Title: SEARCH PATTERN

Author: Debi C

Website: I don't have one for the adult stuff yet, so just Alpha Gate Archive and at Area 52.

Feedback: dcole6@satx.rr.com

Rating: NC-17 (references to off-camera graphic violence that has already occurred, intense situations and OH YEA, sex)

Pairing: Jack and Daniel.

Category: Slash. Angst. Drama. Friendship. Humor. Hurt/Comfort. First Time.

Date: May 2002

Status: Complete

Series: A direct sequel to THE SEARCH (revised) by the author.

Season/Spoilers: e.g. Season 2 or 3. Danny still has that long beautiful hair.

Archive: e.g. Alpha Gate. Area 52. Anyone else please ask.

Synopsis: This takes place immediately after my story THE SEARCH and examines the effect of Daniel's experiences and return to the SGC and Jack O'Neill.

Notes: Dedicated to the Real Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. Inspired and beta'd by Quercus, with extra beta by Maddy and by CA. Thank you ALL! May everyone find a love like this one. My thanks to Biblio, PhoenixE and Xochi for giving me a place to play in the Nile. And a meridian is an imaginary line some fool drew on a globe so I don't hold to it.

Warnings: Reference to Violence/Rape/Non-con/Torture that has already occurred in previous story. Language. Intense situations.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/ Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I do not own the characters and indeed am only playing with them for a little while. Jack and Daniel belong to each other. I am not making any money from this and I'm still paying for everything I own so there's very little point in suing me. The song The Last of the Mohicans is from the movie of the same name and stars Daniel Day Lewis. I think it fits this fic. No copyright infringement whatsoever is intended. The story is for entertainment purposes only. At least I hope it's entertaining. The original characters, situations and story are mine. Please check with me first if you want to archive or link to this story.

Theme from "The Last Of The Mohicans". by Clannad Lyrics

Hope is your survival A captive path I lead

No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a long long time No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a thousand years

(Mohican) Nachgochema Anetaha Anachemowagan

No matter where you go I will find you In the place with no frontiers No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a thousand years

(Cherokee) Hale w yu ga I sv Do na dio sv I Wi ja lo sv Ha le w yu Do na dlo sv

No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a long long time No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a thousand years

No matter where you go I will find you In the place with no frontiers No matter where you go I will find you If it takes a thousand years

No matter where you go I will find you

SEARCH PATTERN by Debi C

Chap 1

After a big meal at O'Malley's Steak House, the Carters and Teal'c returned to Cheyenne Mountain for their goodbyes and Jacob's return to the Tok'ra. O'Neill and Jackson got back into Jack's big F350 pickup and headed back to his place for the evening.

The two men rode in comfortable silence until they arrived at Neill's house. There, Jack escorted Daniel to the couch and deposited his friend on the comfortable piece of overstuffed furniture, handed him the remote control and dropped an afghan throw on him. "Stay there." O'Neill said in a soft but commanding voice. He left a bemused archeologist and headed for the kitchen, listening as Daniel flicked on the television and started channel surfing. Jack rummaged through his refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of beer. He looked at them for a second, then replaced them in their carton and traded them for a bottle of the good red wine that Janet Fraiser had recommended. He grimaced and sat it on the counter. A few more minutes were taken up by a hunt for the ever-elusive corkscrew in the implement drawer. Jack grasped it elatedly...he had been afraid that he'd pitched it after Sarah had left.

A few more minutes of finagling and the bottle was opened and the wine poured into glasses. He carried them, and as an afterthought, the bottle itself into the living room area.

Daniel had stopped the TV on a movie and lain back against the corner of the couch, stretching his long legs out over its cushions. Jack pulled the coffee table over closer to the couch, set a glass on Daniel's end and put the other glass and bottle on his side. He then picked up Daniel's feet, scooted under them to sit on the far end of the couch. Daniel smiled at him, quizzically. Jack then pulled his friend's tennis shoes off, dropping them by the side of the couch and deposited the stockinged feet into his own lap. He then reached for his own glass of wine.

Daniel picked his up and looked at him questioningly. "Wine? Does Janet know?"

Jack smiled at his expression. "Yea, her recommendation, one or two glasses at the most though. It's supposed to relax you and help you sleep." He stopped and grinned. "And Janet told me what to buy so if it's not right..."

"No, Jack. It's fine. A very good wine." Daniel interrupted him. "It's wonderful. Thank you." The wine was a bit cold from its imprisonment in a fridge, but damned if he'd comment on that. Jack was obviously trying very hard to help him relax for some reason. Then he got the idea. "You told her about... my nightmares?"

Jack nodded shamefaced. "Yea, well, uh...I just mentioned you'd been having trouble sleeping. She figured the rest out herself." He glanced up at his friend. "But she promised not to bug you, unless you wanted to talk to her." He looked over at his friend. "She said she was satisfied that you were staying here for now."

Daniel looked down into his drink. "Cause you'll make me talk, right?"

Jack reached down and placed his hand on Daniel's left foot's arch and unconsciously started stroking it. "No, Danny, I won't make you talk about anything...but I'm willing to listen to whatever you want to say."

His young friend continued to stare into his full wineglass. "Okay... just not now." He looked up with a crooked smile. "Give me a bit longer."

"Sure." Jack acknowledged easily. "Danny, I'll always be here." He looked down at what he was doing with his hand and grinned shyly.

Daniel returned the look and shrugged. "Feels good." Encouraged, Jack pulled the white socks off and pitched them over by the discarded tennis shoes. He then reached for his own glass of wine. The two men then sat silently and watched the action/adventure move.

After a short while, Jack glanced at his friend and saw Daniel was sleeping, his head back against the couch cushions, mouth slightly open but breathing comfortably. Another movie came on, so Jack shifted his position slightly, poured another glass of wine and settled back to watch it also.

*****

The sun was pouring through the eastwardly facing windows when Daniel awoke. He discovered he was lying on the couch in Jack's living room with the faithful afghan rug on his chest and lap. Nothing unusual in itself. Jack was lying on the opposite end of the couch, his head leaning back on the far arm in an uncomfortable looking position. He was snoring in soft little snuffles as a result of the awkward angle. His hands were cradling Daniel's bare feet on his lap and his long legs were propped up on the coffee table next to the half empty bottle of wine and the two empty glasses.

The bright morning sun was full in O'Neill's face. It was not particularly complimentary, but it was exceedingly revealing. The furrowed brow was lined from worry, the left eyebrow scarred from necessary violence and the crow's-feet at the edge of the closed eyes bespoke of long sleepless nights. The lined, tan cheeks testified to exposure to elements of all extremes. The mobile mouth was also bracketed with lines that bespoke of its owner; laugher and imprecations, blessings and curses, threats and promises, lies and truths, hates and loves were all etched there.

Then movement under his feet. O'Neill's sixth sense kicked in and he awoke to Daniel's observation. "Hey." Jack mumbled, as he identified his watcher. "What...? Oh, I fell asleep."

"Yea, we both did apparently." Daniel indicated Jack's uncomfortable position on the couch. "Are you okay?"

O'Neill winced as he forced his knees and back into motion. "Stiff, definitely stiff. You?"

"No. Good actually, very good." He yawned. "No dreams, warm and comfy. Thanks."

Jack possessively patted the feet still in his lap. "Good, I'm glad." Then he groaned as he dropped his own feet to the floor."Damn knees, I'm getting old as hell, Daniel." He groused.

"Well, it's still better than the alternative, Jack." He swung his long legs on the floor. "Look, you go catch a hot shower and I'll make coffee for us." Jack looked at Daniel carefully. The younger man laughed at his scrutiny. "I promise, just the coffee. I'll let you burn the bacon again."

O'Neill's frown turned easily into a satisfied smile. "You talked me into it." He limped in towards the master bedroom's bath.

The hot water began to loosen Jack's stiff muscles and joints. He soaped his lean frame and then poured shampoo in his hand and worked up lather, digging his fingers into his complaining neck muscles. Finally he just stood under the hot spray and rinsed off. As he allowed the soap to disappear down the drain, he had a memory flash of his washing Daniel's wounded, frightened body in the shower of Jacob Carter's Teltac after they had rescued him from the planet Sabor. How when Jack had run his cleansing hands over his friend's buttocks, Daniel had reacted so violently, pulling away and falling. How Daniel had trembled in Jack's embrace and the rage he had felt at the unknown, unpunished kidnappers who had hurt his friend so badly. As Jack stepped out of the shower and looked at himself in his bathroom mirror, he schooled his features back into their normal expression. He would be of no use to Daniel in this mood.

