True Nature

Dr. Janet Fraiser kept a watchful eye on her latest patient.  Dr. Daniel Jackson had been brought in a few hours previous by a very concerned Colonel Jack O’Neill.  He had found Daniel on the floor unconscious, the Harcesis child, Shifu, sitting calmly beside him.  Shifu had assured Jack that Daniel was in no danger.  Nevertheless, the colonel had wasted no time in rushing his friend to the infirmary.

Janet frowned in frustration.  She could not explain the unusual condition of the young archaeologist.  Moreover, Shifu’s simple explanation of ‘teaching’ Daniel through dreams did little to alleviate her concern.  Medical science was her expertise, not metaphysics.

“Hey, Doc.  How’s he doing?”  Jack asked, stepping up behind her.

“His vitals are perfectly normal but he’s not responding to any outside stimuli.”  She shook her head.  He merely appears to be in a deep sleep but I don’t know when he’ll wake up.  I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“The kid wouldn’t hurt him,” Jack said flatly.

“If we can believe he is who he says he is,” Janet said thoughtfully.

Jack stared down at his friend.  Jesus, Daniel.  You do this to me all the time.  Just wake up, damn it.

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

Jack watched warily as the Tok’ra, Aldwin hooked Shifu up to a zatarc detector, ostensibly to ascertain the truth of the boy’s identity.  He was not impressed with the alien ‘memory recall device’.   Machine’s a piece of crap.  Bet the kid could say he was Doris Day and the damn thing would say he was telling the truth.

Jack winced in empathy as Aldwin attached the metal disk to Shifu’s temple.

He’s just a kid, damn it.  I don’t care if he is harcesis that’s no way to treat a kid

“The boy agreed to it, Colonel,” General George Hammond said gently, sensing his friend’s unease.

“Doesn’t make it right, sir,” Jack muttered.

“If it will help Dr. Jackson it’s the right thing to do.”

Jack couldn’t argue that point and so focused his attention on the Tok’ra’s questioning.

After Aldwin confirmed that Shifu possessed the genetic knowledge of Apophis, Major Samantha Carter got down to the immediate concern as far as SG-1 and Hammond were concerned.

‘What did you do to Daniel?”  she asked.

‘Dreams sometimes teach,’ Shifu answered enigmatically.  ‘I am teaching him.’

‘Teaching him what?’

‘That the true nature of a man is determined in the battle between his conscious mind and his subconscious.  And that the evil mind’s subconscious is too strong to resist,’ Shifu explained and then directed his gaze to the man entering the room.

‘The only way to win…is to deny it battle,’ Daniel said quietly.

All eyes shifted to Daniel who had eyes only for the boy.

Jack sighed with relief.  Welcome back, Danny.  He studied Daniel closely.  Something’s going on in there.  Must’ve been some lesson.

‘What happened?’ Sam asked.

Daniel spared her a brief glance.  ‘I was having a dream.’

‘About what?’

‘That’s not really important the…important thing is it’s time I chose a new path,’Daniel said circumspectly, locking eyes with Shifu.

Jack shifted uncomfortably.  What the hell does that mean, Daniel?  Your path is here, with us.  With me.

‘We can still extract some very valuable information from him,’ Aldwin insisted, sensing that he was losing control of the situation.

 Jack’s attention was diverted by the Tok’ra’s last ditch attempt to obtain information from Shifu.

‘No, you can’t,’ Danielsaid simply, his eyes still on Shifu.

“I don’t understand,” Aldwin said.

‘I know.’

Daniel and Shifu talked quietly, oblivious to anyone else in the room.  Jack felt like a bit of a voyeur as they spoke of Sha’re and of meeting again.

Aldwin was also uncomfortable, but for a very different reason.

‘What’s going on?  We’re not just going to let him leave?’ he asked incredulously.

‘I don’t think we have a choice,’ Sam replied, entranced with the scene unfolding.

Not a chance in hell, Jack thought smugly.  This kid’s about to leave and no one’s stopping him.

 

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

Jack watched in wonder as the mass of energy floating in front of the event horizon partially coalesced into Shifu and the harcesis child solemnly waved goodbye.

He’s so damned serious.  Just like Daniel.  Ah, look at that smile.  That’s gotta be for Danny.  Crap, this must be killing him.

