Going Back

Part 1

Daniel looked down at his fingers as he buttoned up his shirt.  Tremors are gone, finally.  He looked up at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.  Damn.  When was he going to be able to look in a mirror and not see that sorry excuse of a man looking back at him?  That abomination who came back from P3R 636.  Shyla's consort.  The one who turned his back on his friends.  The one who betrayed his wife.  The one who turned a gun on his best friend.

"No, damnit!  That wasn't me!"  Daniel said angrily.

 Gripping the sides of the sink, he drew in a deep breath.  "I have to go back," he murmured.  "That's the only way I can put this behind me."  Daniel cringed at the thought of seeing Shyla again, of seeing the sarcophagus.  But thousands of people were suffering.  He had to do something.

                           *****************************************
‘I’m offering you a shot at a diplomatic solution.’ 

In spite of Dr. Daniel Jackson’s exhausted appearance, he was coherent and passionate as he plead his case to return to P3R 636 to General Hammond.  Daniel turned to Colonel Jack O’Neill, the need in his eyes overwhelming.

‘Please, Jack.  I need to take the chance.’

Jack knew he couldn’t deny his friend.  Daniel desperately needed to know he was over his addiction to the sarcophagus, and General Hammond and the rest of SG-1 needed to know they could still trust Daniel.  Locking eyes with Daniel, Jack tried to convey his own trust, a trust that had wavered a little but one he had never lost.  He turned to Hammond.

‘We can back him up, sir.  I’d like Daniel back on the team.’

Daniel exhaled deeply.  Jack wanted him back.  Thank you, Jack.  I’ll never let you down again.

Hammond, however, did not look anywhere as convinced of Daniel’s reliability as Jack did.  Nevertheless, he knew Dr. Jackson deserved the chance.  Also, there were indeed thousands suffering and Captain Carter had confirmed the endless possibilities of studying naquadah.

"Very well, Colonel," Hammond acknowledged.  Turning to Daniel, he said, "Dr. Jackson, you are, as of this moment, back on active duty as a member of SG-1."

"Thank you, sir."  Daniel’s mouth felt dry as the words tumbled out gratefully.

"Colonel, when you can get your team ready, you have a go."

"Yes, sir."

General Hammond left the room and the three members of SG-1 looked expectantly at Jack; Jack only had eyes for Daniel.  Daniel found himself locked in Jack’s steady gaze and read the silent message loud and clear: ' No second chances, Daniel.  Are you sure about this?'

Daniel summoned all the conviction and sincerity he could, and said, "I’m sure, Jack."

"When can you be ready?"  he asked.

"I can have a presentation for Shyla and her father ready by this afternoon," Daniel replied without hesitation.

Jack nodded then announced, "We’ll leave tomorrow at 0100.  I’ll inform the General."

"Yes, sir," Captain Samantha Carter replied.  Teal’c nodded somberly, and Daniel’s eyes widened in gratitude.  Jack left for Hammond’s office, leaving Daniel and Carter looking at each other awkwardly, while Teal’c stood impassively, observing his teammates.

Daniel suddenly felt adrift, Jack’s absence painfully felt and the awkward silence deafening.  Stammering, he said, "Well, I-I better go-go get started."  Daniel rushed out of the room, a cold dread lodged in his stomach.  God, they don’t trust me.  They don’t want me back.

Carter and Teal’c looked at each other.

"Daniel Jackson appears to be distressed," Teal’c observed.

"I think we made him nervous," Carter said guiltily.

"I did not behave out of the ordinary, Captain Carter."

"No, no you’re right, Teal’c.  It was me.  I think I sent him some bad vibes."  Carter half-smiled at Teal’c’s raised eyebrow and explained, "I think I gave him the impression that I don’t trust him."

"Do you trust Daniel Jackson, Captain Carter?"

"Yes, of course...I think...I want to.  I don’t know, Teal’c," she finally admitted, hating herself for her feelings.  Daniel had hurt her deeply and his harsh, unfeeling words still pained her;  ‘You’ve never really known what love is, have you?’  She knew it was irrational.  Daniel had been sick.  Very, very sick.  But something caused him to say those words, something more than the sarcophagus.  Also, he had scared her.  His loss of control in the lab with his raving and breaking of equipment.  She had never feared Daniel before.  The friend she had come to respect and rely on had been replaced by a wild-eyed, hateful stranger.  She desperately wanted her Daniel back, but she didn’t know if she could allow him back.

"Daniel Jackson was a victim.  Does he not deserve our support?"

Carter flinched.  "Yes, yes, of course he does, Teal’c.  Look, I better get ready, too.  I’ll see you later."

Teal’c watched Carter leave and his hands, clasped behind his back, clenched a little tighter.

"Your pain is not yet over, my friend," he uttered solemnly.  "I will do whatever is in my power to help you, Daniel Jackson."

Part 2

You can do this.  You can do this.  Daniel, his eyes closed, repeated the words over and over in his mind as the address for P3R 636 was dialed in. 

Jack looked sideways at the linguist.  God, Daniel.  You look like you’re going to pass out.  Maybe this is too soon.  Jack stepped closer to Daniel and placed a hand gently on his shoulder.  Daniel’s eyes flew open and he looked furtively at Jack.  He saw only concern and friendship.  Jack smiled and gently squeezed his shoulder.  I’m here, Daniel.  I’m with you all the way.  Tears of gratitude stung Daniel’s eyes, and he mouthed, ‘thank you’.  He felt a presence on his other side and looked at the solid figure of Teal’c who had positioned himself close to Daniel’s left shoulder.  Teal’c nodded imperceptibly to Daniel’s open look of appreciation.  Daniel felt another reassuring squeeze from Jack and he straightened his shoulders.  He had Jack and Teal’c.  Sam was another story but he could deal with that later.  He had to.

"Ready, kids?"  Jack said lightly.  "Captain, after you."

Sam nodded and headed up the ramp.  She knew the Colonel disapproved of her behaviour towards Daniel, but damn it, she couldn’t help it; it was too soon.  Teal’c followed Carter.  Daniel hesitated and the hand that had never left his shoulder gripped firmly.  He looked at Jack.

"Ready, Daniel?"  Jack asked softly.

Daniel swallowed hard and nodded.  No way in hell I’m going to let you down, Jack.  Not again.  "Let’s rock and roll."

Jack laughed at Daniel’s glib response and together they walked through the shimmering gate.

General Hammond watched the wormhole disengage.  "Good luck, son," he muttered.

Part 3

Daniel emerged from the other side of the wormhole, Jack close beside him.

"You okay?"  Jack asked quietly.

Daniel stared silently, looking off in the direction to where he knew the sarcophagus lay.

"Daniel?"  Jack said, giving his friend a little shake.

Daniel started and looked quickly at Jack.  "Sorry, I was...I was...just remembering."

"Daniel," Jack said firmly.  "The only thing you have to remember is that she used us to get you addicted."

"That’s what Sam said," Daniel replied quietly.

"And it’s true.  You thought you were helping us, Daniel."

Daniel couldn’t meet Jack’s gaze.  His weakness had caused so much hardship for his friends.

"Hey, we can do this another time.  If you’re not ready, that’s okay," Jack assured softly.

Daniel drew in a deep breath.  He had made an issue out of coming here; he couldn’t back out now.  He owed it to Jack; he owed it to his team.

"No, Jack.  I’m ready.  It’s just that..."

"It’s just that it’s not going to be easy?"  Jack offered.

"Yeah," Daniel uttered softly.

"I’ve never known you to take the easy way on anything," Jack teased lightly.

Daniel smiled and squared his shoulders.  "I have to go...over there," he said, pointing in the direction of the royal palace.

"Let’s go," Jack said as he began to move.

"I have to do this alone, Jack," Daniel said quickly.

Jack frowned.  "Daniel, I don’t think-,"

"Jack, please," Daniel interjected.  "It has to be this way.  You know that."

Jack stared solemnly at his friend then sighed heavily.  "Yeah, I know, but it stinks."

Daniel smiled and said, "I agree."

"Well, there’s nothing stopping us from escorting you part of the way, is there?"

"No, I’d like that," Daniel admitted.

"Okay then."  Jack looked over to where Teal’c and Carter were waiting.  "Let’s move out," he said.

Part 4

Jack looked up expectantly as Daniel walked into the tent.  "How’d it go?" he asked, unable to disguise the concern in his voice.

"Well, Pyrus is dead; that will make our job easier.  Shyla’s very receptive to negotiating an agreement with us.   I told her there’s a better way to rule her people but without the sarcophagus."

"And?"  Jack prompted.

"She destroyed it."

Jack’s eyes widened in surprise.  "That’s good." 

"Yes, it is."  Daniel said simply.

Jack eyed Daniel warily.  "How are you?"

"I’m fine, Jack.  It-it wasn’t that difficult."  Daniel couldn’t quite meet Jack’s eyes.  "She really wants to help her people Jack, and she’s truly sorry for what she did to you and the others."

"To us, Daniel.  To us," Jack said gravely.

"To us," Daniel repeated quietly.

"Damn it, Daniel.  How can you forgive her so easily?"

Daniel looked up at Jack.  "She was scared, Jack.  Desperate.  Pyrus was very ill; the naquadah was getting harder and harder to mine; she-she needed help."

"She could’ve just asked, Daniel.  She didn’t have to throw us into the mines and turn you into a lapdog!"  Jack said angrily.

Daniel looked away, embarrassed and uncomfortable.

"Crap, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded," Jack said quickly.

"I deserved it," Daniel said flatly.

"For crying out loud, Daniel.  You did not."

"It’s okay, Jack.  Really," Daniel  assured as he turned to leave.

"Where are you going?"  Jack called after him.

"I said I’d help Shyla and some of her people inventory their food supplies," Daniel replied from the open tent flap.

Jack hesitated but knew Daniel needed to be busy.  "Okay, but stay in touch."

"I will."

Jack watched his friend leave wondering, yet again, if he should have waited longer before allowing Daniel to come back here.  The ever-present light in his friend’s eyes had dimmed and his step was that of a weary old man, or a defeated one.  I know what it’s like, Daniel.  I won’t let you go through this alone.

Part 5

The inventory went much quicker than Daniel thought it would and he was very grateful that it did.  The sight of all the food and the memories of its conspicuous absence in the mines made him feel ill.

"Daniel, what is wrong?"  Shyla asked.

Daniel turned to look at her.  "You really don’t know?"

"No," she said, shaking her head.

"Shyla, look around you.  What do you see?"

Shyla gazed at her surroundings, puzzled by Daniel’s behaviour.  She looked back at him and said simply, "I see food."

"Exactly," Daniel said exasperated.  "A whole lot of food."

"That’s good, isn’t it?"

"Yes, if you distribute it.  Do you always have this much?"

Shyla shrugged.  "As long as I can remember.  Why?"

"Why?"  Daniel said, getting more agitated by the second.  "Shyla, your people are starving in the mines.  My friends...my friends starved in the mines.  Why, when you have so much?"

"It has always been this way, Daniel.  If we do not keep them hungry, they will not work the mines.  Food is their payment.  Surely, you know this?"

"There’s a better way," Daniel said wearily, rubbing the bridge of his nose.  "Believe me.  We’ve done it this way on my planet.  It doesn’t work.  Everyone loses."

"That is why you have come back?  To show us this...other way?"

"Yes.  My people will work with your people.  It will take time and a lot of adjustments but it will be well worth it," Daniel assured her.

"Very well.  I will trust you, Daniel."

"Ye-es...trust," Daniel uttered softly.  Good thing Jack isn’t here to hear you say that.

"Will you come and dine with me, Daniel?"

"Uh, no.  I have to check in with Jack.  I’m sorry," Daniel said quickly, jumping when Jack’s voice came over the radio.

"Daniel, what’s your status?"

 Pulling out his radio, he informed Jack of the completion of his task.

"That’s good, Daniel.  Teal’c and I are checking out the weapons arsenal.  They have quite a collection here.  I’m sure they don’t know how to use half the stuff."

