The Price of Knowledge

Jack checked his gear one last time even though he knew he had everything, and everything was in its place.  He was looking for a distraction.  He was trying not to think about the fact that Daniel had been in the hands of Honduran rebels for more than twenty-four hours and were doing God knows what to him.  He was trying not to think about the fact that Daniel would do everything in his power to protect his co-worker, Doctor Bill Lee, with little regard to his own safety.  It was that fact which prevented Jack from finding any solace in his pre-mission preparations.

Son of a bitch, Jack thought grimly as he slammed the safety home on his weapon.

“I wish to accompany you, O’Neill, in your search for Daniel Jackson.”

Jack glanced up at his solemn Jaffa teammate.

“I know Teal’c, and I’d like nothing better, but Carter’s going to need you with her.”

Teal’c nodded, but his face remained grim.

“I’ll find him, Teal’c.  Both of them,” Jack vowed.

“Do you trust this man, Burke?” Teal’c asked.

“We’ve worked together before,” Jack said evasively.  “I know how he operates.”

Teal’c regarded Jack silently for a moment and then bowed his head.

“I wish you well, O’Neill.”

“You, too,” Jack replied.  “Hey, first one back buys lunch.”

“Indeed.”

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

Daniel looked apprehensively at the battery and jumper cables.  He watched as Chalo brought the connectors together and created an electrical discharge.  He jumped and jerked his head away.  He knew what was next.  He looked back warily and then glanced up at the rebel leader, Rafael.

“And here’s something else you should not doubt, compadre,” Rafael said.  “You will tell me what I want to know.”

Daniel held the rebel leader’s gaze.   Not in this lifetime.  He took a deep breath and tried to delay the inevitable.

“I don’t suppose you’d believe me if I said that by not saying anything, I’m saving your life?” Daniel queried.

Rafael looked at Daniel puzzled.

“You are saying this artifact is a weapon?” he asked, picking up the ancient object Daniel and Bill had found two days previous.

“No, I didn’t say that,” Daniel replied, uncomfortably aware of Chalo approaching with the cables.

“Then what are you saying?” Rafael asked.

Daniel looked at Rafael and shook his head.  He’d said too much already.

“Tie him up,” Rafael ordered.  “We don’t want him falling out of his chair.  He might hurt himself,” he laughed.

Daniel grimaced as the plastic ties were wrapped around his wrists, securing him to the chair.

“You won’t get away with this,” Daniel said.

“Who will come for you?” Rafael challenged.  “Your government will not risk severing diplomatic relations with my country for the sake of two archaeologists.  For two thieves,” he spat.

Daniel swallowed hard, but did not rise to the challenge.

Rafael nodded curtly to Chalo.

Daniel closed his eyes and braced himself for the pain.  Having been zatted a few times, he had an inkling of what was to come.  Unfortunately, it was much, much worse than he anticipated.  He screamed and bit his tongue as the electric shock jolted and reverberated through his body.  There was no blessed unconsciousness as with the zat’nik’atel.  His body shuddered uncontrollably long after the leads were removed.

“Have you changed your mind, Mr. Archaeologist?” Rafael crooned.

Daniel spat out blood and breathed heavily through his mouth as he brought the pain under control.  He raised his eyes and glared contemptuously at the leader.

“That’s ‘Doctor’, and go to hell,” he said, spitting out more blood.

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

Dr. Lee pressed his palms to his ears and tried to block out the sounds of Daniel’s anguish.

“This isn’t happening.  This isn’t happening,” he murmured as he rocked back and forth.  A selfish part of him hoped Daniel would talk so they wouldn’t have to interrogate him.  Interrogate, Bill thought with a frightened sob.  They’re torturing him.

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

Rafael scowled at the slumped figure in the chair.

“Enough,” he snapped to Chalo.  “He does not feel it anymore.”

Rafael grabbed Daniel’s hair and jerked his head up.

“Do not think this is over, Dr. Jackson,” he hissed.  “Before I am through with you, you will tell me what I want to know.”

Daniel’s eyes were glazed and showed no recognition of who was talking.

Rafael backhanded Daniel in disgust.

“Take him away!  Bring me the other one!” he ordered.

                                                ***********

Dr. Lee looked up nervously.  The screaming had stopped long ago, but the yelling continued.  Now there was only silence.  Oh, God, they’ve killed him.  He stood up and peered through the wooden panels of their prison.

“Oh, Jesus,” he moaned as the four guerillas emerged from the hut, Daniel hanging heavily between two of them.  He’s moving!  Thank God, he’s still alive.

Lee crouched near the door, ready to help his friend.

Daniel hit the floor hard and moaned.  At least he thought he moaned.  He couldn’t move.  He could barely blink.  He was aware of gentle hands on his back, a skirmish, and then Lee’s frightened claim, ‘I don’t know anything!’

Daniel moaned again.  I’m sorry.  Hang in there, Bill.

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

Jack watched impassively as Burke walked away.  He quashed the sudden feeling that he’d just condemned Daniel and Lee to their deaths due to a stupid squabble with an old teammate.  He was special ops, damn it.  He’d done these types of recoveries before.  He would find Daniel even if he had to do it solo.  There was no other option.

                                                ***********

Daniel rolled onto his back in an attempt to alleviate some of the pain from the electrical burns.  He was thirsty, hungry, felt like he’d been steam-rolled, and had a mother of a headache, but he was alive.  He also knew he had a few more rounds left in him.  What he didn’t know was if he’d live to taste victory.  He knew he was important to the SGC, but was Rafael right?  Would Washington risk an international incident to extricate two civilian scientists?  No one knew they had found Telchak’s device, and even if they did, would it be enough?  He knew what Jack would say: “Screw that, we don’t leave our people behind!”  He smiled at his friend’s image and took heart in the words.  No doubt Jack would be kept on a short leash, biting and snarling to get his way.  Daniel sighed.  You can’t save everyone, Jack.  He had been replaced before.  They could do it again.  He had no doubt that Jonas Quinn would jump at the chance to re-join SG-1.  Okay, enough of the negativity, Jackson.