Shifu vanished through the wormhole, the gate disengaged, and SG-1 stood in silence, humbled by the quiet strength of the boy.

Jack looked uneasily at Daniel standing a few feet away.  Aw jeez, he’s barely holding it together.

Daniel felt another piece of his soul break away as Shifu vanished through the stargate.  His knees felt weak and he could feel himself begin to tremble.  God, I have to get out of here.  He abruptly turned and left without a word.

Sam, startled by Daniel’s sudden departure looked at Jack.

“He needs some time,” Jack explained.

“Sir.”

“I know, Carter.  I’ll talk to him.”

Talk.  When was the last time I talked to Daniel?  I mean, really talked.  Not since Rothman.  Not since I killed his friend and protégé, and that was pretty much him consoling me for crying out loud.  You’re a piss poor friend, O’Neill, he thought glumly.

“Daniel Jackson has endured much,” Teal’c stated, concern evident in his deep timbre.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, walking out of the room.  “Too damn much.”

Sam looked back at the stargate and shook her head sadly.

“Daniel Jackson is extremely strong, Major Carter.”

“I know, Teal’c, but he’s lost so much.  How much can he take?”

“O’Neill will not allow Daniel Jackson to come to harm.”

“I hope you’re right,” she said thoughtfully.  They haven’t exactly been best buddies lately.

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

Jack caught up to Daniel in the hallway.

“Hey, Daniel!  Wait up!”

Daniel stopped, more out of surprise than any desire to engage in a conversation.  He couldn’t remember the last time Jack actually sought him out.

“Hey,” Jack said, stopping in front of Daniel.  He quickly perused his friend’s face and really didn’t like what he saw.  There’s some heavy shit going on in that head of yours, Danny.

“Jack, this isn’t a good time.  I-”

“Come on,” Jack said, placing a hand on Daniel’s shoulder.  “I want to show you something.”

“Now?”  Daniel asked, surprised as much by the touch as the words.

“Yes, now,” Jack said lightly.

Daniel shrugged and followed Jack.  The distraction might be good if nothing else.

“Uh, Jack, can we just leave like this?” he asked when he realized they were leaving the base.

“Perks, Daniel.  Perks,” Jack said wryly.

“Right…perks.  Of course.  What was I thinking?”

The drive was fairly short but steep.  Jack parked his truck and said, “We have to walk from here.  You up to it?”  he asked, gesturing up the obscure trail.

No, I’m not.Daniel thought but he shrugged and said, “I have been asleep for several hours.”

“Somehow, I don’t think it was too restful,” Jack said quietly.

Daniel merely stared at Jack and then proceeded up the hill.

Jack watched Daniel’s rapidly retreating back, shook his head and hurried to catch up.

“Just follow me.  It’s kind of tricky,” he muttered as he strode past his friend.

Jack set a deliberately grueling pace.  Hard, physical exercise always helped him clear his mind and he suspected the same would hold true for Daniel.

Daniel kept pace with Jack, determined not to lag behind.  Sweating profusely and breathing heavily, he silently cursed Colonel Jack O’Neill.  Macho son of a bitch.  If he thinks he’s going to lose me he is so out of luck.

 

After forty minutes of doggedly putting one foot in front of the other and coming up with colourful expletives in various languages, Daniel was jolted by an epiphany.  He’d been so determined not to fall behind Jack that he’d completely forgotten about Shifu and his dream. 
He looked up at the sweat-covered back pulling away in front of him.  Daniel smiled as a surge of affection for the older man ran through him.  Jack was purposely working him hard so he would forget…for awhile.   Putting his head back down Daniel gathered his strength and increased his efforts to catch up.

Several minutes later, Daniel let out a startled yelp as he plowed into Jack’s back.

“Whoa, easy, Danny.  We’re here.  Time to catch our breaths,” he explained, mopping his forehead with his sleeve.

Daniel, selfishly pleased to see that Jack was also breathing heavily, gratefully bent over to take in a few deep breaths.  Straightening slowly, he gazed at his surroundings.

“This is it?  Um-no offence, Jack but I’ve seen trees before,” he said blandly.

“Just a bit further,” Jack smiled.  “Right through there,” he said, pointing at a non-existent trail. 

Daniel looked doubtful but forced his way through the heavy brush.