"You should see all the food, too.  The Goa’uld were probably storing supplies here just in case they needed a planet for a quick getaway."

"No doubt.  Give Carter a hand with the medical supplies, okay?"

"Uh-sure, I can do that," Daniel said, hesitantly.

"You doing okay, Daniel?"  Jack asked.

"I’ve been better, Jack, but yeah, I’m doing okay," Daniel said honestly.  "I’ll help Sam finish up and that’ll be it."

"Sounds good.  Daniel?"

"Yeah?"

"I’m proud of you," Jack said quickly then terminated the connection.

Daniel stood silently, stunned and incredibly pleased by Jack’s words.  Oh God, Jack.  You don’t know how much that means.  He felt part of the team again.  Almost. 

A loud crash caused Daniel to turn around in alarm.  He groaned at the sight of boxes and boxes of goods strewn on the floor.  Shucking his heavy vest he bent to the task of re-stacking the boxes.  

                                *******************************

"Hi Sam, how’s it going?"  Daniel asked as he stepped into the small storeroom.

Carter jumped and took a couple of involuntary steps backward from Daniel.

"Daniel!  You startled me."

"Sorry.  Uh-Jack said I should give you a hand."

"Actually, I’m pretty much done here," Sam said quickly.  "Maybe you could check the first aid stations in the mine while I finish up here," she suggested. 

"Sure, okay.  I’ll just leave you then," Daniel said hurriedly as he made a hasty retreat.

"Damn it," Carter said under her breath, slamming her hand in frustration on the table.  Why didn’t I just kick him in the gut;  it would’ve hurt less.  Angry at her reaction and her inability to forgive Daniel, Sam absorbed herself in the inventory which was far from finished.

Daniel couldn’t get away fast enough.  The realization that Sam was afraid of him, or repulsed, or both, was a blow to his fragile state.  He had apologized to everyone several times over for the things he had said and done.  He didn’t know what else he could do, short of resigning.  I’m sorry, Sam.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.  Please don’t hate me.

Taking a few deep breaths, Daniel felt some sense of calm return.  "I better call Jack," he muttered.  He reached for his radio only to discover that he didn’t have it or his vest.  "Damn it, I must have left it with Shyla."  He looked in the direction of the mine and his stomach lurched.  Images of his friends’ suffering and the jabbering idiot in royal robes assailed his mind.  Daniel rubbed his eyes, willing the inevitable headache away.  Giving his head a mental shake, Daniel headed steadfastly towards the mine.

Part 6

Jack looked at his watch irritably.  "For crying out loud, how long does it take to count bandages?"

A large shadow loomed over him.

"Teal’c, are you done?"

"I am, O’Neill."

"Come on, let’s get Daniel and Carter.  This place is giving me the creeps.  Hammond can send another team here."

"Shyla is coming this way, O’Neill," Teal’c informed.

"Oh crap.  My favourite ‘princess’," he said sarcastically.

"Pyrus is dead.  She is now a queen, O’Neill."

"Princess, queen, whatever, she’s still a royal pain in the butt."

"Indeed she is."

Jack looked askance at Teal’c, surprised to hear the confirmation.  Teal’c, unperturbed, said, "She has caused us great discomfort.  I do not forgive as easily as Daniel Jackson."

"Amen, brother," Jack breathed as he pasted a false smile on his face.

"Shyla," he greeted through clenched teeth.

Nodding, Shyla said, "Daniel left this," she said, holding out his vest.

"Thank you, " Jack said gruffly, taking the vest and clenching it tightly.   Damn it, Daniel.  Never take your vest off.  How many times...

"I cannot thank you enough, Colonel O’Neill, for what you are doing to help me and my people.  It shames me to think of how you were treated."

Be nice for Danny’s sake. Jack reminded himself.

"Your actions will not be easy to forgive, or to forget," Teal’c said gravely.

Jack couldn’t help the small smirk of satisfaction at Teal’c’s words, and the obvious discomfort they caused Shyla.

"No, of course not.  Daniel tried very hard to have you released from the mine.  He never stopped trying...in spite of the sarcophagus."

"Sweet."  I don’t need you to tell me that.  "Look, as much as I’d like to stay and chat," Jack said gesturing to his watch, "but it’s time we headed back.  Daniel hasn’t fully recovered from his ordeal, yet, and I’d like to get him home."

Shyla flinched and looked downcast.

Sorry, Daniel, but I don’t forgive or forget so easily, either.

"Come on, Teal’c.  Let’s go."

Teal’c strode silently beside Jack.  He finally broke the silence.  "Daniel Jackson will not be pleased with us."

"Yeah," Jack grinned.  "He’ll be royally pissed."

Teal’c accepted Jack’s response as an affirmation of his observation.

"They should be in there," Jack said, pointing at the small stone hut.

"Pack it up, guys," he called as he walked in.

"All done, sir," Carter said brightly.

Jack looked around, a feeling of unease spreading over him.

"Captain, where’s Daniel?"

Sam felt the heat rise in her cheeks.  "I-I told him I didn’t need any help, sir," she said uncomfortably.

"Where is he?"  Stay calm, O’Neill.

"I-I suggested that he check the other first-aid stations."

"What ‘other’ first-aid stations, Carter?"  Jack asked, growing more impatient.

"The ones in the mine, sir."

"The mine!"  Jack exploded.  "Carter, have you lost your mind?  Do the letters, PTSD mean anything to you?"  Jack raved.    "Tell me, tell me he didn’t go down there alone!"

"He may not have gone at all, sir.  I can’t really say.  I was kind of busy here."  Oh God, that sounds awful.  Daniel’s my friend.  What was I thinking?

The dismay Carter felt was mirrored in Jack’s face and Teal’c looked more somber than ever.

"Daniel, what’s your position?" Jack called into his mike.  The echoing crackle coming from Daniel’s vest raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

"Crap," Jack muttered as he spun around and headed for the mine.  Teal’c was right behind him and Carter shook off her daze to catch up.

"Sir," Carter called.  "Colonel, I’m sorry."

"Save it, Carter,"  Jack growled.  Whatever was going on between Daniel and Carter could wait.  Right now, they had to find Daniel.

Part 7

Daniel knew intuitively that it would be a mistake to go into the mine, especially alone.  It was too soon.  The sarcophagus was one thing but to return to where he had turned his back on his friends and their suffering was something all together different.  He thought of asking Shyla to accompany him but images of their last foray into the mine were too fresh, and too painful.   

Daniel stood near the entrance to the mine, hugging himself tightly, chewing his bottom lip.  He could do this; he had to do this.

Daniel didn’t remember how he did it, but he was in the mine.  It was worse, so much worse than he had expected.  The dust, the heat, the smell, and the grunts and moans of the workers.  Daniel stumbled blindly through the tunnels.  There were faces and voices everywhere; accusing and damning.  Voices in his mind and in reality; he didn’t know which was which anymore.  His senses conspired to suffocate him

"I can’t do it, Jack.  I can’t do it.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I have to get out."  Daniel pressed his palms against his temples, trying in vain to drown out the voices in his head.  Looking around he realized he didn’t know the way out.  He started to laugh, a strangled choking sound.  Shyla’s ‘prince and saviour’ and he couldn’t find his way out.  The absurdity of his situation brought him to his knees, laughing and crying.  Proud of me now, Jack?  A sharp pain hit him in the back, followed closely by another.  He looked up in confusion and felt another sharp pain to his right temple, and then his shoulder.  Warm blood trickled down the side of his face and suddenly he realized what was happening.  They were stoning him.  The people he had struggled alongside and then turned his back on were stoning him.  He couldn’t blame them.  In fact, he welcomed it.  Surely, it was no less than he deserved?  Daniel didn’t abandon all semblance of self-preservation, however.  Pelted from all sides, he covered his head in his arms and curled into a ball, enduring his punishment.

Daniel was vaguely aware of muffled protests voiced amid the assault.  He was amazed that some of the workers were actually defending him.  As quickly as the attack had begun, it was over.  Daniel, semi-conscious, lay in the dirt, gasping and bleeding.  He didn’t have the strength, or the inclination to get up.  He just wanted to forget…to forget everything.

Part 8

"He could be anywhere down here.  Spread out and keep your weapons ready," Jack ordered.  Teal’c, Carter and Jack each went down separate tunnels, accompanied by a guard, shouting Daniel’s name.

"Damnit, Daniel.  Where the hell are you?"  Jack muttered as he made his way deeper into the mine.  Jack was about to try another tunnel when the young water-boy, who had done his best to look after them, came rushing up.  He balked at the presence of the ‘Jaffa’ guard but stood his ground.

"You are looking for your friend?  The one with the glass circles?"  he asked, motioning to his eyes.

"Yes.  Yes, have you seen him?"  Jack asked anxiously.

"They were very angry.  Come, hurry," the boy said as he ran ahead.

"Shit," Jack mumbled as he hurried after the boy, mentally wincing at the way the guard was pushing ill and tired workers out of their path.  First things first, guys. Jack thought as he turned a blind eye to their suffering.

"There," the boy said quietly, pointing.

"Sweet Jesus," Jack whispered.  Running quickly to the huddled figure on the ground, Jack crouched down, and placed a tentative hand on Daniel’s shoulder.  Daniel flinched, and tried to make himself smaller, causing Jack’s chest to constrict with pain.

"Damn it, Daniel," he said brokenly.  "I thought I told you to stay in touch."  Jack wrapped one arm loosely around his friend while he radioed Carter and Teal’c.  "Carter, Teal’c.  I found him.  He’s okay."

"Yes, sir.  I’ll meet you there."

"I am close to your position, O’Neill."

"Right.  Make it quick," he added, vaguely aware of the guard leaving.  Okay, my ass,Jack muttered, his eyes sweeping over Daniel’s battered body.  It was then that he noticed the accumulation of rocks surrounding his friend.  He glared at the boy.  "They stoned him?"

The boy shrank back from Jack’s angry visage, nodding nervously.  A small, choking sound banished all thoughts of outrage from Jack’s mind.  Wrapping his other arm around Daniel, he pulled him in close, shielding him from any further harm, and prying eyes.

"It’s okay," he murmured.  "It’s me.  You’re safe now.  No one’s going to hurt you."  Jack could feel the tremors from Daniel’s body and he held him tighter, trying to absorb his friend’s pain.  "Easy, Danny.  Easy," he soothed, as he rocked gently from side to side.  Jack carefully pulled Daniel upright, pulling a little more forcefully when Daniel resisted. 

"Come on, Danny.  I need to see you."  Jack cupped his hand over the right side of Daniel’s face and felt a wet stickiness.  He shifted around, kneeling in front of Daniel, both hands cupping his face. 

"Look at me, Daniel," he said softly but firmly. 

Daniel’s eyes were screwed tightly shut.  Jack brushed the hair off the side of his face, getting a good look at the abrasions.  "It’s me, Daniel.  It’s Jack.  Open your eyes."  Daniel tried to turn away but Jack was having none of that.  "Sorry, Daniel,  I can’t let you do that.  Look at me."

Reluctantly, Daniel opened his eyes, blinking against the salty tears.

"Hey," Jack said softly, tenderly brushing aside the tears.  "You ready to go home?"

The small, answering smile went straight to Jack’s heart and he hugged Daniel tightly.  Tentative arms reached around Jack, returning the hug.  The moment was short-lived however, as Daniel jerked back at the sound of running feet.

"Easy, Daniel.  It’s only Teal’c," Jack murmured as he watched the Jaffa come thundering in.  Teal’c took in the situation immediately, his dark eyes roaming the many recesses of the cavern for the culprits who injured his friend.

"Let it go, Teal’c," Jack said.  A look of understanding passed between the two soldiers.  Teal’c nodded slightly, and knelt down beside his friends.  He placed his hand firmly on Daniel’s arm.

"Daniel Jackson, it is good to see you."

Daniel looked hesitantly at Teal’c but basked in the warmth of his friend’s expression..

"Talk to me, Danny," Jack said softly.

