RUN!

His mind screamed at him, but momentarily, as his rational thought shut down, his feet remained firmly stuck to the cracked tarmac beneath him. All it took to get him moving again was the advance of the figure, cloaked by the darkness.

He turned and tried to flee. The dark country roads were devoid of any cars. His heart pounded in his ears, in time with his feet smacking against the hard surface.

His progress was brought to a swift halt by a thick, gloved hand that wrapped around his mouth, effectively silencing him, while another snaked quickly across his stomach, firmly pinning him to the aggressor.



Conduct Unbecoming 1
Conduct Unbecoming
by Hellblazer
 


"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack hissed. "You have got to be kidding me," he complained bitterly. "Sir," he added as an afterthought. 

Hammond appreciated the effort. 

General Hammond had shut the file he was reading and stood as Jack had walked into his office. That had brought Jack to a stop. It was never a good sign. Jack had checked the scowl on Hammond's face. No, definitely not. 

Hammond handed the report to Jack, so he could see for himself. 

"I'm afraid not. Colonel Makepeace has made some serious allegations against you," Hammond announced dourly as he sat down. 

"So what does he want? A deal? He's trying to implicate me in his little schemes now?" 

Hammond leant forward on his desk. 

"He's made allegations against Dr Jackson as well." 

"Oh?" Jack tilted his head, wondering what Daniel had done to piss Makepeace off. 

"Jack, Colonel Makepeace has made claims that you have an improper relationship with Dr Jackson." 

"Oh, that." 

"Jack! This is serious." 

"I know." 

"He's desperate. He'll say anything." 

"He says he has proof." 

Jack scowled and flipped open the file, scanning the report. "Hearsay," he dismissed it. 

Hammond gave him his firm but fair look. "You know as well as I do, Jack, that rumours like that can stick. I've warned you time and time again..." 

"I know, Sir." 

"You knew this could happen." 

Jack nodded. What could he say? Anything would be an admission of guilt. He'd tried to be careful, but...he looked at the report again. 

"It's just locker room talk, Sir." 

"Can he prove these charges?" 

"You know me, General, you don't ask and I don't kiss and tell." 

Hammond slumped in his chair. 

"Oh, come on, Sir, you've turned a blind eye to this for years. Just about everyone knew about me and Daniel. Backs to the walls, boys, here comes Jack." 

"Jack, this isn't funny," he shook his head. "How could you be so stupid?" 

"Oh, very easily, Sir." 

Hammond frowned at him. 

"Does Makepeace have any real evidence against you?" 

"Only his word, Sir. I'm not that stupid." 

"And Dr Jackson?" 

"Daniel knows how to dryclean, Sir." 

"Colonel!" 

"General. Just do nothing. He has nothing. It will blow over. The bitter ravings of a condemned man. Don't do anything to credit his allegations. Nobody here will talk and everyone knows I spend half my waking hours wanting to throttle Daniel, anyway." 

"It's the other half I'm worried about." 

"Nothing can happen. We went through Makepeace's stuff with a fine tooth comb. No photos, no tapes. No nothing." 

Hammond looked neither happy or impressed. 

"Jack, you could lose your career over this." 

"If they wanted me gone, yes. I'm gambling that I still have some use." 

Hammond nodded. 

"Maybe it's time to retire." 

"And Dr Jackson?" 

"Daniel's an academic, he's meant to be a little fruity." 

"Colonel!" Hammond cut across him. "The SGC can't afford to lose either you or Dr Jackson. You're good, honourable decent men and you've kept us honest." 

Jack's eyes narrowed. 

"NID," he realised, head down. 

"They'll use this, Jack, to get rid of both you and Daniel. Jack, you're the only one the Asgard will deal with. How could you be so bloody reckless?" 

"Sorry isn't going to cut it, is it?" 

"No." 

Jack grew suddenly serious. "I know. Those bastards. Trying to get to me through Daniel..." 

"You left yourself open, Jack. You knew you could be compromised and you have been. All they have to do is mention half the classified information you're privy too and you'll be shut down as a security risk." 

"And everything Daniel and I have worked for will be for nothing?" Jack seethed. 

Hammond didn't answer that, he didn't need to. He just watched Jack rage inwardly and quietly logged what was breakable and within reach of the Colonel. 

"They can't do this." 

"They can. I tried to warn you, Jack." 

Jack hung his head. He knew. He'd been taking hits on account of Daniel since the day they met. He's lied about Abydos; he'd lied to the President, to protect Daniel. They could get him just for that, and it was only the start. 

"I guess I'd better start getting my fishing gear in order." 

"Jack, we can fight this. I'll get you counsel." 

Jack met Hammond's eyes. "You know as well as I do, Sir, if they want me gone, really gone, there's nothing you or I can do about it. I won't put you in the firing line again, Sir." Jack meant it. He would not have another child on his conscience. 

"Was it worth it, Jack?" 

Jack allowed himself a flicker of a smile. "Oh yes, Sir." 

~~~ 

Jack found Daniel in Daniel's little den, hunched over and scowling at a translation that was defying him for the moment, just like Jack had seen him do literally hundreds of times before. 

"Daniel." 

"Jack." Daniel replied absently in a tone that meant 'go away, I'm busy'. 

"Daniel." Jack tried again and got his attention, though just for a moment. He'd better make his opening pitch good. 

Daniel frowned. 

"We need to talk. Something's come up." 

Daniel's frown deepened. 

"They know." 

Daniel frowned further. "Know what?" 

"About us." 

"Oh." More frowning. "Who? How?" 

Jack frowned at Daniel's translations, uncomfortable. 

"Makepeace. Figured it out. I guess we weren't as careful as we could have been." Jack studied Daniel's reaction, still unsure about the brief time Makepeace had commanded SG-1. 

"You didn't, um, do anything to give Makepeace any ideas, did you?" Jack cocked an eyebrow, asking, though it was more of an accusation, which made Daniel's eyes narrow and his bottom lip pout, damn him. 

"No! Of course not" Daniel seethed, his face hot. "What? Do you think I openly flirted with him just because I was torn up over your apparent betrayal? No! Of course not!" Daniel's eyes were bright and his cheeks were flushed. 

"Okay, I just had to ask," Jack tried to defuse him. He'd heard that Daniel had practically stuck his tongue down Makepeace's ear, panting all over him, and Jack had hoped it was nothing but vicious locker room gossip. He wouldn't have listened at all if he hadn't known just how angry and hurt Daniel had been at the time. Daniel had made him pay and pay for weeks afterwards. It almost hadn't been worth it, treaties be damned. Hammond's orders be damned. Hell hath no fury like a Daniel lied to. 

"You don't trust me." 

"I never said that, Daniel." Oh, crap. Not this argument. Jack so wasn't in the mood. "I just wanted to make sure. Either somebody clued him in, or Makepeace is a brighter boy than I thought." Or we were really really obvious, Jack repeated to himself. It had been an open joke, Jack and Daniel. Now it had come back and bitten him on the arse. 

"It wasn't me," Daniel replied, stung, and Jack let it lie. 

"Well he knows. Now he's facing the death penalty for treason, I guess he wants to take down as many people with him as he can." 

"Why us?" 

Jack shrugged. "Easy target. High profile. Obstructive." 

He met Daniel's eyes. 

"Jack, I'm sorry." 

Jack shrugged. "Maybe it's time to retire." 

"No, not like this. It's alright for me, I'm used to infamy, but you, Jack, no, they can't do this." 

"They might not. There's no proof." 

"That you know of," Daniel reminded sourly. 

Jack scowled, picked up Daniel's ragged hat and popped it up onto the security camera. 

"They won't like that." 

"Fuck 'em. This isn't Big Brother." 

"They can't do this to us," Daniel insisted, outraged. 

"What? Kick us out? We've given them the excuse they were looking for to replace us." 

"With who?" 

"Hardline NID guys, probably." 

"They can't. If it wasn't for us, there wouldn't be an SGC. This is ours." 

"They know that." 

"It isn't fair." 

"No, it's not." 

Daniel's blue eyes fell on him again, and Jack felt it like a kick in the gut. He could see Daniel's world, the world he'd fought so hard for, falling apart, and there was almost nothing he could do. 

"I can't even hold you," Daniel complained softly. 

"Sure you can," Jack wrapped Daniel in his arms, holding him tight. 

"We can't and I need to, I need to feel you." Daniel pressed hard against him. 

"Feel this." Jack kissed him, deep and long, telling Daniel everything he needed to know, that they'd stay together and fight for this, for everything. As electric as their first touch on Abydos, Daniel moaned in Jack's arms, grabbing at Jack's hair. 

"Oh, God, it's true." 

They broke apart. Sam was standing in the doorway, stricken, hand covering her mouth. "Oh God," she repeated. 

"Sam..." Daniel tried, but she shook her head. 

"Carter, wait," Jack demanded but she ran away down the corridor. 

Jack made to go after her, but Daniel held his arm. 

"Let her calm down. Last thing we need is a screaming match in the corridor." 

Jack was looking kicked again. This day just kept getting worse. 

Daniel was gazing at him still. 

"We should probably tell Teal'c." 

"He probably knows." But Daniel was right. The more of a united front they could muster the better chance they had of riding out this storm. Please, let saving the world count for something. 

~~~ 

Jack paused, then knocked on the door. He heard a muffled 'come in', and it cut him to the bone. That was nothing, because when he opened the door he found Sam crying, and that cut him through the bone. 

"Would it help if I said I was sorry?" 

"No, because you're not." 

"Yes I am. I never meant to hurt you, Carter." 

She glared at him. He took it. He deserved it. 

"Daniel?" she finally asked. 

He shrugged. He couldn't explain it either. It just was. Chemical, physical, spiritual. It just was. 

"We've been through a lot together," he tried, very lamely. 

Her glare answered him. What about me? What about us? 

Jack studied the floor. 

Sam wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. 

"How long?" 

"Daniel?" Jack asked, and she glared at him. 

"About five years, on and off." He winced at her blanch. He could see her doing the maths. Yes, Abydos. His eyes grew warm at the memory, which hurt her even more. "I was in a bad place, then I met Daniel. He got under my skin and stayed there. Then Daniel got a wife and I got a secret to keep." 

"That's why you lied to General West," she realised. Daniel. "And when you brought Daniel back?" 

"He'd lost his wife, his life." 

"He didn't sleep on your couch, did he," she accused. 

"No," Jack admitted, eyes downcast. 

Sam giggled hysterically. "No wonder Daniel knew so much about you. I was pumping him for information about you and the whole time he was laughing at me, because he was already there." 

"Daniel never laughed at you. Daniel got jealous, very jealous, especially when he found out I did care about you." 

"Me?" 

"Remember what I said about on and off? Big fight." 

"Over me?" 

Jack nodded solemnly. 

"Then why him and not me." 

Jack sighed. He'd asked himself this a thousand times, at least. 

"I wanted to die when I met Daniel. I just didn't care. He made me care. Afterwards, I tried to stop, but I couldn't. We couldn't." He took a breath. "I keep you at arm's length Carter because I have to. It's not just my career, it's yours. You're worth so much more than I am. Daniel isn't military. You are." 

"That's it?" 

"That's some of it. You'd want more of me than I could give, than I could go through, again." 

"You think I'd make you..." 

He gave her a long look. It was true. She did want all of it, including his children. 

"So Daniel is the safer bet?" 

"Daniel's my friend, and there's nothing safe about Daniel. I'm going to lose my career over him." 

"Is he worth it?" 

She saw the answer in Jack's eyes, and hated him for it. There was love in his eyes. Love for somebody else. Love for somebody he was prepared to break all the rules for. 

"Carter -" 

Her face set like stone. 

"You want me to lie for you?" 

He nodded, slowly. 

She wanted to scream the truth, she wanted to bring him down. He'd chosen Daniel, now let him pay the price. 

But she couldn't. This was Jack. She'd loved him for four years and he'd never been cruel to her, not even now, not deliberately so. He had never meant to hurt her. She knew he'd never do that. 

Her face softened. "Alright. For you, Sir. You and Daniel are my friends. That hasn't changed." She shook her head. "I can see it now, but I never saw it before." 

"Don't think about it too hard," he grinned. "Just tell 'em all the times Daniel and I nearly came to blows in the field." 

She matched his smile. 

"Maybe not," he agreed. 

He touched her cheek softly. 

"I know, Sir," she answered, and pulled away just slightly, giving him leave to go. She needed to tend to her broken heart in private now. 

~~~ 

Jack paced the walls of his office. He was going insane. He was bored and there was no comfort in ritual, nowhere he could go without feeling or imagining the stares and whispers. 

Crap. He threw the untouched chessboard against the far wall, scattering pieces. He stalked down the corridors to the commissary, head down, and slammed bodily into someone blocking the entrance. He caught an achingly familiar scent and looked directly into Daniel's eyes. 

"I - um - I - Jack - um - have to go." Daniel stumbled over his excuses and ran off, leaving Jack to drink his coffee alone. Jack had never had to drink coffee alone, not like this. It was only coffee, but it was too much like drinking alone He pushed out of his chair. 

~~~ 

"Jack." 

"General." 

"Can I help you?" 

Jack shuffled for a moment, like a chastened schoolboy, then came straight to the point. 

"I need a favour. Before we get grounded or stood down or whatever, send SG-1 on assignment. We were rostered to do P3XJS next week. Send us now, because, I'll be honest with you, I can't stand around knowing my every move is being watched. I'm going insane. There's some nice little ruins, according to the preliminary survey. It'll be good for Daniel, to get away. Dr Fraiser concurs," he added, as extra leverage. 

Hammond nodded, putting Jack at ease. The moment Jack had accessed the files on P3XJS, Hammond had known what Jack had in mind, and had agreed. Off world, out of sight and out of mind was the best place for both of them at the moment. 

P3XJS 
Day Three
Daniel was in one of his little moods again. The moods that cleared the commissary ahead of him when he showed up for his first six cups of coffee in the morning. 

Fuck it. Jack had been overly optimistic. Get Daniel away on a nice little dig and he'd forget all about it, and when they got back it'd be all over and forgotten. No such luck, however, Jack realised, watching Daniel stalk about the site. 

Jack sidled over to Carter, his hands in his pockets, bored, curious to see what she was up to. She smiled up at him like the sun. 

"Hey," he greeted. He heard an oath and glanced over at Daniel, who was scowling at something that had just given him great offence. 

"Not a morning person, our Daniel," Jack observed to Carter who beamed again. 

Jack rolled his eyes at the excessive beaming, eased himself down on the seat beside her and helped himself to coffee and watched Daniel stomp about. 

"Something has displeased his majesty," Sam agreed, grinning as she jotted down notes. 

Jack groaned and covered his eyes for a moment, looking old. "I thought he'd enjoy a few weeks away." 

Sam patted his shoulder. "You know what they say about the road to hell." 

Jack groaned again, and Sam grinned. 

In the distance Daniel muttered and stomped some more. Jack knew he had better go over there and try and defuse Daniel before things escalated. Suicide mission. Handling cranky Daniel was like handling sweaty gelignite. 

"I'm going in," Jack announced as one about to embark on a courageously brave but suicidal mission. "Wish me luck," he asked of Carter, standing up and audibly working a crick out of his back. 

Carter used to wonder what on earth Jack did to distress his lower back and knees so. Now she knew, the answer was obvious. Daniel. The Colonel wasn't a young man, but he certainly had the stamina of one if the noises that had kept her awake last night were any indication. 

Carter was giving him the oddest smile. Jack cocked an eyebrow. 

"Good luck, Sir," she grinned. 

Jack shouldered his P90 and his responsibility. He stalked after Daniel, muttering something about "of all the decades to give up smoking" and possibly a refrain of "it's a far far better thing I do today..." to himself. Once more into the breach, into the lion's den, whatever. He walked over to the site, now delineated by taunt lines of boxed out string, with the heavy air of a condemned man. 

"Problem, Daniel?" he asked as his opening gambit. 

Daniel glared at him furiously, resenting the intrusion. 

Oh yeah, this was going to be fun. 

"Is there something I can do?" 

Daniel gave him another furious look and stalked off to the other end of the site. Jack gamely followed. 

Daniel was scratching into his notebook. When Jack approached, he turned on him, seething. 

"Haven't you done enough, Jack? You never told me you were going after Makepeace. You made me think I was nothing to you. Now Makepeace is going to destroy everything I've worked so hard for, just to get back at you. So no, Jack, I don't want any help. Not from you." 

"I'm sorry." 

"You're sorry! It's a bit late for that." Daniel's eyes burned. "I don't know why I'm bothering. Nobody gives a fuck about what I do." 

"Daniel, you know that's not true." 

"Oh yeah, right. Well maybe I'd rather go work for the Nazis. At least they appreciated the importance of history." 

"Daniel you can't be serious." But Jack saw that he was. 

"Daniel, calm down." 

Shit. Red rag to a bull. 

"Don't you tell me to calm down! I've got to do everything here, everything!" Daniel raged. He threw his notebook hard at Jack. "I hate you!" 

"No you don't." 

