entirely different light.  No matter how irrational that hope might be.

Hammond glances up to the technician in the control room, who nods in lieu of announcing the identity of the impending visitor.  The iris stays open.  Whoever's coming, they're anticipated.  Expected.  Probably the reason for the way we were received, and why we've been made to stay here to await the arrival.  Hope gets stronger, and just that much more justified.

We wait.  No one speaks.  All eyes are upon the glowing circle and the shifting, lambent mysteries it describes.

A figure comes bounding in from the blue.  Like he's just burst into being the second he came through.  Incandescent with accomplishment he skids to a stop, takes in the room in a glance and grins his satisfaction wider than a mile.

Jack's back.

"OPS with a package for General Hammond," he booms at the commander in chief of the SGC.  "Several, actually."  He makes a wide, sweeping gesture toward the event horizon before stepping back to slip his arm into the murmuring pool.   "When it absolutely, positively has to get there, O'Neill delivers.  I believe this is exactly what the general ordered, Sir."

Jack stands there grinning, so full of what he's done he's fairly bursting.  I can't take my eyes off him as his gaze roves restlessly around us.  My chest is burning, aching with a strange tightness perplexing me until I realize the cause.  I'm holding my breath, unable to draw the next one my body requires as I wait to see what he seems to be looking for.

Already afire eyes light on mine, sparking with new intensity at finding me.  For the briefest of instants something utterly tangible and yet unmistakably nascent arcs between us, but before it has time to take form or meaning a body hurtles through the event horizon.

Coming between us.

The woman is followed by a rapidly running horde whose entrance into our midst is the cue to motion for the soldiers who have until now seemed superfluous.  One by one the breathless, frightened and angry interlopers are intercepted, seized and efficiently apprehended.

It looks like one small band of really un-merry men has been not only located and relocated, but will be finding precious little to laugh about for a very long time.

Courtesy of Jack O'Neill.

He's still standing there, holding the door open as a few more confused and disoriented stragglers stumble through.  He's looking away from me now, toward the small knot of manacled ex-bandits he's befriended into their current fate.  The elation is gone from his aspect and manner.  Now he seems shuttered, sad, weary.  It's an unguarded moment of weakness he's allowing himself.  Just a split second of letting the mask of bravado he usually hides behind falter.  Not long, but long enough for one who has eyes to see to understand just how much what he's had to do has cost him.

For a second a resonant pang of sympathy aches within me.  I hurt with the same secret pain of knowing, like the man before me, what was truly paid in sorrow, risk, and regret for what was gained today. The true scope of the personal cost of the prize.

At this moment I'm suddenly unsure of whether it's all been worth it.  And I'm wondering if he's thinking the same thing.

The waiting arms of authority embrace the last of the bandits; Jack rakes his arm across the event horizon with a final, defiant flourish before withdrawing it, thereby at last allowing the gate to shut down.

I still can't seem to stop watching him as he begins to walk down the ramp, a deceptively neutral expression on his face.  His demeanor might be bland, but hie eyes are snapping and furious; I follow them to the object of his ire.

Makepeace.  Still pretending to be one of the good guys.  Lending a hand putting the cuffs on the one of the last souls to come through the gate.  Someone he's supposedly never laid eyes on before today, and, no, he couldn't REALLY be that stupid, but it seems he is.  He's said the man's name.  Called him by name, for crying out loud.

God, he really IS a Jar Head.

Jack plays it casual all the way as he comes up behind him.  This is going to be good. "Uh, good job, kids," he comments to the marines who have rounded up the other 'rustlers.'   "Gimme one of those, will ya?"

This to Makepeace.  Who obligingly, serenely, hands him the requested pair of plastic manacles.  The resulting look of outraged shock and indignation he wears as Jack uses them on him brings quite a thrill of savage satisfaction to my soul.

Thanks, Jack, I needed that.

"What do you think you're doing?  Makepeace blusters.  He still hasn't worked it out.  Hope he manages to clue in before they sentence him.

"That would be - my job," Jack dryly informs him.  After throwing him a contemptuous look that would have brought shame to the face of a man three times as guilty, he turns his back on one who rightly deserves to be so censured and walks over to join the general.