With these thoughts foremost in his mind, Jack O'Neill entered his kitchen and saw Daniel sitting at the table, sipping a cup of coffee. He cleared his throat as he entered the room, warning his friend that he was no longer alone. Without looked up, Daniel indicated a second cup of steaming coffee sitting at Jack's place at the table.

"Feel better?" The younger man acknowledged his presence.

"Very, and thanks for the coffee." Jack snagged it from the table and started rummaging through the fridge, then the cabinet. "Out of bacon, Daniel. Want some oatmeal?"

"Uh, no thanks Jack." Daniel stated firmly. "If I never see oatmeal again..."

Jack cursed himself under his breath. "Sorry, Danny. I forgot. Carter mentioned she's off her game with that too. Sorry." Jack abandoned his search and crossed to his friend to look seriously at him.

"Jack, come on. It's only oatmeal." Daniel laughed shakily. "I never liked it much to begin with."

"Well, never mind it then, we'll have some veggie omelets."

"Sounds good to me."

*******

After their breakfast was finished and the dishes put away, Daniel started in to take his shower. Jack nodded to him. "I'll be out here if you need anything. Just call."

Daniel nodded back, grateful for his presence. It had been something they had discovered upon their return to Jack's place. Daniel had already suffered from a fear of small areas since his childhood and his confinement on the slaver`s ship had cause it to return as a full blown phobia. Jack had an opinion of people who would lock small children in closets as punishment but he knew it was fruitless to go into that at this time. That and his not being able to be touched on some certain areas on his body made him somewhat reactive to be around.

Jack understood these feelings from his own history of imprisonment and was a safe harbor for him as Daniel recovered from his ordeal. After thinking about the young man's unheralded and unapproved return to his laboratory yesterday Jack made a decision. He picked up the phone and called in a Leave request for the rest of the week. Hammond granted it easily enough, knowing the situation. His only comment was to take care of their boy and if anything was needed to give him a call.

So when Daniel got out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his slender hips, he was surprised to see his host still lying on the couch flipping through the TV channels again.

"Not working today?"

"Nope, taking the rest of the week off."

"Because of me?"

"Yep, and my knees and back and neck." Jack grinned at him. "Basically playing hooky."

Daniel nodded acceptance of the fact and padded into the guestroom, returning wearing a pair of Jack's old comfortable sweatpants. He sat down at the end of the couch and pulling Jack's feet into his lap, beginning a concentrated massage of his friend's bare feet, starting on the left foot's toes.

Jack watched in surprise. Daniel was not noted for being overly tactile. It had taken him a long time and a lot of desensitization for the younger man to be comfortable being touched and touching other people. "Daniel, you don't have to do that, or anything else."

Daniel shook his head, not looking up at Jack. "No problem. Do you like it?"

"Well, yea. Feels good...but..."

"Then let me Jack." Daniel said quietly. "I like helping you relax." He flashed a quick grin at his friend. "You deserve it."

"Oh, I don't know about all of that." Jack replied. Daniel continued to work up the taunt calf muscles and was gently manipulating the stiff knee. Jack lay back, basking in the gentle massage, allowing the skillful fingers to ease the tension in his abused legs. Then the younger man slipped his fingers up to the large thigh muscle and began a slow stroking of the long, tight muscle. The inevitable to occurred; the pressure in Jack's groin began to grow and his erection was becoming obvious. He jerked awake and in a nervous voice, Jack said. "Daniel, don't! Please stop!"

Daniel jerked his hands back, staring at them then glanced at O'Neill for a split second. His face flushed to a pink and he managed to gasp "Sorry, Jack." before he slipped out from under O'Neill's legs and headed for the kitchen.

"Danny, wait! Come back!" Jack scrambled up from the couch following his friend's retreat. He caught up to Daniel, leaning against the sink, face red, eyes filled with suspicious moisture.

"God, Jack. I'm sorry." His voice shook as the older man approached him. "I...I didn't...I wasn't..."

"No, Danny. It's me. It's not your fault." He grasped his friend's shoulders. "You didn't do anything wrong." He watched his friend, concern coloring his expression. "Can you tell me what's going on?"

"I'm sorry, Jack. I won't do that again. I, I was just trying to help..."

"I know, Danny." Jack leaned forward and put his jaw on Daniel's right shoulder. "It's me." He chuckled. "Danny, you push all my buttons. I admit it, I feel more for you than I'm supposed to feel and right now...well, we're in an unusual situation...and I'm a little too...sensitive to you. That's all."

"Jack." Daniel's quiet voice spoke, interrupting his stuttered confession. "When we were captured, I told Sam that you and Teal'c would come for us. Then, after she'd escaped, when I was taken and held on the ship, I kept thinking how you would act because I knew rescue was impossible." He dropped his head, staring down into the clean sink. "I wanted to live, but I didn't know how." He took a deep breath. "I tried refusing to take the drugs, but I was forced to. I tried going along with the flow and I couldn't stand it. Then, I fought back and lost...everything. I wasn't even a person anymore. Just a thing, an animal to be trained, fed and used."

It was all coming out in a rush. Jack could only stand behind his friend, grasping his shoulders in silent support. "Then they started `preparing me' for the sale. They kept me pretty drugged up, so I wouldn't hurt myself anymore. I don't remember a lot." He sighed. "It's probably a good thing."

"Danny, you don't have to do this right now." Jack whispered calmly into his ear.

"Yes, yes I do obviously." He took another breath. "This action...this, this thing... was one of the 'skills' that I remember being taught. How to massage my owner, to make `him' relax, to make `him' feel good ." Daniel leaned his head back on Jack's chest. "I'm beginning to remember things."

Jack began to rub his hands up and down Daniel's upper arms. He spoke, trying to keep his voice calm. "What kind of things, Danny? Do you want to tell me?"

"I don't know, Jack. It's all so dreamlike to me." He tilted his head back farther so that he could see his friend's eyes. "I remember being touched, all over. I think I remember the body piercing. It was so odd. It hurt, but it felt...I don't know, erotic somehow." Daniel shook his head, as if confused by the memories. "I remember being `used', made to respond, but I was so out of it...."

"Daniel, you don't have to do this right now." Jack whispered next to his ear, torn between supporting his friend and the fear of what he'd hear.

"Yes...yes I do, Jack. Before it all get screwed up and jumbled away and I can't say it anymore." He continued to talk, leaning back against Jack's support with his eyes closed as if to help `see' it. "I'm just afraid that you won't...can't...accept this, this thing I've become."

"Daniel..."

But the young man continued, as if he needed to lay everything out in the open. "No, Jack...I'd given up. I had no hopes left. They kept telling me that you and the others were all dead. Teal'c and Sam too, though I knew I'd seen her make it to the trees. But, I was knocked out...and I couldn't be sure. Only my mind kept painting these pictures...of you...lying there, dead...in the dirt..." His body started to vibrate with emotions. "And I didn't want to live anymore. I wanted to believe, but...I couldn't. I lost it, Jack. I failed. I just..."

Jack slipped his arms around his friend's waist and hugged him carefully, softly. "Daniel, you survived. You did it the only way you could. You kept breathing, and your heart kept beating until we found you. You did your job. You made it and you made it because you are a survivor. And, my friend, that's a good thing to be."

"But I didn't want to...Jack, I wanted to die. But I couldn't, I was too afraid."

"No, Danny. You were brave. Dying is easy, living is hard. Living so that we could find you...so we could stop it from happening again, to someone else." O'Neill carefully turned the man in his arms to face him. Daniel was still not looking at him, still had his eyes closed as if afraid of what he`d see. "Oh, Danny...we were all going crazy here. The damned SAR team was too slow, Carter didn't know who the kidnappers were, Teal'c couldn't read the writing on the ship...if it hadn't been for Jake's snake, Selmac... Well, I don't know what would have happened...or how we would have done it, but we would have found you." Jack shook his head is if still in disbelief. "Then I saw you up on that stage, my Daniel, my friend...but you were so goddamned gorgeous I couldn't move. Then the bidding started and I just knew we'd never be able to buy you. Danny, I was so scared that we'd lose you...I wanted to just grab you and run as far and fast as I could where we'd never have to see any of those fuckers again." He laughed softly. "It's a damned good thing Jacob was there. He did it all; bid on you, played the inspector and managed to seal the deal. Then he made me walk off and leave you there, so we wouldn't blow our cover." Jack laughed bitterly at the memory. "Had to walk off and leave you in their stinking hands for a `few hours more, Jack. Delivery's included. Don't worry, it'll be all right.' Damn Jacob Carter to whatever hell he wants to go to."