"What the fuck would you know? You don't know anything. You don't understand the importance of anything and everything I find here." Daniel indicated the site wildly. "You have no fucking idea. Nobody does. You all treat me like a joke. I could learn so much here and I haven't been able to publish any of my work in the last two years because it's all classified! I might as well not bother! It's all for nothing, anyway!" Daniel kicked over the nearest stakes that marked out part of the site. He turned furiously and angrily pushed over the trestle table, sending notes, tools and artefacts flying. 

"Daniel! No!" 

Daniel threw himself on the wreckage like a book burning zealot, tearing up notes, kicking and smashing artefacts and equipment. 

"Daniel, stop it!" Jack tried to grab him, holding his arms before Daniel could hurt himself or really get himself in trouble by striking Jack. "This isn't the way." 

Daniel ripped free of Jack's grasp, pushing him away violently. 

"Don't tell me what to do!" Daniel screamed at him. "You've destroyed everything. All my work - it's worthless! I'm worthless!" 

"Daniel - " Jack tried to approach him, hands spread out. 

Daniel twisted away from him. "Leave me alone!" 

"No, Daniel, I can't." This was his Colonel speaking. 

"Just. Fuck. Off!" Daniel struck Jack's arm away and followed up with a swinging round house punch that knocked Jack flying and landed him hard on his arse. 

Sam saw Jack go down sprawling and leapt up. 

Jack shook himself, shocked and mad as hell. 

"Hoo boy, Danny, you shouldn't have done that." Jack rubbed his jaw carefully, checking it wasn't broken. His lip stung, he could feel the blood smear across his hand. Where the fuck had Daniel learn to swing a punch like that? No light weight, our Daniel, either. 

Jackson was standing above him, breathing hard, fists clenched, and from the look in his eyes, Daniel wasn't finished. 

Teal'c grabbed Daniel from behind. He was now. 

Jack got to his feet, dusting down his pants. 

"Daniel." 

Daniel was defiant. "I don't care. I'm a civilian and I'm finished anyway." 

"Dammit, Daniel." Jack nodded to Teal'c to let Jackson go. Teal'c raised an eyebrow but did as he was told. 

Jack shoed Teal'c and Carter away. 

This was going to get messy - messier. Teal'c and Carter retreated to a short distance only, close to hand. 

Jack and Daniel eyed each other warily, breathing hard. It wasn't over yet. 

"Daniel." 

"Fuck you." Daniel lashed out and the other table toppled over with a crash. 

Fuck this. Jack launched himself at Daniel, slamming the hard squirming mass into the ground underneath him, pinning him down. Daniel struggled but a Daniel in fury's full flight was no match for a black ops trained Colonel. Jack could have snapped Daniel's neck there and then and dear god, he didn't know how he'd stopped himself. He struck Daniel hard across the face. 

"Stop it!" He struck Daniel again, and shocked and frightened eyes stared up at him. "Enough," Jack growled. 

Jack eased his death grip on Daniel, and was thrown sideways as Daniel struggled again. 

"Daniel, stop it!" Jack held him tight, like holding onto a wild steer, until Daniel's thrashing stopped. 

This is why, Carter fumed to herself. This is why they have those regs, It was tearing them apart. 

Jack kept holding onto Daniel, feeling the muscles tense and hard. Then Daniel just crumpled, sagging against Jack in a weeping heap. Jack stayed crouched down beside him and held him tight. 

"It's okay, Danny, it'll be okay, I promise." He rubbed his cheek against Daniel's hair. He had no idea how it was going to be okay, but Daniel didn't need to hear that right now. 

Jack shot a glance at Carter and Teal'c. 

"Show's over, folks, nothing to see here," he growled as he rocked Daniel in his arms. 

Carter and Teal'c retreated reluctantly. 

"Ssssh." Jack kept holding Daniel in his arms. "It'll be alright." Daniel's face was wet, his cheeks blotched red and white. 

Satisfied Daniel had calmed a little, Jack released his hold enough to fumble in his pants pocket for the bottles of pills he was carrying. He squinted at the labels, reading the dosage instructions. He shook out one, then two of another. 

"Daniel." Jack proffered the pills in his hand."Take these," he instructed. 

"No." Daniel shut his eyes and twisted his head away like a child resisting foul tasting cough syrup. 

"Daniel, we've got to do something about this. You need to take these now. You're not coping and you're scaring me." 

"Scaring you?" Daniel accused more than asked. 

"I'm worried about you," Jack answered honestly. 

Daniel reluctantly held out his hand for the pills wordlessly, swallowing the water Jack gave him to chase them down. 

Jack rubbed Daniel's cheek fondly. "How about we have a break now?" 

Daniel nodded and let Jack help him up and lead him back towards the camp. 

~~~ 

"Come on, there you go." Jack sat Daniel down on his cot and gently eased Daniel's jacket off him. "Lie down on your stomach," Jack instructed gently. 

"Taking advantage of me?" Daniel managed to tease, already softening under the drugs. 

"No." Jack rubbed his hair softly. "Lie down for me." 

Daniel pulled off his glasses and did so, trusting Jack, who gently ran his hand down Daniel's back. 

Daniel understood and relaxed, sighing as Jack rubbed his back softly, sending him to sleep. It always worked. The feel of Jack's hands, stroking him softly, gliding into a drugged and cushioned haze. He welcomed sleep. Jack kept rubbing his back softly. 

~~~ 

Carter popped in under the tent flaps and Jack stood, defensive, standing between her and Daniel. 

"Carter, just leave it, alright?" 

"I just want to see how Daniel was." 

"Asleep. Leave him that way. He needs to sleep." 

Carter wasn't convinced. Jack looked like he'd kill anyone who came any closer to Daniel with his bare hands right now. 

Jack knelt by the cot, stroking Daniel's hair softly. 

"What's going on?" 

"Nothing's going on. You know how under pressure Daniel is. This investigation - he could lose everything he's worked so hard for. So he snapped. So what? I feel like kicking and hitting a few things myself." 

Sam looked at Daniel, who was curled on his side, fast asleep, breathing slowly. 

"He's out like a light. What the hell did you give him?" she demanded. 

Reluctantly, Jack tossed the bottles to Sam. She read the labels, eyebrows arching, shocked, realising they had been prescribed by Dr Fraiser. 

"Dr Fraiser gave you these?" 

Jack shrugged. "They're just anti-depressants. You know how Daniel can get at times. 

Sam did, but she had no idea Daniel's moodiness had become severe enough to involve prescription medication. 

Sam frowned at each of the small pill bottles Jack had handed across. 

"Lorazepam, Serapax - Jack, this is pretty powerful stuff. Daniel has been taking these?" 

Jack leant back, tired. "Oh, you know Daniel, a little bit country, a little bit bi-polar." 

Sam's eyebrows shot up. 

Jack almost winced at that. 

"Don't tell me you've never noticed how high strung Daniel is?" 

"A little, but this - " she indicated the plastic bottles in her hand. 

Jack just shook his head. How had Carter missed that, too. Oh yeah, that's right. She only had eyes for Jack. For crying out loud... 

He rubbed his face. 

"How long has Daniel been on these?" 

Jack shrugged. "Off and on, a while." 

Carter looked even more horrified. 

"Daniel's fine. He only needs those," he cocked his head to the pill bottles. "When he's having an episode - like now. Doc Fraiser thought the threat of the investigation might set Daniel off. She was right. He's not a happy camper." 

Not at all. Daniel was a private person. Add to that the threat of losing all his work, and, well, Jack had been expecting this too. He'd just hoped getting Daniel off base might have helped, might have been enough. It didn't and wasn't. 

He gazed down at Daniel. "It's supposed to be a fine line between genius and madness. Daniel's been pushed too hard, too long. Daniel isn't crazy. The way Doc Fraiser explained it to me, Daniel hits the highs and lows a little harder than most, and it's just been made worse by the number of times his noggin's been fried. It's altered his brain chemistry or something. But he's fine. I wouldn't have him on the team if he wasn't. You know that. He doesn't need them all the time, just for bad patches. He won't take them if he's working, he says they slow him down too much. You've never noticed Daniel get a little twitchy when he's in the middle of a really hard translation?" 

Sam's eyes widened. Come to think of it, she had. She'd just always dismissed it as Daniel being Daniel. Then the second realisation hit her. Jack had taken on the responsibility of ensuring Daniel took his medication when he needed it. Damn, there was this whole secret life going on in SG-1 that she'd had no idea about. Worse, Jack's now evident long standing concern for Daniel belied her belief that it was just occasional tawdry locker room sex. This screamed relationship. Deep, committed relationship. She was both shocked and very angry. Angry that Jack had kept all this from her, though she really didn't need to know. Jack did, as leader of SG-1, but not Sam. Still, she'd thought Jack had been more open with her. Now she realised he hadn't, not at all. 

"Daniel hit burn out years ago, and people still kept pushing. His passion and ego won't let him stop. He's expected to know everything and he'll actually try to. I had to learn Latin to stop that time loop thing and that was a nightmare and Daniel has to go through that every day. He's given impossible deadlines to justify his work so he lives on caffeine and pills and doesn't sleep for a week and them I have to take him home, strap him to the bed and deal with the fallout. He's terrified that the one time he doesn't come up with the goods, he'll be shut down or I'll be dead. So he keeps pushing. I try to take him away from base, but he won't go. He just never stops." 

Jack had resigned himself to this fact. Sam couldn't remember the last time Jack had tried to coax Daniel to go fishing with him. 

"He'll be fine," Jack tried to convince her. Sam didn't look convinced. "He's just upset." 

Sam held up the pills. 

"He doesn't take these regularly?" 

"He takes them when he needs to." 

"He wasn't on them today. Not until you made him take them." 

"That was my fault. I was too wrapped up in my own problems to make sure Daniel was dealing with his." 

"You look after Daniel's meds." 

Jack shrugged. "I'm a better judge of when he needs them. He'll be fine." 

Carter wasn't sure. It was starting to sound like Daniel was developing a genreal anxiety disorder. Still, Jack had a point, Daniel was too brilliant to lose. How long had Jack been covering for him? No wonder the strain was beginning to show. 

Sam looked at the pills again. Issued just days before. Janet and Jack had both known Daniel might react like this. They'd taken him away, off world. This whole expedition was a set up to protect Daniel. Jack had organised everything to protect Daniel, one of his team. 

"Fraiser thought it was best to have something on hand in case of emergencies." 

"This is how you're handling it, drugging him?" 

Jack stood, angry. 

"No. Daniel was about to trash all his work. I couldn't let him. I don't want Daniel on drugs, I'd never - I just didn't know what else to do. You saw him. He was hysterical." 

Sam nodded. He'd certainly been that. 

Her eyes narrowed. 

"You knew, didn't you." 

"Knew what?" 

"That he'd go ballistic. That's why you asked Hammond to send us here, to keep Daniel away from prying eyes." 

"Yes." 

She shook her head. 

Jack's eyes flashed. "Whatever you think of me, Daniel doesn't deserve this." 

She could see it in the set of his face. Jack's fierce protective streak. Daniel's little boy lost routine must hit so many of Jack's buttons. She didn't want to think about it. 

"The night I brought Daniel home from Abydos." Jack spoke suddenly, his fingers running through Daniel's hair. 

"What?" 

"You were wondering, when?" 

Sam ducked her head. Yes, she had. 

"He was shattered, he'd lost everything. I just wanted him to know he wasn't completely alone, because I know what that's like. " He looked up at her and shrugged. "Two lonely guys, beer..." 

"You could have..." 

"Hired a hooker? I didn't want...I wanted Daniel," he admitted to himself, as much as Sam. His only thought had been Daniel, ever since Hammond had bluffed about sending the bomb through the gate, forcing Jack to show his hand. Hammond hadn't been impressed to learn his suspicions had been correct. All his suspicions. 

Jack still hadn't been able to put a name to it until Daniel, gone on one beer, was crying on his chair, then crying in his arms. Jack had just wanted to make him stop...by kissing him. Okay, that had been a surprise. Then Daniel had practically leapt on him. Bigger surprise. He remembered very clearly the sudden warmth of Daniel's cream across his fingers. A part of his mind had been screaming at him, telling him to get the hell out of there, but the greater part of him had been smugly pleased that he could make Daniel come with a touch. Then Daniel had touched him and all thought had ceased. 

Daniel had slept in his arms that night and Jack had been glad he'd been able to give him some small measure of peace, even just for a moment. He remembered softly kissing Daniel's forehead in the quiet and dark of his room. He remembered how nice it had been to have someone warm and living, someone he cared about, to curl against in his bed. He'd made a lot of promises to Daniel that night. Most of them he hadn't been able to keep, but he'd meant them with all his heart at the time. 

He smiled slightly at the memory. "We got drunk. He cried. I held him. He kissed me. It got a little warm and stupid, but that's all." Jack lied gently. "We knew it could end like this. I'm surprised we got away with it this long. There are so many reasons why this is wrong. I know, Carter. I know it's wrong. And I know I'm going to pay for it." 

"Then why did you?" She had to ask. 

He traced Daniel's ear softly. "Because after all the death I'd seen, Daniel gave me life. After all the destruction I've seen, and caused, Daniel showed me beauty. He takes such delight in the tiniest thing, and it annoys the hell out of me, but I couldn't bear to have him any other way. He brings grace and dignity to this whole sorry, dirty business. He reminds me of better things, makes me hope that what we do here has a higher purpose. He makes believe that there is still good in the world, and it's worth fighting for. He speaks to the better angels of my nature, sometimes in a language I can't even hear. But I know. I feel him, in my heart." 

Sam blinked back the tears. She'd never heard Jack so eloquent. She'd never thought him capable. She knew she was hearing Jack's heart, for the first time, and it spoke of his love for Daniel. She knew now. It wasn't just for the sex. Jack loved Daniel. Jack believed Daniel made him a better person. 

"What will you do, Sir?" 

"Ride this out. Hope that my record of service and connections are worth more than Makepeace's accusations." 

"And if they aren't?" 

"Retire with Daniel somewhere. Maybe Europe, or Australia or Canada. Maybe even off world. Somewhere where Daniel could still work. I don't want this to destroy him, too." 

Jack gazed down upon Daniel so fondly. He stroked Daniel's sideburn softly, tracing down onto his cheek. 

Sam saw the gesture and felt her stomach pinch again. They really were lovers. Lovers in the old romantic sense of the word, not merely fuck buddies. Jack O'Neill's heart was breaking over Daniel. She could see it. 

The pinch became a full blown kick, almost to make Sam wince in pain. She gave Jack back the pills and left Jack to his Daniel. She wasn't going to say anything. She could protect Daniel too. 

Jack hunched over the cot, watching over Daniel sleeping, wondering what the fuck they were going to do now. 

~~~ 

P3XJS 
Day Four
"Come on," Jack nudged. 

Daniel looked adorably drugged and vague, pupils dilated wide and dark like a newborn lamb. He smiled dumbly at Jack. 

"What?" he mumbled. 

"Come and watch the sunrise with me," Jack cajoled. 

Daniel smiled sweetly, rivalling the anticipated dawn. 

"Come on," Jack pressed happily. 

~~~ 

The sky changed from violet to rose to gold then eggshell blue in quick succession. When the sky was still bathed in blue and gold Daniel turned, cupped Jack's face in his hands and kissed him deep and long. 

Jack blinked when Daniel released him. 

"What was that for?" 

"Bringing me here. Thinking about me. I appreciate it." 

Jack shrugged. "I just thought we needed a break, from all of it. I thought you'd like it here." 

Daniel smiled. This was Jack being sweet, being thoughtful. This behaviour had needed positive reinforcement. 

Jack twisted around so that he was sitting opposite Daniel. He pulled off his t-shirt, then Daniel's. Daniel must be still slightly drugged because he mutely consented to the removal of his shirt like a child, and was distracted by the constantly changing colours of the morning sky. Jack stroked Daniel face to get his attention. Daniel's eyes met Jack's, and stayed there. Softly, Jack ran the flat of his palm from the base of Daniel's spine to his head, then repeated the movement, his palm sliding down Daniel's chest. Again and again he stroked, never losing eye contact, concentrating on Daniel's breathing, the feel of Daniel's skin beneath his own. 

The more conscious part of Daniel's mind recognised this from the karma sutra, and wondered where on earth Jack had picked it up, but soon that niggling curiosity was lost in the rhythm of Jack's hands stroking him gently up and down. Drawn into Jack's eyes, he echoed the movements, touching and being touched, until just the sense of touch and Jack's eyes, Jack's hand on his skin was enough to...Daniel trembled and kept trembling. Jack gathered Daniel up gently in his arms and turned him round so he was watching the dawn, wrapped in Jack's arms, his back leaning against the warmth of Jack's chest. Jack dropped a kiss on top of Daniel's head. His hand stroked down Daniel's chest, this time continuing all the way down, cupping and squeezing, making Daniel tremble again. He held Daniel until the soft shivering subsided and Daniel reached up to kiss him. It was a sweet kiss. The second was more demanding, and the third was accompanied by Daniel's hand snaking back into Jack's lap. Jack breathed deeply as Daniel's hand and grinding arse did their work, making him stand to attention. Daniel slipped from Jack's lap, turning around. 