“I’m doing my best, Jack,” Daniel murmured.  “So is Bill.”

Daniel winced in sorrow and anger as another scream assaulted his ears.  He didn’t think his friend would last much longer.

Daniel rolled onto his knees and sat up slowly.  He crawled over to the wall and sagged against it.  Neither of them could go through this much longer.  They had to escape on their own if they had any hope of survival.  Daniel licked his bottom lip and tasted blood.  God, he was so thirsty.  He closed his eyes, willing the pounding in his head to cease.

A sudden commotion forced Daniel’s eyes open.  The door to their cell opened and Lee was dragged in and dumped unceremoniously on the floor.  Daniel braced himself to be grabbed, but the men left without touching him.  He scurried over to his friend.

“I never thought I’d die like this,” Bill moaned.

“Ah, you’re not dead yet,” Daniel murmured, as he gently dabbed at the blood on Bill’s face.  God, Bill, I’m sorry you got dragged into this.

“I’m sorry, Daniel.  I couldn’t take it.  I told them,” Bill confessed.

“What?  What’d you tell them?” Daniel asked.

“Everything.”

Ah, Bill.

“It’s okay.  Take it easy,” Daniel soothed.  “When you say ‘everything,’ do you mean everything as in the SGC?” he asked worriedly.

“No, no, the artifact.  I told them about Telchak and the fountain of youth.”

“Okay, it’s not a big deal,” Daniel said.

“God, Daniel.  It means you were tortured for nothing.  I caved, but he’s still not satisfied.  He’ll go after you again,” Bill insisted miserably.

“Well, I didn’t expect anything less,” Daniel said.  “And I wasn’t tortured for nothing.  If nothing else, I bought us some time.  So did you.”

“Time?  Time for what?  To think about what else they’ll do to us?” Bill moaned.

“Well, there is that,” Daniel agreed with a soft smile, “but I prefer to think of it as buying time for a rescue.”

“Rescue?  You really think they’ll send someone for us?” Bill asked, a desperate plea in his eyes.

“I do,” Daniel said, and almost believed it.

Bill relaxed at Daniel’s assertion and allowed his friend to check his injuries.

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

“Burke, don’t you ever shut up?” Jack growled as he swatted a large palm leaf out of his way.  “At least the waiter knew how to keep quiet and discreet.”

“You know me, Jack,” Burke said, turning around and grinning.  “Silence gives me the creeps.”

“This is a rescue mission,” Jack retorted.  “We’re supposed to be stealthy.  The way you’re yammering every guerilla in this damn jungle is going to know where we are.”

“Relax, Jack.  They’re long gone.  They’ve got what they want,” Burke said.

“Thank you.  That makes me feel so much better,” Jack replied dryly.

This Jackson guy must be pretty important to you,” Burke said casually.

“He’s privy to some very highly classified information,” Jack explained.  “So is Lee.”

“If you say so.”

“Burke, if you have something to say, say it,” Jack demanded.

“All right,” Burke said as he stopped and turned around.  “I remember what it was like to be your friend.  I remember that look you’d get when you thought I was in trouble.”

“What’s your point?” Jack growled.

“My point is, I see that same look in your eyes right now, only tenfold, and believe it or not, I’m happy for you.  I know what happened to your son, and you and Sara.  Friends, no matter what sex they are, start to become a whole lot more important when life shits on you,” Burke explained, chewing his gum avidly.

Jack stared at Burke and then shook his head. 

“Aren’t you supposed to be guiding?” he asked roughly.

“Okay, you don’t want to talk about it.  No skin off my nose,” Burke shrugged.  “Oh, by the way, you may want to back off from that tree there or you’ll be ripping your own skin off this time tomorrow.  That bark causes a rash you wouldn’t believe.”

“Thanks,” Jack said gruffly, eyeing the tree warily.

“Just doing my job,” Burke replied.

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

“They’re coming back,” Daniel murmured.

“Daniel, I don’t think I can go through that again,” Bill said, clutching his knees to his chest.

“You won’t have to,” Daniel said.  “Rafael won’t be satisfied until he gets me to break.  I know his type.”

The door opened and Daniel backed up to put himself between Bill and the rebels.

“You!” Chalo growled, pointing at Daniel.

Daniel remained still until two pairs of hands gripped him by the arms and dragged him out.

“For your sake, you better hope he talks,” Chalo said, closing and locking the door.

“Oh, God, oh, God,” Bill murmured as he buried his head in his arms.

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

Daniel jumped as the gunshot echoed loudly in the air.  He knew the device had affected Rafael, but he wasn’t prepared for the leader to shoot and kill one of his own men.  Daniel looked away from the madness in Rafael’s eyes.  There was no question that he and Bill were rapidly running out of time.

“Does anyone else think I should turn it off?” Rafael asked, daring his men to speak.  “I didn’t think so,” he said in response to the heavy silence.

“Can’t you see that thing did that to you?” Daniel asked.  “It’s changed you already.  Turn it off!”

“Why does this frighten you so much, Dr. Jackson?” Rafael asked, caressing the box and enjoying the way the light shone through his fingers.

“It’s dangerous,” Daniel said through clenched teeth.

