The Test



Colonel Jack O'Neill gazed down at the battered, bruised, and bandaged body of Dr. Daniel Jackson. His eyes slowly tracked from the tubes providing nourishment to those removing waste, and his vision blurred. This didn't have to happen. He could have prevented it.

Flashback

"Teal'c, where the hell do you get this stuff?" Jack asked as he looked through the stacks of tabloids and fashion magazines in the Jaffa's otherwise austere quarters.

"The library, O'Neill."

"Library? We have a library?" Jack asked in amazement.

"Indeed, as you well know."

"And this is what the taxpayers are paying for? Crap, they'd string us all up if they saw this mindless drivel."

"Are you calling me a fool, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked dangerously.

"Whoa, easy big fella," Jack said holding his hands out in a conciliatory manner. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid this stuff says a little too much about our society. I'm just embarrassed you have to see it."

"There is no need to feel that way, O'Neill. On the contrary, I find them most amusing and almost as relaxing as kel-no-reem."

"Really?" Jack asked doubtfully.

"Indeed, you should try them. I find the personality tests most intriguing," Teal'c smiled enigmatically

"Personality test, huh?" Jack said, his curiosity piqued.

Teal'c smiled benevolently as Jack rifled through the magazines with renewed interest. "I have discovered I am an `all-powerful love god,'" he said proudly.

"Love god?" Jack choked.

"You do not agree?" Teal'c boomed, a trace of menace in his voice.

"Uh, well--um, can I get back to you on that?" Jack said hastily, grabbing a handful of magazines and hurrying to the door.

"I will be waiting, O'Neill," Teal'c called after him, his dark eyes twinkling.

***********

"Okay, let's see what we've got," Jack muttered to himself as he sifted through his pile of reading material. "`Are You a Transvestite in Denial?' For crying out loud, what kind of a test is that?" he muttered picking out another magazine. "`Are You a Lesbian Trapped in a Man's Body?' Jesus, Teal'c. Where the hell's the love god stuff? `Is Your Soul Mate Right Under Your Nose?' Hmm, this could be fun," he mused, turning to the appropriate page. "Let's see. Okay, bleah, bleah, bleah... `Pick someone you work with or see every day and answer the following questions. There is only one rule. Be honest.' I can do honest," Jack said.

Jack pursed his mouth and concentrated. Whom should he pick? He smiled. "This should be a hoot."

It was a hoot all right. All ten times he wrote the thing. He wrote it again...and again. Nothing changed. He tried Carter. The result? "You have a good working relationship." Fraiser. "You respect and appreciate" yadda, yadda, yadda. Teal'c, Hammond, Davis even. Nothing weird. Maybourne? "You should not be in the same room together. Blood may be spilled." Jack couldn't argue with that. He tried Daniel again. The result? "Congratulations, you have found your soul mate!"

Daniel my soul mate? He's a guy, for crying out loud.

Present Day

Jack blinked back the tears threatening to fall. A stupid test. That was when it had started. He had pushed Daniel away, ignored, belittled and basically treated him like shit. He authorized his assignments to other teams with increasing regularity. The ironic thing was he missed him like hell. He'd lower his guard just a little, and before he knew it Daniel would slip right back in. And he'd let him. Why? Because it felt good; it felt right. They would get close, and then Jack would remember the test, feel uncomfortable, and shut him out again.
"A goddamned test," he murmured. "God, Daniel, I'm sorry."

Jack closed his eyes and breathed deeply, wishing he could turn back the clock. Wishing he could do it all over again and set things right. The incessant beeping of medical machinery told him otherwise. He sighed.

Hell of a way to treat a soul mate. Now, he's lying here all busted up inside. God, I'll never forget that day.

Flashback

"Colonel O'Neill, I don't know what to say," General George Hammond said in delighted surprise as he thumbed through a stack of papers. "Your reports are all up to date."

Jack smiled. "Consider it an early Christmas present, sir."

Before Hammond could respond, warning klaxons blared as the Stargate powered up. Jack's eyebrows rose in anticipation.

"No one is due back for two days," Hammond confirmed grimly, quickly moving towards the stairs.