"You don't have to," Jack murmured. 

Daniel's eyes were dark and bright. He wanted to. 

"Sssh, this is quiet time. Just look at the pretty colours." 

Daniel glanced at the dawn, then snuggled against Jack. 

Jack raised an eyebrow, feeling Daniel's hand sliding back along his thigh then rest in his lap momentarily. 

"Daniel?" he asked softly. 

Daniel's mouth brushed against his throat. Okay. 

The red in the sky intensified as Daniel popped the top buttons on Jack's pants and slid his hand in. 

Jack shifted a little, leaning back as Daniel stroked him hard. 

"Daniel, I thought those drugs I gave you were supposed to take the edge off." 

Daniel nuzzled him. "Kinda. I just wanted to, you know..." Daniel was all blue eyes 

"Oh, okay," Jack agreed rather quickly as Daniel leant forward and kissed him again. Jack closed his eyes, enjoying this thoroughly; the cool morning breeze against his skin, the taste of Daniel's soft, warm mouth, the feel of Daniel's hands stroking him hard. Daniel left his lips. Jack opened his eyes, wondering what came next, then Daniel leant slowly into Jack's lap. 

Jack's fly was hastily unbuttoned, his boxers pushed aside and Daniel's hot mouth engulfed his rock hard cock. 

"Ah," Said Jack. Oh. Oh yeah. Oh, Daniel. Jack grabbed Daniel's hair tight in his fist, twisting the short strands through his fingers. Oh, God, oh, yeah, oh man. 

"Dan - uh." He thrust up twice and came hard. Daniel made a muffled, gagging noise and spat the excess onto the ground, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. Jack ruffled his hair, grinning. Then he was in Jack's arms again, kissing him as he knelt in front of Jack. They kissed and kissed and kissed, then Jack glanced at his watch. 06:00. Time to get back. 

Daniel sat back on his heels, pouting. 

"Now, now," Jack warned softly, rubbing his hand down Daniel's chest. Daniel took a slow breath. 

"That's my boy," Jack smiled. "Come on, or Carter'll make you breakfast." 

That threat was enough to get Daniel on his feet and pulling his t-shirt back over his head. 

"I should show you the sunrise more often." 

Daniel wiped his mouth on the back of his hand again. "On top of the Mountain?" Daniel suggested, full of mischief. 

"Yeah, why not?" Jack agreed. He slipped his arm around Daniel and pulled him close. Why the hell not. 

~~~ 

Following them covertly from a distance, Sam saw Jack, and Daniel. Daniel had leant into Jack's lap and - oh. Oh god. She stopped dead in her tracks, humiliated. How many times had they wandered off to do this? Not quite as many times as Sam now wildly imagined. Jack hadn't shirked his responsibility to check the perimeter, secure water and shelter, but there had been times. Sam wondered bitterly if it was some Gate version of the Mile High Club, doing it on other planets. 

Jack and Daniel weren't even thinking of that. They just wanted to be together. 

Sick with grief and jealousy, Carter ran down the side of the hill like a lovetorn schoolgirl and busied herself around camp, dreading the moment of their return. Damn Jack. Damn him. 

~~~ 

Daniel looked much more calm and relaxed, to Jack's relief. He hated to drug Daniel, especially when he had work to do. This morning's exercise helped, and it was far more enjoyable. They came down the side of the hill together, pulling on their coats, Jack's arm resting lazily on his P90. 

Carter already had the coffee on by the time they got back to camp. Jack noticed Daniel immediately began to step away from him, like that fooled anybody any more. 

Carter couldn't meet his eyes. Jack's shoulders slumped a little. She was never going to believe him now when he took Daniel with him to patrol the area. They actually had walked the perimeter together, too, both before and after the sex. Jack hadn't let his guard down that much. 

Daniel sipped his coffee and winced. 

Jack shook out one pill and handed it across. "Just Mr Lorazepam today, I think," he announced as he watched Daniel dutifully swallow it, wincing at the coffee again. 

"Should not Daniel Jackson take all his medication, O'Neill?" Teal'c had to ask. 

"Nah. I took him up the hill to watch the dawn and a spot of meditation." 

Teal'c nodded. That was satisfactory. 

At the word meditation, Carter choked. She coughed, pretending it was just the coffee. So that's what they were calling it these days. She gave Jack a stern and disapproving stare. 

"About yesterday," Daniel began. 

"Later," Jack tried to head him off. 

"No. Now," Daniel insisted. "I wanted to apologise." 

Jack said nothing. 

Daniel's eyes widened. 

"Jack, you're not going to report me, are you?" 

"You didn't leave me much choice, Daniel. I've overlooked insubordination; I've let disobeying a direct order slide too many times, but not this. I might be your lover but I'm also your Colonel and you do not strike me, ever. There are some lines that even I don't cross." He made his point. "Aw, for crying out loud, Daniel." Daniel had his head bowed, distressed. "I can't show you any more favouritism than I already have." 

Daniel looked up, defiant. "Why stop now? They're going to kick us out anyway." 

"That's not the point. Okay, you were upset. You're a civilian. You'll probably get your wrist slapped. What I'm trying to get through to you, Daniel, is that I'm your commanding officer. You owe me that much respect, no matter what you think of me privately." 

"I don't - I do respect you, Jack." Daniel shook his head, unable to finish. 

Daniel started to look really huffy. Fuck it, all his work this morning down the toilet. Jack shook out a couple of Serapax and held them out to Daniel. His eyes told Daniel this was not optional. 

"This is your solution? Drug me into obedience." 

"Well, for starters, yeah," Jack snapped back. "I know you're upset Daniel, but if you can't control yourself you've got no place on this team. That's just the way it is. You're lucky I don't slap you in irons and have Teal'c drag you back through the Gate." 

Daniel had rarely seen Jack so angry. It frightened him. 

"What are you going to do?" 

Jack let out a long breath, deflating his fury a little. "Finish the survey. Let Hammond deal with you. He'll probably be more lenient with you than I would be." 

"Will they punish me?" 

"Oh yeah. Probably stop your pay and confine you to base for a couple of months. Don't look at me like that. You did this Daniel. Now you've got to face the consequences. Why you had to pick now of all times - fuck! You've given Makepeace exactly what he wanted, two fags screaming at each other." 

The words struck Daniel like a slap. 

Jack just looked at him furiously, then stalked off, unwilling to say anything else that might destroy their friendship, never mind their working relationship. 

~~~ 

Daniel had been hard at work for a good sixteen hours, relying on the ritual of measuring and recording the site to dull his sudden lurches into fear and anger. Jack had been out patrolling the area most of the day, though for what, Daniel had no idea. Most of the planets terraformed by human immigrants had quickly lost all of their larger wildlife, as was the case on Earth. 

Now Jack was back, hovering around the camp, no doubt bored. Carter avoided him, as did Teal'c, which was probably a wise move. Daniel watched as Jack began to pace the perimeter of the camp and site itself, armed and cranky. In the late afternoon shadows he was almost a silhouette against the orange sky, moving with the trained grace of a professional soldier, such a reserved power in his walk. Daniel felt the familiar kick down low as he watched Jack. 

It was only at that moment Daniel realised Jack had used the L word. Not friend, partner, buddy, team mate or even geek, but lover. Jack must have been so upset it had just slipped out. Daniel sat back on his haunches, watching. 

Jack sat down on a nearby overgrown foundation stone, looking lost. 

Now or never, Daniel realised. He packed his tools away for the day and strolled, as casually as he could, over to Jack, as though to make his report. 

"I'm sorry," he offered again quietly. 

Jack looked up at him. There was real pain in his eyes. 

Daniel caught his breath. He'd really hurt Jack. 

"I'm so sorry," he repeated. 

"So am I." Jack sounded tired. He shifted his P90. "I know you think I'm being a hard arse about this, Daniel, but I let you get away with so much. I've got to drawn the line somewhere. If I can't get you to respect me, then at least respect my rank." 

"I do." 

Jack gave him a look. 

"I do," Daniel repeated. "Yes, sometimes I forget, and the lines get blurred and sometimes you really really piss me off, but I do respect you, Jack. I appreciate the latitude and freedom you give me." 

"Yeah, I gave you enough rope to hang us both. You know this is why, don't you - having private arguments that disrupt the chain of command." 

"I guess. We argue anyway, what difference does it make?" 

Jack shook his head. "Oh Daniel. Four years in the SGC and you still don't get it. I thought you were a better anthropologist than that." 

"I understand the rules, Jack. I just think they're stupid." 

"We still have to live by them." 

They fell silent. Daniel's attempt at an apology was turning into an argument again. 

"Oh yeah, this is great," Jack muttered at last. 

"I'm really sorry, Jack." Daniel offered again. "If you want, you could spank me," he added slyly. 

Jack's head popped up, suddenly inspired and amused. 

"Oh yeah. I can just see my report now. Due to frustrating circumstances, Dr Jackson struck his superior officer in the middle of a hissy fit. He accepted my award of a sound spanking and a hard fucking and agreed to fetch my coffee for a week." 

"Oh," said Daniel, taking the hint. "Shall I get you coffee now?" 

Jack smiled at him, that rare, smug smile when he won an argument with Daniel. Daniel realised Jack was going to make him pay, and pay and pay. If Daniel had ever wondered what it was like to have an annoying elder brother whose silence had to be bought, he wondered no longer. Jack always covered for Daniel, but it never came cheaply. 

"Two sugars, and make it snappy," Jack ordered fondly. 

Oh yeah, he was going to make Daniel pay. 

~~~ 

P3XJS 
Day Six
Daniel was pacing out the site, taking photographs and scratching things down in his notebook. Jack followed him around quietly for a while until Daniel got annoyed and made Jack make himself useful by holding the end of tape measures and standing next to poles that Daniel scried at through a surveyors tripod. 

Jack walked the length of tape measure back in towards Daniel, watching Daniel frown as he jotted down the figures. Daniel was always frowning as he jotted down things, trying to figure out how his observations fitted into the grand scheme of things. 

Daniel looked up from his notebook and found Jack standing right in front of him, watching, slightly amused. 

Daniel frowned at him. 

"So?" Jack asked, with a tilt to his head, indicating his enquiry referred to Daniel, not the site. 

"So?" Daniel asked back, a nervous smile flickering across his face for a moment. 

"How are we?" Jack pressed. 

Daniel paused, fumbling for an answer. 

"We are fine. Well, no, not actually. My life, my work is about to be tossed out because I was indiscrete with an Airforce Colonel. Half the time I scream at myself: how could I be so fucking stupid? The rest of the time I know - how could I not?" 

Jack's eyes were warm. He felt the same way. 

"We're not finished yet, and if we are, well, you can get a job on a dig somewhere and I can fly for Qantas or dust crops or something." 

Daniel smiled. "You'd hate that." 

Jack's mouth quirked into a smile. "Oh, I dunno. Just me, the crops and a plane load of noxious chemicals. Could be fun." He shrugged. "I've retired before, you know. Twice. Maybe it's time I did it again. You could write books about aliens and keep me." 

"Keep you?" Daniel's eyebrows arched. 

"Yeah." Jack was really warming to the idea. "You'll be a famous author and I'll be your kept boy." 

Daniel just shook his head, amused. Trust Jack to find the silver lining. 

Inspired, Jack did something he'd never done before - he kissed Daniel in broad daylight. 

Shocked at first, Daniel quickly warmed up to the idea, dropping his notebook and grabbing Jack, kissing him right back. 

"We'll survive this," Jack promised as he kissed Daniel's forehead, then returned to Daniel's mouth. Daniel's hand was on his arse, squeezing. Oh man, oh yeah, he could do Daniel right here. He wouldn't, but he wanted to. Daniel could feel that want, and it turned him on even more. 

Sam glanced over the top of the atmospheric readings she was trying to take at the groping session going on in the distance. Sam was beginning to prefer the screaming matches to the public displays of affection. Now she knew where all that passion came from. 

Teal'c looked at Carter, looked to Jack and Daniel, then looked to Carter again, and said nothing. 

~~~ 

Jack and Daniel drew apart, somewhat embarrassed by their sudden passion. 

Daniel readjusted his glasses and picked up his notebook. He glanced at Jack. 

"I was thinking of going exploring, see if I could scout out any more of these ruins, look for possible street patterns, signs of further habitation, markets..." 

"Somewhere to make out." 

Daniel's grin widened for a second. 

"That too," he admitted. 

Jack agreed and pointed to the horizon. 

"Lead on, MacDuff." 

Daniel grinned again and took point. 

~~~ 

Sam saw them walk away, and had a good idea what they were up to. Never again would she regard the two of them disappearing into the bushes as anything remotely innocent. 

Jack glanced about as he walked, sunglasses on, one arm resting casually on his P90. 

"This is nice," Jack proclaimed. "A lovely day for a stroll in the country side." 

Daniel smiled again. Emboldened, he let his hand stray from his side until it found Jack's as they walked. His hand touched Jack's, then, when Jack's hand stayed where it was, he closed his hand around Jack's, then felt Jack return the pressure. They walked together for several steps, then Jack threaded his fingers through Daniel's, and they were walking together, hand in hand, for the very first time. 

"This is nice," Daniel agreed after several metres. "To be able to kiss, and hold hands, without anyone to see us, without anyone to judge." 

"It bothers you, doesn't it." 

Daniel's eyes were so blue. 

"Yes, it bothers me," Daniel answered quietly. "I can't be with you the way I want to. I deny so much of myself sometimes I wonder who I am. I spend my whole life pretending to be someone else, pretending I don't care about you the way I do." 

"And you think I don't?" 

Daniel ducked his head. Of course. For Jack, it was so much worse. 

"I wish we could go somewhere where we could just be ourselves and people didn't stare." 

"San Franscisco?" Jack interjected. 

Daniel raised an eyebrow. "I was going to say off world, but San Francisco will do, too, I guess," he agreed. 

They walked on a bit further. 

"Why is it," Daniel wondered out loud. "That now I really can't be with you at all, I want you all the time." 

Jack cocked an eyebrow. 

"I thought those meds put you out of action." 

"I've only been taking them two days, and I still really really want you..." 

Jack swung off the ancient path and pushed Daniel against a gnarled tree. 

"Forbidden passion," Daniel gasped when Jack let him come up for air. "We shouldn't...give into...our desires." 

"To hell with just saying no," Jack insisted, kissing Daniel hard. 

Daniel cupped Jack's face in his hands. 

"We shouldn't do this." 

"Do you want to stop?" 

"God, no." Daniel's eyes were bright. 

He kissed Jack again, slow and deep. His fingers slid up through Jack's short spiky hair, his mouth was filled with Jack's tongue. Daniel was pressed back against the tree as Jack devoured his mouth. His hand scrabbled against the tree, searching for balance as his knees went weak. In the back of his mind, as Jack plumbed the depths of his mouth, Daniel realised his back was pressed against stone and not wood. 

Jack 's hand was in his trousers, and he quickly matched Jack's intent and Jack's pace. They kissed fast and hard and spurted over each other all too quickly. 

Daniel sank his head against Jack's shoulder. Jack stroked his hair softly. 

"Want more?" Jack offered, his skin flushed and sheened with a fine sweat. 

Daniel shook his head. No, this was enough. He kissed Jack. This was sweet. His lips were so warm. 

Daniel, eyes soft and dilated, stroked Jack's cheek softly. This was nice. Some people would call it a quick little fumble but it blew his mind and he was here, alone, with Jack, with Jack's taste and smell all over him, and Daniel wanted nothing more. 

They kissed again, lightly, then Daniel's curiosity got the better of him and he turned around. 

It wasn't a tree at all. It was a statue. Daniel's eyes widened, and Jack knew he'd lost Daniel to the thrill of discovery. He stood aside and let Daniel pull away the vegetation that obscured it. 

"Look, Jack, it's beautiful," Daniel raved over his shoulder. "It wouldn't look out of place in the Louvre. The artistry is - magnificent. Whoever carved this gave it soul, a spirit." He knelt happily to pull away the bushes that grew at the feet of the godlike image. "The society that could support such artistry must have been very sophis - Ow!" 

Daniel snatched his hand back, bleeding from a matching set of puncture wounds. 

"Something bit me." He saw movement and scrambled back. "Jack! Snake!" The bushes rustled. "Jack - no!" 

Jack had his rifle to bear and had fired off a burst before Daniel had finished. 

The snake leapt up into the air, then fell down, dead and bloody. The head was half shot off, but maybe there was enough to help identify the poison. 

Jack shrugged, unable to help his shoot first reflexes when it came to snakes. 

Jack kicked at the snake, making sure it was dead. 

"Jack," Daniel spoke, still sitting down. "I don't feel so good." 

"Oh, crap," Jack muttered, sliding his rifle over his shoulder as he knelt down. He opened his canteen and sloshed some water over the bite, then pulled the field dressing he kept in his pocket for emergencies and bound Daniel's forearm then fashioned a sling, keeping Daniel's arm immobile and strapped below his heart. 

"Come on. I'll walk you slowly back to camp." He pulled Daniel to his feet. Daniel looked pale and shocky already. Oh shit, this was bad. He leant Daniel against the statue for a moment and bagged the snake. There wasn't much left, but maybe what was left would help identify the poison. He gathered Daniel into his arms again and they set off. Daniel was sweating. This so wasn't good. 