Daniel was looking at him now, blue eyes appearing impossibly wide and large. "Jack..."

O'Neill realized that this was rapidly approaching overload for his young friend. He'd admitted too much too quick and he was now suddenly frightened that Daniel would bolt for the door at first opportunity. He needed to defuse the situation quickly.

"Daniel, please...let's sit down, okay?" He shifted his hold from a body hug to a shoulder hold. "Look, this is getting too deep a little too fast." He push/pulled his friend along with him and went back to the kitchen table. There they sat down across from each other in the hard wooden chairs. Jack slid his hand down to grasp Daniel's right hand as it and the other rested in his lap but was afraid to let his friend go completely. "Danny, look." Daniel raised his eyes, and Jack met them. "You did not do any thing wrong." O'Neill stated calmly. "You were the victim. It's not your fault, none of it. What you felt, what you're feeling, is the result of torture and mind control. You are innocent of any wrongdoing. Do you understand that?" Daniel nodded halfheartedly. Jack continued. "Believe me when I say that this hasn't changed my opinion or my feelings for you in anyway. I still think of you as my friend, whom I dearly care for and about, and I don't want some bastard to come in and steal something very important from my life." He paused a second, to catch his breath. "I love you Danny. I love you like a friend, a brother, a son...and in any other way, shape or fashion you need me to love you in." Jack reached over with his other hand and grasped both of Daniel's in his. "Just tell me...tell me what you want."

Daniel sat quietly for a long while, as if he was translating a particularly difficult inscription. He kept his eyes locked on Jack's hands and how they were holding him together. He knew that if those hands released him, he'd be shattered...blown away by the first hot wind. Looking up into his friend's tense, caring expression, he knew Jack meant every word now, but later...what about later?

However, now was here...and, it was as real as it could be. "Jack."

"Yes?" A question, a promise.

"I need...you to be here. Just for a while...just for a little bit."

O'Neill slid his chair forward until they were touching, then gently slipped his arms up into a soft, warm hug. "You have me, for as long as you want."

Daniel leaned into the bare-skinned shoulder and allowed the few tears to come. It would do... for now... before it all went away.

Chap 2

After a long while, Daniel allowed O'Neill to lead him back into the living room where he sat him back down on the couch again. Jack tried for a little lightening of their mood. "You want to do something today? Go out, see the sights?"

"No, I guess...well, maybe I should go and check on the apartment." Jackson seemed to be feeling a little more grounded. He looked at his friend. "Do you have time to take me...or I could call a cab."

"Nah, sounds like a good idea." Jack enthused. "A little fresh air would do us both good. Cassie's supposed to be taking care of the fish." He wiggled his eyebrows at the younger man. "Let's go see if they need feeding or filleting."

"Or maybe flushing." Daniel tried to keep up his end of the silly conversation. Maybe, just maybe...he could stay at his apartment and get away from Jack and these feelings for awhile.

O'Neill got up and went into first his bedroom, then the guest room that Daniel had been sleeping in and returned dressed in jeans and a polo shirt and carrying a tee shirt. He tossed it to Daniel, who pulled it on and reached for his tennis shoes and socks from the night before. Jack bent to pull on his hiking boots. "Yea, you need to pick up some of your clothes so you don't go around looking like mini-me all the time." Jack looked at him critically. "I don't mind, you understand, but it's a little limiting as to where we can go."

Daniel looked up at him in surprise. "Where are we going?"

"Don't know yet, but I'm sure you don't want to stay cooped up here indefinitely." Jack eyed his friend wearing his old baggy sweats and tee. "You are a bit casual, even for Colorado. Of course, we might go clothes shopping..." At Daniel's unenthusiastic look Jack desisted. Daniel's back had not healed enough for any extensive clothes wrestling. "Or we could just save that for later." He futzed around until Daniel finished getting dressed, not wanting to push his personal space after their earlier discussion. He had no desire to be chasing a wigged out friend this afternoon. Picking up a newspaper he noticed that a new exhibit at the Colorado Springs Museum had opened several days ago, and it was close to a nice restaurant he knew of. It sounded innocuous enough to work. Dinner might be postponed until after the apartment visit or they might just spend the night at Daniel's place.

******

When Jack pulled his truck up to the Museum of American Heritage Art, they had both relaxed considerably. They had discussed the Museum trip after breakfast was over and it was an immediate go. Jack guided the vehicle into the parking lot and the friends spent several hours schlepping through an American Indian Exhibit. This brought back memories of the Salish people they had met and their beneficient `Spirits'.

"Yep, Danny. I could do that quite easily." Jack was commenting on leading the simple life of a hunter gatherer society. "Just think of the peace and quiet. No bells, no whistles, no cars..."

"You weren't there, Jack." Daniel interposed. "It seemed nice enough and the Salish themselves were very friendly... but it is still a planet with aliens running things for the good of their people." Daniel shook his head. "Dependence on super-powers will not last. Look at Cimmeria. We had to knock out Thor's hammer and the first thing that happens is the Goa`uld show up." He commented thoughtfully. "Abydos was a real study in autonomy. After Ra, things began to really improve. They'd been scrimping so long just to get by under his rule, they felt rich." He continued on. "I still think that, for all our shortfalls, mankind is doing at least as well as everyone else and a lot better than some."

"Yea, I guess that cabin in Minnesota is gonna be the place for me when all is said and done." Jack nodded smilingly. "Fishing, what a life."

"Hey, I thought I heard about a dinner sometime tonight..." Daniel smiled at Jack's woolgathering. "And I'm hungry."

"That's good to hear." Jack replied. "From someone who wouldn't even drink water a couple of days ago."

"Well, lead me to an all you can eat buffet and watch my interest peak."

"Do you want to go to your apartment first?"

"Yea, I suppose a shirt and real slacks would be better in a restaurant." He looked a little embarrassed. "And underwear."

"Really, I thought you did that on purpose, you know, for comfort`s sake." Jack just shook his head and walked off.

Daniel followed in a huff. "What? What did I do now?"

"Come on, commando boy. Your fishes await."

*****

After a brief drive, they arrived at Daniel's downtown apartment building.

"Well, should I have worn yours? I mean, really, Jack..."

"Danny, stop please. I'm sorry. I don't care what you wear. Hell, I don't care if you don't wear anything at all...no, that's not right...I mean, oh, just cut it out."

Jack was so thoroughly wound up; Daniel had to work hard not to laugh. "Come on. The neighbors are listening." He pulled his keys out and unlocked the front door. Daniel led the way into the cluttered living area, negotiating the paths between old notes from previous missions that he'd had to bring back to the SGC to shred and priceless archeological specimens. He knew that his friend never felt completely comfortable at his place. Jack seemed to have a fear of breaking something irreplaceable whenever he was there.

Daniel went over to count noses in the aquarium while Jack sidled through the books, masks, and various vessels that seemed to lay everywhere. He finally picked up a box and repositioned it more firmly on a shelf. "Ya know, Danny, if you keep these things separated better, they wouldn't reproduce so quickly." He picked up a particularly horrifying mask from its perch on the television set. "And you might want to get this ugly sucker neutered on general principals."

Daniel shook his head over the water tank. "I don't know about that, but I seem to have more swordfish then when I left. Maybe the male jumped the barrier...yea, here he is." Daniel picked up the small hand net and started herding fish trying to separate the breeding pairs. Then, something happened to change Daniel's mood. For no apparent reason, something `clicked' in his head, and his facial expression changed. Daniel dropped the net in the fish tank and backed up several steps to bump into the wall, knocking over two cardboard boxes of folders that went crashing to the floor along with him. His face turned a bright red in color and tears came to his eyes. He covered his face with his hands, trying not to lose control.

O'Neill quickly strode over to his friend and he knelt down, grabbing him by the shoulders. "Danny! Daniel!" He shook the younger man gently and was shocked by the distressed expression on his best friend's face. Jack gently pulled the dazed man to his feet by his upper arms and guided him back into the kitchen area. There he made his friend sit down on a dinette chair. Jack then grabbed a glass out of the cupboard, filled it with water and returned to pull another chair up to Daniel. "Hey, Danny. Earth to Space Monkey! Come in, Danny."

Finally, Daniel began to appear a bit calmer and looked tearfully at him as he took the glass of water from Jack's hand.

"Daniel, uh, what just happened?" Jack stroked the hunched back soothingly. "I mean, one minute you're bitching at your fish...the next you're just out of it." O'Neill straightened up still leaving a grounding hand in place on the trembling shoulder. "I know you had a flashback." He continued calmly. "But as to what it was, you'll have to tell me."