“No, Dr. Jackson,” Rafael said, picking up his knife and circling Daniel slowly.  “I am dangerous,” he whispered, pressing the point into the soft flesh of Daniel’s throat.

Daniel stared straight ahead and tried not to swallow.  No, crazy as a shithouse rat, as Jack would say.

“Take him back,” Rafael ordered, removing the blade from Daniel’s throat and using it to slice the cable ties strapping him to the chair.

“You don’t understand its power,” Daniel said as he was hauled to his feet.  “No one does.”

“I don’t need to understand it.  I just have to feel it,” Rafael said, exulting in the artifact’s light.

“He’s crazy,” Daniel said to his captors as they pushed him back to the hut.  “He’ll do to you what he did to your friend.”

“Quiet!”

Daniel shut his mouth and did as ordered.  They’d all been exposed to the light, and they were probably all affected, himself included.  He knew he should feel a lot worse than he did.  The artifact probably had a similar effect as the sarcophagus, only more so.   He had to get himself and Bill out of here now.  Daniel knew they would not live through the night, otherwise.

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

Jack followed the now silent Burke, his mind buzzing.

We’re in the middle of a goddamn rescue mission and Burke decides to spill his guts now?  Crap.  As if I need someone other than Daniel to worry about.  Damn it, why did he keep quiet all these years?  He could’ve just told me the truth.  I would’ve believed him.  Wouldn’t I?  Maybe I can make it up to him after Daniel and Lee are home safe.  Hell, maybe Daniel can tell me why Burke clammed up for so many years.  Daniel’s good at that psychological mumbo-jumbo.

Jack pulled up short when Burke stopped and turned around.

Burke reached into his pocket, pulled out some gum and handed it to Jack.

Peace offering?

Jack accepted the gum and popped it into his mouth.  He was going to say something to break the silence, but the sudden and loud eruption of machine-gun fire did that.  It was close.

Daniel.

Jack began to run.

 

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

Pain exploded in Daniel’s leg and he collapsed against the tree.  This was it.  No more running.  He turned and faced his pursuers. 

Rafael was beyond fury.  His eyes blazed with insanity.

Daniel shielded his face as bullets rained around him.  He squinted through sweat and dirt to see Rafael throw down his spent gun.  Daniel’s already pounding heart beat faster when Rafael demanded a machete and turned his murderous gaze towards him.

“I’m going to skin you alive,” he hissed.

Daniel turned in a wild panic and grabbed the only thing he could: a rock.  He knew he was going to die, but he wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  He just prayed that Bill’s death would be quick and merciful.

Sudden gunfire shattered the jungle, and Daniel whipped around to see his enemies fall to the ground.  He stared, his brain not comprehending what had just transpired.  Not ready to believe he had been saved from a certain death.

                                                **********

Take that you bastards.

Jack rarely took pleasure in killing his enemy, but there were those times when victory did indeed taste sweet.  The words, ‘I’m going to skin you alive’ still echoed in his ears, but the rage they had invoked dissipated as he reverted to the dispassionate Special Ops soldier.  They weren’t out of the jungle yet.

Jack quickly checked the surrounding area for danger, his P-90 clutched tightly to his chest.  He crouched in the undergrowth, his eyes fixed on Daniel.

“How many more are there?” he asked in an urgent whisper.

Daniel stared at him in shock, and Jack’s eyes narrowed in concern.

Oh, crap.  He’s not all there.

Jack crept over and crouched beside his friend.

“Daniel!” he whispered, nudging his arm.

Daniel snapped out of his daze.

“That’s it.  You got them all,” Daniel said in a rush, breathing heavily as his eyes darted back and forth between the dead rebels and Jack.  “What are you doing here?”

Christ, Daniel.  What’d they do to you? Jack thought as he stared at his friend in concern.

Daniel suddenly realized he was clutching a rock.  What the hell was I going to do with that?  He tossed it away and tried to get his wits about him.  Jack was here.  He didn’t have to think anymore.

“Let me look at your leg,” Jack said gently.

“What?”

“Daniel, you’ve been shot,” Jack said, gesturing to the younger man’s leg.

Daniel looked down and instantly became aware of the fire in his leg.

“Right,” he grimaced.

“Can you turn a bit?” Jack asked, gently easing Daniel over.  “That’s good.”

“No, wait!” Daniel cried, wincing as he turned back.  “Bill.  We have to find Bill.   I left him back there in the jungle,’ he gasped.

“Easy.  Burke will find him,” Jack said.

“Burke?” Daniel murmured in confusion.

“Didn’t think I’d come all this way without backup, did you?” Jack teased as he checked the injured leg.

“Didn’t think you’d come,” Daniel murmured, gritting his teeth as Jack probed his wound.

Jack glanced quickly at Daniel in disbelief.  He shook his head and concentrated on the leg.

“There’s no exit wound.  I’ll tie it up for now.  The sooner we get out of here, the better.”

Daniel closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing while Jack cleaned the wound with sterile swabs.

Jack used his own bandana to tie up the wound.  He kept a close eye on Daniel during the process.  His friend’s demeanor was not unexpected, but it was still worrisome.

“Think you can walk on it?” Jack asked.

“Yeah,” Daniel gasped.

Crap, Daniel.  You’d say you could walk if you didn’t have legs.

Rapid gunfire had both men staring at unwanted company.

Daniel’s eyes widened at yet another resurrection of Chalo.

“Telchak’s device reanimates dead tissue,” he explained quickly as Jack hauled him to his feet and around the tree to safety.

Jack fired repeatedly at the advancing threat, but the rebel refused to fall.  If anything, he seemed to grow stronger. 

Chalo’s eyes blazed with inhuman anger.

Oh, crap.