"Can't take you anywhere," Jack tried to joke. 

Daniel said nothing, trembling slightly. 

~~~ 

Within sight of the Gate, Jack sat Daniel down carefully. 

"Don't move," he instructed. 

"Teal'c! Teal'c!" 

Teal'c appeared at a run. 

"Daniel got himself bit. Dial us home," Jack commanded. 

"Sit down. Don't move." Jack snapped at Daniel, catching movement in his peripheral vision. 

"Sorry," Jack apologised, knowing it must hurt. 

Daniel shook his head, then his eyes widened with horror. 

"Jack, I can feel it already." 

Oh crap. Jack turned back towards the Gate. 

"Teal'c! Hurry it up! We've got a narrow window of opportunity here." 

"Am I going to die?" Daniel asked, suddenly very afraid. 

"No, of course not," Jack lied unconvincingly. "Teal'c!" 

The Gate sprang to life. Teal'c and Jack loaded Daniel on the stretcher with the remains of the snake in a zip lock bag. They were mounting the worn stone steps when the MALP crackled to life. 

"SG-1, you do not have a go. Repeat, you do not have a go. The Mountain is locked down. We have a quarantine situation. Stay where you are." 

"General, we need to come through. Daniel has been bitten by a snake. There's already localised swelling and numbness. He needs urgent medical treatment." 

"I'm sorry, Colonel. You do not have permission to return." 

"General, you don't understand." 

"I understand perfectly. You have your orders, Colonel. Stay put." 

"No," Jack murmured as he watched the wormhole disintegrate. 

"Jack?" Daniel asked from the stretcher. The sound of his voice kicked Jack in the guts. 

"It's alright, Daniel. We'll look after you here. You'll be alright." He saw Sam's look and ignored it. What the hell was he supposed to say? 

They settled Daniel in his cot and made him as comfortable as possible. Teal'c left to find some plants he swore would help. Jack clung to that faint hope, but knew it was faint. Sam stayed by the Gate, pestering them for half hourly updates, offering to help. 

Jack stayed by Daniel's side, completely helpless to do anything. 

He cradled Daniel's head in his hand. 

"Here, drink this." 

Daniel sipped awkwardly at the diluted alcohol. The alcohol was to calm him, nothing more. Jack could use a shot or two of the stuff himself, right about now. 

"It'll be alright," Jack promised. "They'll sort it out and we'll be safe and home in no time." 

Daniel gazed up at Jack's earnest face. He wanted to believe, he did, but he knew the truth. 

Daniel's hair was damp with sweat. Jack brushed it back off Daniel's forehead, cold and pale. 

Daniel watched him with glassy, frightened eyes. 

Jack tried to smile for him. 

"You never know, this might be as bad as it gets." 

~~~ 

Teal'c returned, empty handed and defeated. The plants he wanted didn't grow on this fucked in the arse planet. Jack said nothing. He just went back to Daniel. 

Jack held Daniel's hand, but Daniel couldn't feel it. Daniel's breath was really hollow now. His eyes fluttered open and closed, trying to stay awake, but he was slipping away, and there was nothing Jack could do about it. 

Daniel's eyes closed again, and stayed closed. 

"Daniel? Daniel!" 

~~~ 

Sam ducked into the tent, shaking her head. Still no news. 

Daniel's eyes were closed, his skin was damp and his breath came in short ragged gasps. 

Jack closed his own eyes, bowing his head, but he couldn't block out the sound of Daniel's laboured breathing. He opened his eyes again and watched Daniel struggle. Jesus, he was losing him. Jack ran his hands through his hair. Please don't do this, Daniel, he begged silently, hunched over. Don't make me sit here and watch you die again. Don't leave me. Don't you dare leave me to face everything alone. Daniel.... 

He kissed Daniel's forehead gently. 

Daniel. 

Jack sagged, covering his eyes. Please Daniel, try. 

He stroked Daniel's sweat stained hair. Please, Daniel. Please. 

~~~ 

"Daniel lost consciousness over an hour ago," Jack pleaded into the MALP camera. "We're going to lose him. Don't ask me to watch him die, not like this." 

"I'm sorry, Jack. We're still locked down." 

"Daniel is going to die!" 

"There's nothing I can do. Quarantine is quarantine. We can't risk losing all of you." 

"General, please. We can't lose Daniel. He's too important. More important than me. Let me come through with him. Or Teal'c. I'll send Teal'c. He's immune to just about everything." 

"I can't risk it, Jack." 

"Dammit, General, he's going to die and you're going to be out one of the best damn translators in the business. He's a walking Babel fish. We need him. Send something through. Anything." 

"I can't do it, Jack." 

"For fuck's sake, General -" 

"Colonel, you have your orders." Hammond shut him off. 

So that was it. The Gate shut down. 

Jack stood for a moment, looking through the empty ring, then sank down on the weathered stones, hunching over, holding his head in his hands. Daniel. No. 

~~~ 

Jack sat slumped over, not saying anything. In the cot in front of him Daniel struggled for breath. The poison had a hold of him now. There was nothing Jack could do. Even if he could take Daniel through the Gate now, it was too late. Daniel was dying. 

Carter and Teal'c left him alone. Jack had that dangerous edge to his grief that made them leave him alone. 

Jack sat and watched and waited for Daniel to die. His fist clenched and unclenched. There was nothing he could do, and it was killing him. 

~~~ 

Sam's disembodied voice came across the radio, making SG-1's scheduled report. 

"Daniel Jackson died at 02:37 of respiratory failure." 

Damn. Hammond nodded to himself, absorbing the news. 

"Jack?" 

"Colonel O'Neill took Daniel's body to the Nox homeworld, Sir. He felt he had to try." 

"I thought the Nox said they were going to bury their Gate?" 

"Jack said: Since when does anybody ever really bury their Gate when they say they are going to." 

"Understood." 

"Next communication at 18:00 hours, Sir. Carter out." 

Hammond gazed down at the Stargate. Like Carter, he wanted to hope. Like Cater, he was a realist. 

~~~ 

It was cold and dark. Even crouched over the fire close enough to risk setting himself alight, Jack couldn't feel it's heat or see it's light. 

The shadows had lengthened and darkened and a damp cold had settled over the forest, a cold that went straight through him. A coldness that gathered heavy in the space where his heart had been. The flames danced in his eyes but he couldn't see them. He could put his hand in the flames and not feel it. He was numb. Completely numb and he didn't care. He hunched over further. He was so cold. So very cold. 

He glanced back to the hut again, but there was no sign of movement. None at all. He huddled coldly and waited, all alone, in the dark. 

~~~ 

Jack woke with a start, and realised he must have fallen asleep. Then he realised what had woken him. A hand resting on his shoulder. He twisted around. 

"Daniel." 

Jack leapt up and hugged him hard. 

"Danny!" He kissed Daniel's cheek. "Danny," he murmured again, breathlessly happy. He hugged him tight again, unable to feel enough of his warmth, or breathe his scent. He needed to feel Daniel was real. 

"Uh, Jack, I think my ribs are going to break." 

"Oh, sorry." 

Jack let him go enough for Daniel to get a breath, then hugged him again. 

Daniel kissed Jack lightly and finally got Jack to release him. 

"You're okay." Jack was grinning like an idiot. 

"Yes, thank you." His blue gaze held Jack's for a very long while. 

Jack eventually remembered his hosts and turned to the Nox, who had watched the reunion with affection and amusement. 

"I can't offer you anything, I have nothing you want, but if you ever need anything, ever, you just call me. Anything. Really." He turned back to Daniel, beaming. "Anything," he repeated, absently. 

~~~ 

The Gate's sudden activation had the remaining members of SG-1 reaching for their arms and taking defensive positions. Carter and Teal'c waited anxiously as the event horizon rippled impassively. Then, Jack O'Neill stepped through. 

Sam lowered her rifle. 

A moment later, Daniel stepped through behind Jack. 

Sam smiled with relief. 

"Daniel." 

Jack turned back to Daniel, grinned widely and threw his arm around Daniel's shoulders. 

"We're back!" he declared, smugness itself. "What's for dinner?" 

"Cook it and find out," Carter shot back, equally pleased. 

~~~ 

General Hammond watched the Stargate ripple and flow. 

"Dr Jackson?" he asked. 

"You know Daniel, General. Nine lives. More. He's fine. He's off muttering to his rocks as we speak." 

Hammond nodded, hearing the enormous smile in Jack's voice. Then the thought occurred to him that if he could hear it, so could others. His smile faded. 

~~~ 

Daniel arched an eyebrow and Jack tossed away his t-shirt. 

That was better. Daniel's hands carded up through the rough grey hairs over Jack's chest, loving the feel of them through his fingers as always. Jack hadn't been grey when he first met Daniel Jackson. It was something of a standing joke with them. Poor Jack. Daniel probably had sent him grey, Daniel had to admit. Jack couldn't take him anywhere without Daniel ending up in trouble. Daniel knew it. He was a great burden to Jack, and a strain on his sanity. Daniel smiled, amused. Poor Jack. Daniel was his cross to bear. 

Jack leant down, letting Daniel's arms curve around his neck, pulling him down. They kissed, then Daniel twisted his head away, shutting his eyes tight as Jack started to pump him. 

Jack loved to watch Daniel like this, struggling not to make a sound. Jack loved to feel Daniel in his hand, strong and firm. He loved to watch Daniel, watch him twitch as he tried to fight the arousal. Then Daniel would go utterly still for a second, and that was the moment. Then he'd relax and just lie there, looking like a lazy and indulged young god. Those blue eyes would open and look at him and Jack would see everything he ever wanted to see in those eyes. He knew those lips belonged to him. He tasted them, sliding around Daniel's warm tongue. Daniel spurted again. Jack loved the feel of Daniel's seed, fresh and hot on his fingers. He slid his hand down his own rapidly growing erection. 

Field preparation, Jack called it. They could hardly go through the Gate loaded with lube and edible underwear in their packs. Heaven forbid if one of them bought it with something incriminating on their person, Ed Wood style, so they made do. They shouldn't really at all, but a near miss was always followed by a good hard fucking. It was a tradition that was rapidly being elevated to the status of superstition and ritual. 

He needed this, so badly. He knelt between Daniel's thighs, grabbed him, lifted him up and entered him without ceremony. They'd been doing this for years. That was ceremony enough. It was more about touching, shared sensation, reaching that place as quickly and deeply as possible in the field before they were interrupted. Jack's bed, that was the place for long drawn out sensualism. This was all about gratification and affirmation. This was about life and death and grabbing what you can. 

Sam woke, hearing Daniel's low moan from the other tent. She sat up, thinking Daniel was in trouble, then realised, he wasn't. Daniel moaned again. Jack was inside him. She could hear Daniel make soft noises as Jack thrust deep, getting into a rhythm. 

She supposed they needed this. 

P3XJS 
Day Ten
Jack carefully brushed the dirt away, revealing the rim of an urn bit by bit. Good table ware, not just the ordinary kitchen stuff, Daniel had said, from the decorative flourishes, and this pleased Jack. He took extra care to brush the dirt from his find, lying on his stomach, brush in one hand, trowel in the other. 

He glanced across at Daniel, equally engaged in revealing and mapping some coins and bracelets in his own section. 

"Now I know why you like archaeology so much. It's kind of soothing and satisfying, once you get into it. Like playing in a sandbox." 

Daniel grinned, extraordinarily pleased that he'd made this small but important victory. "Not always. I've had to work with road crews standing over me, ready to demolish the site, in hip deep freezing mud, hanging off the side of a cliff, lying on a hard wooden trestle until I thought I'd never be able to stand again and I've had sunstroke more times than I can count." 

"So, not all fun and glamour then." 

"No, not really." 

Jack sat up, observing the burial site. "I guess you really can't take it with you." 

"If people didn't keep trying, I'd be out of a job." 

Jack met his grin. "Bury me with my golf clubs." 

"That's morbid," Daniel teased. 

"So, we going to find anything here?" 

"Goa'uld vanquishing doo-dads, no, probably not, but it doesn't hurt to try. Of course, the Airforce is never happy on the time and money I waste on these expeditions, regardless of the wealth of..." 

"Daniel," Jack warned, not wanting to have that argument again. Jack glanced over to the as yet unearthed sections. 

"Will we find a mummy?" Jack asked hopefully, ever the little boy. 

"No." Daniel shot him down without mercy. "Wrong climate and culture. This is more of a Greco-Roman based culture, with some early southern Celtic influence, from some of the jewellery. I suspect these people might have been taken from the lands that bordered the northernmost extent of the Roman Empire and the Celtic population at the time, perhaps southern Austria." He saw Jack's eyes glazing over. "There's a definite Roman influence here, and as the Ancients influenced Roman culture..." 

"That's how you sold Hammond on this dig. Daniel..." Jack was shaking his head, impressed when Daniel played the game. Daniel could be very, very shrewd and manipulative when he wanted to be. It made Jack uneasy at times, to see Daniel evolve into such a political animal. 

"So," Jack asked, resuming his excavation. "How do they make mummies, anyway?" 

Daniel's eyes lit with mischief. "Well, first they stick a coat hanger up your nose and wiggle it around until your brains run out." 

"You're kidding. You're not kidding. Ewww." 

"It's part of the preservation process, to remove the organs without damaging the body." 

"And sticking a coat hanger up your nose isn't considered damage?" 

"Well, not, not really, not cosmetically. And besides, you're dead, you don't feel it." 

"Doesn't sound very dignified. So, do you want to be mummified?" 

"Not really, but I wanted to be buried on Abydos, with Sha're, so I'll probably end up that way." 

"What about me." 

Daniel gave him a confused look. 

"Don't you want to be buried with me?" 

Daniel couldn't meet his eyes. "If I had that in my will I'd really give the game away, don't you think? Besides, don't you want to be buried with Charlie?" 

"Sara probably won't allow it," Jack mumbled, going back to his pot. 

"Thanks," Daniel offered softly. 

"For what?" 

"Saving my life. Again." 

Jack beamed at him. "I owe you. And besides, I've gotten used to you. I don't want to have to break in another geek on my team. I'm gettin' old, you know?" 

Daniel grinned. He hated being called a geek, but, perversely, he was happy to be Jack's geek. Jack only ever meant it fondly these days anyway. 

Sam watched Jack and Daniel tease each other like children, and wondered why she'd never seen it before, the obvious blurring of the lines between friends and lovers. Friends and lovers of several years standing, at that. She sat and watched them play. Teal'c was right, she couldn't see what was wrong with a friendship that ran so close and so deep. 

Sam sat up and wiped her face, smearing dirt across her forehead. She realised Teal'c had stopped sifting and was instead quietly watching Daniel and Jack on their part of the dig. Daniel was leaning across, explaining the markings on the top of the urn to Jack. Jack was interested and attentive, and Daniel was enjoying being able to share his passion. 

"Will Colonel O'Neill get in trouble for his friendship with Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked at last. 

Sam pushed her hair back. 

"Yes," she admitted. "He probably will." 

"Colonel O'Neill has done nothing wrong." 

"Some people think he has. He's broken the rules." 

Teal'c considered this for a moment. 

"On Chulak, it is not uncommon for a respected warrior to take a younger man as his student and his lover. It is believed this strengthens the bonds of loyalty, and that they will fight together like brothers." 

Sam blinked, suddenly not wanting to go there. 

"We have rules. Colonel O'Neill isn't supposed to show favouritism towards Daniel." 

"He does not." 

"I know, but rules are rules. 

"The rules do not apply. Daniel Jackson is a civilian." O'Neill protected Daniel Jackson, but Daniel Jackson needed protecting. 

"Yes, but we still have rules against men sleeping with other men." 

"I see," said Teal'c in that tone of voice that said he really didn't understand their ways at all. 

Daniel smiled in delight at Jack's indulgent interest in his old pots. 

Teal'c wondered again how this could be a punishable offence. 

"Colonel O'Neill's enemies wish to hurt him, and will use Daniel Jackson to do it." 

"Yes," Sam admitted tightly. 

Teal'c's eyes narrowed. He understood now. 

Daniel laughed. 

Teal'c understood the threat to his friends. 

Sam could see the lines of battle being drawn. Perhaps she should have said nothing, but forewarned was forearmed and Teal'c's loyalty was to Jack and Daniel, not the United States Airforce, as were the majority of the other treaties they'd made, she realised, and some people would do well to remember it. Jack and Daniel had powerful allies who held their loyalty to them, and them alone. 

P3XJS 
Day Twelve
Jack paced their tent, bored and horny. Daniel was hunched over his worktable sketching bits of broken pottery. 

"Come on, Daniel. You'll ruin you're eyes." 

"Just a few more hours, Jack. There's just me, to record this entire site. If I can only do one small section of it, at least I can do it properly." The site had proven so rich, and their time so limited, Daniel had decided to just excavate two squared off sections, with a promise to return, though he knew he never would. So he was making sure his notes were respectable enough for whomever would follow him. 

Jack was bored and restless though, annoying Daniel with his constant pacing back and forth, his fiddling and even field stripping his P90 had only kept Jack amused for a few minutes. 

Finally, he came to stand behind Daniel. He ran his hand through Daniel's hair, over his scalp, rubbing gently. 

Daniel closed his eyes, tilting his head back. 

Taking that as a sign of encouragement, Jack slipped his hands under the collar of Daniel's shirt, rubbing the back of his neck and shoulders. 

Daniel put his pencil down at last and leant back into Jack's arms. Jack tilted Daniel's chin up and stooped to kiss him, then rubbed some more. Feeling Daniel melt beneath his fingers, Jack began to pull up Daniel's shirt, rolling it up until he could pinch and twist the pink nipples. 

Daniel could feel Jack's hard on pressing firmly into the back of his neck. 

Daniel's hand ran up Jack's forearm as he pulled on Daniel's nipples, Jack's other hand stroked Daniel's lips and Daniel sucked on his thumb. 

Jack's other hand roamed down to rub Daniel's dick which was pressing up urgently against the fabric of his trousers. 

Daniel moaned something incomprehensible. Jack grabbed Daniel through the cloth, rubbed his thumb hard across the head of Daniel's cock and the friction made Daniel come right then and there. 

Jack kissed him again. 

"Come to bed." 

Daniel was in no position to argue. 

Daniel pulled his shirt over his head and let it lie where it fell. Then he bent over and pulled off his books and socks, kicking them under the table to lie in a tumbled heap. He stood up and dropped his pants, kicking them under the table with the rest. He was naked bar his glasses, and the damn sexiest geek Jack had ever seen. 

Then the glasses went and Daniel turned that big soft blue eyed gaze fully on Jack. 

Jack shook his head, never believing. 

"You are so beautiful to me," he breathed. 

Daniel squinted. "You're kind of blurry to me." 

"Probably just as well." 

"No," Daniel replied softly, cupping Jack's face tenderly in his hands and kissing him. 

Jack nodded towards the cots. 

Daniel stepped up to Jack and pressed the length of his body against Jack's. 

"I want you to take me here, hard," he purred. 

Jack nearly shot his load right there. 

Jack O'Neill didn't telling twice. Shirt, boots and trousers went flying. Daniel turned and braced himself on the back of his chair. 

"Here? You're sure?" Jack had to ask. Daniel turned back and nodded. 

"Oh, Danny, spare a thought for an old man's knees." 

"Jack," Daniel complained. "You're not old. Not to me." 

"I want you, so badly," Daniel murmured, nuzzling at Jack's neck. 

Oh yeah, that was working. 

Daniel felt Jack's hand trace his spine then smooth between his cheeks. He moved into the kiss and held Jack tighter as Jack stroked inside him. So good, but not enough. 

"Jack," he murmured, then slowly turned back around. Jack hugged him from behind, kissing Daniel's neck just the way he liked it. 

"Mmmm," was all Daniel said, leaning on the chair. Jack's arms ran along his shoulders, down his back to his hips. Daniel's skin twitched like a thorougbreds'. 

He felt Jack press against him, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. He closed his eyes, waiting. Then he arched back with Jack's name on his lips. Yes. God, yes. Jack's leg twisted around his, Jack's arms tightened around him, Jack's mouth bit at the skin on his shoulders softly. God, yes. Jack. 

Jack spat on his palm. It was crude but moderately effective. Like hell was he going to be caught dead with a tube of lube on his person, especially now. He was leaking so much in anticipation it didn't really matter. He slipped between Daniel's cheeks, pressing against him, feeling his strength and warmth. He and Daniel went bareback because there was no earthly reason why they shouldn't; Fraiser screened them everytime they stepped through the Gate. 

Jack held Daniel's hips and positioned himself. He kissed Daniel between his shoulder blades and offered up his usual silent prayer: Please God don't let the Goa'uld walk through that Gate right now. Then he pushed forward. 

Daniel rose up to meet him, pushing back on Jack so hard, so insistently. Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel, then wrapped his hand tight around Daniel's cock. 

"Are you going to fuck yourself for me?" Jack whispered hoarsely in Daniel's ear, following it up with the graze of his mouth along the side of Daniel's throat. Daniel moaned low, and pushed back, then up, fucked by Jack from behind and in front. Oh god. Jack pushed Daniel down onto the chair, his hand hard on the back of Daniel's neck. His other hand pulled Daniel tight and in three hard thrusts he was done. Daniel shuddered and came hot and hard over Jack's hand. That was all Jack needed. Jack felt the tremor go through Daniel and it send him spinning over the edge. He buried his head against Daniel's shoulders, feeling his body jerk spasmodically of its own free will, just along for the ride. He felt giddy, he felt a wash of vertigo, he didn't know his up from his down, but he could feel Daniel, warm against him. He slumped over Daniel's strong, muscular back, closing his eyes and just feeling and breathing Daniel. 

Sam saw them, silhouetted against the side of the tent, like something from a Greek vase, with Jack leaning over Daniel, inside Daniel, his hand wrapped around Daniel's prick. Sam was walking back from the hole in the ground they called a bathroom when she saw them. She glanced away. This was private and they'd probably forgotten they'd left Daniel's reading lamp on, casting shadows. It looked like they'd entirely forgotten where they were, and who they were, but she could forgive them, because she knew as much as they did, that this couldn't last. 

One day Sam promised she'd get herself drunk enough to ask Daniel what Jack was like in the sack. 

Daniel slowly led Jack back towards the cot. They sat down on the cot together, tongues and arms entwined, then lay down together. Daniel rolled over, still twitching, snuggling up against Jack. It was sweet. Pulling Jack into his arms and they just lay there, together, dozing in sleep. Daniel could see Jack quite clearly this close up, and he was still struck by how much he adored and was aroused by this man. He kissed the top of Jack's head and let his eyes close, falling asleep himself. Whatever might come, it was worth it. 

Jack reached down and made sure his P90 was close to hand, his last coherent thought for the night, other than Daniel felt good, Daniel tasted good, Daniel smelt good. 