I feel Sam looking at me, needing to know she has an ally in her confusion.  I'm sure my urgent need for the rest of the picture will be interpreted as a reciprocation of her bewilderment.

I might know WHAT has been going on, but now I need to know WHY.  Why and if it was truly necessary for this ending to have been authored with so much deceit, danger, risk and pain.  If there really was no other way to get from there - to here.

I need to know if the ends really and truly justified the means.

"Ladies and gentleman," Hammond intones solemnly,  "I am pleased to announce that you are all under arrest for high crimes against the United States and its allies."

A quick glance around me at the stunned and furious faces of the recipients of this piece of information tells me they don't share Hammond's sentiments.  Especially Makepeace.  He's glaring at Jack, his face twisted in a cruel mask of brutality by an angry, hate-driven snarl.  His eyes are as dangerous as I've ever seen them, and carry in them the implacable promise Jack's a walking dead man if he has anything to say about it.

Dream on.  Your days of being everybody's worst nightmare are now officially over.

Somewhere on the periphery of my awareness I heard the blast doors opening, but caught up as I am by the display of mutual hatred flashing between Jack and Makepeace I don't realize the significance of the sound until she's standing just ahead of me.

Trevel.  High Chancellor Trevel and her aide.  Here?  Why?  Why should THEY be here?  Now?  What have the Tollan got to do with this?

Sam elbows me sharply. I see!  I don't know what's going on any more than you do.  However, a quick glance at both Jack and the general tells me THEY do.  Jack in particular seems not at all surprised to see Trevel. But - how could that be - he'd have no way of knowing she'd be here, no reason to expect...unless...

The last piece of the puzzle slides into place with a wrench that leaves me feeling sick, cold and furious.  As I finally understand what Her Eminence was trying to tell me with her cryptic, parting remarks.

Sorry to have to put such a nice guy like you through the wringer but when you make an omelet, you first have to break a few eggs.  Nothing personal.  Cost of doing business.

She was in on it from the start.  Playing me for a sucker on Tollana before I even opened my mouth. The council chamber, her visit to the SGC, all that cold, righteous indignation in Hammond's office, all of it an act.  For my benefit.  Trevel, Hammond, Jack, all giving performances worthy of a nod from the Academy.  The leading lady in particular, playing her part to perfection to an unsuspecting audience of one.  Well, isn't that special?

Well, Your Eminence I'll give your tenders of respect the due consideration they deserve.  I'd hate to see how you treat people you DON'T like.

Nice to be given a choice as to whether or not you want to be involved in subterfuge and double-dealing before you're shoved head first into the snake pit anyway.  Or to be in effect told you couldn't be trusted to handle yourself properly, so safer to keep you in the dark.

I might be too ignorant and naïve to be relied upon to keep a secret but apparently I'm good enough to be used.

I don't appreciate being a pawn in ANYONE'S game, no matter what the stakes are.  Don't appreciate it at all. Not impressed with having to treat others the same way because I haven't stayed conveniently STUPID.  Given no choice but to play by the rules of a game I haven't agreed to.

I've started to get a little angry but my swift rise to boil is aborted by an explosive comment from Makepeace.

"You really blew it, O'Neill," he snarls.  I didn't think it was possible for him to get any uglier but the raw power of his fury has stripped away all his defenses, letting everything he truly is shine through.

It's not a pretty sight.

Jack is righteousness personified in the face of his hatred.

"Oh, I think it came off quite nicely, don't you, General?" he says lightly, with a small smile to the man at his side.

"Yes, I do."  Hammond nods and favours Makepeace with a stony stare of unending disgust which doesn't even begin to register on the man still focussed and furious on Jack.  Straining and struggling against the hands holding him fast as he spits his threats at my friend.

"You have no idea how high up this goes!" he roars.  "You've pissed off the wrong people."

"Like the Tollan, Tok'ra, Asgard, Nox?  Those folks?" Jack counters with a shrug.

Jack may have waved off this comment as being not worthy of his concern, but I haven't.  Not that it isn't important to keep our allies happy, but they're safely out of reach and insulated from the consequences of what was done to appease them.  If there is hell to pay for what has happened today - they aren't the ones who will suffer.

Any more than they've had to bear the cost of what it's taken to make them happy.