Tormented blue eyes turned to Jack.  "I’m sorry, Jack."

The words were barely audible but they rang loudly in Jack’s ears.

"Damnit, Daniel," he whispered, "don’t do this."

Daniel suddenly ducked his head and Jack looked up to see Carter closing in on them.

"Carter, keep back!"  Jack ordered.

"It’s only Sam, Daniel," Jack said quietly.

Daniel refused to look up.  Damnit, Carter.  What the hell did you do?  Jack looked sharply at Carter who was visibly distressed at the scene before her.

"Sir?"

"Lead us out of here, Carter."  Jack turned his attention back to the man in his arms.  "We’re going home now.  Can you walk?"

Daniel nodded, still unwilling to lift his head.  Jack looked reproachfully at Carter.

"Now, Captain," he said through clenched teeth.

"Yes, sir," Carter muttered, turning quickly to hide her tears and to carry out her orders.  Oh Daniel, I’m so sorry.

"Come on, Daniel.  Let’s get you on your feet."

Daniel leaned heavily on Jack as he struggled to his feet.  Teal’c hovered nearby, ready to assist if needed.  Daniel sucked in a breath, his right hand grasping his left side.

"Easy, easy," Jack murmured as he deftly ran his hand over Daniel’s ribcage.  "I think you’ve got a couple cracked ribs, Danny."

Daniel looked painfully at Jack.  "I’ve had worse," he panted.

"Can’t argue with you there," Jack said sadly.   "Easy, take it slow."

After a few faltering steps, Daniel seemed to regain his equilibrium.  The trio moved slowly through the mine, stopping abruptly when two of the guards appeared before them.  A ragged man held between them was forced to his knees in front of Daniel.  Although he no longer wore royal robes, Daniel was still regarded with deference by Shyla’s faithful.

"This one threw the first stone," the guard said contemptuously.  "He will be executed at your pleasure."

"No!"  Daniel cried in horror.  "No, let him go!"

"He tried to kill you.  He must be punished," the guard said coolly.

Daniel darted anxious blue eyes at Jack.

"It’s your call, Daniel," he said simply.

Daniel looked down at the man at his feet.  He hated seeing people forced to grovel, the painful memories it evoked.  Jack forced to his knees just a short time ago.  Too hurt and exhausted to do it himself, he ordered quietly, "Help him up."

The guards yanked the prisoner to his feet.

"Gently!"  Daniel yelled.

The guards stepped back, perplexed by Daniel’s behaviour.  The prisoner, also confused, looked warily at Daniel.

"What is your name?"  Daniel asked wearily.

The man hesitated, then said, "Avrul."

"I’m Daniel, Avrul.  I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way.  I-I don’t remember doing anything but I know I wasn’t well."

"The Princess put you in the box?"

"Yes, she did.  It...it changed me," Daniel said in a mere whisper.

"Daniel," Jack said quietly, squeezing his friend’s shoulder.

"No, Jack.  It’s true."

"You didn’t know what was going to happen, Daniel.  You were only trying to help us."

Daniel gazed earnestly at Jack, searching his eyes, so wanting to believe him.  Jack hated to see such desperation in those brilliant blue eyes that were normally bursting with excitement and wonder.

"Trust me, Daniel.  I know you.  You would never hurt us," Jack said softly.

Daniel saw only love and honesty in Jack’s eyes and he could feel tears of gratitude filling his own.  Jack smiled, relieved that his message had been received.  Daniel looked back at Avrul.

"How long have you worked the mine?"  he asked.

"Since I was a boy."

Daniel closed his eyes.  God, Shyla.  Were you blind?  Opening his eyes, Daniel said, "You’re angry and frustrated.  I understand.  I represented everything you despise.  I bear you no malice, Avrul, and I promise, you will be free.  The people of my planet will work with yours.  Together, we’ll turn this planet around.  The mine will still be worked but without the pain and the misery.  Your soil is rich.  Agriculture can feed and clothe everyone, with plenty left over."

 Daniel looked at the guards.  "Let him go, please."

The guards released their prisoner, who had not taken his eyes off Daniel.

"It won’t be easy, Avrul.  Freedom never is, but it will happen," Daniel said sincerely.

Avrul eyed Daniel, seeing no trickery in his face or eyes, no lies in his voice.

"I have done you great harm, Daniel.  I see now that you have suffered much before my cowardly act.  I am truly sorry and I beg your forgiveness," he said solemnly, bowing his head.

"Only if you accept mine," Daniel replied, extending his hand in friendship.  Avrul clasped the proffered hand eagerly.

"I should have listened to the boy; he said you were a good man.  He has not been here long enough to be jaded by what he sees.  He sees only the truth."

Daniel looked down at the boy who smiled shyly up at him.  Daniel smiled back.  He remembered sharing a chocolate bar with the boy when he himself was a prisoner.  Daniel reached gingerly into his pocket and pulled out a chocolate bar.  He handed it to the boy, whose eyes were as large as saucers.

"Thank you, Rius."

The boy’s eyes widened even further in surprise and delight that Daniel remembered his name.

"Thank you...Daniel," he said gravely, then burst into an ear-splitting grin before giving half of his gift to Avrul.

Jack clasped his hand firmly around the back of Daniel’s neck.  Leaning in, he whispered,  "Have I ever told you how proud I am to be your friend?"  The words and Jack's tickling breath caused his face to flush, adding much-needed colour to his pallid features.

"Now, come on.  Let’s get you out of here before they try to adopt you as one of their own," Jack teased.

Daniel blushed further and nodded gratefully at Jack.  "Take me home, Jack."

"You bet.  Carter, Teal’c, let’s move out," he said, gently guiding Daniel forward.

Part 9

It was a long walk but Daniel did it on his own two feet with the ready support of Jack and Teal’c.  His strength was definitely flagging however, as they emerged into the cool, clean air. 

The brilliant light of day emphasized the bruises and abrasions on Daniel’s battered body.  Jack looked grimly at the still bleeding cut on Daniel’s head.

"Carter, get the medkit."

"Sir, maybe-"

"Damnit, Carter!  Just get the fucking medkit!" 

Carter flinched, stung by the outburst, and Daniel stiffened under Jack’s hand, startled by the anger in Jack’s voice.

Jack regretted the words the instant they left his mouth.  Carter didn’t deserve them and Daniel was also visibly distressed by them.

"Carter, I’m sorry.  I just want to get the hell off this planet."

"Yes, sir," she said as she hurried for the medkit.

"Shyla is approaching, O’Neill," Teal’c informed.

"Oh crap."

Shyla hurried up to them, extremely agitated.

"Daniel!" she exclaimed.  "What happened?  Who did this to you?  I will have them punished immediately."

"No!"  Daniel said angrily.  "You will punish no one.  It was a misunderstanding; I dealt with it."

"But you are badly hurt.  If I had not destroyed the-"

"Don’t!"  Daniel said vehemently.  "Don’t ever wish for the sarcophagus.  You don’t need it.  It never served you; you served it.  Bodies heal on their own.  How do you think the miners have survived for so long?"

"But that is different," Shyla said simply, "they are slaves."

"No!"  Daniel shouted.  "No-no-no-no-no!  You have to stop thinking that way!" 

Daniel sagged in Jack’s arms, sweat breaking out on his face.

"That’s it!"  Jack said savagely.  "Teal’c, get her out of here."

Teal’c firmly ushered Shyla away from Daniel.  "Daniel Jackson is the most honourable man I know," Teal’c said as he led her away.  "You will do well to heed his words.  I too, used to look on people as slaves until the day O’Neill and Daniel Jackson made me realize that it was I who was the slave; a slave to false gods."

Shyla stared in fascination.  "Was it difficult?"

"No.  Indeed, it was remarkably easy."

"But I don’t know any other way."  Shyla said beseechingly.

"We will show you.  Daniel Jackson has promised you this.  Trust him; he does not lie," Teal’c said gravely.

Sam got out the bandages and antiseptic while Jack gently lowered Daniel to a sitting position.  As she reached forward to attend to Daniel’s injuries, Jack snatched the supplies from her hand with a gruff, "I’ll do it."

Jack was too engrossed in helping Daniel to notice the effect his action had on Sam.  She recoiled, anger blazing in her cheeks and flashing in her eyes.  She opened her mouth to speak but the words froze in her throat when Daniel gasped loudly and moaned under Jack’s hands.

"Easy, Danny, easy," Jack murmured.  "I’m almost done."

The anger in Sam’s eyes vanished and was replaced with guilt and sorrow.  She was the one who sent Daniel into the mine.  She was the one who hurt him.

Jack looked up as Teal’c reappeared at his side.  "What took you so long?"

"Shyla was in need of reassurance."

"Crap, not you too," Jack muttered under his breath.

Jack tended to Daniel’s head wound; the rest could wait.  "Daniel, I’m going to have Teal’c carry you.  I know you hate it but bear with me, okay?  You can lay into me later.  The quicker we get you to the 'gate the sooner we’ll be home."

"I will be gentle, Daniel Jackson," Teal’c promised.

Daniel smiled crookedly at the two of them and nodded, accepting the decision.

Jack patted Daniel lightly on the shoulder and looked at Sam.

"I’ll see to the DHD, sir," she said.

 Jack nodded and turned back to Daniel.  They gently lifted him up and Teal’c quickly had him secure in his arms and set off for the gate.  Jack grabbed their gear, pausing long enough to inform Shyla that another team would gate over soon.  He jogged after Teal’c and his precious cargo, cursing the day they stepped onto this hell-hole.

Part 10

"Jack, you don’t have to stay," Daniel said as Jack paced the area around Daniel’s bed.

"It’s a funny habit I have.  When one of my team gets hurt I like to make sure they’re okay," Jack replied dryly.

"I’m fine, Jack.  Just a little bruised up."

"They stoned you for God’s sake!"  Jack said fiercely.

Daniel winced at Jack’s sudden vehemence and at Dr. Janet Fraiser’s probing fingers.  Daniel glanced up at Fraiser, the unspoken request in his eyes obvious to the doctor.

"Colonel, I’m going to have to ask you to leave," she said firmly.  "I need to examine Daniel and he deserves some privacy."

Jack’s protest died in his throat when Daniel’s too pale face spasmed in pain.

"Jack, please," he said through gritted teeth.  I don’t want you to see this.

"Okay, Daniel, but I’ll be back as soon as Doc gives the all clear."

"Counting on it," Daniel said, smiling tight-lipped.

Jack held the pain-filled gaze a few seconds longer then nodded.  "Take care of him, Doc," he said as he left his injured friend’s side.

"I intend to, Colonel," Janet said briskly as she pulled the curtains around Daniel.

"Would you like some help undressing, Daniel?"

"No, I think I can manage," he said, shrugging off his jacket.

"Would you like to tell me what happened?"  Janet asked as Daniel’s battered fingers began undoing his shirt.

"Not really.  Besides, you heard Jack," he mumbled.

"Yes, I did," she replied, coolly observing the unsteady hands.  "Okay, besides your head, is there anywhere else that is particularly painful?"

God, everything hurts.

"Yeah," he said wearily, "my back, my left side, probably a couple of cracked ribs, and my left hip.  Everything else is just a dull throb," he explained, smiling weakly.

As Daniel painfully twisted out of his shirt, extensive bruising stood out starkly on the pale skin of his arms.  Janet winced in spite of herself and placed a gentle, restraining hand on Daniel’s own as he started to tackle his T-shirt.

"Daniel, let me cut that off for you," she offered kindly.

Daniel hesitated then nodded.  "Thanks.  Wasn’t really looking forward to trying to get it over my head," he said sheepishly.

"I’m not surprised," Janet said smiling.  "Now, lie down.  It’ll be easier."

Daniel lay down and closed his eyes.  He wanted so much to sleep but the pain wouldn’t allow it.

"I’ll give you something for the pain as soon as I’ve checked you out," Janet promised, cutting quickly and efficiently through the shirt.

"Can’t wait," Daniel murmured.