~~~ 

Jack woke to the soft beeping of his watch. Gently, he eased himself from beneath Daniel's arm. Daniel stirred and Jack kissed the top of his head softly. 

"Just my watch. Go back to sleep." 

Daniel made a muffled noise and rolled over, obediently dropping straight back into a deep sleep. 

Jack pulled on his jacket, grabbed his P90 and slipped through the tent flaps, nodding to Teal'c who waited patently to hand over the watch. 

"Does not Daniel Jackson take a turn on watch?" Teal'c asked, noting that Jack had been taking Daniel's shifts as well as his own, day and night. 

Jack leant on his rifle. "Sure, if you want to go in there and tell Daniel you're depriving him of his beauty sleep."" 

As Teal'c considered the full implications of what O'Neill had said, Jack saw an expression form on Teal'c's face that he didn't think he'd ever seen before. He thought it might be fear. 

Teal'c conceded the point very quickly with a curt nod. 

"I too will take Daniel Jackson's watches," Teal'c declared, not wanting O'Neill to shoulder the greater portion of the burden. Teal'c would support O'Neill in this difficult time. Teal'c owed him no less. O'Neill was a good leader, and his concern for Daniel was as it should be, as a father makes a special effort with a wayward child. That was Teal'c's way of saying the squeaky wheel got the oil. 

Jack knew, everyone knew, Daniel was the weakest link. Jack knew it. Dealt with it. Teal'c knew Daniel's favoured position had nothing to do with his place in Jack's bed. It had everything to do with Daniel being Daniel, and Daniel being the civilian. It was Jack's job to protect the civilians, always. Jack had long ago learnt to wear the inconvenience of Daniel, because Daniel gave him so much more: his soul. 

Funny though how the threat of waking their pet academic still managed to evoke bowel loosening terror in two men who been killing people professionally for decades. Daniel wasn't as harmless as he looked. 

~~~ 

Jack held his cup out expectantly for coffee. Carter gave him a little smile and poured it for him. 

He returned the smile, mouthing the word thankyou. He looked tired. 

Carter glanced over his shoulder. 

"Where's Daniel?" 

"Asleep." 

"Still?" Carter's eyebrows shot up, then her look grew sly. "Something keeping him up all night?" 

Jack gave her a look. "Ha ha, As a matter of fact he was working most of the night. I tried to make him go to bed, but you know Daniel." 

"Not as well as you do, Sir." 

Jack gave her another look. "Is this a problem?" 

Sam flushed, then shook her head. "No, Sir. I'm sorry, I'm only teasing." 

Jack ran his hand through his hair. Carter was bothered, but there was nothing he could do about it, except break up the team, and that was going to happen anyway. 

Jack rubbed his eyes tiredly. "As it happens the only way I know of getting Daniel to get sleep when he needs it is by...relaxing him. It's better for him than drugs." 

"And you? You look tired, Sir." 

Jack smiled. "Oh that's not the problem, Carter. Trust me. The reason I can't sleep right now is because I know I'll probably be facing a court-martial when I get back." 

"They won't, will they?" 

Jack just raised an eyebrow. Of course they will. 

"Daniel's not making things any easier, is he, Sir. You've got so much on your plate and he decides to be - " 

"Daniel? I don't think he actually decided to be a pain in the arse." Jack leant back and sighed. "I'm his commanding officer, his friend and his partner. It's my job to look after him, no matter how difficult. An archaeologist isn't just for Christmas," he joked mildly. 

Sam was staring over his shoulder. 

"Daniel!" 

Jack jumped guiltily. 

"Hey," Daniel smiled at him. He mustn't have heard, or been miles away, as usual. 

Jack gazed up at him with weary but very warm affection. Daniel dropped a kiss on the top of Jack's head, solely for Sam's benefit. 

"Miss me?" Jack asked, as though they'd been apart for weeks, not hours. 

"Always." Daniel's next kiss was on Jack's lips. 

Sam hacked up a loud stage cough and they drew apart. Daniel sat down beside Jack, still exchanging glances. Again Sam kicked herself. How could she not have seen it before? They were exactly like an old married couple, affectionately squabbling over the last of the biscuits. 

Jack smacked Daniel's hand and took the last biscuit, exercising the privilege of rank. Daniel pouted and Jack gave in, offering half to Daniel. 

Sam shook her head. No wonder Daniel had sent the Colonel grey so fast. 

Jack sent Daniel off to his dig with an affectionate pat on the backside. Carter probably thought he spent every spare moment thinking of getting up that incredibly tight arse of Daniel's. And it was true, oh yes indeed. Well, mostly true. Sometimes he had other things on his mind. Not right now though, as he watched Daniel move about. Oh yeah. Jack glanced down, clearly impressed with himself. Carter might think he had the mind of a teenager, well, that wasn't the only thing. 

Carter shook her head. Jack was so obviously checking out Daniel's arse. How had she never noticed that before? 

~~~ 

SGC 
Day Fifteen
Sam followed the boys down the ramp, watching Janet almost leap on Daniel, ready to drag him off to the infirmary, Jack tagging along. And everywhere that Mary went, Sam thought, wickedly. She was pulled up short by General Hammond. 

"Everything's all right, I assume, Major?" he asked quietly. 

"Oh yes. Now." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Oh, you know the Colonel and Daniel, handbags at dawn - Sir," she amended. "Things were tense, then Daniel died and the Colonel's been somewhat over protective ever since." She shrugged. "They'll be fine. Daniel dug up some really nice things, Sir," she indicated the containers Teal'c was carefully unloading from the MALP. 

~~~ 

"Well, you're in perfect condition, Dr Jackson," Dr Fraiser announced. 

"I could have told you that," drawled Jack, surveying the perfect physical specimen that sat shirtless and slightly embarrassed on Dr Fraiser's examining table. 

"There's no trace of the venom in his system. Nor is there any trace of the wrist he broke last month on P9638. The fracture has healed as if new. Appendix scar is still there, though. Looks like the Nox only fixed up your most recent injuries, Daniel." 

"How about that, gold service treatment from the Nox. Way to go." Jack beamed, happy to have his Daniel home and in one perfectly functioning piece. 

"What did they do to him?" Janet needed to know. 

Jack shrugged. "I didn't see, or understand. I was kind of upset, you know, and they were kind of invisible, mostly." 

"Excuse me?" Daniel interrupted. "I'm still here," he reminded. 

Janet turned to him. 

"Do you know what they did to you?" 

Daniel bowed his head. "No. I was kind of dead at the time. I just woke up, and I felt fine." 

"How do you feel now?" 

Daniel considered. "For a recently deceased person I feel fine, better than fine." He blinked. "Still myopic though. I guess they really only fixed the most recent stuff." 

He glanced over at Jack. "Still not over you." 

Jack wasn't put off. "You say that like it's a bad thing." 

Their eyes met. 

"No, never," Daniel agreed. He smiled at Jack. "Still gay, then." 

"You're not gay, Daniel," Jack protested. "I've seen you have girlfriends. Psychotic murdering destroyer of worlds girlfriends, but still..." Jack shrugged under Daniel's filthy look. "It's not your fault you can't resist the charms of your impossibly handsome Colonel." 

Daniel grinned widely. "Nice to know the fact that two of your team have a crush on you hasn't gone to your head. And you're not my Colonel. I'm a civilian. They can't court-martial me for this." 

"Aw, come on," Jack teased. "Of course I'm your Colonel. You've always been my archaeologist." 

"Boys," Janet warned. "Behave. A little less flirting on base now might be in order." 

"Oh, come on, we always flirt," Jack complained. "And argue and fight and sulk at each other." 

"I guess we can't now," Daniel conceded. 

"No." Jack held up his hand. "No. Okay, yes to easing up on the flirting, but Daniel and I are friends. I won't let them take that away from us." 

Jack turned to Fraiser. 

"So, Doc, we done? I can take this perfect specimen home?" 

"I wouldn't advise that course of action, but yes, I'm done with him." She snapped off her latex gloves. 

Daniel slipped off the table and pulled his t-shirt down over his head. 

"I want you back here in two days for a checkup," Fraiser called after Daniel. She watched them go, shaking her head fondly, and sat down to add her notes to Daniel's medical records, the most bizarre medical history on the planet, with only Jack O'Neill's for competition. Neither should be still alive. No wonder they had turned to each other. Who else would understand what they had endured together? 

~~~ 

"You really feel alright?" Jack asked as they walked down the corridor. 

Daniel smiled sweetly. "Yes, I do." He allowed himself a little frown. "Actually, I feel kind of hungry." 

"Okay. " Jack considered. "Commissary?" 

Daniel's frown deepened. "Bit public." 

"Town, then," Jack agreed. 

"Jack, we'll need a chaperone, Daniel reminded. 

Jack gave him a 'oh you must be kidding' look, then realised Daniel wasn't. 

~~~ 

"Come on, Carter," complained Jack. 

"Be our chaperone," chimed in Daniel. 

Sam shook her head in disbelief. 

"I can't. I'm sorry, I've got a lot of work to do." 

Jack gave her a mild 'yeah, right'' look, but let it lie. 

Jack and Daniel looked at each other in the corridor. 

"Teal'c?" Daniel suggested. 

"Nah," they agreed in unison 

Daniel cocked his head sideways. "Fraiser?" 

"Me?" Janet's eyebrows rose. "Why me? To what do I owe this honour?" 

"We need a chaperone." Daniel was alarmingly blunt. "And Sam won't come." 

"She won't?" 

Jack shrugged. "You know, she's got a thing for me." 

"And she's not been very happy since she found out I have a..uh..a thing for Jack, too." Daniel explained haltingly. 

"Oh, so I'm your choice of beard tonight, boys?" 

"Well, yeah," Jack and Daniel had to agree. 

~~~ 

Daniel looked at Jack across the table and Jack looked at Daniel. 

Daniel ducked his head. 

"This is crazy. We used to be able to at least...talk. It's never bothered us before, what anyone thought." 

"We never thought they'd buy it." 

"Well, they buy it now. Though Sam was surprised. I always thought she knew." 

"Me too." 

"Sam didn't know?" Janet broke in. 

Jack and Daniel shook their heads. 

"No, she didn't," Daniel admitted. "She's not very happy about it, either." 

"I never meant to hurt her," Jack mumbled. 

"She knows that," Janet reassured. 

"Should we even be talking about this, here?" Daniel glanced about. 

Jack shrugged. 

Daniel was gazing at Jack across the table. 

Jack raised an eyebrow. 

"Why is it that now when I shouldn't even look at you, let alone touch you, I want to, so badly." Daniel's eyes burned. 

Janet was half embarrassed to witness such naked yearning, but her friendship and professional interest carried her through. 

"Precocious ID's, Daniel. We always want what we can't have. No one really knows why it's so, it just is." 

"It's not fair." 

"Precious little in this life is, Daniel," Janet explained, smiling over her harsh words. She loved Daniel, dearly, but it was about time he grew up. 

"It's more than that. I don't want to lose you," Daniel repeated earnestly in the car park. Daniel's eyes were liquid. 

"You won't," Jack promised. Jack turned away and got into his car. Daniel watched him drive away, lost and forlorn, regarding Jack's beat up old car fondly as an extension of its owner, rather than the certain death trap he usually thought of it as being. 