Daniel leaned forward and tried to think calmly, taking a deep breath through the haze of emotions. "Uhm. Well, I was thinking...about the fish." He shook his head as if to clear it, his expression one of alarming sadness. "How, they shouldn't be separated...like they separated Sam and me."

Jack looked over his friend's head as he continued to stroke the man's back. This was about something that had happened to the two teammates; he knew classic Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. It wasn't about any damn fish...it was about Daniel and Carter. O'Neill put his arms around his friend, pulled him up and aimed him into the bedroom, guiding him to sit on the bed. He pulled off the wire framed glasses, surprised Daniel allowed him this liberty, and when Jack pulled his shoes and socks off, his friend just curled up on his right side facing the opposing wall. Jack pulled the comforter up over Daniel and looked down sadly at him. He turned and left the room, being sure to leave the door propped open so sounds could travel both ways.

*****

After about thirty minutes, Jack had located a North Western Bell Telephone book and was perusing the home delivery restaurants available. He finally found one that was acceptable and dialed out to place the order. After another forty-five minutes, the doorbell rang and a rather small Asian deliveryman stood at the door, bearing four take-out cartons and a bottle of plum wine. O'Neill paid for it, adding a generous tip, then thanked the man in Hungul. The Korean smiled widely at him and disappeared down the corridor to the elevator. As he moved items off of the kitchen table to make room for the food, a shuffling noise caught his attention. Daniel was awake. Jack continued to set the table, finding the plates, glasses and silverware then transferring them to place settings.

The young man moved through the kitchen area and sat down heavily in a chair. Jack transferred the food from the packages onto their plates and poured out the scarlet colored liquid into two stemmed glasses. "Hey."

Daniel rubbed his face with both hands and looked at Jack owlishly. "What happened?"

O'Neill shrugged his shoulders as he put a plate down in front of his ward. "Don't know. You got all upset about the fishes and fugued out on me." Jack filled his own plate and settled down across the table. "It's Thai, be careful. It's hot."

The younger man acknowledged the warning and took a bite. "It's good. Where did you find it?"

"Yellow pages, but a Korean family runs it. Go figure...only in America."

"Sorry."

"Danny. You didn't do anything wrong. It's okay. Try the plum wine; it's pretty good."

"Thanks." He took a sip of the potent drink. "Whoa, that'll warm you up in the morning." Jack laughed softly at Daniel's reaction and took another spoonful of the spicy noodle dish.

*****

After the meal, they moved into Daniel's small den area. The two friends sat down on opposing ends of the couch, as usual, and Jack turned on the television, running through the channel selection. They wound up with Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn and The African Queen until Daniel started to nod off.

Jack shifted his legs to sit up and bent over Daniel, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, I'm not playing this game again tonight, my knees can`t take it. You go to bed; I'll sleep here on the couch."

Danny blinked at him, thoughts traveling at the speed of slow. "No, Jack. You take the bed. It'll be easier on your back."

"My back isn't the issue, Danny boy. It's my knees; they need support, not propping up on coffee tables."

"So take your knees to the bed. I'll stay here."

O'Neill looked at him playfully suspicious. "Is it broke?"

"No. It's extra firm."

"Okay, but if you need anything...."

"I know the way...just don't wear my underwear."

"Nah, they're too small."

*****

Several hours later, Jack was awakened by a sound that he recognized too well. Daniel was in the throes of a full-blown Jacksonesque Technicolor nightmare. They'd been getting better before his kidnapping, but since his return from Sabor, they had not only gained strength but reality as well. He clambered to his feet and was heading out to the living room area, when he heard the crash of breaking glass and a thud, followed by a moan. "Daniel," He flipped on the light. "Danny, where are you?" No Jackson visible. "Damn...Daniel." The apartment wasn't that big. Where the hell had he gotten to? O'Neill checked by the couch and in the kitchen, then finally got to the bathroom and switched on the light. Daniel had somehow tucked himself in between the sink and the corner of the tub. There was glass and blood on the floor. "Aw Danny." He carefully stepped over the sharp items glittering on the linoleum floor covering. "Daniel, come on." No reply. This was getting to be bad shit real quick. Jack again bent to his friend's side and tugged the man upright, leading him into the bedroom again.

After locating a small commercial first aid kit in the pantry and by the light of the bed lamp, Jack was able to pull two pieces of glass out of is friend's hand and fingers, then bandage them with gauze and tape. Daniel just sat there, watching Jack's ministrations through half open eyes, as if seeing a demonstration. O'Neill again pushed his friend into the bed and Daniel obediently rolled over to a hauntingly familiar position, staring at the bookcase-lined wall. On the middle shelf was a framed, hand-sketched picture of Sha'uri. Jack crawled into the bed beside the younger man and watched until Daniel's breathing slowed and evened out proving that he had once again fallen asleep.

Jack reached out, turned the lamp off and lay back staring at the ceiling. When had this happened to him? When had his feelings of friendship altered into this connection? Had it been when Daniel had beaten the `so-called' experts opening the gate in two weeks instead of forty years? Was it when Jackson had sacrificed himself on Abydos, taking the staff-blast that had been aimed at him? When the young man was taken by Nem? When he again appeared to die on Klorel's mother ship? Or any other number of times that the blazing intellect and indomitable spirit that was what combined in Daniel Jackson went the ultimate final mile for his world and his friends? Jack rolled over and closed his eyes. He'd need to be alert in the morning for whatever Daniel was going to throw at him. He was ready; he'd been through it himself...he understood.

*****

The next morning dawned cool and misty. The curtains in the bedroom had been closed so it remained dark until quite late in the morning. Jack woke up with a warm living form lying closely against his back. Daniel was cold; he was looking for heat. O'Neill lay there for fifteen or so minutes not wanting to disturb the younger man's peaceful rest before nature's insistence drove him to the bathroom. When he came back to the bed, his friend had moved over and taken control of the warmth that he had left in the blankets. He eased back into the snug tumble of coverlets and pillows, pushing the younger man back onto his side of the bed. Daniel moved over but refused to relinquish the warmed-to-body-temperature-comforter. Jack took a firm grip on the edge and tugged. This re-insinuated the sleeping man right under his shoulders. Sighing, O'Neill rolled over to face his attack snuggler. He slid his cold left arm up under the fuzzy coverlet and lightly embraced the younger man. Jack kissed the top of the tousled hair. Daniel reacted, still mostly asleep, unconsciously raising his face to softly return the oral caress. It proved too much to resist. The older man opened his mouth to his beloved friend and he tasted the sweetness of trust and love for the first time in a very long time.

After too brief a moment, Daniel tucked his head back under Jack's chin and breathed softly, sleep too insistent to be resisted. Jack lay with Daniel's head on his chest, his heart beating a comforting lullaby to the lost innocence of his friend.

*****

Daniel awoke to a warm nest of comfort. He was lying in his own bed; his head supported on Jack's chest, being held firmly by Jack's strong arms. The other man was still asleep, proven by the soft breathing and relaxed attitude that surrounded him. He sighed, not wanting to believe that he'd done this. He had vague memories of staying on the couch on purpose so as not to invade O'Neill's space. Then, a nightmare of some sort and now this. Oh, my gods and demons what had he done...what had he wanted... Daniel lay there almost afraid to breathe, that when Jack awoke...he too would remember what had been done and was wanted. And that would be the end...and it would all go away...again.

Three times, and three times only, Daniel had been fortunate enough to have everything in life he wanted. First, the darling, gifted, intelligent only child of beloved, talented, intellectual parents. Then the amazing, brilliant, prodigy of a highly respected scholastic master. Then again, the husband, savior, teacher, wise man, good-son of a foremost tribal chieftain on an alien planet. But each time, just as he realized what he had been gifted with, he lost it, all of it, to be dispossessed into the murky tumble of nothingness. Cast aside by whatever capricious god he'd managed to offend this time. And like an unworthy miser, all he could manage to grab on his way out the door was a small package of memories, guilt and horror for his good, his bad and his loss.

Well, he could count number four on its way out also. Another home, another position, another family would soon be measured and weighed on the scale and found to be too much for Daniel Jackson to desire or deserve. He'd done it again. Loved the wrong person, wanted the wrong position, lived the wrong life. Mars would cast him out as had Hester, Minerva and Venus. He lay on O'Neill's broad, powerful chest and knew that this man could not accept what Daniel was...a failure, a proven misfit and a... A sense of movement, of power crept through the body beneath him. Daniel lay still, his eyes closed, waiting for the words, the denial of what and where he was to occur. Instead a warm hand drifted up his spine, along the tee shirt that he still wore and insinuated itself in his hair. Fingers carded through it and a rumble started under his head.