"This may hurt a little," Janet warned as she gently probed and palpated Daniel’s injuries.  Thank God Colonel O'Neill isn’t here.

Try as he might, Daniel couldn’t stifle the odd moan and sharp intake of pained breath at Janet’s ministrations.

"You’re right about the ribs, Daniel."

"Peachy."

"Come on, let’s get you sitting up.  Now swing your legs over here.  Good."

Janet got a good, clear look at Daniel’s back and she had to utilize all of her professional will to quell her own rising anger.  Daniel’s back was a mass of dark, ugly bruising.  Daniel was her friend and what had been done to him was cruel and wantonly barbaric.

"Is it bad?"  Daniel asked.

"You’ve got quite a collection, Daniel.  I take it the Colonel hasn’t seen this?"

"No, and I’d like to keep it that way.  He doesn’t need this, Janet."

"Oh, and you do?"  she said flippantly, while examining his back.

"Maybe I do," he mumbled without thinking.

"Excuse me?"  Janet asked, disguising the alarm in her voice.

"Nothing.  Um-can I have something for the pain, now?"  he asked.

Nice try, Dr. Jackson.  We’ll pursue this at a later date.

Janet patted Daniel on the arm and said, "Take your pants off while I go and get you something."

"Smooth talker," Daniel smiled in spite of his discomfort.

"I'll be right back, Daniel."  Janet stepped through the curtain and stifled a gasp of surprise at the sight of Colonel O'Neill.  The angry set of his face told her he had not just walked in.  Jack held his finger up to his lips and stepped up silently to the drawn curtain.  Opening it a crack, he peered in.  Daniel was standing, slightly bent forward, fumbling with his belt.  The myriad of bruising colouring his back violated Jack's vision.  His body tensed and Janet saw the angry twitch in his facial muscles.  She had to give him credit though.  He didn't invade Daniel's space, or make a scene.  Giving Janet a 'we'll talk later' look, Jack left the infirmary.  Janet sighed and hurried for the pain medication.

"How's Daniel, sir?"  Carter called as she saw her CO emerge from the infirmary.  Jack ignored her and strode down the hall.  Carter ran to catch up.

"Colonel?"

Jack stopped, his back to Carter.  This is not a good time, Carter.  He turned slowly, his face and posture rigid.

"He's a mess, Carter.  He's in pain, he's wracked with guilt, and he's going to have nightmares.  Is that what you want to hear?"

Jack abruptly turned, leaving Carter gaping open-mouthed.

Jack stormed into his office, slamming the door behind him.  Too soon, too soon, it was too fucking soon!  What the hell was I thinking?  He banged his fists on the filing cabinet in frustration.  He leaned heavily on the cabinet, his head resting in his hands.  Damnit, Daniel.  I'm sorry.  He stiffened at the sound of a knock on his door.

"What?"  he called irritably.

Carter opened the door, her face set and determined.  "Sir, I didn't deserve that."

Jack rubbed his temples wearily.  "You weren't there, Carter," he said in a low, dangerous voice.  He stood up straight, pushing himself away from the cabinet.  "You weren't there when he was fighting the addiction.  You didn't wipe up the sweat, the tears, the puke and the shit.  You weren't there when he bit his lips and tongue so hard, trying not to cry out, that they bled.  He went through hell but he dragged himself up out of that pit Shyla put him in and then you…you send him back into the fucking mine!"

"It's not my fault, Colonel.  He didn't have to go," Carter said hotly.

"Well, let's just blame Daniel then," Jack sneered.  "What's a little more guilt?"  he said sarcastically as he turned away.

"Sir!"  Carter called.

Jack whirled.  "You weren't there!"  he reiterated, eyes blazing.

"You wouldn't let me!"  Carter shot back, her own eyes flashing with fury.  "You wouldn't let anyone near him!  I'm surprised you even let Janet in…sir."

Jack glared at his captain and then his face and posture began to relax.  Oh crap.  She's right.

Carter felt her own anger slowly dissipate and she looked away, ill at ease.  She'd never yelled at her CO before.  She felt good but sad at the same time.  She looked him in the eye and said simply, "He's my friend, too."

"You’re right, Carter.  You’re absolutely right," he said softly, rubbing the back of his neck.  "It’s just that…he’s special…you know?"  Jack looked for understanding in Carter’s eyes.

"Yes, he is," she said smiling.

"Yeah," Jack smiled in return.  "Carter, I’m sorry."

"So am I, sir," she replied honestly.

"Look, I don’t know what went on between you two, but maybe you should go and see him," Jack said.

"Yes, sir."

"Carter, if you want to talk about it," Jack said, waving his hands in the air.

"Thank you, but it’s Daniel I need to talk to," she replied as she left Jack’s office.

Jack watched Carter leave and said thoughtfully, "I’d like to be a fly on that wall."

Part 11

"I’d like to keep you here overnight, Daniel and then I want you to go home and rest for a few days," Dr. Fraiser stated.

"Thought you would’ve been sick of me by now," Daniel said ruefully.

"You’re always a pleasure to be around, Daniel.  I’d just prefer that it not be in the infirmary."

"Can’t argue with that," Daniel sighed as he closed his eyes and laid back.

"Pain medication kicking in?"

"Mmm, yeah," he smiled, "much better."

Janet smiled and tucked the blanket in under Daniel’s chin.  She gently checked the bandage on his head then patted him softly on the chest.  "Sleep well, Daniel."

Daniel murmured something in reply then burrowed his face into the pillow.  Janet waited for his breathing to ease into a steady, restful rhythm.  "Just let it go, Daniel," she whispered.  "No one blames you."  She continued to watch him, reluctant to leave.  The horrific nightmares Daniel experienced during his withdrawal were still all too vivid.  Her respect for Colonel O’Neill had shot up a thousand-fold during that awful time.  There had been no part of Daniel’s care that Jack hadn’t played an active role in.  No task had been too daunting, too trivial, or too demeaning.  Jack did it all and without complaint.  He provided Daniel with a constant source of love, patience and understanding.  Janet smiled to herself when she recalled trying to get Jack to take a break.  Damn near bit my head off.

"Janet?"

Janet jumped and turned.  "Sam, you startled me."

"Sorry," she said, giving a small shrug.  "How is he?"

"He's suffered heavy bruising and some cracked ribs but there's no evidence of major trauma.  I'm still waiting for some test results on internal damage but I'm very optimistic."  Janet looked back at her patient and frowned.  "He really didn't need this, Sam.  Not after what he's just gone through."

Janet didn’t seen the guilt flash in Sam's eyes or the sudden tensing of her muscles.

"Why did he do it?  Why would he go back into the mine and alone for God's sake?"  Janet mused aloud.

"The colonel didn’t tell you?"  Sam asked quietly.

"Tell me what?"  Janet asked, turning to face her friend.

Sam's large blue eyes were brimming with tears.

"Sam?"  Janet asked worriedly.

"I told him to.  Oh God, Janet, I wasn't thinking.  He went down there because I told him to," Sam blurted the words out, tears streaming down her face.

Janet quickly hugged the distressed woman.  Not you, too?  She didn’t understand what was going on but she knew Sam was in a lot of pain and there was far too much pain in the room as it was.  Sam clutched at the support, crying out her guilt and shame. 

Janet released her grip when she felt Sam regain her composure.  Sam sniffled, flashed an embarrassed smile and locked her emotions back into place.

"Sorry," she mumbled, her eyes downcast.

"Don't be," Janet said kindly.  "Would you like to talk?"

"No, not yet.  I need to talk to Daniel."  They both looked at the sleeping man in question.

"That may be awhile," Janet smiled.

"I'd like to sit with him," Sam said.

"Of course.  I have to report to Colonel O'Neill on Daniel's condition and I'd rather Daniel have a friendly face here when he wakes up."  Janet frowned at the pained expression on Sam's face.  "Sam, do you really believe Daniel would go into the mine just because you told him to?  This is Daniel we're talking about."

"I didn't want to be near him," Sam whispered in a tortured voice.

Janet sighed and placed her hand on Sam's shoulder.  "If you need anything, just ask one of my nurses."

Sam nodded, unable to take her eyes off Daniel.  She walked over to his bed and sat down in the chair.  She reached for his hand, lying pale, bruised and slightly twitching on the top of the bed covers.  His hand was warm and she closed her own firmly over it, drawing strength and a feeling of well-being from the contact.  Daniel stirred and his fingers tightened in response.

"Jack?"  he asked groggily.

Sam smiled but she couldn't quell the pang of jealousy at the extraordinary friendship that existed between Daniel and Colonel O'Neill.

"No, Daniel.  The colonel's with Janet right now.  It's me, Sam."

"Sam?"

"Yes."

"Sorry," came the subdued response and Daniel's hand slacked in hers.

"Oh, Daniel," Sam choked as she tightened her grip, unwilling to lose this tenuous connection.  "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

Daniel's brow furrowed in confusion.  He was desperately tired but something wasn't right.  Forcing his eyes open he blinked until he could focus on who was beside him.  Sam was clutching his hand and quietly weeping.  Daniel hated to see other people's misery.  He squeezed Sam's hand, willing himself to wakefulness.

"Sam," he croaked.  God, I barely heard that myself.  "Sam," he repeated, squeezing her hand.

Sam's eyes flew open.  Daniel was looking at her.  He was looking at her with the same warm blue eyes that she had looked into so often when she was seeking comfort and friendship.

"Hey," she said squeezing his hand and wiping her eyes with her free hand.

"Don't cry," Daniel said.

"Daniel, I'm so sorry.  I wasn't thinking.  I never wanted you to be hurt."  The words tumbled out and Daniel had difficulty following her logic.

She's blaming herself.  No, Sam, that's wrong.  "My fault," he said hoarsely, "hurt you."

"No, Daniel, no," Sam said as she quickly stood up, grasping Daniel's hand in both of hers.  "That wasn't you."

Daniel was losing the battle to keep his eyes open.  Sam smiled, leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek.

"We'll talk later, Daniel.  I promise."

Daniel nodded and allowed his eyelids to close.  His head lolled to the side and his hand went limp in Sam's grasp.  She tucked Daniel's hand in under the covers and watched his face relax into an easy sleep, the lines of pain and worry dissolving.

"Fall asleep on you?"  Jack asked quietly as he stepped up beside her.

Sam stiffened slightly at her CO's voice.  "Yes, sir.  Janet gave him some painkillers."

Jack heard the reproach in her voice.  "He's going to be fine, Carter," he said assuredly.  "He's got some good friends that'll see to that."

"Yes, sir," she said quietly, unable to disguise the sorrow in her voice.

What the hell.  There's a time to be a CO and there's a time to be a friend, Jack thought glibly as he turned Sam around and enveloped her in a warm caring embrace. 

Sam tensed in surprise and then wrapped her arms around him.

Part 12

Voices.  Lots and lots of voices.  Oh no, did I fall asleep in the briefing?  Jack's gonna kill me. Daniel bolted upright.

"Whoa, Daniel," Jack said, as he placed a restraining hand gently on Daniel's chest.  "Where do you think you're going?"

Daniel looked up in confusion at Jack's concerned eyes.  "Jack?"

"You must be well rested, Daniel Jackson."

"Teal'c?"  Daniel said, looking in the direction of the last voice.

"You've been asleep for sixteen hours, Daniel."

"Sam?"

"Not that you didn't need it, son."

"General?"  Daniel said, blinking in surprise.

"Give it a few seconds, Danny boy, and you'll be back with us," Jack said, his eyes twinkling.

"How are you feeling, Daniel?"  Janet asked.

"Janet?  Oh…now I remember," he groaned as he leaned back into the pillows Jack had propped up behind him.

Jack gripped his friend's shoulder.  "Feeling better?"

Daniel looked up at Jack and smiled.  He placed his hand tentatively over Jack's and nodded.  "Yeah, actually I am.  I'm hungry too."

"That's always a good sign," Janet said approvingly.

"So, Doc, can we spring him?"  Jack asked, giving Daniel a little shake.