Daniel fiddled with the keys of his own modest vehicle. His first car, when he'd gotten back, had still screamed impoverished academic. Four years later his car was still modest, but shiny and new. He liked it. He looked up again, imagining he could still see Jack's tail lights, that he could tell him from all others. 

They always drove their own cars. Not to maintain appearances so much as from personal preference. As far as Daniel was concerned, Jack drove as though he were on a bombing run over Iraq and taking enemy fire, and nothing on this earth or several other planets of his acquaintance would convince Daniel to sit voluntarily in Jack's passenger seat ever, ever again. 

Jack, for his part, hated to have anyone else at the wheel, be it planes, cars or spaceships. He was a fidgeting backseat driver and this didn't go down at all well with Daniel. So they drove their own cars, and it was a reasonable subterfuge, if anyone had ever bought it. 

Daniel realised couldn't see Jack's tailights any more. 

It was that moment Daniel knew it was over. He slumped against the roof of his car, wanting to cry but finding no tears would come. No more jokes, no more warm touches from Jack's hand. No more secret games of footsie in the briefing room, no more stolen kisses in dark and forgotten corners, no more teasing and flirting, no more just hanging around together. It was gone, all of it. It had to be, for Jack's sake. And Daniel realised, if he couldn't have Jack, if he couldn't have Jack's friendship, he didn't want any of it. 

~~~ 

Daniel flicked on the light and scowled at his apartment, as though it were personally responsible for Jack's absence. 

Knowing he'd never sleep, and desperately needing something to do, he quickly hopped on the net, not even bothering to change or get a drink. He knew what he wanted to do; look up current digs he might get a job on, as far away as possible, and plan his escape route. 

If Jack was going to be sacrificed, his presence here would only be a liability, a distraction. Jack didn't need that. 

~~~ 

"Jack." 

Jack braced himself. It was never good news when the General started an interview informally, as though the relaxed terms would soften the blow. It didn't. 

"They've decided to go to General Court-martial under Article 133 "Conduct unbecoming an Officer and a gentleman." 

Jack hung his head. "Crap." He looked Hammond in the eye. "What about Daniel?" 

The General looked genuinely startled. "Daniel's gone, Jack. He phoned me from the airport this morning and told me he was taking some of his leave, now, for an unspecified amount of time. He said he didn't want to be around to distract you or incriminate you." 

"He left?" Jack asked, not believing. 

"Didn't he contact you?" No, from the look on Jack's face, Hammond could tell Daniel hadn't. He'd never seen Jack look so kicked. It worried him. 

"It's probably for the best, Jack. You need to prepare your defence. As far as I know, you've never admitted to any of the charges they've made about you," Hammond announced his intention to lie to protect Jack. "There might be a chance, if their investigation can be proved to be unlawful. Don't admit to anything. You've got to fight this, Jack." 

"Why?" Jack looked truly beaten. 

"I could say because the fate of the world depends on it, but you don't need that kind of pressure. So I will say because you're a good man, a good officer and a good friend, and I'd hate to lose you." 

There was a slight return of colour to Jack's face at that, but not by much. Damn Dr Jackson, Hammond cursed. If he'd known Jack was going to take it like this, he'd have had Daniel dragged back to the base under armed guard. It was too late now. What was done was done. 

~~~ 

Sam raised her hand to knock, paused, then decided to go ahead. 

"Yeah, what?" came the crabby reply. 

Ignoring the tone, she pushed open the door. 

Jack was slouched over at his desk, head propped on his hand, frowning at a report he had spread open in front of him. He didn't look up or acknowledge her entrance. 

"I heard Daniel left." 

"You probably heard before I did," Jack mumbled. 

That stopped Sam in her tracks. 

"You didn't know? He didn't tell you?" 

"Nope. The little rat jumped ship during the night." 

"Oh, Jack." 

He looked up. "Don't," he warned. "Just don't." 

Sam was shocked. They'd been through hell, literally, and she'd never seen Jack look so worn. The she saw the scotch bottle on the table, three quarters empty. 

Oh fuck. Jack was grieving. 

"I -" Sam waved at the door. "I can leave." 

Jack leant back in his chair. 

"Stay, leave, whatever. You should probably know they're gunning for me. They're pushing for a court-martial." 

Sam blinked, then frowned. "On what grounds, Sir?" 

"Article 133." 

"Oh." She glanced over at him. "They can't prove anything, can they?" 

"Do they have to?" Jack sneered. "It's Maybourne's old outfit. They can whip up anything they damn well want, and they will, just to see the back of me." 

"But that's - that's not fair." 

Jack spun in his chair. 

"Really? Ya think?" 

Sam ignored his tone. 

"Why this? Why now?" 

"Something's moving and shaking behind the scenes. I don't know. They went for Hammond. Now they're going for me. Makepeace started this but I seriously doubt he thought this up all by himself." Jack threw his pen down on his desk. "Vindictive little - " he couldn't finish, he was that angry. 

"No," he decided. "They've wanted me off this project since day one. Makepeace's desperate little rants just gave them the idea. They've bought his testimony, I'll bet." 

"They haven't bought mine," Sam promised quietly. 

He looked at her at last. She could read his thanks in his eyes. 

~~~ 

"I'm worried about Jack." Sam managed to get Janet's attention with that. 

"Jack?" 

"He's sitting in his office alone, drinking." 

"Oh." Janet looked almost relieved. Was that all? For a moment, she'd been really worried. 

"Let him be, Sam. He's just lost two of the most important things in the world to him." 

"Two?" 

"Daniel, and his career." 

"He hasn't been court-martialled yet," Sam insisted. 

Janet gave her a 'and how long have you been in this airforce, girl?' look. 

Sam nodded, understanding. Jack's career was as good as dead, whatever the outcome. 

"Give him a week," Janet advised. "If he's still drinking hard by then, we'll worry." 

Sam fidgeted. 

"He needs space," Janet advised more firmly. The last thing Jack needed right now was Sam hovering over him. He'd blow up, say things he'd regretted and feel even worse. "Just let him be, for now. If he wants to talk, he will," she promised. 

~~~ 

Jack was sitting alone in the commissary, glumly watching his coffee cool and grow a scum over the top. 

He barely looked up when Carter plonked down beside him. 

"I've been thinking about the Daniel situation." 

"Situation," he repeated her euphemism bitterly. 

"I realise how damaging the allegations are, whether you get them dropped or not," her voice still conveyed her disapproval. "I was thinking, instead of trying to fight the charges," her look indicated how much of chance she gave him of beating the evidence against him. "You need to prove you're just as irreplaceable as Daniel." 

"Daniel's gone," he reminded her sourly. 

Jack slumped again, brooding, playing idly with his coffee cup. 

"Daniel's in Europe," Carter admitted at last. She felt that jealous kick again at the way a spark of life suddenly returned to Jack's features. 

"He told you?" Jack asked carefully. 

Sam shook her head. "General Hammond has a man on him. Probably the NID too." 

"That's nice for Daniel." 

"Daniel's too much of a security risk to let wander off on his own, whether he realises it or not. There's a real concern the Russians might grab him, let alone anyone else." 

"Oh," was all Jack said. Sam suspected he was happier to have Daniel watched than unwatched, especially by someone Hammond had chosen. 

Jack became aware of Carter watching him. 

"You still want to know why Daniel?" 

"Well, yes. You pushed me away because of regulations. Why not him?" 

Jack just shrugged. "I don't know. If I knew, I could stop it. God knows, I wish I could stop it, but Daniel, he just" he frowned. "Speaks to me, I guess. I need him and I can't stay away. It's not deep, but there it is. Of course, I can't speak for Daniel." His voice grew bitter again. 

"I think Daniel left because he couldn't bear to see you suffer and not be able to do anything about it." 

Jack looked at her hard. "He told you that?" 

"No, but I know Daniel." 

Jack sank back into glumness. He didn't know Daniel any more. 

"Used to be saving the planet counted for something," Jack grimaced. 

"Maybe it still can," suggested Carter. 

Jack looked at her. 

"I have an idea." 

"So what's you're bright idea," he asked, bracing himself. 

"Remind them that the Asgard will deal only with you. You know that. Hammond knows that. But does the Pentagon realise that?" 

She saw the thought process, take hold, and grow. Jack sat up, suddenly a little more alive. "Hey." 

Sam smiled "You're welcome, Sir. I'm sure you could get a similar testimony from the Nox and the Tollan. If this is between you and Makepeace, we already know where their loyalties lie." 

Jack slumped again. "The Tollan and the Tok'ra, yeah, sure, they'll bend over backwards to help me," he grumbled. He was a dead duck, everyone knew it. Even Daniel, apparently. 

Two weeks later...
"Jack." Hammond shook his head in disappointment. His best, if most wayward, officer was slumped on his own couch, wearing an old t-shirt and baggy tracksuit bottoms that barely passed as pyjamas, his hair in uncombed tufts and his lined cheeks grizzled with several days growth. Hammond hadn't been given a choice in putting Jack on enforced leave prior to his court-martial. He hadn't expected Jack to have drowned himself in depression and apathy quite so thoroughly. 

"Jack, your hearing is tomorrow. You've got to straighten yourself out, son. Don't you want to fight this?" 

Jack stirred at last. "Actually, Sir, I want to retire. Permanently, this time." 

"You can't mean that." 

"I do." 

"You'd be letting them win." 

Jack looked bleak and weary. "They already have. They've got me by the balls. Daniel's gone." 

"If you go, Jack, I'll be next, and they have what they want. You know this. You know what they'll do." 

"Why should I care?" Jack's eyes burned with sudden resentment. 

"Because you're a good and honourable man," Hammond reminded Jack softly. 

"I never used to be. I was dirtier than Makepeace." 

"That's in the past. That's not the man you are now," Hammond tried to get through to him. "Pull yourself together, Jack, and we'll try and beat this. Then we'll get Dr Jackson back." 

Jack's eyes shone with hope for a second, before that hope was extinguished. Hammond shook his head. He was as much to blame for this as O'Neill. He'd known from the start and he should have put a stop to it. Instead, he'd let Jackson join SG-1 and had chosen to turn a blind eye to it, so long as his team got the results he needed to justify the program's worth to the Washington bean counters. Like Jack, he was surprised they'd gotten away with it for so long. Certainly, this time, they'd managed to get Jack in his weak spot. 

"I'll see you tomorrow, Jack," Hammond spoke as he got up to leave. It wasn't small talk, it was an order. 

It was an entirely different Jack O'Neill who reported for duty the next day. Or rather, it was a Jack O'Neill few people at the mountain had seen or remembered. Freshly shaved and showered and ram rod straight in his Class A uniform, this was the Jack O'Neill who went to war, cold of eye and grim of purpose. He was a stranger to Sam and barely acknowledged her other than the regulation salute as she passed him in the corridor. 

Davis poked his head around the door, all moist sympathy; not that Jack had eyes to notice. 

"They're ready for you now, Sir." 

Jack stood, straight and tall, popping his cap smartly under his arm. Here goes nothing. 

London, England 
Six weeks later.
Daniel was on his knees and in his element, entirely oblivious to the familiar swagger that strolled along the edge of the dig. 

Jack smiled. There was Daniel, head down, bum up, scratching away in his own little cordoned off square, nose inches away from his work, carefully trowelling away the dirt, tiny crumbs at a time. He looked completely at home here, in a London carpark, or soon to be carpark, as much as he managed to look at home in any place or planet that you cared to mention. Even in the SGC Daniel had become part of the furniture. So much so that Jack couldn't imagine life without him, even when he had been forced to live it. 

Daniel could set himself down anywhere. It probably came from being fostered. Daniel had been the one to make first contact, he'd lived off planet for over a year. Jack smiled again. These people had no idea how remarkable Daniel really was. 

He crouched beside Daniel and waited for Daniel to notice him. 

It took several minutes, then Daniel finally put down his trowel and blinked at him, as though dismissing a hallucination. 

"Jack." 

"Daniel." 

Thereby followed a slightly uncomfortable silence. 

"So, whatcha doing?" Jack had to ask. 

Daniel scowled. "Trying to save as much as we can before this entire site is destroyed forever in two weeks time." Daniel was all piss and vinegar in outrage. 

Shit, he'd walked right into that one, Jack cursed himself. Now he'd have to sit through another one of Daniel's rants about historical preservation and...Daniel must have seen his look of panic, because he stopped. 

Another silence. 

"You didn't write. You didn't call," Jack accused quietly. 

"I didn't want to give them any incriminating evidence." 

"You just left." 

"I thought it would be better if I wasn't around. I couldn't stay," Daniel admitted. 

"Did you at least miss me?" 

Daniel looked genuinely surprised for a moment, then he reached up from his pit, grabbed Jack's face and kissed him, deep and long, breaking the heart of every man, woman and child on the site. Daniel brushed the smudge of dirt from Jack's cheek and released him. 

Jack was grinning. 

"Okay, so you missed me." 

Daniel's hand rested possessively on Jack's knee. 

"Well?" he had to ask. 

Jack's smile faded a little, he aged a little. 

"I won." 

Daniel looked confused. That hadn't been the news he'd expected. Then he realised what the last month must have been like for Jack. He felt guilty that he hadn't been there, but he just couldn't stand it. 

"I had to call in every damn favour I was ever owed, and then some," Jack answered his unspoken query. "So the next time the planet wants saving, they can go get someone else, because I'm tapped. My hands are tied." 

Daniel raised an eyebrow and Jack ignored him. 

"So there's still an SG-1, if you want to come back," Jack finished. 

Daniel beamed, and Jack had his answer. 

Jack had wondered if he should do this, take Daniel away from his first love, the whole flight over, but now he had his answer. He knew what Daniel wanted. 

Daniel pushed his glasses up. 

"I have to finish up here, but later - where are you staying?" 

"With you. I got the desk clerk to give me a second key." 

Daniel's eyebrows shot up then down. He wondered how Jack had both found him and ingratiated himself into Daniel's room. Probably charmed, brow beat or threatened, or a combination of all three, if he knew Jack. He smiled. He knew Jack. 

Jack tilted his head, slowly reading the faintly carved inscription on the piece Daniel was working on. "Sacred to the god Mithras. M. Flavius Aquila willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow...how about some punctuation here, buddy." 

Daniel looked up sharply, frowning, then remembered Jack had taught himself to read Latin during those timeloops. Okay, he shrugged. 

'I'll make you help," he warned. Jack fell quickly silent. Daniel smiled to himself. It always worked. Nothing like the threat of translating something to knock the wind out of Jack's sails. Then he realised that wasn't fair to Jack, who'd come all this way to see him. He looked up at Jack again. 

"Lunch?" 

The Red Lion
Daniel leant close. 

"How?" he asked to ask. He had to know, how had Jack won, what had he promised in return. 

"How did I keep my job in spite of the biggest sleaze campaign since the last presidential election? I yanked on every string I had to pull, and it wasn't easy, people stopped returning my calls. I had to call on friends in high places." 

"The President?" Daniel stared. 

"Higher." Jack indicated the direction up, and Daniel got it. 

"Thor?" 

"The Asgard, the Tollan, the Nox, Bra'tac, even the Tok'ra, bless their slimy little hearts. They all said they'd break off relations if I was removed. They trusted me, and you, I guess," he added. "They said they only trusted me, personally, rather than the boys back at the Pentagon, so I had to be kept on, for diplomatic reasons." 

"That's very impressive." Daniel agreed. 

"No, it sucks, Daniel." Jack's anger was barely controlled. "All I did was paint an even bigger target on my back. I've just proved that I'm more powerful than the President. The Asgard are my allies, not those of the United States. The Secretary of State wants my head on a plate. The entire Department of State must be crapping themselves because I've made all these treaties with people who will only deal with me. Do you have any idea how much shit I am in? I'll be very surprised if we don't end up having to drag a bureaucrat along with us from now on. They are not going to let me make any more treaties, not after this." 

Jack buried his head in his hands. "Crap," he repeated again. "The Department of State want me dead. NID want me dead. The Department of Defense want me dead. I'm screwed." He looked up. "I'm not good at politics, Daniel. I needed you there." 

Daniel hung his head. "I'm sorry. I thought going away would help." 

"Well, it didn't," Jack snarled, then made himself be calm. He knew Daniel had only tried to help; hadn't wanted to be a distraction, hadn't been able to take the strain of pretending everything was okay when it wasn't, hadn't been able to live under such scrutiny and suspicion. 

Jack sighed. "You don't leave your friends to face fire alone, Daniel," he lectured in soft but strained tones. 

"I'm sorry," Daniel repeated, even more heartfelt this time. 

Jack nodded. He knew. He wouldn't be here otherwise. Had it been anyone other than Daniel, he would never have forgiven them. Ever. With Daniel, he was furious, but he understood. Daniel wasn't military. He'd just gotten annoyed at the whole situation and walked. Daniel had yet to learn you just didn't do that, especially not to your best friends. Not to Jack. 

Though Daniel's actions had kind of worked as intended. His desertion of Jack at such a critical time had cast a doubt on just how close the two men had actually been. People had been convinced that Daniel Jackson didn't care about the Colonel after all. Too bad one of those people had been Jack O'Neill. 

They fell into another one of their uncomfortable silences. Jack couldn't say anything to Daniel. He was suddenly very angry again and he knew it wouldn't do any good to lose his temper now. Jack studied his beer and scowled. 

Daniel wanted to say he was sorry again, but knew Jack would hurt him, physically, if he did, so he didn't. Jack was mad, really mad. Jack was being quiet, which was always a bad sign. Jack was saying it was all okay. That was even worse. Daniel had just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, as Jack was always saying. He'd had no idea he'd wounded Jack so deeply. No idea at all. He bowed his head, so angry at himself. Of course he'd hurt Jack. How could he be so stupid. 

Jack saw Daniel mentally beating himself up and relaxed a little. Just the familiar sight of Daniel's inner war raging, it smoothed out a lot of the hard jagged edges of Jack's anger. He could follow Daniel's thoughts almost as well as he could follow any of Daniel's conversations, and realisation brought him a warm glow of fondness He realised he could forgive Daniel, and only Daniel, for his desertion. 

"So," Jack started, watching Daniel snap to attention, somewhat wary of what was coming next. Good, Jack couldn't help but smiling, let him be on the back foot. Having the moral advantage over Daniel could be fun, might make up for a lot of grief. Oh yes, he could enjoy this, while it lasted. 

"So," he began again. "You missed the court-martial to end all court-martials. You should have seen my poor JAG lawyer keel over when Thor beamed down. Nobody had warned the poor guy about little grey men." Jack shrugged, mischief in his eyes. "I mean, it was classified, right? Who knew Thor'd have the time to stop by and help out a buddy." Jack smiled warmly at the memory. Oh yeah, those were the moments you cherished. 

"Are we okay?" Daniel had to ask. 

Jack nodded, watching the relief flood Daniel's face. It wasn't the first time Daniel had really pissed him off, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. It wasn't entirely Daniel's fault, either. Daniel would have never have left without a word if NID hadn't been watching and recording his every move. 

Daniel followed his thoughts. 

"So, how much evidence did they have?" 

"A lot," Jack admitted unhappily. "But it was off base, in our own homes, thermal imaging, wire taps, that sort of thing." 

"That's illegal," Daniel protested. 

Jack grinned. "That's why it wasn't allowed as evidence." He took a long pull on his beer. It had still been bad, the implications of impropriatry had been damning, and they'd never go away. Jack had shot his career in the foot. He'd never rise above Colonel now. He'd never take over the SGC from Hammond. He'd fucked everything up, all for...he gazed at Daniel, meeting those blue eyes. Oh yeah, that's why he'd done it. 

Don't look at me like that, Daniel, he thought. Looks like that would only fuel the fire and add grist to the rumour mill. As if the SGC wasn't already like working in a fishbowl. It'd be months before people lost interest and latched onto another scandal. He found himself hoping for a Goa'uld invasion, or something. Maybe saving the planet again might raise his stocks a little. Maybe. It was wrong to hope for such things, but it'd sure help dig them out of this hole he found himself in. 

Jack idly traced patterns in the puddle of beer scum on the table. 

"They couldn't find your diaries. They weren't very happy. Where on earth did you hide your journals? I kept expecting them to be used in evidence. I know they searched your place for them." Jack had to know. He'd hoped and feared Daniel had destroyed them. 

Daniel winced at the thought of NID goons pawing through his precious personal artefacts. 

"You did hide them on earth?" Jack pressed, worry in his eyes. 

"Oh yes," Daniel nodded. Daniel hunched forward. "They're in a suitcase in storage in LA. If anyone finds them they'll just think they're film scripts." He raised an eyebrow. "That was right, wasn't it?" 

Jack nodded slightly. Good call. So that's why Daniel had taken the long way round. Devious little monkey. 

"Even if they found my private journals it would have done them little use. It'd take them months, at least to decipher the private code I write them in." 

"Code?" 

"You don't think I'm stupid enough to keep a personal journal that could be easily read, do you? The ones you found before in English are my work books - I use them to write my reports. My journal - that's private." Daniel grinned, somewhat smugly. His code wasn't unbreakable, but using a mix of ancient and obscure and occasionally alien languages, it'd take a while, even using a computer set to recognise patterns of use. 

"So, how long are you here for?" Jack broke in. 

"Huh?" 

Jack rolled his eyes. Earth to Daniel... 

"General Hammond wants us back ASAP. He fought for us, and now he wants to get his money's worth." 

Daniel looked panicked. "I promised I'd help finish - " He stopped. A decision was made. Daniel couldn't stay away. Whole worlds to play on versus one muddy car park. 

"Tonight. I can be packed tonight." 

Jack smiled fondly. That was his boy. To boldly go and all that. 

A slow grinned formed on Jack O'Neill's face. "We don't have to leave tonight," he allowed, a twinkle in his eye. 

They could have tonight at least. There'd be none of that when they got back - Jack was on notice. They'd have to cool it, take it low profile, if at all. He looked at Daniel, really looked at him, because this might be his last chance to do so, like this. It had to end. Jack just didn't want it to. 