Jack followed close behind and grinned with satisfaction as Daniel stared in awe at the sudden panorama.

“It’s…it’s beautiful,” he said breathlessly.

“Yeah.  This is where I come when I really, really need to get away,” Jack explained reverently.

Daniel nodded in silence, his gaze locked on the vista.  Slowly, he closed his eyes as an irrational sadness threatened to devour him.  Why didn’t you show this to me before, Jack?

Jack watched Daniel’s posture slump and knew his friend was withdrawing.

“You’re the only one I’ve shown this to,” he said carefully.  “This will be our secret, okay?”

Daniel squeezed his eyes tighter against the sting of tears and nodded his assent.

“I meant to bring you here a long time ago but things got kind of busy and well, you know…we’ve been…I’ve been…” Jack’s voice trailed off.

“I know,” Daniel said softly.

“Anyway, it’s the best place I know of if you want to scream, rant, cry or whatever.  Hell, you can even hit me if you want.”

A slow, hesitant smile appeared on Daniel’s face as he looked at Jack.

“Will you hit back?”

“I’ll try not to,” Jack grinned, “but sometimes reflexes just kind of kick in.”

Daniel’s smile widened and he looked back at the view.

Jack walked up to stand next to his friend.  “This is what we do it for, Daniel.”

Daniel shook his head sadly.  “Do what, Jack?  Fight the Goa’uld to save ourselves so we can continue to fight amongst ourselves here until…until some crazed megalomaniac gets into power and starts blowing chunks out of the map?  Where does it stop?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe the kid’s right,” Jack said quietly.  “We deny it battle.”

Daniel flinched from the mention of Shifu’s words and turned away.

“You’re a soldier, Jack.  Fighting battles is your life,” he said wearily, sitting on the ground.

“I only fight battles I can win or think I can win,” Jack declared, sitting next to Daniel.  “And believe me, some of the toughest battles have been fought in here,” he said, tapping his head.

“And if you can’t win?”  Daniel asked softly, picking burrs out of his pant legs.

“Well, then I hope to hell I have the strength to ask for help.”

Daniel glanced quickly at Jack and then looked away, blinking rapidly.

“And if not,” Jack continued softly, “I hope to God someone offers.”

Daniel looked back and held his friend’s gaze.  “I need help, Jack,” he whispered.

Immediately, Jack placed his arm around Daniel’s shoulders and pulled him in tight.

“You’ve got it, Danny,” he murmured.

Daniel leaned into the hug, knowing intuitively that if he couldn’t talk to Jack then he couldn’t talk to anyone.

Jack relished the embrace and wondered why the hell it was always something tragic or infinitely sad that brought them closer together.  After a short silence, he asked, “This is about the dream Shifu gave you, isn’t it?”

Daniel nodded and sat up.

“Must’ve been a hell of a dream,” Jack commented, his arm still loosely draped across Daniel’s shoulders.

Daniel wrapped his arms around his drawn-up knees and hugged them tightly, unconsciously rocking.

Jack waited.

“I had the genetic memory of Apophis.  I knew how to defend Earth from the Goa'uld,” Daniel said quietly.

Jack's eyes widened in anticipation.  “Do you still...uh-never mind,” he finished, mentally berating himself for his callous disregard of Daniel's ordeal.

Daniel nodded his head sadly then asked, “Have you ever wondered how you’d rule the world if you had the power...absolute power?” 

“Well, I'd make sure we had better MRE's and fresh ground coffee for our missions,” Jack said brightly.

“Jack,” Daniel admonished affectionately.

“Sorry.  Okay, absolute power?”  Jack inquired.

“Absolutely.”

Jack chuckled and absently rubbed the back of Daniel's neck.

“Well, I know what I'd like to do,” he said thoughtfully.  “I’d like to stop all wars, hatred and famine.  You know, peace and good will and all that.  But I also know that's an impossible goal so I suppose what I'd really do, or what I hope I'd do, is deny the power and try to do the best I can with what I already have.  After I fix the MRE and coffee situation though.”

Daniel snickered then glanced back at Jack.  “Why is it an impossible goal?”

“Human nature, Daniel.  We're an aggressive species.  Always have been and always will be.  You can't change it.”

“That's rather defeatist,” Daniel said sitting back.