"Hey, sleepy head."

Finally it was over. "Hey." he mumbled.

"Comfortable?"

"Humph," feigning drowsiness as an excuse to remain. "Yea."

"Good. Hungry?"

Good? He shook his head against the ribcage. "No."

"Too bad, cause I am and you're drooling on my chest." The wandering hand strayed to Daniel's ear, tickling it softly. "What say we get up, go find a Waffle House and drown our cholesterol levels?"

"What?" He couldn't believe it. Daniel raised up on his elbows and stared at O'Neill. There was nothing, no shock, no disgust, and not a negative wavelength in sight. Then, Jack leaned up took his face in his strong hands and kissed him. A real kiss with lips and tongue and mouth and jaw and.....

"Hey, hey. Come back here." The possessive hands pulled him back. "Are you okay? God, Danny...I'm sorry. Did I, what, scare you? Please...don't go...I'm sorry...I thought..."

Daniel had jerked up to a crouched position, ready to flee from himself and Jack. But the other man with his trained reactions had grabbed his hand and held him. A sudden sharp pain caused the younger man to flinch and cry out in Jack's hard hand. The grip had caught him across the cuts from the broken glass he'd received during his nightmare wanderings. Blood started to well from beneath the gauze.

"Jesus, Danny! Hold still, you're bleeding again." O'Neill's attitude became one of concerned business. He sat cross-legged on the bed, firmly holding Daniel's wrist with one hand and unwrapping the bandage with the other. "This needs to be looked at Daniel. You may need stitches. Do you want to go and see the doc?"

Jackson shook his head mutely. Where...when had this happened? He had no recollection of the injury or how he'd done it. He watched as Jack opened his palm and looked closely at the two-inch laceration and shook his head. He brought his eyes back up to the younger man. "Daniel, do you want to go and see Doctor Fraiser?" He pronounced it clearly.

Daniel shook his head. "No, no. It'll be all right." He tried to pull his hand away but failed in the attempt. He looked up at his concerned friend's face in confusion. "Jack, how did this happen?"

"You don't remember?" O'Neill watched his friend's bewildered denial, and then explained. "Last night you decided to sleep on the couch. I came in to the bed. About one thirty or two, I heard you...you were having a nightmare. Then you evidently got up and went into the john, knocked a glass off, broke it and then fell. I found you on the floor, bleeding from some cuts, patched you up and got you into bed...where you should have been in the first place." Jack shook his head. "No more of this crap, Danny. I'm gonna chain you to my wrist every night from now on. I'm too old for this stuff. Now, let me look at your damn hand before we get blood everywhere."

A quick search of Daniel's bathroom revealed the first aid kit O'Neill had found last night during the initial injury treatment. Jack's patient sat quietly as he applied a field dressing to the worst of the cuts. Then after a more thorough exam, another glass-laced injury was found on the bottom of a foot and a shallow slice on the anklebone. O'Neill was muttering imprecations under his breath. Daniel was still stunned.

"Jack?"

"Yea?"

"I don't remember any of that."

"I figured as much, don`t worry about it." O'Neill secured the last piece of gauze with some tape. "It's the drugs."

"But Jack, it's been a week." He protested, unbelievingly.

O'Neill put the supplies back into the first aid kit. "No, it's been five days. You were held for over two weeks. It'll take some time for all those chemicals to work their way out of you system." He snapped the white plastic box closed. "That's why you need to eat something, to help your system get rid of them." He stood up next to the bed. "Look, you lay there for a while longer, I'm gonna pickup the mess in the bathroom and take a shower. Then we're gonna get dressed and we're gonna go get some breakfast...or lunch and go back to my house for tonight. I'm sure Doc will want to stop by to check on my patch job and I live closer to her than this place." He bent down and cupped Daniel's chin in his hand. "Okay?" At Daniel's mute nod, Jack ruffled his already mussed hair. "Don't do anything. Just...lay down. I'll be right back."

*****

Daniel obediently lay in his bed listening to Jack. He could hear the sound of the broken glass being removed, the soft whisper of a damp cloth scrubbing something, his blood perhaps, off of the floor and finally the sound of the shower being turned on. He imagination started to wander, following Jack's movement in his mind's eye as he heard an off tune whistle. How many times had he and Jack been nude in each others presence. Nude but not naked. Just another part of the scenery to be acknowledged, glanced at in passing or treated for injuries or held in relief. Nothing sensual, just contact. That was all gone now. His heightened sensitivities, brought out by the slavers' drugs, had forever awoken him to the smells, touches, sounds and visions that made up his friend. And now, his mouth had tasted the forbidden fruit that was Jack. And it was wonderful.

Chap 3

Within an hour, the two were back in Jack's truck heading for The Waffle Hut. It was one of the chain type restaurants, much better than a greasy spoon and offered a fine selection of pancakes, waffles, and various ways of cooking eggs, bacon and sausage. Jack liked it because it offered a varied selection of food. Daniel didn't go often because it just had plain coffee, no preferences available.

"You know, for someone who was pretty much light in the pockets for most of his life, you've turned into something of a snob," Jack commented as Daniel remarked about the lack of selection of the caffeine cuisine available at the diner.

"Snob? What?" Daniel looked almost hurt by the cast aspersion.

"Yea, snob. No French roast, no home stone ground, no Pinkey-lafeet-forty-nine." O'Neill continued on his roll. "Now, be honest...how many times in your previous life as an undergrad and graduate student could you go out and get the coffee that was specially grown from selected plants and completely cared for beans and flawlessly blended oils and herbs and stuff."

"Well, you're right there." Jackson watched his friend's expression as he admitted the truth of what Jack was saying. "But," he held up a finger and looked suggestively at Jack. "You have to admit it's easy getting used to the finer things in life...and wanting them all the time." Jack pulled the door open and ushered him into the waiting area with the vinyl couches and travel folders for the Garden of the Gods. "If there had been Starbucks in Chicago, I might have stood a chance of getting addicted there, but luckily they were still only on the West Coast."

"But I don't get it, I mean I love a good cup of coffee too..."

The waitress appeared, an eighteen-year-old girl with sun-streaked hair, wearing a red polo shirt with an embroidered waffle that said Tammy on the shoulder and very tight blue jeans. "Hi, I'm Tammy. How many in your party?"

"Just two, a booth please." O'Neill replied.

"Okay, follow me." She turned with a spin and quick timed them to a booth centered on the large windows. As she put the colorful plastic-laminated menus on the faux marble table, Jack noticed an empty booth in the corner.

"Can we sit there?" He indicated it with his chin.

"There? Why?"

"Cause we can?" He started walking in the booth's direction.

"Well, sure. If you want." Tammy grabbed the menus off the table and followed Jack and Daniel to the slightly darker area. When they got there, she put them down again. "You'll have to change waitresses, though."

"Okay." Jack replied unconcerned and opened up his plastic-covered cardboard menu, starting to look over the offerings. "Uh, tell her to bring two cups and a pot of coffee."

The girl looked at him, shook her head in disgust and replied "Okay" over her shoulder.

Daniel stared at him in amazement. "What's going on Jack?"

"What? You want waffles? They've got them with strawberries. I'm gonna have the Big Three."

"The Big Three?"

"Sure. Three pancakes, three eggs and three pieces of bacon." He glanced up at Daniel. "So what do you want?"

"Uh, an omelet I guess."

Jack looked at him in dismay, then said firmly. "No. You're not." About that time a middle-aged waitress with russet colored curly hair and a pen behind her left ear came over. She had two large mugs in one hand, a full coffee pot in the other and when she put them on the table an order tablet appeared magically in her hand along with the flying pencil of want. Her red polo said "Maple" in the middle of her embroidered waffle and she smiled down at the two men with easy friendliness.

"Hi, what can I get you this morning?"

Jack laid his menu back on the table. "I want a Big Three with whole-wheat toast and hash browns." He indicated Daniel. "He'll have the regular breakfast with ham, two eggs and a whole grain waffle instead of pancakes and the...humm...Daniel, strawberries or blueberries?"

Daniel opened his mouth to reply and Maple said. "The strawberries are fresh today. Don just pureed some and I'll put chunks in, too."

O'Neill nodded. "Okay, sounds good. Oh, and a glass of chocolate milk and two orange juices. And be sure the hash browns are brown."

She grinned impishly back at him. "Brown the browns, got it." She refilled the coffee cups and put half-and-half creamer containers on the table.