“Get down!”

Jack looked over to see Burke poised with a grenade launcher.  He ducked behind the tree with Daniel while Burke blew away Chalo.

“Come on,” Jack said and pulled Daniel to his feet.

“What’s with the Evil Dead thing?” Burke asked as he approached Jack and Daniel.

“Uh,” Jack said while Daniel leaned heavily against him.

“Top secret, huh?” Burke guessed.

“Uh, yeah,” Jack replied.

“You guys are into some crazy crap,” Burke laughed.  “You must be Dr. Jackson.”

Daniel merely nodded.

“Where’s Dr. Lee?” Burke asked.

“I left him.  He’s back there,” Daniel said, motioning behind Burke.

“I’ll roust him,” Burke said as he turned and disappeared into the jungle.  “Dr. Lee!  Cavalry’s here!  Time to go home!  Don’t keep Colonel O’Neill waiting!”

Daniel glanced at Jack.

“Friend of yours?”

“How can you tell?” Jack grinned.

Daniel smiled and gripped Jack’s shoulder as he shifted his weight.

“Sure you can make it?” Jack asked.  “How far did you run?”

“I don’t know.  Quarter of a mile, maybe,” Daniel said absently.  He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts.  “God, Jack,” he whispered.

“Hey, it’s over.  You kept yourself alive.  That’s all that counts,” Jack said.  Just keep it together a little longer, Daniel.

“Son of a bitch,” Jack said, giving himself a mental and verbal slap.

“What?” Daniel asked, his brown furrowed in concern.

Jack scowled and reached into his pocket.  He pulled out a flask, unscrewed the top and held it to Daniel’s mouth.

“You’ve gotta be thirsty.”

Daniel licked his lips and swallowed convulsively.  He opened his mouth.

Jack carefully poured a little of the cool water down the parched throat.

“Just a little more,” he cautioned.

Daniel closed his eyes and relished the sensation of water on his lips, tongue, and throat.

“Thank you,” he whispered, licking the moisture off his chapped lips.

Jack recapped the flask and tucked it away.  He readjusted his arm around Daniel’s waist and grasped the hand clutching his shoulder.

“Let’s go,” he said.  “That’s it.  Easy does it,” he murmured as Daniel limped forwards.

“Found him!” Burke crowed as he came out of the trees with Dr. Lee beside him.

“Daniel!” Bill cried, rushing to his friend.  “Oh, God, you’ve been shot.”

“I’m okay, Bill,” Daniel assured his friend.  “I’ve had worse, right, Jack?” he asked with a wince.

“Crap, I could write a book on your injuries,” Jack groused.

“Is there anything I can do?” Bill asked as he hovered anxiously.

“Maybe you and Burke could find Daniel a stick or something for a crutch,” Jack suggested.

“Sure, sure, I can do that,” Bill said, happy to be able to help.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t get into trouble,” Burke said, following Bill.

Jack watched Bill rush away and he got an unpleasant feeling in his stomach.

“Daniel.”

“Not now, Jack.”

Jack glanced sideways at his beaten and exhausted friend.

“He talked, didn’t he?”

“It’s not his fault, Jack.  He did his best,” Daniel said defensively.

“We’ll rest here,” Jack said, easing Daniel off his shoulder and onto the ground.  “How much did he say?”

Daniel sighed and leaned back against the tree.  “Just about Telchak and the artifact being connected to the fountain of youth myth,” Daniel muttered, fighting down the nausea from his gunshot wound.

“Nothing about the SGC?” Jack pressed.

“No, nothing,” Daniel insisted.  “Even if he had, or I had, they’re all dead,” he said, waving his hand in the air.

Jack wanted to ask Daniel what they had done to him, but he knew now wasn’t the time.

“Okay,” Jack said, patting Daniel on the arm.  “Catch your breath.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

“So that thing acts like a sarcophagus?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, only worse, and that was short-term exposure.  We’re going to have to be really careful with it, Jack.”

Jack nodded as he reached into his pocket and pulled out an energy bar.

“Here, have a bite,” he said, holding the bar out to Daniel.

Daniel took a small bite and chewed slowly and with difficulty.

“This will help,” Jack said, handing Daniel some more water.

Daniel took a small mouthful of water to help wash down his food.

“That’s better,” he said gratefully.

Daniel rested his head against the tree for a few minutes then said, “I better go before I seize up.”

“Yeah,” Jack said in sympathy.  “Okay, let’s get you on your feet.”

Daniel grunted in pain as his leg protested being moved.

“Sorry,” Jack said.

“’s okay,” Daniel murmured, digging his fingers into Jack’s shoulder.

“Ready?” Jack asked.

“Are any of us really ready?” Daniel replied.

Jack looked askance at Daniel.

“Heatstroke on top of everything else,” he muttered, rubbing Daniel’s back in sympathy.

Daniel smiled and realized it was his first genuine smile in days.  His mind quickly replayed recent events and he shuddered involuntarily.

“Daniel?” Jack queried, feeling the tremors.

Daniel looked into dark, concerned eyes.

“Have I said how glad I am to see you?” Daniel asked seriously.

Jack smiled warmly and squeezed Daniel’s waist.

“The ‘what are you doing here?’ kind of threw me for a second, but I figured that was just your unique method of communication,” Jack teased.

“I thought I was going to die,” Daniel said softly.

“I know,” Jack acknowledged, hugging Daniel in tight, “and I’m sorry I took so long.”

“I really didn’t think they’d let you come,” Daniel whispered, looking at the ground.

“Daniel, look at me,” Jack said.

Daniel raised his eyes and looked at Jack.

“If Washington had said no, do you really think that would’ve stopped me?” Jack asked.