Jack shrugged and wrapped his hands around his own knees.  “You know the history of man better than any of us, Daniel.  You tell me.”

Daniel looked into the other man's eyes.  “There must be something we can do.”

“There is and we're doing it...with people like you.”

Daniel snorted derisively and looked away.  “God help us all,” he said hollowly.

“So, I take it in this dream of yours you had absolute power?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn't go so good, huh?”

“Well, I only got the chance to blow up Moscow before I woke up but I was on a roll,” he said in self-loathing.

Jack's eyebrows rose in surprise.  “We didn't try to stop you?”

“I had absolute power, remember?  No one could stop me.  The only ones who really tried were you, Sam and Teal'c.”

“Guess that makes us your conscience,” Jack smiled.

Daniel sighed and said, “I sent Teal'c on a suicide mission, I had Sam declared dangerous and locked up, and I made you watch me push the button.  Not a nice way to treat your conscience, is it?”  He looked at Jack and added, “You did try to kill me though, I'll give you that.”

“I wouldn't do that,” Jack frowned.

Daniel glanced sideways at his friend.  “Yes, you would Jack.  If there was no other way and I needed to be stopped you would kill me, and believe me I needed to be stopped.”

“So, why didn't I succeed?”  Jack asked with a casualness he didn’t feel.

“Bullets couldn't penetrate the invisible shield.”

“Ah, of course.  Not very bright of me, was it?”

Daniel flinched and said harshly, “Don't say that.  Don't ever say that.”

Jack eyed his young friend closely.  The kid really spooked you, didn't he?

“Daniel, listen, we all have strange dreams and let's not forget that you had the added bonus of a snake's memory as well.  Dreams are a way of releasing stress or pent-up emotions.  Take your dream of Teal'c, for example.  He selected your wife to be a host.  Now, unless you're a damn robot, that has got to cause some resentment.  But I know for a fact that you would do anything for Teal'c and not out of some misguided guilt thing either.  That's just the way you are.  You can't not help people.  I mean, look at Apophis's host.  You gave the guy last rites, for crying out loud.  Your dream was just a way of getting rid of some aggression.  Same with Carter.  Hell, I'd like to lock her up sometimes too,” he said ruefully. 

Daniel smiled fleetingly at the image and said, “Then there's you.”

“I'm listening,” Jack said.

Daniel described Jack's role in his dream in a low monotone, his eyes downcast.  When he was finished he looked up hesitantly.

“That's it?”  Jack asked, raising his eyebrows.

Daniel nodded, surprised by Jack's casual demeanour.

“Hell, Danny.  I'd thought you'd have me dancing naked in front of the Joint Chiefs or something waving a feather boa.”

“Um-no, nothing like that,” Daniel said, his eyes widening at the image that just popped into his mind.

“So you got a little back at me, Daniel.  It's no big deal.”

“But I said you were never very bright.”

“And this is news?”  Jack laughed.

“It isn't funny, Jack.”

“Look, I know you didn't mean it.  I know you respect me.  What you do in your dreams is your business.”

Daniel looked unconvinced and poked at the ground with a stick.

“Daniel.”

Daniel ignored Jack and kept poking at the ground, his jabs more and more aggressive.

“Daniel,” Jack tried again to no avail.

Sighing, Jack reached over and grabbed the young man's hand.  Daniel resisted at first and then relaxed his grip dropping the stick. 

“Daniel, you did nothing wrong.  All you did was confirm you're human.  So you didn't like what you saw, what you did.  Big deal.  They weren't even your memories for crying out loud.  They were a snake's.

“Not all of them,” Daniel said turning tormented eyes towards Jack.

 Jack softened his tone at Daniel's wounded look.  “Daniel, I'm not saying your dream was petty.  Far from it.  But try living with yourself when you've actually done something horrific and live it over and over again every time you close your eyes.”

Daniel looked uneasily at Jack.

“That's right,” he said softly.  “Try going to sleep with what's in this mind.  The things I see really did happen.   People I've killed.  Families I've destroyed, including my own. Thank God they don't come as often as they did but when they do I don't have the salvation of saying, 'Oh, it was just a bad dream'.”

“How-” Daniel bit off his question and looked away guiltily.

“How do I live with myself?”  Jack asked gently.

Daniel looked back shamefaced and nodded.