"Incoming traveler," Sergeant Davis informed them as Hammond and Jack entered the control room. "It's SG-2, sir."

Jack clenched his fists, and his stomach churned. He's okay. He's okay.


"Open the iris," Hammond ordered.
Jack held his breath as the gate opened and the wormhole was established. He counted the figures as they lurched through. One...two...three, shit! Daniel's down!

"Medical emergency in the gateroom!" Hammond shouted into the intercom. "Repeat, medical emergency in the gateroom!"

Jack was in the gateroom before Hammond completed his urgent call. "What happened?" he yelled as he ran up to his fallen comrade.

"I don't know, sir," Major Griff responded, also kneeling down next to Daniel.

"Dr. Jackson was making friendly with the locals. I couldn't understand a word they were saying but everything seemed to be going well. Suddenly, the shit hit the fan, and they turned on us."

Jack barely heard the words as his fingers deftly probed Daniel's injuries. The blood was appalling but Jack intuitively knew that even minor wounds could bleed profusely. Unfortunately, he knew Daniel's injuries were more than minor.

"Daniel? Daniel can you hear me?"

Daniel's eyes fluttered open. Pained and confused blue eyes locked onto Jack's.

"Hey," Jack smiled gently, wiping blood away from his friend's eyes. "You're gonna be fine."

Daniel's hand twitched feebly and Jack grasped it firmly.

"You'll be okay. Just lie still, Danny. Doc will be here any second."

Daniel's hand tightened reflexively as a spasm of pain rippled through his battered body.

Jack placed his other hand over Daniel's and squeezed tightly. "Easy, Daniel."

"He got hit with some sort of energy blast," Griff explained as he placed his jacket under Daniel's head. "It should've been me, Colonel."

"It's not your fault, Major. You couldn't have known." Crap, how many times have we been taken by surprise?

"What I mean, sir," Griff said, lowering his voice, "the blast was meant for me. Dr. Jackson stepped in front. He saved my life, Colonel. The damn bastard saved my fucking life."

Jack watched the gruff major angrily swipe the tears from his eyes.

"Why did he do that, damn it?" Griff asked, not really expecting an answer.

"Welcome to my world, Major," Jack murmured mirthlessly.

"Let me through!" Dr. Janet Fraiser called loudly.

"Oh God, Daniel," Sam said horrified, as she and Teal'c followed Janet.

"Let's give the Doc some room, "Jack said, relinquishing his place at Daniel's side.

"O'Neill."

"I don't know, Teal'c," Jack said, shaking his head. "He got hit with some sort of energy blast," he explained, his eyes still on his fallen friend.

"I need to get him into OR stat," Janet yelled. "Major, come with me," she said to Griff. "You can tell me what happened on the way," she ordered as her team eased Daniel onto the stretcher.

"Yes, ma'am," Griff responded, still stunned by Daniel's actions.

Present Day

Jack sat beside the bed and grasped the limp hand lying on top of the covers. He'd been doing that a lot. Just sitting and holding Daniel's hand. If anyone had thought it was strange they didn't say anything. Now, after three days, they were so used to the presence of the battle-weary colonel at Daniel's bedside that it would have been strange not to see him. The nurses worked effortlessly around him, often soliciting his help in turning Daniel over, or changing his clothes such as they were. When they were alone, Jack would talk.

"You're looking better, Daniel," Jack said softly. "Got a little colour back in those cheeks."

Jack watched his thumb slide over Daniel's hand, and he felt the inevitable tears start to sting.

"Why'd you do it, Daniel? Why would you throw your life away? I never understood why you did that on Abydos. Took that blast for me. I guess that's the problem though, isn't it? I never understood you. I never tried. I just took what I wanted, what I needed, and never thought about what you wanted or what you needed."

"You are wrong, O'Neill."

Jack turned slightly and glanced at Teal'c. "I didn't hear you come in."

"Indeed. You were not supposed to," Teal'c stated sombrely.

Jack smiled thinly and looked back at Daniel. "I failed him, Teal'c."

"You have done no such thing, O'Neill. Many times I have seen Daniel Jackson turn to you for help and receive that help."

Jack's chest hurt with the awful realization that there were many more times when Daniel had silently asked for help and Jack had turned away.