"Give me a few minutes to check him out and I'll let you know," she replied.

"I want you to take a week off, Dr. Jackson.  You're going to be quite busy spearheading the negotiations with Shyla and her people.  Good work, son.  It's good to have you back," Hammond said as he patted Daniel gently on the foot.

"Thank you, sir," Daniel replied, failing to mask the emotion in his voice.  The General was still on his side even after screwing up so badly and putting the whole team in jeopardy.  "I'll do my best."

"You always do, Doctor.  Now, people, you heard Dr. Fraiser.  Everyone out," Hammond ordered.

"I'll be back with your clothes and take you out for lunch," Jack called as he was ushered out of the room.

When everyone left, Daniel sighed and closed his eyes.

"They can be pretty exhausting, can't they?"  Janet said.

"It's not that.  It's just…I'm just tired," Daniel said faintly.

"Daniel, you've been asleep for 16 hours," she admonished kindly.

Daniel didn’t respond.  Instead, he squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose.  In spite of his efforts, a single tear managed to escape.

"Daniel," Janet said firmly.  "They, no we, are your friends and you deserve every one of us.  Nothing will ever change that.  Now, I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"

Daniel opened his eyes and looked into the determined face in front of him.  "Okay," he smiled.  "Thanks."

Janet didn’t know if he was thanking her for her words or for giving him some time alone.  Probably both.  Either way, she left satisfied that he had understood.

Part 13

"Okay, Daniel, let's get you dressed and out of here," Jack said briskly as he strode into the arm, arms laden with clothes.  Jack pulled the curtains around the bed and Daniel began to fidget as Jack stood there waiting.

"Come on, Daniel.  Your clothes aren't just going to magically materialize on your body."

"I know that," Daniel said huffily.

"Oh, come on, you're not going all shy on me, are you?"

"It's not that," he said quietly.

"Daniel, it's okay," Jack said gently.   "I've seen the bruises."

Daniel looked up in surprise.  "When?"

"Yesterday.  I forgot my cap and when I came back in, Doc was getting you some painkillers.  I-I took a peek," Jack said, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

"Oh," Daniel replied.

"Yeah."

"So, how does it look?"

"Like a Jackson Pollock," Jack said ruefully.

"Ouch," Daniel laughed then winced as his ribs protested the action.

"So, you gonna let me help?"  Jack asked indicating Daniel's clothes.

"Okay, but let's see if I can get on my feet first."

Daniel got up under his own steam while Jack spread the loose-fitting clothes out on the bed.  He carefully masked his emotions while Daniel undressed.  The bruising looked much worse than it did yesterday as Jack was expecting.  The massive contusion on Daniel's thigh threw Jack for a loop however, and he quickly turned away, biting back the expletives he so desperately wanted to voice. 

Daniel, all too aware of Jack's discomfort, tried to ease his mind.

"I'm okay, Jack," he whispered.

Jack looked at Daniel and dropped the façade.  "Damnit, Daniel," he mumbled and then quickly hugged the younger man to his chest.

Daniel returned the hug instantly and gratefully.  "It looks worse than it is Jack, really."

Jack pulled back and looked sternly at his friend.  "Yeah, right."

"Come on, you gonna help me with these, or not?"  Daniel asked, holding up his underwear.

"Kids," Jack muttered as he bent down to help Daniel into the legs.

Daniel reached down and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder for support, giving it just that little extra squeeze to convey his thanks.

"Don’t get used to this, Daniel," Jack said gruffly as he gently maneuvered Daniel's feet into his shorts.  Daniel chuckled and winced again as his ribs reminded him of their displeasure.

"Serves you right, making an old man bend down like this, "Jack chided.

A few more minutes of easy bantering and Daniel was dressed.

"Jack, I'd like to see Sam before we go, okay?"

"Sure thing.  Maybe Carter and Teal'c would like to join us for lunch?  Feel up to it?"

"I'd like that.  I'll ask her."

"And I'll get Teal'c," Jack said giving Daniel the once-over.

"Let's go," Daniel said.

"Uh-Daniel?"

"Yes?"

"Shoes,"  Jack said pointing down at Daniel's feet.

"Oh, damn," Daniel muttered, wiggling his sock-clad toes.

"Oh, damn what?  I'm the one that has to bend down again," Jack grumbled as he retrieved Daniel's shoes and bent to his task.  "If word gets out, Daniel," Jack threatened.

"My lips are sealed, Colonel."

"That'll be the day," Jack groused amiably.

Jack stood up with a theatrical groan.  "Okay, now you're ready, he said with a satisfied smile.

"Jack?"

"What?"  he sighed.

"Thank you," Daniel said simply, his blues eyes wide and shimmering.

Jack reached out and ruffled his hair.  "Let's go," he said softly.

Part 14

"Hi, Sam."

"Daniel!  It's good to see you up," Sam said excitedly, her bright eyes lighting up Daniel's heart.  This is so much better than the last time I walked in on you.

"Feels good to move around.  Jack's taking me out for lunch and we thought you and Teal'c might like to join us."

"Um-I don't know if I should.  I-uh,"  Sam hesitated; she still hadn't said what she wanted, or needed, to say to Daniel.

Daniel's crestfallen look alarmed her and made her decision.  Oh, God, he thinks I still don't want to be around him.

"Daniel, I'd love to."

Daniel's sad blue eyes brightened in delight.

"Are you ready now?"

"Yes, but um-there's something I need to say first."  She looked away to gather her resolve.  She turned back to meet his puzzled gaze.  "Daniel, I'm so sorry I pushed you away.  I wasn't thinking.  I never thought about what the mine would do to you.  God, I never dreamt that they'd-they'd-I'm so sorry," she choked.

"Sam, no.  It wasn't your fault," Daniel said earnestly.

"I-I just couldn't face you."

"I know, Sam.  I don't blame you after what I did, the things I said," Daniel said sadly.

"No, Daniel.  You don't understand," Sam said, shaking her head.  "What you said, about never having known what love is, it's true."

"No, Sam, it-"

"Yes, it is.  Let me finish, please."

Daniel stood helpless while Sam berated herself in front of him.

"I've never known the kind of love that you and Sha're have for each other; I've never even come close.  I don't like to be vulnerable.  You made me feel vulnerable, Daniel and I was angry with you.  You reminded me of what I've never had and have always wanted."

"I'm sorry, Sam."

"No, I'm all right now, Daniel.  Millions of people don't have that kind of love.  Daniel," she said smiling, "I may not know what it feels like to be in love with someone, heart and soul, but I do know what it's like to love someone so much, as a friend, that you would rather die than lose that friendship."

"Sam," Daniel whispered.

"I don't want to lose you, Daniel," she said brokenly.

Daniel stepped up quickly and wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.  "I don't want to lose you either," he murmured into her neck.

Sam hugged Daniel as tight as she dared, soaking up his friendship like a sponge.

"Well, it's about time you two kids kissed and made up."

They both turned to see a smiling Jack O'Neill, leaning on the door frame.  His smile widened as they  both blushed and disentangled themselves.

"Hi, Jack.  Sam and I were just-uh-well, you know," he shrugged helplessly.

"I know," he smiled.  "Everybody ready?   Teal'c's waiting."

"Coming, sir," Sam said.  "I'll just get my jacket."

Jack took the opportunity to corner Daniel.  "Everything okay?"  he asked.

"Yeah," Daniel smiled.

"Good," Jack replied and patted Daniel lightly on the shoulder.  Now I just have you to worry about.

Part 15

Sam and Teal'c returned to the base after lunch and Jack drove Daniel home.  Once he got Daniel settled on the couch he went into the kitchen.

"Jeez, Daniel.  What were you planning on living on?  Coffee and filter paper?"  Jack yelled from the kitchen.

"I guess I haven't shopped for awhile.  That's okay, Jack.  There's a lot of places I can order from."

Jack came back into the living-room.  Daniel was stretched out on the couch, his forearm covering his eyes.  Poor guy looks exhausted.  Shit.  Of course he doesn't have any food; he's been out of it for days.

"Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"I have to do some shopping myself so I'll do yours too," he said reasonably.

"Jack, it's okay.  You-"

"Daniel."

"Right.  I'd appreciate it, thanks."

"I won't be long."

"Not goin' anywhere," Daniel mumbled.

Jack shook his head and placed a blanket over Daniel.  "Get some rest."

"Mmm, you too," he murmured, already falling asleep.

Jack made sure Daniel was asleep before he left.  He quickly got into his car, turned the key in the ignition, and abruptly turned it off.  He glanced up at Daniel's window.  "What the hell am I doing?"  he muttered.  Jack pulled out his cell-phone and dialed.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Carter, it's me.  Can you do me a favour?"

A few minutes later, Jack sprinted up the stairs to Daniel's apartment.  He quietly entered the apartment and was pleased to see that Daniel was sound asleep.  Jack adjusted the blanket around his friend then sat down in the chair across from the couch.  You look like hell, Danny.  The fact that Daniel probably felt worse than he looked did little to alleviate Jack’s dark thoughts.  His mind drifted back to the infirmary and to the words he had inadvertently heard: ‘Maybe I do.’  What the hell was that about, Daniel?  You think you deserved to be stoned?  You think you need to be punished for falling victim to the sarcophagus?  Crap, Daniel.  For once in your life, cut yourself some slack.

Daniel stirred in his sleep, as if sensing Jack’s distress.  A small furrow of unease creased his brow.  Jack placed a warm hand on Daniel’s forehead, calming the restlessness.  The small smile elicited from the gesture brought tears to Jack’s eyes.  How anyone could even consider hurting Daniel boggled the older man’s mind.

Depressed with his thoughts, Jack retreated to the kitchen to make some coffee.  He knew the smell would probably waken his friend and maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  He wanted Daniel to sleep through the night.  He’d already decided he was staying the night, whether Daniel liked it or not.  Jack puttered around the kitchen, separating the edibles from the more abundant ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ variety.  Wondering if maybe he should have given Carter a lengthier shopping list, he poured himself a cup of coffee and returned to the living-room.

Daniel was now turned on his side with his back tucked tightly into the back of the couch.
His left arm dangled over the edge revealing one of his many abrasions.  Jack took a deep gulp of the hot brew hoping to swallow some of his anger along with it.  He thought about his anger and who he was angry with.  Top of his list, no contest, Shyla.  Daniel selflessly saves her sorry butt and she thanks him by imprisoning them all in the mine.  Sweet.  Then there was the whole sarcophagus thing.  Jack was beyond anger; he was now into hate.  He had to begrudgingly thank her for using the damn thing to save Daniel after the mine collapsed on top of him.  However, if she hadn’t put them in there in the first place the whole goddamned mess wouldn’t have happened.

Daniel moaned softly but did not awaken.  Jack returned to his thoughts.  Daniel.  Was he angry with Daniel?  Hell, yes.  Daniel had no business running off like that.  He put all their lives in jeopardy.  Daniel knew now and that also made Jack angry because he knew Daniel would never forgive himself.  Jack could, and already had.  Convincing his friend of  that would  probably be a lifetime chore.  Then there was the lovely little scene in the storeroom.  That one would haunt Jack forever.  The utter devastation in Daniel’s eyes when he realized what he’d become.  Jack had never feared for his own safety but he had been truly scared for Daniel’s soul. 

The man in question moaned quietly and murmured, "Mmm...coffee."

Jack chuckled and said, "Yes, Homer.  Would you like some?"

"Hmm-what?"  Daniel jerked awake, wincing at the pull on his ribs.

Jack smiled and wafted his cup under Daniel’s nose, the tantalizing aroma pushing up the young man’s eyebrows.

"Want some?"

"Yes, please," Daniel said as he carefully maneuvered himself into a sitting position.

"Back in a sec," Jack said.

Daniel rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked up sheepishly as Jack returned with the coffee.

"Here ya go."

"Thanks," Daniel murmured, wrapping his hands around the hot mug.  He took a sip, looked up through thick eyelashes and said, "Sorry."

Now what?  "For what?"