Daniel felt a surge of love for the hard-bitten soldier whom he was honored to call his best friend.  His eyes shone with unshed tears as he swallowed hard.

“No,” he whispered, mouthing the word more than saying it.

Jack felt his own emotions riding a little too high.  He nodded curtly, accepting Daniel’s acknowledgement.  He didn’t want to think about “what-ifs” because he knew damn well if he hadn’t got permission when he did, he wouldn’t be talking to Daniel now.  There was no question he would have gone after Daniel, but his timing would have been way off.  As it was, he only got here in the nick of time.

“Let’s go home,” Jack murmured, gently urging Daniel forwards.

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

“I was about to launch another search party for you two,” Burke joked as Jack and Daniel entered the rebel campground.

“Daniel, try this,” Bill said, rushing up to them and holding out a stout walking stick.

Jack carefully eased Daniel off his shoulder and onto the stick.

“This is good.  This is great,” Daniel said, leaning heavily on the stick.  “Thanks, Bill.”

“Yes, thank you, Bill,” Jack said, easing the kinks out of his shoulders and back.

Daniel smiled at the exaggerated motions of the older man.

“You’re the one who keeps telling me to eat more,” Daniel said.

“Speaking of which, you should lie down and rest that leg.  You should also try to finish that bar,” Jack said.  “What about you, Lee?” Jack said, turning to the other scientist.  “Burke given you anything to eat?”

“Of course I have,” Burke said, mildly offended.  “What do you take me for?”

“I’m fine, Colonel,” Lee replied.  “Come on, Daniel, there’s a nice spot over here,” he said, gesturing to a canopied area.

“I wouldn’t mind lying down for awhile,” Daniel murmured.

“No one’s going to stop you,” Jack said, placing his hand warmly on Daniel’s shoulder.

“I’ll radio the rescue chopper and get their ETA,” Burke said.

Daniel nodded and looked at Jack.

“Don’t leave without me.”

Jack smiled, but he couldn’t stop his guts from twisting as Daniel hobbled away.  This had been too damn close. 

“You must have quite a team if Jackson’s any indication,” Burke said quietly.

Jack looked at his old comrade, and his lips twitched upwards.

“They’re out of this world.”

Burke chewed thoughtfully and said, “I don’t think I want to know.”

Jack smiled and asked, “What’d you find?”

“Not much.  A small cache of weapons.  Dr. Lee said that’s where they were interrogated.”

Jack looked at the hut he was pointing to.

“Did you look?”

“Yeah,” Burke said.  “Could’ve been worse,” he added.

Jack nodded.  “I’m going to see that Daniel’s settled, and then I’ll take a look.”

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

Jack entered the hut.  His eyes were immediately drawn to the solitary chair and the blood stains and plastic ties surrounding it.  The muscles in his jaw twitched.  His eyes scanned the room, settling on the battery and cables.  There was only one reason for its presence, and his fists clenched in anger.  They had broken Dr. Lee, but not Daniel.  How many times had that been used on Daniel?

“Crap, Daniel,” he murmured.

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

Daniel watched with blurred vision as Jack entered the hut where he and Bill had been questioned.  He knew Jack wouldn’t miss a thing, and he also knew his friend would feel guilty for not being able to stop the torture.  Daniel knew all too well how much it hurt to see someone you care about injured, whether it be physical, emotional, or both.  His heart ached for his friend’s pain.

Great.  As if I don’t have enough pain already, he though ruefully.

Daniel closed his eyes.  He was getting a nice buzz from the painkillers Jack had given him.  He sensed a presence and thought, perhaps, he should open his eyes.  While he tried to summon the effort to comply, whoever it was sat next to him.

Jack, he thought sleepily.

Daniel cracked one eyelid open.  Jack was beside him.  He smiled and closed his eye, basking in the warmth of feeling safe.  He didn’t have to worry about Bill; he didn’t have to worry about staying alive; he could just sleep.

Daniel felt a hand gently tug at his shirt, and his own hand moved of its own volition to cover it.

“Daniel?” Jack murmured.

Daniel opened his eyes with effort.  He blinked a few times until Jack’s harried features came into view.

“Don’t,” Daniel whispered.

Jack swallowed hard, but didn’t look away from the gentle, but sad blue eyes.

“Daniel, that bastard—”

“You’ve seen worse, Jack.  You’ve experienced worse,” Daniel said.  “I’m okay.  Thanks to you,” he added, weakly squeezing the hand he still clasped.

Jack took a deep breath and nodded, flashing a quick smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.  He felt Daniel’s grasp loosen and he gently removed his hand from the younger man’s chest.

“Think you can drink a little more?” Jack asked.

“Please,” Daniel said, his tongue automatically flicking out to lick dry lips.

Jack carefully propped Daniel up, acutely aware of the winces and held breaths the movement caused.

“Chopper shouldn’t be long,” Jack said, holding the flask to Daniel’s lips.  “We’ll stop at the nearest military hospital, patch you up, and then grab a transport back home.”

Daniel nodded, closed his eyes and tipped his head back, and swallowed the cool water gratefully.

Jack gently dabbed at the water that dribbled down Daniel’s chin.  He poured a little water onto a cloth and wiped Daniel’s face.

“Better be careful or Janet’s going to recruit you to her nursing staff,” Daniel quipped, tilting his head back for another drink.

Jack smiled and dribbled some more water down Daniel’s throat.

“Yeah, well wait until you see my sponge baths.”

Daniel sputtered and coughed, getting them both wet.

“You did that on purpose,” he gasped, trying not to laugh.

Jack grinned and ruffled his friend’s hair.  “Sorry, but you really could do with a bath, Danny-boy.”