Daniel sat speechless in amazement, staring at his friend. Jack sipped his coffee and looked at him. "What?"

"What did you just do?"

"Ordered breakfast. Why? What do you think I just did?"

"You overrode the seating plan, you switched waitresses, you ordered me twice as much food as I can eat and..."

"So?"

"Why?"

"Daniel, look." Jack thought about what his friend had just accused him of, and found it, well, correct. "First of all, I don't like sitting in the catbird seat in front of windows. This booth is more private, I can see the front door and there's an exit right behind us in case something happens. I saw Mabel..."

"Ma-ple. Her name is Maple, not Mabel."

He shrugged and corrected himself. "I saw Maple standing over there drinking a cup of coffee. Tammy saw you and headed for us like a B2 on a bombing run. Ma-PLE will insure our coffeepot stays full and will deliver our meal quickly and efficiently without annoyance. Tammy will watch you with goo-goo eyes for the next forty-five minutes or until the next hottie comes through the door." Daniel almost choked on the sip of coffee he'd just taken. Jack smiled slyly at him. "If I would have let you order your own breakfast you would have gotten the bare minimum to keep me happy and drank up all the `just coffee' in sight. Now, because I'm paying, you'll eat protein, carbohydrates, fresh pureed fruit, chocolate-flavored calcium, and caffeine. You'll feel better cause you ate right; I'll feel better cause I didn't have to nag at you." Jack poured himself another cup of coffee. "Problem?"

Daniel just stared at his friend. "No, I guess..."

"Good, `cause here comes the drinks." Maple descended on them again, set down two water glasses, two large orange juices, a large chocolate milk, more creamers, three kinds of syrup and a fresh pot of coffee. She smiled at the two men, turned on her heel and left in a flurry of floral perfume and efficiency. Daniel could see Tammy chewing gum and reading a newspaper while some of her customers tried to get her attention.

Jack continued to look at the menu to see what they offered in the form of other meals, Daniel fidgeted with his silverware and watched Jack. O'Neill kept his expression bland, working hard not to smile. "Jack."

"Yea."

"About last night."

"Yea."

"Uh, what do you think...is, well, going on?" Daniel blushed a little pinker than he had been.

"Humm." Jack laid the menu down on the table and looked pensive. "Well," He sighed. "I think... that we responded to needs that we see in each other." He paused then went on. "I see that, right now, today...you are vulnerable, so I take steps to protect you." The older man shrugged. "Hell, Danny. I don't even notice I'm doing it until you tell me. You, well, I'm not totally sure what you see when you look at me besides a friend...that you can rely on, I hope."

Daniel's expression mirrored O'Neill. "I see very much a friend, but this attraction is kind of scary. It's not my normal...attitude."

"I've explained that. Those drugs are still controlling a lot of your feelings, Danny. It'll take some time for them to go away, maybe even weeks." He clasped his hands together and stared at them. "As for your `attitude', well things of that nature have been occurring for thousands of years as you well know. If it didn't exist, the `Don't ask, Don't tell' rule wouldn't be on the books. Some societies are more understanding, some more confrontational. But men who live together closely as in a military society form relationships--some platonic, some brotherly, some intimate. Men are people, people are men." He cocked his head sideways, and watched the younger man's expression.

Jackson chewed on his lip then took another drink of coffee. "So, it doesn't bother you?"

"Nope. Does it bother you?"

Daniel shook his head. "No, like you said, it's just people being people. In the Middle East, it's not uncommon at all."

"Yea, I know." Jack's voice took a slightly darker tone. At Daniel's look he shook his head and indicated Maple en route to their table with two large, full trays. "Later, here comes breakfast." Breakfast had indeed arrived. For Jack, she had a large oval plate of eggs, bacon, and golden-browned hash-brown potatoes along with a round plate of pancakes and a small plate of whole-wheat toast with butter and jelly on the side. Daniel was presented with a normal round plate containing two eggs, a slab of ham, and one piece of toast; plus another round plate containing a waffle one inch thick and topped with pureed strawberries and whipped cream. Their coffeepot was exchanged with a new, freshly filled one and more creamers tumbled from Maple's pockets. "Want some more milk or OJ, hon?" She winked at Jack and smiled at Daniel.

Daniel just stared at the spread of food while Jack shook his head. "Not right now. Just watch the pot okay?"

"You got it, doll. A watched pot never goes dry." The waitress laughed cheerily. "Be back in a while." Again she turned on her heel and left, headed to the door to meet and greet her next customers.

"Jack, what are we going to do with all this food?"

Jack picked up his fork with one hand and poured syrup on the pancakes with the other. "I don't know what you plan, Daniel, but I'm gonna eat mine."

*******

An hour later, the two men were back in the pickup truck and headed towards the residential area that O'Neill lived in. Daniel was leaning back against the seat and headrest feeling like a stuffed flounder, Jack was whistling to the radio. "I have never eaten that much breakfast before in my life." Daniel complained. "What was I thinking?"

"You were hungry." Jack glanced at him sideways as he navigated a particularly busy intersection.

"Well, not any more."

"Good. Now what do you want to do?"

"Do? How about as little as possible for two or three hours," came the slow reply.

"Okay, we'll hit the house. You take a nap and I'll mow the lawn while it's cool." Jack turned down the street his house was located on. "Then we'll have lunch."

"Lunch?"

"Lunch and a movie, maybe." Jack nodded to himself, then glanced at Danny. "They're showing the new James Bond movie at the mall. The new Luby's is pretty good and there's a Starbucks in the food area."

Daniel shook his head in disbelief. "Lunch."

"Bookstores, antique shops, theatres, I hear they even have something called The Museum Store that's connected to National Geographic. It'll be fun, after your nap."

Jack pulled the truck into his driveway and turned off the diesel motor. "Come on, Danny. We're home."

Daniel looked at the large ranch style house. He did feel at home here, from the first night after Abydos, when this amazing man tucked him firmly under his wing and dragged him here from a day of horror and exhaustion. Home.

Jack had grabbed Daniel's bag of clothing, and was already up the sidewalk to the front door, which he unlocked, entered and left open for his friend's convenience. Jackson slowly climbed down from the cab of the vehicle and limped up the concrete steps. His foot was beginning to bother him where he had cut it the night before during his blackout not to mention the aching injuries that he had sustained during his capture and sale. As he gained the living room area, O'Neill returned with another first aid kit in hand.

"I hate to say this, but... you need to take a shower and I need to um, wash your back so those open wounds don't get infected. Doc Fraiser gave this to me and since she's coming by tonight to check on you I guess I better have at least opened it." Jackson nodded mutely. Jack grimaced. "I'd almost rather you get in the tub. That way we can soak some of the extra crud off." The younger man looked up at his concerned face and shrugged. "Daniel, are you all right?"

"Yea, I'm just a little tired, sore and full of food." He managed a small grin. "Really, I'm fine. Just too much going on."

"Right. Okay. I'll go run the hot water and throw some Epsom salts in it." Jack started off to get things ready. "You stay here and find out if the TV works. I'll come get you." He checked back over his shoulder to make sure his friend was obeying his orders and headed into the large central bathroom. One of the first things he had done when buying this house had been to replace the `regular' bath with a large whirlpool tub. At six foot two inches, he'd always hated the cramped space of the others. He'd started the tradition when he had been married. Sara was five foot eight and didn't like them either. Later, after Charlie came, it had always been just easier to have a large roomy area to just lay back in hot water and relax or play with the baby. Of course, you could still actually take a bath too.

He turned the hot water on and found the medicinal salts, which he dumped in a good measure of. This was going to be tricky. Jack knew that his relationship with Daniel was going to go either way at this point but he didn't want to be the one in charge or making the decisions. It would be hard enough to figure it out without these distractions getting in their way. His friend was a fighter and wouldn't appreciate any undue advances, but he didn't want Daniel to feel guilty or fearful of his own feelings, either. He sighed, the bath was ready and...It was after all just a bath.

Jack re-entered the living room and found his friend not watching a talk show about something that had happened in New York City. He came in and stood waiting. Daniel looked up at him.

"Ready?"

"Oh, yea." Daniel replied, hitching himself up off the couch. "About to doze off again."

"Well, you'll feel better after a bath. Come on."

"Jack, I can take a bath by myself. Honest," he protested.

"Well, yes and no. You can but you can't reach everyplace that needs to be tended to. You get in the tub and soak for a while; I'll go change and get ready to do the grass. Before I go out, I'll help you, leave you alone, then go and finish the yard work. See. The best of both worlds."

Daniel looked at him dubiously. "Okay. If you say so."