Makepeace isn't finished.  He's still got something to say.  I don't want to hear any more from him.  I've already heard too much.  I want to know why it was necessary for Jack to have done all of this alone.

"They refuse to give us the things we need to defend ourselves against the Goa'uld." Makepeace yells.  Words I've heard before.  Just as obscene out of his mouth as they were out of Jack's.

"We don't need their stuff, Makepeace.  But we do need them."

Yes, we do, Jack, but at what price?  At what point do the methods cease justifying the results?  White hats, black hats, if we all do business the same way, use the same cutthroat tricks and same 'whatever it takes to get the job done' rules and the only difference between us is the reason...ideology....

The cause...

"Get them out of here."  Hammond says with a disgusted grunt.  Couldn't agree more.

Everything I've seen and heard has been deeply disturbing.  I've got far more questions than I'm getting answers for. Looks like I'm not going to get them until I ask a few questions myself.

Explain this to me!  Now!

"So, just to, ah, clarify this whole past week," I begin, stepping forward.

Clarify it.  Explain it to me.  Admit to all of it.  Not just to me, but to Sam and Teal'c as well.

"… beginning with the appeal we made on Tollana in which I did a lot of hard work, by the way,"

Okay, it's a very small point and a petty one at that, but it's still true. Moreover I hope Trevel chokes on it.

"I take it that was all a scam."

I know it was.  You know it was.  Tell THEM, now.  And most importantly, tell us WHY.

Hammond answers me.  This can't be an easy moment for him.  He's done his duty and our side has won the day and he should be able to feel proud of that fact. While he's glad of the result he's hardly proud of what it's required him to do and I can see he wishes he could tell us this.  But the put-upon members of SG-1 aren't the only ones watching him as he does his best to answer to all of us. Whatever amends he might wish to make to the three people who've been caught in the crossfire have be deferred to political correctness and the rendering of proper respect to the High Chancellor.

So it's break it to them not so gently, this time.

"Within the last two weeks the Asgard and the Tollan approached us independently of each other with evidence that we were stealing technology from them."

Straight to the point.  Let's hear the rest of it.

"We?  The SGC?" Sam says softly in bewilderment.

Yeah, Sam, the SGC.  That's what he's saying.  Nice to know your allies think so highly of you they'd believe you capable of being thieves. Wouldn't take your WORD you were blameless of any wrongdoing.  Insisted you had to PROVE you were innocent.

This is getting better and better.

"Yes," Hammond continues in the same tone, not acknowledging the disbelief in her voice.  "The Asgard, the Tollan and the Nox were going to sever all ties with us.  But we convinced them the thefts must be the action of a rogue group from outside the SGC."

'Convinced' them.  Again, implying it was not simply a matter of saying 'we didn't do it' and being believed.  'Convinced' means they originally believed the opposite.  Believed the SGC was a front for interplanetary burglary.

You'd have to wonder why they bothered having dealings with such a pack of unprincipled felons in the first place.  Guess saving their whole damned planet for them in spite of their determined attempts to prevent us from doing so wasn't a good enough character reference.  Or a sufficient demonstration of the nature of our sincerity for a foundation of trust.

I'm having a hard time hiding my disappointment in learning how little our 'friends' really thought of us when Trevel speaks.  I can't see her face but her voice resounds with warm maternal friendliness as if we are a bunch of wayward children come lately back into the fold who've just earned a pat on the head for being good.

"We insisted that you apprehend them yourselves.  You have now regained our trust."

Trust.  We have regained YOUR trust.  How can you regain something you clearly never had in the first place?  And while we're talking trust here, what do you propose to do to regain ours?

"So, you set that whole thing up on Tollana in the hopes the mole would think you were one of them and approach you."

Sam is talking to Jack.  Still thinking like this was his idea, and he had some choice about what he was forced to do.

I might be looking at Jack, but I'm talking to Hammond.  And Trevel.

"And you didn't think you could trust us to help."

Jack didn't set this up.  He didn't make the conditions.  It's not his fault.  But he's the one who's going to get all the blame.  And take all the consequences.

Trust.  No trust.  None in us.  All thrown on Jack.  Forcing him to hurt us.  Abandon us. Making us BELIEVE he had.  Trust betrayed for the sake of earning trust which should have already existed. And obviously never did.