“God, tell me about it,” Daniel grimaced.  “You probably found me by smell.”

Jack smiled, but again there was no light in his eyes.  Daniel had been mere seconds away from death.  If they had stayed any longer with the guide, Rogelio…

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” Jack said, trying to distract his thoughts, “how the hell did you find Telchak’s device in a well?”

“Well?” Daniel murmured in confusion.  “Oh, that.  Um, actually, it didn’t become a well until after I picked up the artifact.”

“You mean the whole Indiana Jones thing?” Jack queried, his eyebrows raised.

“Just like the movies.  We’re lucky we didn’t drown like rats,” Daniel said, shivering at the memory.

“And you managed to hang onto the damn thing and swim out?” Jack asked, impressed and maybe even a little angry at his friend’s folly.

“Some people think I’m tenacious,” Daniel shrugged tiredly.

“You think?”

“That’s where I lost my glasses,” Daniel said.

“Crap, I forgot,” Jack said, reaching into his jacket pocket.  “Here,” he said, handing Daniel a pair of glasses.

Daniel’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

“Hey, I know how you work,” Jack said in way of explanation.

Daniel only looked mildly offended as he accepted the glasses.

“Thanks, I think,” he mumbled as he put them on and gazed at his surroundings.

“Where’s Bill?”

“He’s looking after that artifact.  Said he wanted to make sure it was still off,” Jack explained.

“He’s a good man,” Daniel said.  “We’re lucky to have him.”

“Daniel, I’m not going to ride his ass because he broke under torture,” Jack said.  “You think I’m that much of a bastard?”

“No, of course not.  It’s just that, well, he feels bad,” Daniel said, frowning.

“I know he does.  He told me what happened,” Jack replied.

“He did?  Um, by choice or did you ask him?”

“He approached me.  Seemed anxious to get it off his chest.  He made you out like some kind of damn hero, too.  Coming back for him when he fell; hiding him in the trees and leading the rebels away from him,” Jack said.

“Well, he was tortured,” Daniel said, lowering his eyes.  “He might have been a bit confused.”

“Maybe,” Jack conceded, “but it sure sounded like the Daniel Jackson I know.”

Daniel glanced up and saw the pride in Jack’s eyes.  Warmed by the praise, he managed to smile, blush, and shrug all at the same time.

Jack smiled and patted Daniel’s shoulder.

“I should let you get some rest.  I’ll check on Dr. Lee.”

“Thanks, Jack,” Daniel acknowledged, letting his eyes drift close once again.

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

“Is it off?”

Lee jumped and turned around.

“Oh, Colonel O’Neill.  Yes, yes, it’s off,” he confirmed.

“Come outside,” Jack said.  “The ambience in here sucks,” he said, scowling at the solitary chair.

“How’s Daniel?”

“He’s worried about you,” Jack said.

“About me?” Lee frowned.

“You know Daniel,” Jack sighed.

“I better go talk to him,” Lee said.  “You, uh, won’t touch that will you” he asked, gesturing to the artifact.

“No way,” Jack said, holding his hands up.  “I’ll leave that to the experts.  You and Daniel can fight over it.”

Lee nodded, unsure if he’d just been paid a compliment.

“I covered it up in case it turns back on.”

“In case?” Jack queried.

“It is alien technology,” Lee shrugged.

“Oy, scientists,” Jack grumbled, as Lee left the hut.

Jack’s eyes were drawn to the chair and battery set-up.

“Damn it, Daniel, I hope that thing is worth it,” he muttered.

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

“Hey, hey, hey, slow down,” Jack said, halting Daniel’s brisk pace.  “Where’s the fire?”

“Sam and Teal’c are coming home,” Daniel beamed, leaning on his crutches.

“They’re not due back for another two hours,” Jack said.

“I know, but I don’t want to miss them.  They were both injured,” Daniel explained.

“Not as bad as you,” Jack scolded, “and if you keep running around like that you’re going to fall and break your neck.”

“Guess I’m just excited,” Daniel said.

“Come on, I’ll buy you some coffee,” Jack said, patting Daniel on the back.  “I want to check out the menu and maybe talk to the cook, seeing as I’m buying everyone lunch today.”

“You are?  Why?” Daniel asked.

“Because I’m a nice CO?” Jack retorted.

Daniel narrowed his eyes and cocked his head.  He smiled and said, “You lost a bet, didn’t you?”

“It wasn’t a bet,” Jack said defensively.  “It was more of a suggestion, really.  First one back buys lunch.”

“Teal’c?” Daniel guessed.

“I had to placate him somehow.  He wanted to come after you, but I told him Carter needed him and, in case you’re wondering, Carter would rather have gone after you, too.”

Daniel’s face flushed with the warmth of love and caring he felt for his friends, and they for him.  There was no better feeling than knowing someone cared.  He smiled and then frowned.

“Wait a minute.  Lunch?  That’s all it took?  Not even dinner?” he asked in mock indignation.

Jack laughed and cuffed Daniel gently on the side of the head.  “Tell you what.  I’ll buy you dinner when you’re off those things.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Daniel warned.

“Believe me, I know you will,” Jack replied.

“Do I get to pick the restaurant?” Daniel asked, as he started walking at a leisurely pace.

“Don’t push your luck,” Jack grumbled.

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

“Colonel O’Neill?”

“Siler?” Jack said, surprised to see the sergeant in his office.

Siler closed the door behind him and looked at Jack apprehensively.

“What’s up, sergeant?” Jack asked.

“I might be out of line, sir, but, well,” he said, frowning and looking down at the floor for inspiration.

“Spill it, Sparky.”