"Falling asleep.  You’d think after sixteen hours I would’ve had my fill.  How long was I asleep?"

"First off, don’t apologize.  Secondly, your body’s been through hell and it needs all the rest you’ll allow it, and thirdly, you were only asleep for fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen?  How’d you shop so fast?"  Daniel asked.

"Simple, I didn’t.  Phoned Carter instead.  She jumped at the chance to help."

Daniel ducked his head and stared into his coffee.  Jack sighed and sat down next to his friend.  He fussed with the blanket and draped it around Daniel’s shoulders.  "Let us help you, Daniel.  We’re a team; we help each other.  It’s what we do best."

Daniel put his coffee down and looked up at Jack.  "It’s hard," he whispered.

"Not from where I’m sitting," Jack said, pulling Daniel towards him. 

Daniel snickered softly and leaned against Jack, his head resting on his shoulder.  Daniel allowed himself to enjoy the closeness for a few minutes before asking, "Are you angry with me?"

"For?"

"For going into the mine."

Jack rubbed Daniel’s shoulder and upper arm absently as he replied, "Yeah, I’m a little ticked.  I wish you had told me what you were planning."

"I was going to but I uh-forgot my radio.  Besides, you would’ve said no." 

"Damn right I would’ve and with good reason too.  So why’d you do it?  And don’t say because Carter told you to.  If  I hear that you take orders from Carter but not from me you are in deep trouble, my friend."  Jack punctuated his threat with an affectionate squeeze.  Daniel smiled and sat up.  Jack removed his arm from around Daniel and handed him his coffee before picking up his own.

"I don’t think Sam really knew what she was saying.  I surprised her.  She was uncomfortable with me being there and I think she just blurted out the first thing that came to her mind."

"Somehow, I don’t think Carter would like being told that she ‘blurts’," Jack said.

"No, I don’t suppose she would," Daniel smiled.  "Anyway, I thought...I thought she hated to be near me because of the things I said to her when I was...you know..."

"Yeah, I know.  But she wasn’t, was she?"

"No, no she wasn’t," he said surprised.  But I didn’t know that at the time.  I felt so...loathsome.  I hated myself.  I didn’t want to go into the mine, Jack.  I was afraid.  But I was more afraid not to go.  It wasn’t enough to see Shyla and the sarcophagus.  I needed to see the mine.  I needed to see where you’d been."

"Where we’d been, Daniel.  You were chained right alongside the rest of us."

"Not for days, Jack," Daniel said despairingly.  You were imprisoned for days.  I left you there. I-"

"Damnit, Daniel!  You did not leave us there.  She left us there, and let’s not forget, I almost got you killed.  If they hadn’t had that damn box you would’ve died and it might just as well have been me that fired that staff weapon."

"Jack, you’re not serious?"  Daniel asked incredulously.

"Damn right I’m serious.  I was wrong trying to break out when I did.  I should’ve realized you were still chained and wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Who knows how we would’ve been treated if I hadn’t tried to be the macho leader?  I was so pissed with the fair princess.  I should’ve waited."

Daniel listened silently to Jack's tirade then added quietly, "I should have let her jump."

"No, Daniel, you shouldn’t have," Jack said wearily.  "You wouldn’t have been you if you did."

Jack rubbed tiredly at the back of his neck, looking at Daniel.  "Look, Daniel.  A whole lot of bad has come out of this but there just might be a lot of good, too.  Those people just may get their freedom thanks to you.  If Shyla had killed herself, Pyrus would have gone off the deep end and God knows what he would have done."

"I just wish I could forget," Daniel said quietly.

"Daniel-"

Both men jumped at the sound of the doorbell and exchanged sheepish smiles.  Jack patted Daniel lightly on the knee before answering  the door.

"Hi guys," he said as Carter and Teal’c entered the apartment laden with grocery bags.

"That can’t all be for me?"  Daniel questioned as he rose to greet them.

"Don’t worry, we shopped for the Colonel, too." Sam explained.

Daniel looked curiously at Jack who merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "Perks of being CO."

"Right," Daniel acknowledged.  Didn’t want to leave me alone, did you?  He touched Jack’s arm briefly to convey his gratitude and then followed his friends into the kitchen.

"You’ll stay awhile, won’t you?"  Daniel asked hopefully.

"We’d love to, if you’re up to it, Daniel," Sam said.

Teal’c reached into a bag and produced an enormous and excruciatingly decadent-looking chocolate cake.  "I am most curious to sample this, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel’s eyes widened in admiration and lust.  "Wow!"

"Jeez, Carter.  He’s going to be on a sugar high for a week.  How’s he supposed to get any rest?"  Jack groused.

"Lighten up, Jack, there are four of us," Daniel pointed out.

"Kids," Jack muttered as he prepared a fresh pot of coffee.

Part 16

Daniel sat gingerly on the couch, groaning loudly as he did so.

"Daniel?"  Jack said, concern in his voice.

"That was the most incredible cake I have ever tasted but I think I ate too much."

"You think?  Daniel, you ate four pieces!"

"And a half," Daniel corrected, half-opening his eyes.  "Sam couldn’t finish her third."

"You’re all crazy," Jack said, slumping onto the couch next to Daniel.  "At least I know when to stop.  You’ve got poor Teal’c addicted.  He’ll probably buy another one on the way home."

"He did rather enjoy it, didn’t he?"  Daniel grinned.

"Just don’t tell him about chocolate brownies or he won’t have room in his fieldpack for anything else," Jack muttered.

Daniel smiled as he tried to stifle a yawn.

"How can you think of sleeping with all that sugar and caffeine in you?"

"Hmm?  Oh, that stuff never keeps me awake."

"You’re full of it," Jack grumbled.

Daniel chuckled softly and glanced at Jack.  "Shouldn’t you be going home, too?"

"Oh, I don’t know," Jack said, reaching for the remote, "I think there’s a movie about to start that I want to see."

"Jack," Daniel said affectionately.

Jack looked at Daniel and nodded.  "Lame, I know.  Do you want me to leave?"

"It’s not about what I want-"

"Daniel," Jack said patiently, "do you want me to leave?"

Daniel held Jack’s steady gaze and replied softly, "No."

"Good," Jack said brightly, "because I wasn’t going to anyhow."

Sensing Daniel’s vulnerability, he abruptly stood up, grabbed Daniel’s legs and, quickly but gently, stretched him out on the couch.  "You rest.  I’ll clean up the kitchen."

"Okay," Daniel replied, closing his eyes gratefully.

When Jack returned to the living-room, Daniel was asleep.  Smiling warmly, Jack carefully laid a blanket over his friend and settled down in the chair.  He watched Daniel’s chest rising and falling and soon he, too, was fast asleep.

Part 17

"Jack!"  Daniel screamed in his sleep.

Daniel’s scream brought Jack to his feet before his eyes opened.  "Jesus," he said shakily as his heart raced.

Daniel thrashed on the couch and fell to the floor, trapped in a nightmare.  Jack grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Daniel!"  he said, shaking his friend firmly.

"Oh, God," Daniel moaned.

"Daniel, wake up!  You’re having a nightmare.  Come on, don’t make me hit you," Jack pleaded.  After another firm shake, Daniel’s eyes flew open and Jack’s breath caught in his throat.  Daniel had that same crazed, wild-eyed look he had in the storeroom. 

"Daniel, it’s okay.  It’s just a dream," he soothed.

Daniel’s breath came in short, panting gasps.  He finally focused on Jack then jerked away from the older man.  He hunched forward, hands clasped behind his neck and his elbows pressed in tight in an attempt to squeeze out the horror he had seen.

"The mine?"  Jack guessed gently.

Daniel shook his head and said hoarsely, "The storeroom."

"Ah, Jeez, Daniel," he whispered, gently rubbing the young man’s back.

Daniel rocked slowly back and forth, his erratic breathing slowing to a more steady rhythm.

"You okay?"  Jack asked, gently squeezing Daniel’s shoulder.

"No," Daniel said, shaking his head.  "I shot you."

"Shh, it was just a bad dream."

"God, it felt so real," he moaned.

 "You’d never hurt me, Daniel.  Who else is gonna watch my back?"

Daniel choked out a sob and Jack drew him in close, wrapping both arms around him.  Daniel clutched tightly to Jack’s shirt, clinging to this reality.  Bending forward slightly, Jack kissed him lightly on top of the head before laying his cheek against it. For as long as you need, Daniel.  I’m not going anywhere.

"No more chocolate cake for you," Jack  teased, heartened by the responding little hiccup of laughter.

Not surprisingly, Daniel fell asleep in Jack’s arms.  Jack smiled, honoured and touched by Daniel’s trust.  Of course, he couldn’t discount the physical and emotional exhaustion, liberally punctuated with painkillers, either.  But Jack liked to believe that he had a certain calming effect on his friend.  Gently, Jack maneuvered them onto the couch so that Daniel was laying on his back with his head cradled in Jack’s lap.  Jack made himself as comfortable as he could, with his left arm propped up on the arm of the couch and his right arm wrapped securely around Daniel’s waist.  Daniel could be out for five minutes or for five hours; he could never tell.  If there was going to be any thrashing around Jack knew he would instinctively grip his charge thus preventing any more close encounters with the floor.  He’d done this many times with Charlie.  He tried not to make comparisons between Daniel and his son, but Daniel had secured a special place in Jack’s heart and he couldn’t deny the fierce protectiveness he felt for his young friend.

Part 18

Daniel awoke from a dreamless sleep.  He opened his eyes and slowly took in his surroundings.  He blushed slightly and happily at his current position.  His head was in Jack’s lap and Jack’s right arm was draped warmly around his abdomen.  Jack didn’t look too comfortable though.  His head was leaning back on the couch, partially propped up by a hand that Daniel thought must be agonizingly numb.  Daniel placed his hand over Jack’s arm and gave it a gentle shake.  Jack stirred and tightened his grip on Daniel but didn’t wake up.  Daniel smiled and his eyes stung from the feelings of being protected and loved that Jack’s unconscious gesture generated.  He blinked the tears away and settled back into the warm comfort of his Jack-bed.

Jack felt himself jerk awake.  He carefully checked  his friend and valiantly refrained from chuckling when he felt Daniel snuggle into him.  Satisfied that he was still asleep, Jack eased his left arm down, flexing his fingers to bring some feeling back into the deadened nerves; a small price to pay to provide a few hours of restful sleep for Daniel.  There was going to be a lot of bad memories from this whole Shyla affair but Jack was determined to provide Daniel, as well as himself, with as many pleasant ones as he could.

Jack didn’t know how long he sat there lost in his thoughts but he suddenly felt like he was being watched.  He looked down and smiled at the steady gaze of his friend.  Even in subdued light, Daniel’s eyes shone with an intense blue that fascinated Jack.

"Hey," Jack said.

"Hey," Daniel smiled.

"Been watching me long?"

"Just woke up," Daniel answered truthfully.

Good.  Haven’t lost my touch. "How do you feel?"

Daniel glanced away then looked up at Jack.  He smiled and his face lit up the room, far surpassing the moonlight.  "No nightmares.  Now, if I can just have you to sleep on every night," Daniel mused.

"In your dreams, Danny boy."

"You should eat more though," Daniel said seriously.

"What?"

"You’re a little hard," he said, poking Jack in the midriff.

"Somehow I don’t think General Hammond would approve of me getting soft and flabby just so you can have a more comfortable pillow."

"You military types can be such hard-asses," Daniel complained.

Jack laughed and helped Daniel into a sitting position.  The grimace on Daniel’s face spoke volumes.

"Pretty sore, huh?"  Jack asked.

"A bit," Daniel hissed as he moved his arms around, restoring circulation.   "Remind me never to take my vest off.  Better yet, glue it onto me then you won’t have to-"

"Don’t," Jack said sternly.

Daniel looked at Jack and saw the disapproval and concern in the older man’s eyes.  He nodded and flashed a smile of gratitude.  There were so many things he had done wrong since setting foot on Shyla’s world; Jack wasn’t going to allow him to add to the list.  He stretched cautiously, yawned and asked, "What time is it, anyway?"