It didn't have to be like this.  Didn't have to be like this at all. They should have TRUSTED us……

None of us can hide the signs of our distress any longer.  Especially Jack.  Bad enough to have to inflict the wounds the first time, and now, after everything he's had to do alone he's standing there having to look into the faces of his friends and see the pain and confusion he helped put there.

Nice reward for a job well done.

"We wanted to assure that your reaction to the colonel's behaviour was as it should be.  And the Asgard insisted that Colonel O'Neill be the only one involved."

Oh, George, I REALLY wish you hadn't said that.  I can almost forgive being used if it was for the sake of the SGC but the ASGARD!  How DARE they deliberately place him in such danger!  Who the hell do they think they ARE, anyway?  Haven't they done enough to him already?

"They like me," Jack grins and shrugs extravagantly.  Trying to pass it off as a joke.

It isn't funny, Jack.  It isn't funny at all.  They like you, huh?  Well, they've got a funny way of showing it. Friends like those, you don't need.  All their 'esteem' has gotten you is a whole bunch more new enemies.

They 'like' you so much they've put this all on you.  When those people you've 'pissed' off come calling, you're the only one they'll be looking to settle accounts with.  We're in the clear. Lucky us.  Not so lucky you.

I'm so ticked off at that whole bunch of little grey 'think they're better than us we've got more important things to do than wasting our time helping you out when you've got a problem but stay by the phone, if we need you, you'll be hearing from us' bunch of sawed off hypocrites I want to boot them all the way back to their own galaxy.

And stay there!  Who NEEDS you!

"And now, will you come with me, Your Eminence?"

Good idea. Catch you later. Don't forget not to write.  And say 'hi' to the Nox for us, while you're at it.

At least the Tok'ra kiss us before they fuck us over.

The powers that be make their way toward the exit and then they're gone.  The gateroom is empty of everyone but us.  It's just the four of us.

Back together again.  Three extremely honked off people and one recently rehabilitated hero who is suddenly looking as if he wishes he were dead.

Tough room, huh, Jack?  You don't know the half of it.

He decides to go straight for brazen.  Like I ever had any doubt.  No denying the facts, no begging for forgiveness, meet all obstacles and resistance head on and wrestle it to the ground through the sheer force of your dynamic personality and bottomless capacity for bucking the bullshit.  Jack O'Neill all the way.

"I'm back!" he says with a light voice, a slightly teasing grin and his arms open wide as he strides confidently toward us.

Take me, I'm yours.

Who could stay mad at that?  No matter what he's said and done.  Bastard, you knew from the start we all loved you.  So confident in the impeccability of our affection you knew you could afford to make us hate you.

By rights we should all wring your neck for scaring us like this.  We should.  But we won't.  And don't you just know that, too.

I'm just glad you're safe, Jack.  Whatever else has happened, that's all that matters.  I'll - I'll hold that thought. Focus on what is, not what's been, or could have been.  I'll just calm down and try to let this go.  Sam and Teal'c are doing it.  And they've got far more cause to be angry than I do.

Mind you, they'll be plenty pissed at me as well, when I tell them about MY part in all of this.

 Jack reaches Sam's side and beams those brown eyes right at her.  She resists for a second, trying to hold her indignation up as a shield against the O'Neill charm, but she hasn't a prayer.  Within a couple of seconds she's caving, smiling at him ruefully.

"It's good to have you back, sir," she says with soft, almost shy sincerity.

"Indeed," Teal'c rumbles deeply from behind me.

"Thank you."  His gratitude is quiet, the words barely audible. Deeply relieved.  He's missed us more than he will say.  Especially to himself.

Now, it's my turn.

He's looking at me, waiting for me to proffer my verbal endorsement.  Or at least to acknowledge the fact he's here.

I don't dare say a word because all of a sudden I'm terrified of what will come out of me.  I can barely meet his eyes, which makes him think I'm angry at him. Not much of a stretch for him to make that leap in logic; he knows what he said the last time he spoke to me.  Knows how it must have hit me when I left him.  I can't hide a thing from him.  Couldn't then - haven't got a hope now.

I'm not angry at him but I have to look away.  I can't let him see what's going on inside until I've had a chance to figure it out for myself.