“I have to believe that at the time and under the circumstances I did the right thing.  War is hell, Danny and don't ever think otherwise.”

“You're a good man, Jack,” Daniel said earnestly.

“Thanks.”  I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for you.  Jack scratched his neck and said,  “When things get too bad, do you know what really helps?”

“What?”  Daniel asked, his eyes wide with concern.

“Having you for a friend.  Knowing that someone as good as you, as decent as you, can see something in me worth knowing.”

“Jack,” Daniel said, humbled by his friend’s words.  “I can't even imagine you not being in my life.”

“So, this choosing a new path thing,” Jack said uncertainly.  “You’re not…I mean, you’ll still…”

“I’m not leaving SG-1, Jack.”

“That's all I need to hear,” Jack smiled.

“I just need to…I don’t know,” he shrugged helplessly.

“Daniel, the true nature of a man isn’t determined by a dream but how he lives his life day to day.  So if you’re worried about your true nature, don’t be,” Jack said gravely.  “Hell, the number of times you’ve pulled our asses out of the fire with your wits and your humanity.  Not to mention alien butts too,” he added.  “You're a good man, Danny and if you don't believe me then believe Shifu.  He gave you those dreams because he knows our future is dependent on you and people like you.  He knew you would be intuitive enough to recognize the dreams for what they were.  A warning, nothing else.  You can't think like a snake and act like a human no matter how decent you are.  He's a smart kid.”

“Yes, he is,” Daniel smiled.

“And he likes you,” Jack smiled, “so that makes you pretty special.”

Daniel smiled shyly, taking solace in his friend's words.

“Didn't he say Sha're would be proud of you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, he's right.  She'd be damned proud of you and so am I.  And another thing, I sleep a hell of a lot better knowing you’re there watching my back.”

Daniel blushed at the praise then looked down thoughtfully, biting his bottom lip.

“I remember,” he said quietly.

Jack stared blankly and then his eyebrow rose.  “About the technology?”

“Yes.  Shifu said the memories would fade in a couple of days but right now I could design a missile defense system against the Goa'uld.”

“Why are you telling me this?”  Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged.  “I don't know.  I guess because I don't want there to be any secrets...any lies between us.”

Jack stared silently at his companion.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small notebook and pencil.

“Here,” he said, tossing them down in front of Daniel.

Daniel jerked back and looked uncertainly at Jack.

“What are they for?”

“The defense system,” Jack said coolly.  “Before you forget.”

Daniel looked horrified and felt the bitter bile of betrayal rise in his throat.

“No,” he said coldly.

“No?”  Jack repeated slowly.  “We need that technology, Daniel.  The fate of Earth depends upon it.”

“Not a chance in hell, Jack,” Daniel said, his blue eyes blazing.

Jack glared right back at him and then his face split into a wide grin.  He clapped Daniel soundly on the back.

“That's the Daniel Jackson I know,” he said proudly.  “Stick to your principles come hell or high water.”

Daniel's defiant gaze dissipated into confusion and then indignation.

“You tested me,” he accused.

“No,” Jack said defensively, “I just demonstrated what a hell of a man you are and why the kid chose you to teach.”

Daniel's expression softened and he lowered his head in embarrassment.

Jack reached for the pencil and notebook and drew some lines.  He passed it to Daniel and asked, “X's and O's?”

Daniel looked at the familiar gridlines of the game and chuckled.  “In a minute,” he said, as he rose and walked towards the edge of the cliff to admire the view.

Jack smiled approvingly and started to make his first ‘X’ which ended up ripping through the page after a bloodcurdling scream rent the air.

“Jesus Christ, Daniel!  Warn somebody when you're going to do that!  Look at this! I ruined four pages,” he groused.

Daniel grinned and sat back down beside his friend, massaging his throat.

Jack shook his head affectionately.  “Feel better?”

“I always wanted to do that but I think I hurt myself,” Daniel rasped.

“Dr. Jackson with laryngitis,” Jack mused.  “Can this day get any better?  Hey!” he said defensively, ducking from the notebook smacking down on his head.  “It’s just a joke.  Geez, give a guy absolute power and he loses all sense of humour.  Ow, quit that!  Just remember, you need me to find your way back down this mountain,” Jack warned.