“Sir, it’s about Dr. Jackson.”

“Daniel?” Jack said, his guts twisting.

“It’s probably nothing, Colonel, but I heard rumors about Dr. Jackson’s recent ordeal, and I thought that maybe you should know.”

“Know what?” Jack asked in aggravation.

“If I’d know he was there, I wouldn’t have—”

“Siler!  What the hell happened?” Jack snapped.

“I was doing some repairs in the gateroom this morning, sir.  Checking voltages, things like that,” Siler quickly explained.  “There was a short circuit.  It was rather loud, sir.  That’s when I noticed Dr. Jackson behind me.”

“Oh, crap,” Jack murmured, knowing where this was going.  “How did he react?”

“Rather badly, sir.  He looked pretty shaken,” Siler said.

“I bet,” Jack mumbled.  “Thanks, Siler.  You did the right thing.”

“Thank you, sir,” Siler said, relieved the conversation was over.

After Siler left, Jack leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk.

“Daniel, Daniel, Daniel,” he murmured, rubbing his forehead wearily.

Jack knew Daniel had issues with what happened to him in the Honduras.  Hell, what sane person wouldn’t?  Dr. Lee had been attending regular sessions with Doctor Mackenzie, but Daniel had only agreed to two sessions.

“I think it’s time we had that dinner, Daniel.”

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

Jack entered Daniel’s dimly-lit office that was looking more and more like a museum.

“Hey.”

“Hi, Jack,” Daniel replied, placing the artifact he held back onto the shelf.  He plunged his hands into his pockets and turned around.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“You tell me,” Jack said, pulling out a chair and sitting down.

Daniel’s hands automatically came out of his pockets and his arms wrapped around his middle.

Here we go, Jack thought.

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked.

“I heard about the incident in the gateroom this morning,” Jack said.

Daniel stiffened and his jaw tightened.

“For a quiet guy, Siler’s got a big mouth,” he muttered.

“He’s also got a big heart,” Jack said.  “So, do you want to talk about it?”

“Siler’s heart?”

“For crying out loud, Daniel,” Jack groused.  “You know what I mean.”

“Jack, it was nothing, really,” Daniel insisted.  “I just overreacted.  I heard that…sound and it all came back: the jungle, the questioning.  Suddenly, I was there again.  You know?”

“I know exactly what you mean, Daniel, and that’s what worries me,” Jack said, standing up and approaching Daniel.  “What happened to you was—”

“It happened to Bill, too,” Daniel interrupted.

“And he’s getting help,” Jack said, trying to keep a lid on his anger.  “He’s not pretending it didn’t happen.”

“Trust me, Jack, I’m not pretending it didn’t happen,” Daniel said with a hollow laugh.  “Besides, it’s not like I haven’t been tortured before,” he added.

“Not that systematically, and not by your own people,” Jack declared.

“My own people?”

“Humans, Daniel,” Jack sighed.

“Right.  Well, they weren’t acting very human, or maybe they were,” Daniel said absently, starting to pace.  “As a race we don’t have a great human rights record.”

“Look, just forget the human versus alien thing,” Jack said.  “The point is you were tortured.”

“I know that, Jack.  What I don’t know is why you want me to dwell on it,” Daniel said testily.

“I don’t want you to dwell on it, damn it.  I just want you to, I don’t know, feel something,” Jack said, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration.

Daniel stopped and stared at Jack.  He didn’t want to be having this conversation.  Jack didn’t either, and if Daniel was honest with himself he knew they both needed to have it.

“All right,” Daniel said.  “Am I angry they tortured me?  Yes, I’m angry.  I was trying to save the bastards, not to mention the whole damn planet.”

That’s good, Daniel.  Let it out.

“They had no right to treat us that way.  And Bill…God, Bill,” Daniel murmured, his eyes closing in pain.  “I couldn’t protect him, and if you hadn’t shown up—”

“Daniel, you can’t take responsibility for what happened to Dr. Lee,” Jack interjected.

“He works for me,” Daniel said, his eyes snapping open.  “That makes him my responsibility, and don’t even think of saying otherwise.  You say you’re responsible for me, Sam and Teal’c.  There’s no difference.”

“All right, he works for you,” Jack conceded.  “Then consider the fact that you gave him hope, and you kept him alive long enough for rescue.”

“Gave him hope?” Daniel queried.

“He told me you assured him there would be a rescue party,” Jack explained.  “That gave him a reason to fight.”

“I had to give him something,” Daniel said.

“Then take the credit, Daniel,” Jack said firmly.  “He’s said more than once he would’ve died if it hadn’t been for you.”

Daniel looked uncomfortable and walked over to one of the shelves.  He picked up a Mayan sculpture of a dog.  He turned it over in his hands.

“I can deal with the torture,” he said quietly. 

Jack pursed his lips and considered the softly spoken words.

“I just don’t want you thinking you have to deal with it alone,” Jack said quietly.

“I know,” Daniel said, turning around, “and I won’t.  I promise.”

Daniel still clutched the clay figurine in his hands.  He looked up at Jack with haunted eyes.

“Do you know what really bothers me?” Daniel asked.

Jack shook his head, and prepared himself for the worst.

“Something Rafael said,” Daniel continued.

The rebel leader’s last words instantly flashed in Jack’s mind and he winced.

“They’d give anyone nightmares, Daniel.”

“You weren’t there,” Daniel said, frowning.

“I was close enough,” Jack explained.  “I heard him, and then I blew the bastard away.”

Daniel stared at Jack and then comprehension dawned on his face.

“Oh, that,” he said.

“Oh, that?” Jack echoed incredulously.  “Some goon threatens to skin you alive and you say, ‘oh, that?’”