~~~ 

Jack lay awake, listening to the sounds of London traffic in the street below, the unfamiliar grinding gear shift of a late night bus, the soft swoosh of tyres rolling across a light rain. Above that, the muted breathing of Daniel as he slept beside Jack in the too small double bed. Jack rolled on his side, resting on one elbow, watching the smooth curve of Daniel's naked shoulder bathed in the flickering blue glow of the television they'd left on to cover any sounds they might make. 

He was insane, just to even be here. He knew that. He couldn't help himself. He knew that, too. Daniel had gotten under his skin and Jack couldn't kick the habit, he couldn't stay away, no more than either of them could stay away from the Gate. 

Jack studied the passive yet oddly handsome face that had sunk his career. It didn't matter, not really. Jack had retired twice before as Colonel. Once more wouldn't matter. Not really. He knew he'd never make General, with or without Daniel. When he'd been turned down for that command, the beta site, he'd finally known it. He had powerful allies, but perhaps even more powerful enemies as well. He was a good field commander, he was pretty sure about that, but he was just too politically unpalatable to ever rise above Colonel. He was surprised he'd made it this far. 

He ran the tip of his finger over that bottom lip of Daniel's, feeling it's softness, it's hint of promise. Daniel's mouth parted slightly and his tongue flicked across the tip of Jack's finger before sucking on it slightly. Not as asleep as Jack had thought, then. Daniel sucked again and Jack felt that fantastic and familiar fire stab down through him again. 

Daniel's eyes opened, even more blue in the dim light of the room. 

"Jack?" 

Jack kissed him. 

Oh yeah. The taste and feel of Daniel's hot mouth swallowing his tongue, Daniel's mouth on his skin, Daniel's mouth wrapped around his dick. Jack closed his eyes and let nature take its course. 

Conduct Unbecoming 2
Don't Stand So Close To Me
by Hellblazer
 


"Almost finished, Daniel," Janet promised softly. She hated to see him flinch, but it had to be done, all of it. 

At last she was finished, rolling Daniel back and settling him. She sealed the samples she had taken and labelled them carefully. Daniel was still trembling. She pulled the hospital sheet up over him, resting a hand on his shoulder for a moment, feeling him skitter under her touch. 

Oh, Daniel, she thought mournfully to herself. She slipped a couple of ccs of morphine into his IV and watched his muscles relax. 

She ducked out through the curtains and found Jack O'Neill there waiting. 

"Whoa, there, Colonel, no. Daniel isn't up to any visitors right now, not even you. I've just given him something to sleep." 

Jack and Janet stood there, immovable object and irresistable force. 

"Jack, I have to get these samples to the lab before -" 

"Samples?" He took on an entirely dangerous air. "Samples?" he demanded. 

"They left DNA traces, yes. I can find them, Jack." 

"What about Daniel?" 

"I've already done a HIV test. We'll still have to wait for the results. It will be at least three months, before we know for sure, but I've screened everyone on this base at one time or another. That at least should be one thing he doesn't have to worry about." 

Janet didn't need to say anything more. It wasn't as though Jack was going to be intimate with Daniel any time soon. If ever. 

It hit Jack again, a solid kick to the guts - the certain knowledge that he was to blame. That Daniel had been targeted because he was Jack's fag. Whether people believed or knew Jack and Daniel were more than good friends, it didn't matter. Daniel had been targeted: non-military, influential and gay. 

She saw in Jack's eyes more pain than she'd seen in Daniel's. Oh, Jack. 

"How is he?" Jack asked quietly. 

"His arm is broken, he has a concussion, severe bruising, several broken ribs, deep lacerations - he's in a pretty bad way." 

"Will he be all right?" Jack wanted to know the bottom line. 

"You know as well as I do, Jack, it will take time. Go home, get some sleep." 

"I can't." 

Janet gave in. She was a soft touch, deep down, especially where Jack was concerned, pleading with her. She rested a hand on his chest softly. 

"You can stay if you promise to be quiet, keep out of my way and let him rest." 

Jack thanked her silently, and slumped into a chair outside Daniel's curtained off cubicle, on guard duty. Janet could only imagine what Jack must be going through. 

Jack was going through hell. He was supposed to protect Daniel, look out for him. He'd let his guard down, gotten sloppy, and fucked up badly. 

He'd always known this could happen. He should have been more careful, more alert. He worried about Carter, a lot, but everyone knew Daniel was prettier and far less dangerous than Sam. Jack was always on guard offworld, knowing the trouble Daniel could get himself into. Jack had always imagined it would be a scrum of sex starved Jaffas. He'd never thought for a moment that it would have been someone on base. 

Daniel had been in his office when Jack had ducked in last night. He'd seen Daniel racing from book to book, inspired, and he had smiled, leaving Daniel to his flights of fancy. 

Jack had gone home to bed, alone, knowing that Daniel would probably work through the night when he was on a roll, secure in the knowledge that Daniel was safely tucked up with his books in one of the most heavily defended bases in the United States. 

That illusion had been shattered by a phone call at ten past three in the morning. 

Daniel had been found badly beaten and worse, his office trashed. Daniel had put up a good fight, but there'd been at least three of them, and he'd gone down, and they'd kicked him nearly insensible. Then they had raped him. 

Just who or how many, Daniel couldn't say, not yet. He was still in shock. Jack wasn't much better. 

Hammond was outraged. That men on his base, under his command could do this...he would find them. He had a forensics team going over Daniel's office with a fine tooth comb. Sam watched over the team, chewing her lip, cradling pieces of a broken vase in her hands. 

~~~ 

Janet read down the too long list. "Fractured skull, concussion, two broken ribs, displaced fracture of the radius, massive soft tissue injury and internal bleeding." 

She didn't need to tell them how badly Daniel had been bleeding when he'd been rushed into the infirmary, and the places he'd been bleeding from. They knew, or could imagine. Daniel's condition was as bad as any battle trauma she had dealt with. There may be complications from such severe injuries - she couldn't guarantee a complete recovery, no matter how much the news ripped into Jack. Daniel was still in a critical condition. They could still lose him. 

Jack scoured deep heavy lines across his notepad. He didn't want to face that possibility. His brain was already making contingency plans, but his heart just didn't want to know. It only wanted to hope. He couldn't - not without Daniel. It was that simple. 

"Why would they leave forensic evidence behind. They must have known there would be an investigation?" Sam had to know. 

Janet glanced quickly at Jack, gauging his mood, then took a breath. "I think the original plan was just to assault Daniel, but once they got him down on the ground, they decided to improvise." She could feel Jack go absolutely rigid beside her. 

"Do you think the men who did this are still on the base?" Hammond asked her. 

"No," Jack answered quietly and deliberately, making them all stare in his direction. Jack was drawing meaningless scrawls all over his notepad and did not look up. He was using everything he had not to blow; he couldn't meet their eyes as well. "This was a message, to me. I think we're all pretty clear about that." 

"It could be simple homophobia," Hammond disagreed. 

"Yes, it could," Jack acknowledged again in slow deliberate terms. "I know a lot of people here resent that a flake like Daniel can call the shots, and I know a lot of people think Daniel's gay, whether they know it for a fact or not. We know that NID have used my friendship with Daniel to get at me before. Attacking Daniel pretty much puts SG-1 out of action, and they know it." 

"For what purpose?" 

"I don't know. I just know that Daniel and I have made enemies here, and that beating Daniel took looked personal to me." 

"Jack," Janet tried. "Gay bashing does go on a lot at military bases, you know that. That's why we still have those regulations. It could be just simple bigotry." 

Jack scrawled more furiously. He didn't want to know. Janet could understand. He was taking the attack on Daniel personally, because it was personal. He felt responsible, for not seeing the threat, for not being able to protect Daniel. It was hard for Jack to admit that he hadn't guarded against random violence. He was questioning his ability to command, his worth as a friend to Daniel, his worth as a member of SG-1. 

Jack was still deep in paranoia, wanting to believe in some darker agenda. Perhaps it softened the self-recriminations. Not just that he'd been blindsided that he'd failed to see the threat, but that he'd help set Daniel up as a target. 

Jack was right about one thing; an attack against Daniel did put SG-1 out of action. Jack was in no position to lead the team and Sam and Teal'c were pretty much in shock as well. 

"Has Daniel said anything about the attack?" Sam asked and Hammond nodded, also wanting to know. 

"No," Jack answered again. Daniel hadn't spoken a word since the attack. Jack felt Daniel's unwillingness to speak as silent condemnation for the betrayal of trust. Jack saw accusation in Daniel's eyes and knew he was to blame. He should have known, he should have been there, he should have done something. 

"Daniel's still in deeply traumatised," Janet supplied. "I think shutting down is his way of dealing with the attack. Certainly from his history this would seem to be the case. When he wants to talk, he will. Right now, he does not want to relive the attack, and I think forcing him to may do more harm than good. I'd like to give him another 48 hours before we begin actively interrogating and counselling him. Rape victims require special handling, and I have to think of what's best for Daniel." 

Janet felt Jack tense again over the word rape. She'd like Jack to get some counselling too, but she knew that wouldn't help, because Jack hated that stuff, and as he couldn't reveal the true nature of his relationship to Daniel it was next to useless anyway. 

Jack was scouring black over all his doodles. All he could think of was that first look Daniel have given him, like a kicked dog who just wants to know why, and where was Jack when he needed him? Jack had turned away, unable to answer, and Daniel had been furiously cold with him ever since, transferring his anger to Jack, because that's the way Jack wanted it. 

Sam didn't say anything. She'd seen the NID evidence against the Colonel that had made it onto a clips tape that was circulating the base. Jack and Daniel together in Jack's house in perfectly defined thermal images and digital sound. Jack and Daniel kissing, stroking, tasting and touching in Jack's bed. Daniel crying out Jack's name as Jack pounded into him. 

She wasn't surprised this had happened. Half the base, at least, saw Daniel as the freak outsider, the scarlet woman who'd seduced Jack into his disgusting ungodly perversions. Somebody had probably wanted to show Daniel that his kind wasn't welcome in the Airforce. 

Daniel had seen the tape, and had been completely mortified, then rebellious. If everyone knew he was fucking Jack, there was no point in hiding it. 

The contents of the tape still caused Sam enormous amounts of pain. Aside from the obvious fact that Daniel was sharing a life with Jack that she coveted, there was an obvious teasing affection between the boys that even the brutal cutting to just the sex scenes couldn't erase. There was pillow talk and Daniel's vocabulary during sex did range beyond oh god, Jack, yes, now and harder. Jack teased and taunted, Daniel played. Friends were discussed and missions were rehashed while Jack licked his way down Daniel's spine. It wasn't exactly porn, it was more like a French film, where the protagonists fought and bantered and fucked like rabbits. 

It annoyed Sam. It made her green around the gills and tight in her chest. She stroked Daniel's hair tenderly. She loved her friends and took comfort in the fact that they were happy. Until now. Poor Daniel. Poor Jack. 

Sam remembered one that had actually been videotaped on cameras hidden in Jack's bedroom - much to Jack's barely constrained rage. Daniel had been trying to work on some report, he still wrote long hand on a note pad, and Jack, bored and mischievous, kept trying to distract him, earning a small smack across the top of the head with said note pad. Undeterred, Jack had slid under the covers and tickled Daniel, because Daniel had let loose with a peal of startled giggles. Sam had realised she'd never heard Daniel laugh, not freely like that. Then, having got Daniel's attention, Jack must have gone down on him because Daniel had started twisting and moaning and thrusting up until he bit his lower lip and sucked on a breath, which Carter now knew was Daniel's sex face. Jack had popped up for a cuddle and Daniel had affectionately glared at him and called him a nuisance, trying to go back to his notes but eventually giving up for good as more fucking followed. She'd only seen Daniel fuck Jack a couple of times on the tape, but it was enough to earn him a beating. Somehow, seeing Daniel on top was unnerving. Even for Sam, who now bridled whenever she imagined Jack was favouring Daniel in the field, when she knew he didn't, not really. 

Everything was coloured in new context. A couple of months ago Jack had taken Daniel to Vegas for a wild weekend of wine, women and song. At first she'd thought it had just been boys being boys. Then she'd viciously thought that women probably hadn't been involved in the equation. Finally she realised it had been the first anniversary of Sha're's death. Jack had known and remembered and had wanted to take Daniel's mind off it with the time honoured debauchery therapy cure. That Jack had remembered, he must love Daniel so very much. God, what must this be doing to Jack? 

Sam stroked a lock of Daniel's hair softly. She knew there but for the grace of God, and Jack would have been just as distressed if it had been her in this bed instead of Daniel. She hated to see Daniel like this, drugged asleep because he was so badly injured. She hated to see Jack tearing himself apart inside. Still, a part of her resented this, resented Jack's concern for Daniel. The jealous part of her nature she couldn't stamp out, not matter how hard she tried to ignore it. 

Janet stopped by, looking in on her patient. 

"Will he be alright?" Sam asked, tired. 

"We'll see. It's too soon to say. They very nearly beat him to death; it was a savage attack. He's got a hard road back, that's for sure." 

"If only we had a sarcophagus handy," Sam mused. 

"Even then, I don't think it would help Daniel." Janet checked Daniel's vitals, fiddled with the IV drip and rearranged his bed linen indulgently. "They did more than just beat him up. Daniel's already showing signs of severe emotional trauma." 

"He'll get better, right?" 

Janet frowned at a sedated Daniel. "I think they might have broken him." She saw Sam's look of concern. "Where's Jack?" she asked, and Sam shrugged. 

Janet frowned. Jack had rarely strayed from Daniel's bedside. 

"Tell General Hammond the Colonel might be...tell him Jack's on the loose." 

Sam nodded, realising. If Jack was hunting Daniel's attackers, he'd only get himself in trouble, or worse. 