Jack escorted his friend to the tub, studiously didn't watch as the younger man stripped and then offered him a steadying arm when Daniel stepped into the hot water. Daniel smiled up at him.

"I've got it, Jack. Really."

"Okay, don't drown. I'll be back in fifteen or so." He nodded and left the other man his privacy. Yes, Daniel definitely had it...no doubt in his mind. He shook his head and went into his room and changed into his cutoff shorts. Then the phone rang.

"O'Neill."

"Good morning, Jack. How's it going?" He could feel George Hammond's warmth over the phone.

"Pretty good, sir. I'm just about to mow the grass while Daniel's in the tub." Jack turned back to glance down the hallway.

"Everything okay with him?"

"Oh, you know, the expected. Sore, sluggish, a few nightmares. He'll be okay in a while." He could see the General nodding in his mind's eye. No surprises on George's part.

"Major Carter said she'd tried to call you last night..."

"Yea, we went over to Daniel's apartment to check on the fish and wound up staying over there. But we'll be here tonight if anyone wants to drop by."

"I'll let everyone know that needs to, Jack. Say hi to him for me, and if you need something, just holler."

"Okay, I will sir. Thanks."

After Jack hung up the phone, he turned and went back into the bathroom. "Hey, you still alive?"

"Yeashuryabettcha," came the sleepy reply.

"Good, time for the hard part." Jack picked up a clean white washcloth and sat down on the outside edge of the tub. He had found some antibacterial soap in the first aid kit and waved both articles at his intended victim. Daniel made a face at him and turned slightly so his back was in reach. Working up a lather on the cloth, Jack started a slow massage around Daniel's shoulders and arms slowing crossing over the remaining scabs and stitches. When he would reach a spot of unmarked skin, he added a little pressure to get any remaining grime off. Daniel obediently leaned forward as Jack continued down to his upper hips and finally had to support himself on his legs to allow the gentle ministrations to include his buttocks. Jack was very aware of the tenseness that began to build as he worked the lathered cloth lower and lower. Finally, he'd covered the necessary areas and he signaled the younger man to come back to his original position. "Sorry, did I hurt you?" He could still feel the steel-spring tension in Daniel's body.

"No, no not hurt." Came the hushed reply.

"Daniel. Look I'm sorry, maybe I was wrong to do this but I don't know any other way." He put the cloth down in the water and rinsed the majority of the soap off then used it to dribble clearer water down the scarred and still marked back.

The light haired head nodded. "I know, Jack. It's okay." A little light humor sounded. "Better you than one of Janet's nurses. "

"Thanks, I think." Jack sat up straight. "Do you want to soak some more or get out and take a nap?"

"If I stay in here much longer, I'll probably will fall asleep and drown," came the soft reply.

"No, disapproved. Just a minute." Jack made a command decision and stood up, stripping off his shorts, stepping into the large tub and pulling the shower curtain closed around them. Daniel looked up from the bottom of the tub. "What are you doing?" he asked curiously, in a calm voice.

`Thank god, no panic.' Jack thought as he reached for the removable showerhead. He palmed the head and flexed the cord, turned it on to a medium warm spray and reached down for Daniel's hand. "Before you go to bed we need to rinse you off." He assured Daniel. "Anything else is gravy."

Daniel regained his feet and turned to face Jack, his blue eyes appearing even larger this close up. Jack turned the spray on his friend and started rubbing the sticky salt residue from the firm young chest. The other man flexed his neck and leaned into the massage, tilting his jaw and mouth upward towards his friend, closing his eyes. O'Neill couldn't resist any more temptation. He gently, chastely kissed the offered mouth. Then he felt a touch of tongue on his lips and he opened himself to the sensation, sliding his free arm around the soft, pliant torso. They stood there for a while, just accepting the touches, the strokes, the gentling feeling of enjoying the tactile sensations. "Daniel."

"Yes." The reply was breathy and soft.

"Daniel, I'll go as far as you want...but you've got the control here. Stop when you want to."

"Don't want to stop..."

With this encouragement, Jack reached behind himself and turned off the sprayer. Then dropping it, he encircled his partner gently with both arms. Fighting against all his own desires, he continued to stroke and pet Daniel's willing body, forming their two shapes into one of soft comforting emotion. He wanted so much more but...for all that the young man filled his arms and heart, Daniel had no physical response of his own. The rest would have to wait.

He, however, was one heartbeat away from pain. Jack took a deep breath and exhaled it into Daniel's damp hair. Holding the man he loved close, he closed his eyes and forced himself to stop what he was doing, what he was thinking, what he was wanting.

Daniel shifted in his arms. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, love. Just taking it slow." He managed to sound...normal, he hoped.

"Jack, just because....I mean...you don't have to..."

"No. You're right. I don't have to." He forced a silly grin on his face. "I don't want me to have what we can't afford right now." He allowed himself one more small kiss. "I have too much capital invested to withdraw without any benefits. It's not worth the penalties involved."

Daniel stood quietly as Jack turned the hand shower back on and finished rinsing him off. Then he allowed his lover, there was no other word for it, to lead him into the master bedroom and put him in the large king-sized bed, insisting that he be on his stomach. There, Jack retrieved some lotion that smelled of almonds and started a slow gentle massage along the stiff neck, upper shoulders and spinal column. He worked delicately around the many still apparent multiple lacerations and finally finished at the top of the pelvic girdle. Daniel lay quietly as he finished, but Jack thought he saw tears. "Hey, what's this? Was it that bad?"

"No, yes, no, I don't know."

"Fair enough." Jack agreed with him. Daniel rolled over to lie on his back looking up at Jack; Jack adjusted his arm support to accommodate the younger man`s movement.

"Jack... I want..."

"I know, I want it too. It'll come, don't worry." He leaned down and kissed Daniel softly on his eyelids, his nose and then his slightly open mouth. "We've got lots of time." Daniel returned the kiss with effort. Jack pulled apart from him. "I love you, Daniel Jackson. I don't give up so easily; we'll work it out."

"But..."

"And a lovely one it is too." O'Neill pulled back away and stretched out on the bed next to Daniel.

"Lay with me here, Danny. Just lie back and go to sleep."

"What about the yard?"

"Fuck the yard."

Chap 4

Daniel lay his head onto Jack bare chest and sighed. Jack curled his fingers into the younger man's longish hair, still damp from the bath, gently massaging the scalp. They both relaxed back into the warmth of their shared embraces and within a few minutes; Danny had begun the deep, even breathing of sleep. Jack had to smile as he looked up at the ceiling fan making its lazy motions in the soft cool air of the late Colorado morning.

It was real, he hoped. Not that any of his prayers had been answered properly before, but this time, please any god that was listening, let this be real. At first, he had just suspected that Daniel was having some holdover reactions to the alien drugs that had been introduced into his system while on the slave ship. He knew what that could do to a man, how the right chemicals, mental manipulations and torture could convince you to do things that you thought you wanted. He also knew that once you'd been violated that you'd do anything to make the guilt and grief go away, to look in improbable places for impossible things. He'd done that himself not so long ago. But he refused to let Daniel go down that road. The man deserved better than that. He deserved everything he could get that was right and good. Jack knew that he was a long way from either of those options. But the signs were all there for him to see. Daniel loved him, or at least thought he loved him. He'd just have to be very careful and not let the occasionally rash young man do anything that he would regret later. They had to be sure. Finally Jack drifted off into a soft warm sleep.

*****

Daniel awoke with the smell of Jack O'Neill in his nostrils. The slightly salty musk of a mature man who had reached the prime of his years, exciting and ever so desirable, It was erotic to the utmost. The skin under his cheek was firmly textured like well-tanned doeskin, the body hairs running in a pattern down to the groin, curly and soft. But the skin itself was decorated with different grains running across its surface mapping old injuries, wounds and scars. There high on the shoulder was a circular pattern, a gunshot he guessed. Across the ribs, a ridge from the slash of a knife, then just there on the side above the hip a starburst burn pattern from a staff-weapon. Daniel remembered that wound well, how Teal'c had carried Jack like a child through the wormhole and into the welcoming arms of the SGC clinic. So much pain, so much sorrow to be borne by such a man. But they had made Jack O'Neill who he was...the man he loved.