"I could have done more," Jack said quietly.

"Is there not a Tau'ri expression, `it's never too late'?" Teal'c inquired.

Jack laughed grimly. "Read that in one of your magazines?"

"Dr. Fraiser is concerned you are not eating," he said, ignoring Jack's remark. "I will stay with Daniel Jackson while you replenish yourself."

Jack nodded listlessly. Teal'c was Daniel's friend, too. Maybe Teal'c could reach him. He looked at the pale, gentle features of his friend. His best friend.

"Teal'c?"

"Yes, O'Neill."

"Did you ever have a soul mate?"

The question hung in the air and Jack was glad his back was to the Jaffa. He didn't know if he could handle the perplexed expression he knew must be on his teammate's face.

"I have, O'Neill, and I still do," Teal'c deep voice thrummed.

Jack's head lifted in surprise but he didn't turn around. Shau'nac was dead so... "Drey'auc?"

"Drey'auc is my wife but she is not my soul mate. Master Bra'tac is my soul mate," Teal'c explained solemnly.

"Bra'tac?" Jack said, finally turning around. "But he's a man."

Teal'c's eyebrow rose in curiosity.

"I mean, well, he's a guy," Jack said, flustered.

"Indeed, he is. He is also the closest friend and confidante I have ever had. I would give my life freely and happily for his."

Jack stared into the dark, solemn eyes of his warrior friend and finally nodded. Crap, I've been a bigger ass than I thought.

Teal'c bowed his head formally in response and then asked, "Are not you and Daniel Jackson soul mates?"

Jack's eyes misted and he turned back to Daniel. He squeezed the limp hand still resting in his and his stomach fluttered. "God, I hope so," he whispered. He placed the hand down gently and gave it an affectionate pat. "I'll be back," he murmured and then turned to Teal'c.

"I'll be back in forty minutes. If there's any change I want to know."

"You have my word, O'Neill."

Jack nodded gratefully and left the infirmary.

********

"Colonel, mind if I join you?"

Jack looked up from his half-eaten meal to see his second, Major Samantha Carter, waiting anxiously for his response.

"Sure, Carter." Hell, I need all the friends I can get.

"I looked in on Daniel on my way," she said, sitting down. "He's still asleep. Teal'c says he hasn't moved."

"Yeah, Fraiser gave him a hefty dose of painkillers. Best thing for him is to stay unconscious for awhile," Jack said grimly.

"He's looking much better though, sir," she said trying to help. "His colour's good."

"Which one?" Jack asked flippantly. "The black, blue, red, green or yellow? There's a nice mottled mauve on his chest where the--"

"Colonel, it was no one's fault," Sam interjected.

"That's where you're wrong, Major," Jack said vehemently. "Daniel never should have stepped in front of Griff like that. Damn fool almost killed himself."

"Sir, you're not blaming Daniel?" she asked in shock.

"Damn right I`m blaming Daniel," Jack retorted angrily. "Who the hell does he think he is? Damn idiot almost killed himself before I could tell him--" Jack bit his tongue, stopping his outburst. He looked down at his plate.

Sam's heart ached for her friend. For both her friends. She wanted to help but she didn't know how far she could go. How far the colonel would let her push the boundaries between friendship and protocol. It tore her apart to see her commanding officer in such a state of emotional distress. But it also gave her hope. She had watched the once solid friendship between Daniel and the colonel being whittled away before her eyes. The hurt in Daniel's eyes when the colonel would rebuff or ignore him clawed at her heart. In the last four months Daniel had been on other teams more than he had been on SG-1. It was wrong on so many levels. She should have said something but she had played the good little soldier. Damn it, I'm not toeing the line anymore.

"He knows, sir," she said quietly.

Jack glanced up, his eyes wary. "Knows what?" he asked thickly.

Sam looked him dead in the eye, in spite of the tears brimming in her own, and said, "That you love him and that he's your best friend."

The dark eyes blazed indignantly. Every ounce of Jack's military instinct told him to deny the words and to reprimand his subordinate for overstepping her bounds. Fortunately, for both of them, he was sick to death of all that crap. The dark glint softened to a warm, hopeful glow.