"Just about three a.m.."

"Three a.m.?  God, Jack, I’m-"

"Uh-uh," Jack said, holding up a warning finger to interrupt the inevitable apology.  "You know three in the morning means nothing to us military types."

"Can I get you anything?"  he asked hopefully.

"Sure.  Hot chocolate would be good."

"Really?"

"And toast."

"Coming up," Daniel said, getting to his feet, happy to be able to do something for Jack.

"Make it cinnamon toast," Jack called.

Daniel's face fell as he turned.  "Jack, I don't have-"

"Yes, you do," Jack drawled as he stretched out on the couch, his hands behind his head.

Daniel stared blankly then blushed as he remembered the grocery bags.  "Oh, right," he mumbled sheepishly as he padded quickly into the kitchen.

Jack smiled and closed his eyes.  It felt good to just lie there and listen to Daniel putter in the kitchen.  It felt ordinary; it felt right.  With all the recent crap that had happened Jack was going to grab any bit of normalcy that he could and treasure it.  He sat up eagerly when Daniel returned with his toast and hot chocolate.  He smiled inwardly when Daniel sat down next to him on the couch.

"Hope I didn't put too much butter on," Daniel said.

"Never too much," Jack replied as he deftly licked the cinnamon-butter dripping down his chin.

Daniel smiled and sat back, chewing contemplatively on his own butter-laden toast.  "Mmm, I forgot how good this was.  I haven't had cinnamon toast since I was a kid," Daniel said between mouthfuls.  "Good idea, Jack."

"Of course, you know that two pieces are never enough?"

"They're already toasting," Daniel assured.

"Sara, Charlie and I used to do this," Jack said thoughtfully.  "Not at three in the morning though.  Cinnamon toast and hot chocolate; it was always a big treat for Charlie but Sara and I got just as big a kick."

"Comfort food," Daniel said.  "Think you military types could work that into your MRE's?"

"And ruin a good thing?"  Jack said aghast.  "No, some things are sacred, Daniel and this is one of them.  Did I just hear the toaster pop?"

"Back in a sec,"  Daniel said.

Just in time.  Jack wiped the corners of his eyes.  What he hadn't told Daniel was that this was the first time he'd had this 'comfort food' since his son died.  The thought of having it without Charlie had always been too painful.  Until now.  Again, Daniel was different and it seemed right.  Jack couldn't deny the pang of nostalgia and loss he felt but he also couldn't deny the sheer pleasure he experienced just by sharing this with Daniel.  Another pleasant memory to add to the list, and hopefully, Daniel's list as well.

"How's your cocoa?"  Daniel called from the kitchen.

"If you mean hot chocolate," Jack said strolling in with his empty plate, "I'm a little low."

Daniel smiled.  "Sorry.  My parents always called it cocoa.  Kind of a family thing, I guess.  I remember this big yellow-orange can…Fry's Cocoa.  I remember wanting to surprise them one day so I made some.  Worse stuff I ever tasted," he said, chuckling at the memory.  "I didn't know you were supposed to add sugar and milk.  But they drank it with gusto and then my mother said she'd show me an even better way to make it.  God, Jack," he said, his eyes misting, "I haven't thought of that in years."

"Good memories?"  Jack asked gently.

"Yeah," Daniel replied quietly.  "Good memories,"  Daniel flashed Jack a brilliant smile and added, "just like this one," before ducking his head quickly and busying himself with the toast.

"I know exactly what you mean.  I haven't done this in a long time either," Jack said, his throat tightening with emotion.

Daniel glanced up at Jack and saw the emotions on his friend's face.  Feelings laid bare for him to see.  Daniel nodded in understanding and Jack reached out and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, acknowledging his friend's comprehension.

"I'll make the hot…cocoa," Jack said with a smile.

"Okay."

Jack carefully observed Daniel while he carried out his own task.  His colour was good if you discounted the blue/black and yellow/green combinations.  His movements were slow and cautious.  He was definitely in a whole lot of hurt but trying not to show it.  However, the sudden intake of breath and the protective curl of the hand around his ribs when he bent down to retrieve a dropped knife was a dead giveaway.

"Daniel?"

"'s'okay.  Ribs are just a little sore."

"Is it time for a pill?"

"Um-yeah.  Past due…actually," Daniel said haltingly.

"How long?"  Jack asked, tight-lipped.

"Not long.  Four…maybe five…hours," he replied quietly.

"Five hours!"

"Or six."

"Damnit, Daniel!  Why didn't you say something?" 

"Well, I was asleep…mostly and when I woke up I didn't…well, you know…I didn't want to move.  I was comfy," Daniel said, averting his eyes from Jack.

"Comfy?"

Daniel glanced up and shrugged.  "Yeah…comfy."

Jack laughed and shook his head.  "Okay, where are they?"

"On the counter in the bathroom."

"I'll get them.  You go and sit down.  I'll take care of things here."

"I can do this, Jack," Daniel protested.

"I know you can, Daniel but humour me, okay?"

Daniel wisely accepted defeat and tried unsuccessfully not to limp as he returned to the living-room."

Why do you try so hard, Danny?

Daniel sat gingerly on the couch, frustrated with the pain and the fact that Jack always had to look after him.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  He was good at his job.  Hell, he was damn good.  So, why did things always end up badly?  Maybe he wasn't meant to be out in the field.  There was a lot of work he could do at the mountain; there were years of translations alone.  Jack would find Sha're, and probably quicker without him.  Maybe that's where he belonged.  Couldn't get into trouble there, could he?  Couldn't get anyone else in trouble, either.  Unless, he screwed up a translation and sent a team into a trap.  Daniel sighed heavily and rubbed the bandage on the side of his head.  Damn headache.

Jack eyed Daniel from the doorway, frowning at the slump of his friend's shoulders.  Gone to that private hell of yours again, haven't you?

"Here."

Daniel's head jerked up and saw Jack's hand holding two pills and a glass of water.  He accepted the proffered medication and swallowed them immediately.

"Thank you," he said softly.

"You're welcome and don't forget again," he said sternly.  "I'll be right back."

Daniel closed his eyes, willing the drugs to take effect.  He soon opened them again to the tantalizing smell of cinnamon, and he couldn't help but smile as Jack set  their treat down on the table.   Jack returned the smile, relieved to see that Daniel hadn't got lost in his dark place.

Jack sat down and took a healthy bite of his toast.

"I meant what I said," Jack announced as he took a gulp of hot chocolate.

Daniel looked at Jack, confusion in his eyes.  "I-I won't do it again," he promised.

"What?"  Jack asked, his turn to be confused.

"What?"

"What won't you do again?"

"Uh-forget to take my pills?"  Daniel hazarded a guess.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Isn't that-um-what were you talking about?"

"Of, for crying out loud," Jack said, putting down his toast.  "Daniel, what I meant was, I meant what I said the other day…up there," he explained, gesturing with his finger.

Jack watched Daniel's mind work.  He saw the dawning comprehension as his eyes widened.  Blue eyes shimmered with hope and gratitude only to be quickly clouded by doubt and self-denial.

Oh, Danny, I know you so well.

"You do know what I'm referring to, don't you?"  Jack asked casually.

"I…I think so," Daniel said uncomfortably.

"Well?"  Jack prompted, his eyebrows arching.

"Well, what?"  Daniel countered, looking everywhere but at Jack.

"Say it."

"Say it?"  Daniel repeated, finally looking at Jack.

"No more toast until you say it," Jack threatened, pulling Daniel's toast towards him.  Come on, Daniel.  You can do it.

"Jack,"  Daniel said plaintively, looking at his toast and then up at Jack.  He swallowed hard.  God, what if I'm wrong?  What if he's talking about something totally different?  No, Jack's my friend.  He'd never humiliate me.  Daniel looked down at his hands and mumbled, "You're proud of me."

"Excuse me?  I didn't quite catch that."

Oh God, Jack.  You heard me.  Don't make me say it again.

"They say the hearing's the first to go.  Now, what was that you said?"  Jack asked as he leaned in so he could hear better.

Daniel grinned and relaxed.  He was tempted to bellow in his ear but instead, he spoke clearly and succinctly pushing that little nagging fear of doubt away.

"You're proud of me."

Jack nodded approvingly.  The lingering shadow of doubt vanished from Daniel's eyes and his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

"And, what else?"  Jack asked.

"And, you’re proud to be my friend," Daniel responded, blushing.

"Damn straight.  Daniel, you're a fighter.  I've never seen you back down from anyone, or anything.  You never give up and you don’t let anyone else give up, either.  I'm living proof of that," Jack said earnestly.

Daniel looked away, desperately needing to hear these words but feeling unworthy of them.  He felt Jack's hand on his arm and he looked into the warm, brown depths of his friend's eyes.

"Daniel, I want you on the team.  I need you on the team.  Besides," he said, giving Daniel's arm a firm pat, "I like you a whole lot."

Jack's casual remark caused Daniel to smile, erasing the tension he had been feeling.  "Well, I like you a whole lot, too," he said.

"What's not to like?"  Jack asked.

"Do you really want me to answer that, Jack?"

"Uh-never mind."

"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said sincerely.

"You're welcome, Daniel."

"Jack?"

"Daniel?"

"Can I have my toast back?"

"Oh, sorry," Jack said contritely as he slid the toast back to Daniel.

Daniel ate it quickly before Jack could think of another reason to take it away.  Licking the last bits of cinnamon and butter off his fingers, he smiled at Jack.

"Made short work of that, didn't you?"

"Didn't want it to get cold," Daniel said, stifling a yawn.

"Yeah, right.  So, meds kicking in?"

"I think so," Daniel said, covering another huge yawn.

"Take the sleep when you can, Daniel," Jack advised.

Daniel nodded and stood up, eyeing the dirty dishes.

"Never mind those; they can wait.  Now, go brush your teeth and wash your face; you've got crumbs all over."

"Yes, Dad," Daniel muttered as he obediently left the room.

"I heard that!"  Jack hollered.

Jack cleaned the few dishes while Daniel was busy in the bathroom.  When he came back Jack was seated on the couch with the TV on.

"You're fast," Daniel commented, looking at the clean coffee table.

"That's why I'm the team leader," Jack said smugly, leaning back.

"So, I guess I'll go to bed now," Daniel said, knowing he needed to sleep but reluctant to leave.

"Lie down before you fall down, I always say."

"Right…okay.  Well…goodnight, Jack," Daniel said before turning to go.

"Daniel!"

"Yes, Jack?"

"Where are you going?"  he asked, mildly exasperated.

"Um-to bed?"

"Get over here," Jack ordered.

Daniel walked over to Jack and noticed the blankets at the other end of the couch and the pillow on Jack's lap.  Embarrassed but pleased, Daniel stammered, "Uh-Jack, it's okay-you-you don't have-"

"Don't argue, Daniel.  Now, come on.  Get down here," he said, motioning to his lap.

"Jack," Daniel said, now thoroughly embarrassed.

Jack merely gazed at Daniel.  Come on, Danny.  I need this too.

Something in his friend's gaze told Daniel that Jack was doing this for both of them.  He sat down and asked, "What are we watching?"

"You are watching nothing but the backs of your eyelids," Jack said, pulling Daniel easily down onto his lap and tucking the blankets around him.

"You won't be needing these," Jack said, gently removing Daniel's glasses.

Daniel chuckled and burrowed into his pillow.  He felt Jack settle back and drape his arm, heavy and comforting, over him.  He sighed contentedly.

"Comfy?"  Jack asked.

"Mmm," came the muffled response.

Jack waited and listened for the slow, steady breathing indicative of sleep before clicking off the TV.  Looking down, his finger idly traced the bruise on Daniel's temple. How do you get into so much shit, Daniel?