Daniel stopped his next assault in mid-strike.  He paused then passed the notebook back to Jack.  “You’re right.  I wasn’t paying much attention.”  Daniel snorted and said, “Great, how the hell do I choose a new path when I can’t even find my way to your damn truck?”  He sat down dejectedly, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“I’ll help you…if you’ll let me.”

Daniel searched Jack’s eyes for any trace of sarcasm but he found only a deadly earnestness.

“It doesn’t have to be a lonely path, Daniel,” he added softly.

Daniel looked away and swallowed hard, the pain in his throat thankfully easing.  He looked back, a small smile on his lips.  “I’d like the company.”

Jack smiled and grasped Daniel’s shoulder tightly.  “All the way, Danny,” he vowed.  “I’m not saying there won’t be obstacles along the way but we started this adventure together and we’ll damn well finish it together.”

“That’s all I need to hear, Jack,” he said, echoing his friend’s earlier words.

They looked at each other in mutual understanding.  Jack nodded and squeezed his friend’s shoulder before letting go.

“So,” Daniel said, reaching for the notebook and a distraction, “did I mention that I was an ‘X’s and O’s’ champion in college?”

“Here we go,” Jack grumbled.  “I suppose they offered a course in it?”

“A graduate course, in fact,” Daniel said solemnly, starting the game and passing it to Jack.

“You’re full of it.  Best out of twenty buys dinner,” Jack challenged, marking his ‘X’.

“Concede now and we’ll split the bill,” Daniel offered graciously.

“In your dreams, Danny-boy.”

“At least I’m clothed in mine,” Daniel murmured, his mouth twitching.

“What?”

“Nothing.  Oh look, I won.”

“You distracted me,” Jack grumbled, beginning another game.

“Do you like champagne?”  Daniel asked.

Jack looked quizzically at his friend.  “Sure.  Bubbles up your nose.  What’s not to like?  Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering,” Daniel smiled mysteriously.

Jack shook his head and took his turn.

“So, how long have you had this fetish?”  Daniel asked, casually making his mark on the paper.

“With champagne?”  Jack asked, even more confused.

“You have a fetish with champagne?”

“No!”

“Then why did you say you did?”  Daniel asked innocently.

“I didn’t!  Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack grumbled as he lost another game.  He started a new game and said, “Well?”

“Well what?”

“What fetish are you talking about and I’m not saying that I have a fetish but to what are you referring to?”

“Your being naked and waving feather boas,” Daniel replied with a grin.

“It’s not a fetish for crying out loud!  I was just giving an example.”

“Ah,” Daniel said knowingly.

Crap, Jack thought as Daniel drew a line through his ‘O’s’. 

“You know, that’s really irritating,” Jack grumbled.

“What?”

 “The way you say, ‘ah’ like you know something.”

“Jack, you sound paranoid,” Daniel said, scoring another victory.

“I’m not-goddamnit-how many games did I say?”

“Twenty,” Daniel snickered.  “You can still change your mind.”

“Not a chance.  I’ve got this baby…crap.”

“So, what did your dream teach you?”  Daniel asked.

“What dream?”  Jack sighed, making his mark aggressively.

“The one where you were working in the mine…naked.”

“You’re not supposed to remember that,” Jack said, his cheeks turning a nice shade of red.  “Just concentrate on the damn game, will you?”

“Jack, I remember everything and I’ve won every game so far,” Daniel countered.

“Do you know how far up we are, Daniel,” Jack said dangerously.  “Do you know how long it would take a smartass archaeologist to hit bottom?”

“Jack, if I didn’t know better I’d think you’ve missed me,” Daniel teased, his eyes laughing.

“In your…never mind.  It’s your turn.”

Daniel grinned and proceeded to swiftly win game after game.  “Two more, Jack then you have to win the rest,” he warned.

“Just play,” Jack grumbled.

“It’s your money.  I haven’t had lobster for awhile,” Daniel mused as he won yet again.

“Purple,” Jack said abruptly.

“Excuse me?”  Daniel said, looking up.

“The boa.  It was purple.”

“Oh-um-that’s a nice colour…on you…I think.”

“Yeah, your’s was green by the way.  Lime green.  More of a chartreuse, actually.”

“What?”  Daniel said startled, inadvertently marking the wrong spot.

“Ha!  Got one!”  Jack crowed triumphantly.