I need him to go away, to let me alone. Just for a little while, just to give me time to…..

"Um, Daniel?" he's calling to me, summoning me with beckoning voice and gestures.  I've moved to his side, feel his hand on the small of my back drawing me close, moving me forward, walking me down the hall to a place I'm not ready to go yet.

I know what he's saying, what he's trying to do and I make noises of agreement as I only half hear what I'm agreeing to.

I don't want to do this right now.  Not here, not with Sam and Teal'c right there behind us.

"That stuff I was talking about at my house……. The place was bugged…..I had to keep up the act."

He's talking rapidly, words rough, tone awkward, self-conscious, not wanting a moment of misunderstanding to exist any longer between us than is absolutely necessary and yet because our friends are here he's no more able to say what he really wants to than I am.

"I understand."

I do.  I do.  I know you didn't mean it. I know you had no choice. We don't have to do this right now.  It can wait. I'm fine.  Don't worry about it.

Don't worry about me.

"Obviously the whole friendship thing, the foundation, it's all solid."

Don't - don't say those words right now.  Not THOSE ones.

"Obviously, don't worry about it."

Please, Jack.  Leave it alone. I mean it.

"No, no, no I feel kinda…….  I do appreciate that you were the one that came to see if I was okay -  that….that means something."

Sure it did.  Of course it did. You KNOW it did. That's why all of this worked.  You knew that, they knew that, the whole damned WORLD knew it.  Your willingness to cast what it 'meant' aside was all the proof those bastards needed you were one of them.  When you rejected me, you rejected everything I stood for.  Handed yourself over to them.  And I helped you do it.

I could have gotten you killed, Jack.

No……

It's so clear, so simple, so awful, all at the same time.  But there it is.

I know what I have to do.

"Ah, actually, no it doesn't."

"Huh?"

He stops in his tracks.  Astounded.  Can't believe what he's heard.  Sure of me, he's SO sure of me, never even entered his mind to question why I came to him.  That there could have been any other POSSIBLE reason for me to have come to him except because I cared.

I WON'T be used to imperil him by anyone ever again.  Not even him.

Jack put himself on the line for something he believed in.  Risked losing everyone he cared about because people who should have known better didn't believe in him.  Or us.

Well I believe in something.  I believe in him.  I always have. I'm just as prepared to pay the price, to fight for what I believe in, too.  Any way I have to.

I've no doubt I can do this.  Had a few hard lessons in the last few days about how to get the job done no matter how down and dirty you have to get.  If I've leaned ANYTHING from this experience it's this - it doesn't matter HOW you do it, as long as you do it.  By whatever means necessary.  No matter who you hurt.

Even if you have to hurt them in order to keep them safe.

He did it for me.  My turn to return the favour.

That I HAVE to do this has never been clearer than it is right now.  Now, even after everything he's been through, his first order of business, the very FIRST thing he has to make sure is right - is….us.  Me. He won't let me go until he knows I'm okay.  It's important to him. I'm important to him.

I'm the chink in his armour.  His vulnerable spot.  That which can be used against him.  The one who matters more to him - than him.

I can't have that.  So I'm going to have to do something about it.  For his sake.

Simple as that.  No second thoughts.  No matter what it takes, or what it's going to do to us.

He's worth the price I'm paying for him.

"Um, we ah, we drew straws.  I lost."

The look on his face…..What do you know about that, Jack, this experience hasn't been a total waste after all.  I've picked up a new skill.

I've finally learned how to lie well enough to fool even you.

I say it and turn my back on him.  Walk away without a backward glance.  I don't know what Sam and Teal'c have made of what I've said or how they've decided to play the hand I've just dealt them.  I don't care.  I've done what I had to in order to protect him from the danger I pose to him.

The cost of doing business.

 I walk away, passing by a world suddenly leeched bare of colour.  Moving blindly forward through shifting, varying shades of grey.  The colours of unrelenting ambiguity and losses without gain.  I'm painfully aware of the piece of me I've left behind with him; it keeps pulling at the empty spot inside me, trying to draw me back.  I can't let it. I keep walking.

The pain will pass.

Maybe someday I'll be able to see colours again, too. 

Back to Part Two  /  On to Part Four

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Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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