Jack knew that Daniel's ordeal was far from over.  He also knew that Daniel would try to go back to P3R 636 as soon as he returned to work.  Jack had already decided to authorize the visit because he knew Daniel needed to go back for his own peace of mind, and Daniel's peace of mind was something Jack sorely wanted to achieve.  Glancing down at his sleeping friend, he was pleased to see a small smile tug at Daniel's mouth.  Probably dreaming of Sha're.  Just don't get any ideas, Daniel.  Remember who you're sleeping with.  Jack sighed.  Sha're.  Another crisis waiting in the wings.  Jack wasn't sure but he suspected that Daniel had slept with Shyla and he could well imagine the enormous guilt he must be carrying over that indiscretion.  In his sarcophagus-fevered brain, Daniel had agreed to marry Shyla.  Jack liked to think that it was a ruse, on Daniel's part, to get them off that damned planet.  After all, Daniel did return to Earth with them.  But when the withdrawals started life with Shyla started looking pretty damned good.  Anything that would stop the pain.  Jack's mind jumped back to the storeroom scene and he unconsciously tightened his grip on Daniel.  I promise, Sha're that I'll do whatever I can to keep him safe. Daniel twitched and Jack looked down.  Another small smile graced the sleeping man's features.  "Sweet dreams, Danny," Jack whispered.

Part 19

Jack awoke to the enticing smell of bacon cooking.  He stretched languorously, his eyes still closed in a half-waking state.  Suddenly remembering his unusual sleeping arrangements, his eyes snapped open as he reached instinctively for Daniel hoping to prevent his stretching from dumping his injured friend onto the floor.  Jack stared in confusion; there was no Daniel.  Figure it out, Jack.  You think bacon cooks itself? Not only had Daniel disappeared, he had also maneuvered Jack so that he was lying full length on the couch, complete with blankets and pillow.  Annoyed that Daniel was able to sneak away without waking him, Jack reigned in his self-recrimination before venturing into the kitchen.

Any residual annoyance Jack felt vanished at the sight before him.  Daniel was buzzing around the kitchen, quietly humming to himself.  He was organized, cheerful and in control.  A Kodak moment.  Jack almost hated to intrude.

"Morning."

"Hey, Jack, you're up," Daniel said sunnily.  "How do you want your eggs?"

"Over easy.  What time did you get up, anyway?"  Jack asked, rubbing his stubbled jaw.

"Just half an hour ago.  Didn't want to but I really had to pee.  Didn't think you'd want me to stay," he grinned.

"Thank you for that," Jack grimaced.  "Must be losing my touch; I didn't hear a thing."

"Surprised me, too," Daniel said, "but then I learned from the best," he said with a nod towards Jack.

"Well, thank you for that, too."

"Seriously though, Jack.  I think, no, I know you've had less sleep than me since this", Daniel waved his hands in the air, "whole thing started.  I can't thank you enough for all you've done, for all you're doing.  I wouldn't be doing this," he said gesturing to his breakfast preparations, "if you hadn't been holding my hand, literally."

"Daniel, you did all the hard work," Jack said awkwardly.  "I was just there-"

"To keep me from shattering into a million pieces.  No, Jack," Daniel said warmly, "there's nothing 'just' about you.  You saved my life, my sanity.  God, you saved my soul.  I know you don't like this stuff but you're the best friend I've ever had and I love you for that."  There, I said it and the world didn't end.

Jack stared, speechless.  "Well," he said, clearing his throat, "if you really love me, you won't burn my bacon.  Crisp, remember?  Not charcoal."

Daniel's answering grin and sheepish eyes pierced Jack's heart and he knew there was nothing he wouldn't do for Daniel, and that knowledge both exhilarated and scared the crap out of him.

"Can you look after the toast?"  Daniel asked knowing his friend needed a diversion from his emotional 'outburst'.

"I'm on it," Jack said, silently thanking Daniel for his understanding.

They worked side by side in an easy, competent manner that they both had sorely missed.

"What are you smiling at?"  Jack asked, noticing the quick smile from the corner of his eye.

"I was just wondering what Teal'c's symbiote thought of all that chocolate cake."

"Hell, I thought Junior was going to pop right out of his pouch.  I know Teal'c can eat but that was downright scary," Jack said, shuddering at the memory of the Jaffa-sized slices of cake that disappeared down Teal'c's throat.

"I think Sam was envious."

"Carter was no slouch, either.  Looking at her you wouldn’t think she could pack much away but she put me to shame," Jack admitted.

"I'm glad they came.  It felt good.  I felt like-", Daniel bit of his statement.

"You felt like part of the team?"  Jack finished.

Daniel glanced sideways at Jack and nodded, "Yeah."  Daniel flipped the eggs and asked, "How's the toast coming?"

"A couple more minutes," he answered, eyeing his friend closely.

Daniel dished up the bacon and eggs while Jack buttered the toast.  As Daniel reached for the coffee pot, Jack placed his hand firmly on Daniel's arm.

"Daniel," he said gravely, "you have always been, and you always will be,  part of the team."

Shimmering blue eyes locked onto Jack's face, so wanting to believe.

"Understand?"  Jack asked, his tone and face serious.

"Yes," Daniel whispered.

"Okay then," Jack said, patting the younger man's arm, "let's eat."

Daniel poured the coffee while Jack set the table.  They ate quickly and hungrily.  Daniel pushed his plate away and clasped his hands around his mug looking as serious as hell.

"What's wrong?"  Jack inquired, wrapping his hands around his own mug.

Daniel looked up guiltily.  "You won't like it."

"Try me," Jack said levelly, taking a sip, his eyes never leaving Daniel's face.

Daniel closed his eyes and then opened them wide.  "I'm going back."

Jack remained outwardly calm.  Inside, his stomach was doing flip-flops.  Those were the same words Daniel had used in the storeroom.  This time, however, Daniel's voice was strong and determined, not the desperate, plaintive tone he used before.

"Fine," Jack said.

"Fine?"  Daniel said incredulously.

"Isn't that what you want to hear?"

"Well, yes, but…that's it?  No, 'for crying out loud, Daniel, are you nuts?'"

Jack laughed and shook his head.  "No, Daniel.  I knew you were going to try to go back but I thought you'd wait until you got back to work before broaching the subject."

"I didn't want to hide anything from you.  I didn't want it to…spoil things," Daniel said carefully.

Jack nodded, appreciating Daniel's candour.  "I don't want to spoil things either but I do have a request, and I stress, this is a request only."

"What is it?"  Daniel asked.

"We all go back…as a team."

Daniel gazed steadily into Jack's dark eyes and answered quietly, "I wouldn't want it any other way."

"Good."  You're learning.  "Got any more eggs?"

Daniel smiled at Jack's sudden topic change and endearing look.  "Same as before?"

"Sure, and have a couple more yourself.  Those things are perishable you know.  Never know how long some of these missions are going to last."

Daniel happily bent to his task, warm in the knowledge that Jack truly wanted him back on the team.

Part 20

Jack gazed at the two suns setting behind the ridge.  They'd been on this planet for five days and were scheduled to leave tomorrow.  It had been four months since Daniel's 'incident' in the mine.  Since that time, he and the rest of SG-1 had returned to Shyla's  planet three times.  Daniel was now almost as revered on P3R 636 as he was on Abydos and it drove him nuts.  Jack smiled at the mental image of the young archaeologist blushing under all the adoration.  His new friends, Avrul and Rius, were both out of the mine.  Rius was in school and Avrul was working in the fields.  He had wanted to work half time in the mine, alongside his friends, but Dr. Fraiser insisted his lungs would give out long before his heart if he didn't stay in the fresh air.

Daniel faced his demons head-on, venturing frequently into the mine on his own.  Conditions had improved to the point that everyone was being properly fed and rested.  SGC units assigned to the planet were making rapid progress in improving the mining techniques albeit careful not to advance their technology too much.  Considering all the crap that had happened Jack had to admit that things turned out pretty damn good.

"I will not lie, O'Neill."

"What?"  Jack said, shaken out of his revelry.

"I will not lie to Daniel Jackson," Teal'c reiterated firmly.

"Come on, Teal'c.  Work with me here," Jack implored.

"Daniel Jackson will not be pleased," Teal'c stated.

"He's right, Colonel.  You know what he's like if he doesn't get his coffee."

"Relax, Carter.  I know what I'm doing," Jack said.  "Okay, now shush, here he comes."

Three pairs of eyes turned to watch a very tired Daniel Jackson trudge into the campground.  He flung his pack down and sat with an audible groan, flexing his long fingers gingerly.

"I haven't copied down so many hieroglyphs in my life and why they had to carve in such small, cramped spaces is beyond me," he muttered as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Jack, Sam and Teal'c looked at each other expectantly.  Any second now.

Daniel looked up in alarm, sniffing the air before glancing sharply at the portable stove.  His brow wrinkled at his teammates critically.

"Didn't anyone make coffee?"

"It appears there is none left, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c informed, looking pointedly at Jack.

"None left?  But there was a whole package this morning."

"The Colonel spilled it, Daniel," Sam said hesitantly.

"Jack?"  Daniel said in horror.

"Thank you, Benedict Carter," Jack said.  "I'm sorry, Daniel.  Accidents happen."

"Yes, but…you spilled it all?  You couldn't salvage any?"

Jack shrugged and looked sufficiently subdued.

"That's just great," Daniel said dejectedly.

"We do have tea, Daniel," Sam offered.

The pained expression on Daniel's face was too much for her.  "Colonel," she said accusingly.

Jack read the 'do something' in her eyes and took action.  "Look, Daniel, maybe you can find something in here," he said, tossing a pack to the distraught man.

Daniel caught the pack and grumbled, "I can't believe you lost it all."  As he started rummaging in the pack, Jack gave Sam a quick wink.  She looked doubtfully at Teal'c and shrugged.

Jack watched as Daniel pulled out a bag of miniature marshmallows and looked at it curiously.  Puzzled, he reached in again and then froze.  Daniel stared at the familiar yellow-orange can in his hands.  He quickly turned from the others, one hand still clutching the can, the other rubbing at his eyes.

"Daniel?"  Sam asked worriedly.

Daniel didn't respond and Sam looked at Jack.  Jack shook his head and held up his hand.

"Did you find something, Daniel Jackson?"  Teal'c asked.

"Um-yes, Teal'c," Daniel said, looking back at Jack, "I did."

"Is it better than tea?"  Teal'c inquired.

Daniel gave a little laugh and said, "Yes, yes, much better."  He pulled out the can and held it up reverently to show the others.

"Fry's Cocoa!"  Sam said excitedly.  "My grandmother used to make that!"

"What is it, Captain Carter?"

"Oh, Teal'c, you'll love it; it's chocolate."

"Indeed," Teal'c said, becoming more interested as she explained the product.

Daniel locked eyes with Jack and swallowed the rising lump in his throat.

Jack smiled, glad that his hunch was correct.  He stood up and walked over to Daniel.

"You did say that it was a family thing, right?"

Daniel nodded and quickly swiped at his eyes.  "Help me make it?"  he asked shyly.

"You bet," Jack said, clasping Daniel's shoulder warmly.  "Are the marshmallows an overkill?"  he asked worriedly.

The genuine look of concern in Jack's eyes nearly brought Daniel to tears again.

"They're perfect, Jack," he whispered.

Jack's face lit up and he pulled Daniel into a quick one-armed hug.  Daniel returned the hug and wished there was something he could do for Jack.  But as they prepared the treat for their friends he realized that Jack had everything he wanted.  His team was together.  They were healthy and happy.  They were a family.

                          ***********************************
As Sam and Jack waited for the milk to boil for another batch of cocoa, Sam leaned over and whispered, "It doesn't get much better than this, does it, sir?"

Jack looked over at Daniel, hunched over, drawing in the dirt, his cocoa perched precariously on his knee.  He was enthusiastically explaining to Teal'c about some markings he had found.  Teal'c was nodding and making scratchings of his own.  Daniel looked up in surprise and called excitedly, "Jack!  Sam!  Come and look at this!"

"No, Captain," Jack grinned, giving the milk a finger test before standing up, "it doesn't get much better than this."

 

The end

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.