"Do you really believe that, Carter?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, I do," she said, blinking back her tears. "Daniel's way smarter than any of us, sir."

Jack smiled and then wagged his finger. "You realize, Major, that you just skated on some pretty thin ice," he said warningly.

"I'm a good swimmer, Colonel," she replied briskly.

Jack chuckled. "I appreciate your candour, Carter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some sucking up to do," he said, standing up.

"Yes, sir."

Sam watched her CO leave and then collapsed back in her chair, exhausted.

"I can't believe I just did that. Hell, I can't believe I got away with it," she murmured in delighted amazement.

**********

Oh, God, I know this feeling. Think I'll just stay here for awhile.

The slight movement out of the corner of his eye garnered all of Jack's attention. He stared intently at his unconscious friend on the bed, willing him to wake up. Come on, Danny. Come on back.

Jack rose from his chair and leaned over Daniel, looking for any sign of response.

"Daniel? Daniel, can you hear me?"

Jack?

"Come on, Danny. I know you're hurting but I really need you to wake up now."

Daniel moaned low in his throat.

"That's it, Daniel," Jack encouraged. "Open your eyes. You can do it."

Jack knew he should call a nurse, but he didn't want to take his eyes off Daniel. He needed to see those eyes when they first opened. He needed to know what Daniel would see. Would Daniel see an embittered old soldier, an antagonistic bastard who made his life hell? Or, would he see a friend? A soul mate?

God, I hate this part, Daniel thought as he forced his eyelids open. He blinked rapidly as the light sliced through his eyes.

Jack leaned over Daniel, blocking the harsh fluorescent light as much as he could.

"That's it, Daniel. You're doing fine," he said softly, grasping the young man's hand encouragingly.

Jack bit the inside of his mouth as the confused blue eyes finally opened and focused on his worried brown ones.

"Jack?" Daniel rasped weakly.

"Hey," Jack smiled, rubbing his thumb absently along the back of Daniel's hand. "Welcome back."

Daniel blinked dazedly but squeezed the hand holding his. His eyes sparkled with warmth as he gazed at Jack, melting the older man's heart. "Will I live?"

"Yeah, in spite of your best efforts," Jack chided, patting Daniel's shoulder gently.

"Griff? SG-2?"

"A little worse for wear, but they're all fine and thankful you got them out of there."

"I misread the situation, Jack," Daniel admitted.

"You did your job, Daniel," Jack encouraged. "Griff's madder than hell though. Doesn't know whether to hug you or kick you."

"He's a good man."

"So are you," Jack replied grimly.

Daniel looked tiredly at the older man. "Jack, he didn't see the danger he was in. I couldn't--"

"I know. It's okay," Jack assured. The hell it is but you don't need to hear that now.

Daniel nodded doubtfully. He shifted gingerly, testing the extent of his injuries. "Doesn't hurt too bad," he said hopefully.

"Your insides got pretty banged up," Jack explained gravely. "You'll be stuck here for awhile yet."

Daniel sighed and closed his eyes. That explains why my gut feels likes it's been through a blender.

"I should call the nurse and get Fraiser to check you out," Jack said.

Daniel nodded, his eyes still closed. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you mad?"

"Mad?" Jack queried, finally releasing Daniel's hand and sitting down. "You mean `crazy as a shit-house rat' mad, or `damn it, Daniel, what the hell were you thinking?' mad?"

"Um, the last one," Daniel said, missing Jack's touch.

"Oh, I'm pissed," Jack admitted. The best thing that's happened to me in years, and I turn my back. He smiled sadly at the pained look on Daniel's face. "I'm mad at me," he explained.

Troubled blue eyes widened quizzically.

"I've been an ass," Jack shrugged.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," Daniel said, shaking his head.

Jack smiled and asked, "You're still my friend, aren't you?"

Daniel frowned in puzzlement. "Of course."

"Then you understand," Jack said, "because only a friend would put up with the crap I've been doling out this past year."

Daniel still looked uncertain. He glanced down at this bandaged torso, the IVs and then back to Jack. "Did I almost die?"

"No more than usual," Jack answered quietly and then looked down at the floor, his hands tightly clenched together.

"Jack?"

Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. He looked up and met Daniel's concerned gaze. "Are you happy?" he asked. "I mean, with the way things are. Working with other teams and such."

Daniel was staring at him so intently that Jack found himself focusing on his hands again.

"No," Daniel said quietly after a lengthy pause. "What are you trying to say, Jack?"

"Look, um, the truth is," he said uncomfortably, rubbing his hands together nervously, "Teal'c has these, uh, magazines."

"You mean those trashy ones he's so fond of?"

"That'd be them," Jack replied, staring at the floor. "Well, he sort of loaned me some." He looked up and said sheepishly, "They have these...tests."

"Oh, God, you didn't?" Daniel asked horrified.

Jack smiled and shrugged. "Guilty."

"Damn it, Jack," Daniel said wearily. "There are thousands of books in this facility. Any one of them would be--"

"I know. I know. I thought it would be fun," he explained defensively. "I mean, if Teal'c can be a love god--"

"Love god?" Daniel squeaked.

"Don't let him hear you say it like that," Jack warned.

Daniel smiled and blinked tiredly.

"Oh, crap, I shouldn't be laying all this on you now," Jack said, reaching for the buzzer.

"No, wait," Daniel said, snagging Jack's wrist. "What upset you so much?"

Jack gazed at the hand on his wrist. Tell him. Set things right and start over. He patted Daniel's hand and sat down.

"I took this test on finding your soul mate," he admitted, talking to his boots.

"And?"

"And, well, it was you," he said, glancing up briefly.

Daniel stared at the bowed head in thoughtful silence, and then he began to giggle.

"God, Jack. You thought--ow, that hurts," he said clutching his stomach. "You thought that meant--ah, ouch."

"Easy there, Daniel. You're gonna undo Doc's handiwork," Jack said worriedly, his face reddening with embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, Jack," Daniel gasped, "but you're just not my type," he said, grinning and grimacing at the same time.

"I know that," Jack said indignantly. "I just didn't...know that."

The shame and apology in his friend's voice sobered Daniel instantly.

"When did you take that test?" he asked quietly.

"Over six months ago," Jack sighed. "I'm sorry, Daniel," he whispered.

Daniel pondered the answer. He thought of the past six months. The fights, the transfers, and the indifference. It wasn't anything he had done, after all. It was all because of a stupid test and a misunderstanding. In a way, it was a relief. In another way, it was damn infuriating but he was too tired and too sore to make an issue of it. Besides, he knew Jack was doing a pretty good job himself in the self-flagellation department.

"You're right," he sighed softly.

Jack looked up. "About?"

"You've been an ass," Daniel smiled

Jack smiled self-deprecatingly. "But you still like me, right?"

"It's what soul mates do," Daniel shrugged, "but, as one soul mate to another, you'll never be a love god."

"Here, let me get that nurse," Jack said, reaching over. "I think someone's overdue for a nice big needle."

"Wait, wait, wait. What kind of a soul mate are you?" Daniel asked, an edge of panic in his voice.

"The kind you're stuck with for life," Jack said solemnly, but his brown eyes twinkled as he pressed the buzzer. "Relax, Danny. They've got you on a morphine drip."

"Oh," Daniel said, visibly relaxing.

Jack cuffed the side of Daniel's head lightly and then turned at the sharp click of familiar heels.

"Well, Dr. Jackson. You finally decided to wake up," Dr. Janet Fraiser said, zeroing in on her patient.

Daniel smiled and then winced as she began prodding his injuries.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, initiating a pained gasp from Daniel as she found a particularly tender spot.

"Easy, Doc," Jack said, wincing in sympathy.

Daniel glanced appreciatively at Jack and then back to Janet. "The truth?"

"Always," she answered.

Daniel looked back at Jack and said, "Better than I've felt in months."

Jack felt his throat constrict and the telltale stinging behind his eyes. He smiled and nodded gratefully, accepting Daniel's gentle absolution and declaration of deep friendship. They had a hell of a lot of ground to make up but he knew in his heart that they could do it. After all, they were soul mates.

Janet eyed the two men reflectively and she couldn't hide her smile. She had a feeling that life at the SGC was finally going to get back to normal.

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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.