“I won’t deny he scared the shit out of me,” Daniel confessed, “but it’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Daniel, I can’t read minds.  What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about this,” Daniel said, holding up the Mayan object.  “And this,” he added, picking up an ornate mask.

“Daniel, I’m getting a headache,” Jack sighed.  “What do those things have to do with Rafael?”

Daniel took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“I told him I was an archaeologist, and that I looked for artifacts,” he explained.  “He said…he said I was nothing but a thief, and what right did I have to go into his country and take something that belonged to his people.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Stop right there,” Jack said, waving his hands.  “I know where this is going, and if you want to wallow in some misguided guilt and self-pity fest, then do it on your own time.”

“I thought you wanted me to talk,” Daniel retorted.

“About the torture,” Jack shot back.  “Not about what some piece of slime thinks of your damn job.”

“Fine, then we have nothing to talk about, as usual,” Daniel said, returning to his desk and effectively dismissing Jack.

Jack lowered his chin to his chest and kneaded the back of his neck.

Crap, why don’t things ever go smoothly?

“Daniel.”

“I’m busy.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack said.  “I do want to talk.  It’s just the thought that that bastard could make you doubt your integrity.  Crap, Daniel, there’s no worse torture than doubting yourself, and to see you of all people…it…I don’t know, it makes me crazy. ”

Daniel sat back in his chair, his anger forgotten.  He looked at Jack sadly.

“He had a point, Jack.  I mean, look at this place,” he said, gesturing to the walls, shelving, and counters.  “I have stuff from every country, not to mention different planets.”

“And I bet you know where each piece is from and what it represents,” Jack said.

Daniel looked quizzically at Jack.

“Of course I do.”

Jack smiled and picked up a feathered mask, acutely aware of Daniel’s sudden tenseness.

“If I set fire to this, what would you do?” Jack asked.  “I’ll tell you,” he said, snatching the mask away from Daniel’s outstretched hand.  “Once you got over the shock and anger, you’d cry.  And why?  Because this,” he said, brandishing the mask like a weapon, “is a piece of history.  Our history.  A piece of the past that would be lost forever.  These…things,” Jack said, waving his hand to encompass the room, “are just things to me.  Some are pretty neat, others are downright creepy.  But to you, Daniel, they have life.  They speak to you.  You hear what they say; you can see what they saw.  Hell, you probably even talk to them.  It’s your passion that brings them to life.  You’re not a thief, Daniel.  You’re a savior.  Voices that have been silenced for thousands of years speak again through you because you care.  You care how they lived and how they died.  You won’t let them be forgotten.”

Daniel stared at Jack, speechless.

Jack had Daniel right were he wanted him, and he continued.

“Right now, a lot of this stuff you can’t share with the world, but you will.  Does a thief share his spoils with the rest of the world, or the universe?  Hell, no.  They’re in it for greed and profit.  You’re in it because you care.  Hell, if I was an ancient artifact I’d be honored to be dug up and fondled by you.”

Daniel’s eyes widened in a bemused expression at the admission.

“Uh, wait, that didn’t come out right,” Jack said frowning.  Damn, I was doing so well.  “What I mean is, if I had a choice of being buried for eternity, or being in your treasured collection of artifacts, I’d opt for the latter.  Crap, that didn’t come out right, either,” he muttered.

Daniel blinked as tears welled in his eyes.

“It’s okay, Jack.  I know what you mean.  I, uh, had no idea you understood how I felt,” Daniel said.  “I’m sorry, Jack.  I’ve underestimated you.”

“No sweat,” Jack shrugged.  “Just promise me you won’t lose sleep over what that bastard said and, uh, don’t tell anyone what I said about being, um, fondled,” he winced.

“That last bit is a hell of a lot to ask for,” Daniel said thoughtfully.

“Daniel,” Jack warned.

“Your secret desire is safe with me,” Daniel said solemnly.

“Daniel!”

Daniel smiled and his eyes crinkled in mirth. 

“Sorry, I couldn’t pass that up,” he apologized.

“Okay,” Jack said warily.  “So, we’re done here?”

“I guess so, unless there are some erotic dreams you want to tell me about,” Daniel asked innocently.

“Oh, you are so buying dinner tonight,” Jack said.

“What?  You said you’d buy,” Daniel countered.

“You had your chance.  You’ve been off crutches for two days now,” Jack said.

“I didn’t know there was a time limit,” Daniel groused.

“You didn’t ask,” Jack shrugged.

“I’m picking the restaurant then,” Daniel said.

“On second thought,” Jack frowned, “I’ll buy, and we’re going to O’Malley’s.  I have a hankering for ribs.”

Ribs sounded pretty good to Daniel, too so he readily agreed.

“Be ready to leave at six,” Jack said, moving towards the door.

“I’ll be here,” Daniel said.

Jack left and closed the door behind him.

Daniel stood up and walked around the room, mentally naming each object his eyes landed on, and its associated history.  He shouldn’t have been surprised at Jack’s understanding.  It demeaned them both.  Well, maybe he could make it up to Jack and himself.

Daniel picked up his phone and pressed four numbers.

“Hi, Janet?  It’s me, Daniel.  No, I’m fine, thank you.  Yes, I was, um, wondering if you could set up a series of appointments for me with Dr. Mackenzie?”

Daniel smiled at the elation on the other end of the phone.

“Yes, I’ll be here for awhile.  Thanks, Janet.  Bye.”

Daniel hung up the phone and picked up the feathered mask Jack had left on his desk.  He looked into its abalone shell eyes and smiled.

“Let me tell you about my friend Jack.”

 

 

 

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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.