~~~ 

MPs were quietly dispatched to round up Colonel O'Neill, but it was Teal'c who found Jack down in the bowels of the SGC in one of Daniel's old haunts. It was a small and little used AV room that Daniel had often commandeered to put together his presentations in peace and quiet, and to feel up Jack, on occasion. 

Jack was sitting there now, with an empty coffee cup and a stack of tapes from various security cameras located in corridors in and around Daniel's office, going through them frame by frame. Each time he came to a new face in the corridor he paused the tape and made a print out. A small pile of paper beside the monitor was testimony to the fact that he had been at this sometime. 

The MPs on base swore they had checked the tapes and interviewed everyone who'd been in the SGC at the time, but Jack deeply mistrusted their diligence, knowing how easy it was to hide in plain sight, and never for one second putting the MPs above suspicion. Jack deeply regretted having put the camera in Daniel's office out of action, again. Hammond certainly hadn't been impressed to learn Jack had been guilty of that particular act of sabotage. Jack didn't need to be reminded of the consequences of his actions. He had Daniel lying in a hospital bed covered in tubes and plaster and not speaking to him. Jack knew he'd never forgive himself, never mind Daniel. 

Daniel wasn't helping. He was still silent and sullen. He wasn't speaking to anyone but his refusal to talk to Jack cut deep. 

Jack was muttering about resigning again. He felt he'd dropped the ball once too often. Hammond thought Jack was doing an impossible job as best he could, but Jack didn't want to hear it. Jack wanted out. 

The only person who could snap Jack out of these moods was Daniel, and Daniel just wasn't up to it. SG-1 was tearing itself apart. Maybe it was an NID job afterall. 

Teal'c quietly stood beside Jack and sorted through the printouts, committing each face to memory. Like Jack, he was sure that one of these men was guilty, regardless of alibi, and he too was impatient with laborious DNA testing being conducted by the infirmary. 

Dr Fraiser was still busy taking sample swabs from every man on base. She hadn't been able to find a match in an initial search of her records and she worried her records might be incomplete and they couldn't afford to have any one fall through the cracks, so Hammond had ordered the mass testing. Daniel's friends had mobbed the infirmary, eager to volunteer, in a show of solidarity. This had set the mood of almost vigilante justice, where by male personnel were dared to prove their innocence by taking the test before they were ordered to. Hammond wasn't entirely happy with the lynch mob mentality that had begun to permeate the SGC, but what was done was done. Daniel's friends were fiercely protective of him and had every right to want justice. Hammond just had to make sure it was justice and not revenge. 

That applied especially to Jack. Jack wasn't exactly in a rational state of mind, and Hammond knew Jack blamed himself. Jack hadn't seen the danger and that was unacceptable. Nothing Hammond could murmur about being only human could stop Jack kicking himself. Especially as it was Daniel who'd been hurt. 

Teal'c understood the law of the jungle as much as Jack did, but Teal'c did not understand how someone at the SGC could have done this to Daniel Jackson, personal grievances or no. As First Prime, nobody would have dared touch a member of his command. He understood that this, too, cut hard into O'Neill. Attacking Daniel showed a lack of respect to the unit, to Jack's command, to Jack. Again, Jack began to deeply second guess himself and his leadership. He should have retired. He'd fucked up so badly. Nothing he could do was going to fix this. 

Teal'c had asked if he could help. Jack shrugged. Sure, fine, whatever. 

Teal'c gathered up the printouts and Jack bade him well. Maybe a scary, angry Jaffa could shake loose what the MPs couldn't. 

~~~ 

The infirmary was so quiet at night. The only sounds came from the equipment, Daniel breathing through his mouth and the occassional flick of a page as the night nurse read some old Tom Clancy novel at his station. 

Daniel looked so helpless, lying again in the infirmary bed, covered by crisp white sheets. It wasn't Daniel, per se, as he was as tall and strong as he'd ever been, and the faint lights of the infirmary at night still managed to define the curves and strength of his broad shoulders. Rather, it was his attitude in sleep, slightly curled up, arm resting defensively across his chest. Daniel slept like a child at times, drawing up his limbs into a protective ball. He was sleeping like that now, as much as his injuries permitted. He looked like a sick and beaten little boy, all six feet of him. 

His skin was smeared dreadfully with dark reds and purples, broken only by the shock of bright white plaster and bandages. His eyes were closed and a drip that fed into his arm ensured he was going to stay that way. Monitors beside the bed recorded his status but Jack ignored them. Daniel looked so tired and annoyed, even in sleep. The pain creased his forehead, making Jack wonder if Fraiser wasn't shortchanging Daniel on the morphine. 

Daniel looked so hurt, and so untouchable. The smallest touch would bring Daniel pain, he was as fragile as blown glass, stressed enough to crack into a million pieces if the slightest pressure was applied right now. All Jack wanted to do was crawl into bed with Daniel and hold him tight, and it was the last thing Daniel wanted. He couldn't bear to even look at Jack. 

This was a journey that had to be travelled alone. Jack knew that Daniel might never come back to him, but there was nothing he could do but stand by and wait. 

~~~ 

Daniel rocked back and forth softly as he spoke in halting terms, his arms crossed tightly, defensively across his chest, plaster cast and all. His eyes were dark and haunted, his skin pale. This was Daniel who mouthed off to snake heads while on his knees waiting to be tortured and killed. This was Daniel looking utterly shattered and fragile, like a broken doll, in spite of his tall frame and build. This was Daniel hurt and alone in a way Jack could never touch or heal. 

Janet sat beside him, watching his every move, every shaky intake of breath, ready to pounce and sedate him at a moment's notice. Dr Mackenzie had been asked not to attend. Daniel still held deep-seated resentments towards Mackenzie for his previous treatment of Daniel, and Daniel's state of agitation had increased in Mackenzie's presence so badly that he had suddenly snapped out of his silence. Daniel had started screaming abuse and hurling things the moment the psychiatrist had appeared. In short, the very sight of Mackenzie set Daniel off, especially now, when extra stressors were not needed. 

So Janet sat there, trying to remain professional and detached as Daniel held on by a thread beside her, listening as his every word recounted the horror she had already read from his injuries. 

Daniel twisted in his seat, face torn. Janet rested a hand on his unbroken forearm for a moment. She hated to force Daniel to do this, but she had no choice. 

Daniel squirmed again, voice cracking, and Janet knew Jack must be tearing apart on the other side of the glass. 

"They grabbed my arms, then one of them smashed my head down onto the desk so hard my glasses broke. I was stunned and I think I fell to my knees. They started punching me, hard, and I curled up on the floor, and they kicked me. I tried to crawl away and they slammed my head into the floor to stop me. It made my teeth rattle." 

That floor was solid concrete. They'd fractured Daniel's skull. 

"They kicked me around some more..." 

Daniel's ribs had been stoved in, puncturing his lung. 

"Then they must have gotten bored because one of them sat on me. He was heavy and I couldn't breathe. I tried to roll him off. They pinned my arms behind me." 

Daniel had resisted and they'd twisted his arms behind him savagely, so violently that they'd snapped the bones in two. 

"Then they pulled my pants down - " Daniel's voice broke. The part with the broom handle came next. 

Janet glanced at the MP, hoping it would be enough. He nodded. 

Janet rubbed Daniel's hand. He was shaking badly. She pulled out a needle put he shook his head. 

Daniel was rocking back and forth more violently, hugging himself, agitated, but fully aware of his situation. He couldn't help shaking; a physical reaction to reliving the shock, but Daniel was in as much control as he could be. 

Daniel stared straight at the glass, still shaking but wanting to be strong, knowing Jack was there. He looked directly through the mirror, wincing as Janet slid the needle home. 

Jack slammed his fist against the glass, splintering it. 

Daniel saw the glass suddenly spider web, staring for a moment, surprised at the force of Jack's anger. 

Janet patted Daniel on the shoulder and hurried to see Jack, to make sure he hadn't severed an artery by being stupid. 

Daniel kept staring at the jagged cracks in the glass, wondering who Jack was mad at more. 

~~~ 

Daniel woke and blinked, trying to focus on the figure beside his bed. 

"Teal'c?" He frowned. "Uh, where's Jack?" Daniel covered one eye, still having trouble with the fluorescent lights. "Everyone's been in here except Jack." 

"You are mistaken, Daniel Jackson. Colonel O'Neill is currently working on an assignment General Hammond has given him." 

"Working," Daniel repeated sourly. 

"Colonel O'Neill has stayed by your bed every night watching over you while you slept." 

"While I was asleep." Daniel rubbed his brow. "Not while I was awake. Why is that?" 

"Colonel O'Neill believes you hold him responsible." 

"What?" Oh no, never. No, how could he think that?" 

"You have not spoken to him." 

"Oh." Daniel's brows knitted together. "He thinks I blame him for this?" 

"That is correct." 

"Oh no. I was ashamed. This is all my fault. I haven't exactly been hiding the fact that I'm gay lately." 

"You have been happy?" Teal'c did not understand. 

"No, I meant that everyone knows I'm fucking Jack - it's supposed to be a secret." 

"Because it is forbidden." 

"Yes, it is," Daniel sighed. 

"You believe you provoked the attack upon you?" 

"Yes." Daniel tried to push back up on the pillows. "On this world, Teal'c, or in Colorado at least, men who love men are punished, beaten up." 

Now Teal'c really didn't understand. "These men punished you for having sex with men, by having sex with you." 

'Yep." Daniel admitted, closing his eyes, not wanting to remember it. "I don't understand it either." 

"O'Neill believes he should have been aware of the threat against you." 

Daniel rubbed his head. 

"Oh, shit. Jack isn't all seeing and all knowing." 

"I have tried to tell him this. He feels he has failed in his duty to protect you." 

"That's Jack." 

"He cares for you very much and he cannot bear to see you injured." Teal'c added softly. He did understand, afterall. Perfectly. 

~~~ 

Jack was carefully packing Daniel's things into a small carry bag, one hand bandaged as he folded up Daniel's pyjamas and settled them inside the bag. Daniel was off having yet another x-ray done on his arm. Another stouter bag filled with books and notes, homework, already sat ready and waiting on the bed. 

"It won't be easy," Janet warned quietly as Jack packed. "You need to give him time, and space. Everyone is different, but he's been through a lot and -" 

"I know," Jack cut her off. "I know exactly what Daniel's been through. I have a very good idea how he's feeling right now. I know this whole thing will probably kill our friendship. I know I will never be able to touch him again without him thinking of that night." Jack threw Daniel's toothpaste viciously into the bag. 

"Jack," Janet tried, but there was nothing she could say. She gave him a small bag with various pill bottles and printed instructions. "Just make sure he takes these, at least for the first few days. He'll need to come back in on Friday for a check up." 

A curt nod acknowledged her instructions. Jack wasn't going anywhere any time soon, there was no way Hammond would let him out in the dangerous mood he was in, so Daniel would be duly returned at the appointed hour on Friday. 

It was over, and yet it would never be over. 

Janet's swabs had found a match for the DNA taken from Daniel. The suspect had been arrested and had quickly named his accomplices. All three were now being interrogated separately and under guard. The guards were to protect them from Colonel O'Neill more than anything else, because Jack wanted to and was very capable of killing them with his bare hands. 

Jack was still, but he was coiled, ready to strike, Hammond could see it. 

It hadn't been a premeditated attack, beyond a general discussion to get Daniel and show that fucking fag what the airforce thought of his kind. The opportunity had presented itself when they'd found Daniel working alone through the night. They'd left DNA evidence all over Daniel because they were essentially stupid. 

Daniel had been attacked and left for dead, just for kicks. 

Those bastards had come so close to killing Daniel. Daniel wasn't moving any more when they wrapped the telephone cord around his neck and pulled it tight. Daniel had sprung to life with fight, struggling. He'd kicked out and connected with something. 

The loud crash had startled an airman passing quietly in the corridor. He ducked in to see if everything was alright and was trampled down by the three men rushing out. They'd run over him like a pack of forwards and he never saw their faces, but he had saved Daniel's life. 

Jack watched each one through the two way mirror, dearly wishing Hammond would turn his back and let Jack have a few minutes alone with each. Hammond had no intention of letting Jack near them. He didn't even want jack here, but at least here was where he could keep an eye on Jack. 

It turned out one of the guys had an enormous bite on his dick, administered by Daniel. The guy had tried to get Daniel to blow him by shoving his dick in Daniel's mouth, and Daniel had just bitten down hard. Nobody had realised the blood in Daniel's mouth hadn't been all his, and Daniel had said nothing. Daniel probably would have bitten the thing off if he hadn't been stopped with a heavy blow to the side of his head. That was the Daniel Jack knew - he had known he was probably going to die and he was a vicious little bastard to the last. 

There were no dark agendas, just hate. They'd decided to teach that mincing little prick that he wasn't so much better than everyone else. He thought he was so fucking great. They'd teach that little butt fucker a lesson he wouldn't forget. 

Daniel would never forget. 

He surveyed his apartment blankly from a still deeply bruised face. It felt like a hotel room, as though it, too, had been violated by strangers. 

The softer lights of Daniel's apartment didn't make the bruising look any better. His face was shaded with greys, his eyes shadowed, jagged bright red cuts were scrawled harshly across his face as though drawn by an angry child with a crayon. The dark purple line that curved up around his throat marked where they had tried to strangle him. 

Jack had nearly lost Daniel, in his own fucking office. The rolling anger rose up again like a winter sea, crashing down on Jack and it was all he could do to stand there and take it. He buried himself in mundane details, switching on all the lights, checking the locks on all the windows, throwing Daniel's bags onto the couch. When he turned, Daniel was gone. 

His heart jumping for a moment, Jack found Daniel in the kitchen. Daniel had only gotten as far as attempting to fill his kettle with water. He was just standing; staring at his reflection caught distorted in the high silver polish of his squat little kettle. 

Jack gently put firmly prised the kettle out of Daniel's hands and put it back down on the counter. 

"The bruises will fade," he advised softly. 

"No," Daniel was equally quiet and sure. "None of it will ever fade." 

Jack stood and waited. Daniel didn't even look at him. 

"Please go away, Jack. I want to be alone." 

"Forget it, Daniel, it isn't going to happen. I'm not leaving you on your own, not tonight." 

"What, afraid to let me out of your sight or afraid of what I might do." He turned on Jack. "You've got me on suicide watch?" 

"You, me, what doesn't it matter?" Jack shrugged. "I just know if I go home alone tonight I'll probably end up sucking on my gun." 

Daniel stared at him. Jack was entirely serious. 

"Oh, god, Jack, don't do this, I don't need this." Daniel's anger began to boil. 

Jack was just looking...beaten. 

Fuck. 

"It wasn't your fault, Jack. You were off duty and you can't guard against every random act of violence. I don't want you to protect me twentyfour seven and I don't need it. I'm a big boy now. I should be able to look after myself and it's not your fault if I can't. I was working. Apophis and his guards could have marched through and I wouldn't have noticed. I was on the floor before I knew I wasn't alone. It happened. You can't be everywhere at once, Jack. You'll go mad if you try." 

"I hate to see you hurt." 

"I know. I'm sorry Jack. I should have been more careful, more aware..." 

"No, don't." Jack stroked Daniel's cheek softly. Daniel didn't flinch. Jack's thumb stroked gently across Daniel's bottom lip. Touch was good. Touch said what words couldn't. Jack leant in and lightly kissed Daniel's lips. 

"They can't ever touch me," Daniel murmured as the kiss deepened. Jack's hand ran through Daniel's hair as their tongues stroked together. 

"Stay," Daniel whispered against Jack's throat. 

"Always,' Jack promised. 



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------