“You cheated.”

“Did not.  I was just remembering my dream,” Jack said innocently.

“What dream?”  Daniel asked suspiciously.

“You and me in the mine…naked.”

“I-uh-don’t need to hear this, Jack.”

“Why Daniel, you’re turning a becoming shade of red,” Jack teased mercilessly.  “You know, with that green boa you’d-”

“Enough!”

“Careful, you’re losing your concentration there, Danny boy,” Jack grinned as he won another game.

“I let you win,” the young man replied sweetly.

Jack nodded and started another game.  “Teal’c was in it.”

Daniel hung his head in defeat.  “Naked?” he asked, tremulously.

“Nope.  A tutu.”

“Oh, God,” Daniel choked, turning his head in a vain attempt to shut Jack out.

“Yeah.  Hot pink,” Jack said casually.  “It’s his colour, you know.”

Daniel made a small strangling noise, his shoulders shaking.

“You wouldn’t think a guy that big could pirouette like that,” Jack mused aloud.

“Okay, okay, I give up!”  Daniel cried.  “You win.  Just stop with the damn dream.”

Jack chuckled triumphantly and put the notebook away while Daniel tried to banish certain images from this mind.  Jack observed Daniel approvingly.  You’re almost there, Danny.
“Can’t stop thinking about it, can you?”

Daniel shook his head frantically, the laughter bubbling to the surface.

“Did I mention Hammond was in it?”

Daniel looked at Jack in horror then gave in to the impulse, tears streaming down his face.  Jack soon joined him, caught up in the infectious laughter. 

“Oh, God,” Daniel gasped, clutching his ribs, “that hurts.”  As soon as he thought he was in control he would look at Jack and they’d both burst out laughing.  After several minutes they finally settled down.  Daniel lay back with a groan.  “Oh, I think I busted something.”

“You and me both,” Jack grimaced, swiping his sleeve across his face.  “They say laughter’s good for the soul but it wrecks havoc with the body.”  It was also quite sobering because he couldn’t remember when they had last shared a laugh together.  He struggled to his feet and then held his hand out.

Daniel grasped the proffered hand and Jack hauled him to his feet.  They stood facing each other, hands still clasped, strengthening the connection between them; a bond that had never been broken but had been stretched a little too thin of late.  Jack smiled and pulled Daniel into a quick hug.  He pulled back, his hands still clasping the young man’s shoulders.  He laughed at the startled blue eyes.  “I have missed you,” Jack said quietly, patting him lightly on the cheek.

Daniel smiled shyly and glanced down.  His eyes flicked up and he said, “Yeah, me too.”

“Come on, we should head back,” Jack said quietly.

“Just one more look,” Daniel said, walking to the edge.

Jack smiled and followed his friend.  They stood side by side, comfortable in silence.  Jack glanced at Daniel and noticed a shadow of pain pass over the gentle features.

“Hey, it’s such a beautiful day what do you say we pick up a couple of steaks and go back to my place?”  Jack offered.   “My treat.  We can even pull an all-nighter and you can tell me more about what you and Shifu talked about and this dream of yours, if you like.”

Daniel looked into the warm brown depths of his friend’s eyes.  “I’d like that,” he said quietly.

“Great,” Jack smiled.  “Then we can talk about my dreams.”

“Don’t start, Jack,” Daniel said, heading for the path.

“Did you know we have a briefing tomorrow?” Jack said, slipping in front of Daniel.

“I don’t want to hear it.”

 “Let’s see, Teal’c will be there and Hammond.”

“You’re an ass, Jack,” Daniel grinned, shaking his head.

“Speaking of asses…”

“Oh, God.  A whole night of this?”  Daniel muttered under his breath.

“Are you listening to me?”  Jack called over his shoulder.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Nope.”

Daniel sighed.  If you can’t beat them…  “Okay, what ass are we speaking about?”

“Maybourne.”

Daniel winced.  “As in Maybourne’s an ass or as in Maybourne’s ass.”

Jack chuckled and Daniel couldn’t help but respond in kind.  He just felt so damn good.  Shifu may have stepped out of his life but Jack O’Neill had just stepped back in and with both feet.  Daniel wasn’t sure what path he was going to choose but it sure as hell was going to be a noisy one.

 

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.