He looked up and studied the strong face; the bristle of a newly grown shadow dominated at first. But upon deeper study he could see the beginnings of deep brackets that would frame the even lips and teeth. The high cheekbones that supported the mouth that could tease, infuriate or tempt; the nose, clean-arched in spite of the breaks that it had to have suffered in his career as a warrior. The dark brown eyes were closed in rest now, an umber color they could flash fire in his anger and call steel to his will. They certainly could control his responses to this man. When Daniel had lain in the corridor of Klorel's ship dying from a staff wound, the tears he saw there were precious diamonds...then later in the gate room, the joy reflected was the richness of gold. But the brow was his crowning glory, the clean strong sweep of the forehead, bearing the wisdom of hard learning and the markings of greatness in the pictographs etched on the surface. A scared eyebrow, again its attainment remembered by him. A fine line tracement from a blow, even a slight surface dent indicating a fracture from some long healed trauma. Jack O'Neill was every bit a man of war and action and its glory had marked him indelibly.

There, right beneath his hand, he felt Jack twitch. The great consciousness was returning; it was time to push the envelope again...for them. Daniel tilted his head studying his target as his small arms master had taught him. Then he eased forward just a breath, sucked his lower lip in, opened his mouth and made contact with the rosy brown nipple lying just in front of him. First, a tentative touch with tongue then an application of pressure. Jack groaned in his sleep, muscles tightening. Daniel proceeded cautiously, sliding smoothly closer to apply lips and suction. Tongue again, to swirl through the nubbled surface and prickly hairs that surrounded it. Again the body beneath him reacted, shifting subtly to receive the pressure. Sure of the other's reactions, Daniel took the field by action. He raised himself forward and made full contact with the desired target, suckling licking and stroking with tongue and lips. Jack groaned in response and flexed shoulders, chest and abdomen arcing in response to the sensory input.

"Daniel! God, oh Daniel."

He smiled to himself. "Yeesss." He vibrated the sibilants into the sensitive tissues.

"Danny...stop...you don't...."

"Yeesss....yes I do. Lie still." He breathed onto his captured prey. Coming up on his elbows, Daniel moved across the broad ribs and muscles, leaving a cold trail of wetness with his tongue. At the same time, his good right hand followed the trail of fine hairs from below the navel, down to the cock and balls that were awakening to the sensations that were being sent to them by nerve impulse. They strained to meet his touch, their heat and want demanding his attention.

Then Daniel's teeth met with the next acquired target. The here-to-fore neglected pap was firm and expectant of his attentions. The ridges and whorls rasped against his needy tongue. Jack bucked against his hand as he gently squeezed the pliant member he had hold of. Then, finally Daniel went in for the frontal assault, leaving the left hand to guard already conquered territories; his mouth traveled the flat plane of the O'Neill belly to attack the bastion of urgent need. Quickly and without ado, he swallowed Jack to the hilt and sucked his soul out of his cock.

The older man surged into his mouth, screaming his lust, his life and his loss of self to the calmly rotating ceiling fan that watched nonjudgmentally from its position above the field of conquest.

*****

After a few minutes, Jack's breathing evened out and his brain cells began to coalesce again. He took a breath and looked over at Daniel who was lying next to him watching him with huge, dilated eyes. "Daniel..." He managed to gasp.

"Are you all right?" Daniel immediately moved next to Jack. "I'm sor..."

"NO, don't say...please god, don't say you're sorry..."

The eyes closed, turned away.

"NO, Danny. Please...ah fuck..." Jack struggled to get his body to work again. He felt like half his brain cells had exploded. "Daniel..."

Then they were back, the blue eyes, the fearful, sad, magic, beloved, and scared to death...

"Daniel, come here. Please god, please.... Come here." Jack tried to take his hand. Daniel avoided him. "Why? Why did you do it?"

"Because...because, you needed it and I...I wanted it and it seemed so right at the time, but I guess I made a mistake..."

"A mistake?" Jack couldn't believe it. He fucking couldn't believe it. How could THAT be a mistake?

"I thought...well, after this morning...I" Daniel's soft voice shook.

"Daniel Jackson, do you know what you did?" Jack demanded happily.

"I thought I did, but now..." His Danny looked scared, like he wanted to run away and hide, or die.

Mystified, Jack scooted towards his lover, trying to reach him before he could slip away from him. "You just gave me the most mind exploding blowjob I've had since...well, ever. Where the hell do you think you're going?" O'Neill made a playful grab for the distressed looking younger man. "Come back here, I'm going to eat you for dinner with a spoon..."

The blue eyes got large and instinctively he jerked back from Jack's teasing grasp, and then Daniel fell off the bed.

"Daniel!" Jack yelled, startled as the younger man disappeared from view. "Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick...Danny." He lunged for the edge of the bed, and finally laid hands on the younger man as he sat trying to take a breath. Jack allowed himself to slide off the high mattress and land next to the most valuable single person in his world. "Are you all right? Danny?" He wrapped his arms around his lover and held him tightly for a moment, then started to check him for injuries, shaking his head worriedly and muttering. "What the fuck is wrong with us?" The still form lay there in his embrace, barely breathing. Jack pushed the hair from Daniel's eyes and kissed him softly. "Danny...Danny...O'Neill to Jackson...come in, over."

Finally, tentative fingers reached up for Jack's face, stroked his lips and O'Neill sucked them into his mouth, chewing on them gently. The blue eyes opened and looked up at him in wonder. "Jack?"

"Uh-huh." He couldn't talk around the fingers.

"Jack?"

He bit down a little harder instead of releasing the knuckles. "What?" He mumbled into Daniel's palm. " 'M busy." The blue eyes started to smile. Jack's tongue encroached farther up the digits to lick the palm area. Luckily he had gotten the uninjured hand.

"You liked it?" Daniel guessed timidly.

Jack nodded with enthusiasm and released the fingers but bit the wrist, leaving teeth marks, which he licked and sucked with gusto. "I liked it a lot!" He then redistributed his weight back off of the beloved body and took a large leap to Daniel's still slightly ribby chest. Once there his active mouth grabbed a mouthful of loose belly skin that he promptly bit down on.

"Jack. Ouch! That hurts!" So Jack did it again, up higher, leaving a red mark in his wake that would stay there for at least some few days. He'd have to be careful, O'Neill thought vaguely. No more hickeys. Finally, using his scientifically enhanced knowledge of body controlled contact, Jack rolled on top of Daniel flattening the man he loved underneath him, gently and carefully pinning his victim in the most non-threatening way he could. Then he kissed him deep, hard and long on the mouth going for the Deep Tongue Diving Championship of the known universe. After some one hundred fifty seconds of non-breathing ability, he stopped and looked down at the pink faced, chest heaving man and said. "You do know you have done it now?" Jack warned him with a grin.

"What?" Gasped Daniel, trying not to pass out from shock, happiness and oxygen deprivation.

"You'll never leave this house again. I'm mailing in your resignation and my retirement today! We'll live here forever on order-in food, red wine and beer. I'm burning your clothes and having an electric fence put in before the pool and the privacy walls and roof in the back yard. You'll never leave here again."

"What?" Daniel seemed dazed.

"You will stay here with me forever and we'll fuck each other to death in oh, thirty or fifty years."

"But Jack..."

"No! No but Jack's, no more but Jack's. Only please Jacks, and please Dannys and ohmyghodIloveyoumorethantheknownorunknownuniverseandIdon'twanttoknoworcareaboutanythigelse." Jack looked down at him. "Do you understand that?"

"No."

"Okay...No but Jack's, no more but Jack's. Only please Jacks, and please Dannys and..."

"Jack."

"Yea Danny."

"I love you, too."

"It's a damn good thing." Jack looked at him and growled threateningly at him. "There's only one problem."

"Problem?" Daniel squeaked as Jack squeezed him around the waist.

"The floor is too damn fucking hard." He leaned into the neck and stuck his tongue in the wonderful, shell-like orifice of Daniel`s ear, then asked. "Why are we on the floor?"

*****

Two hours later, the phone rang insistently in the kitchen. Jack opened one eye and glared balefully at the door into the hallway that led into the kitchen. Finally, he rolled out of Daniel's sleeping embrace, off of the bed, into the hall and schlepped into the kitchen to pick up the phone on the seventh or eighth ring. "O'Neill."

"Colonel? Is everything all right?" It was Carter and she sounded concerned. He wanted to say the world was fine and he was in love and don`t ask or tell or believe what was going to be going on right in front of her...but he didn't.

"Yea, just sleepin'. What's up?"

Her voice took on an apologetic tone. "Oh, I'm sorry to wake you. The General said that you'd be home tonight and..."

"Yea, we're home." He remembered his earlier conversation with Hammond. "Uh, we stayed at Daniel's last night and things got a little odd. So, we, uh, took a nap."

"Is everything okay?"

"Pretty much." He thought a minute. "Is Doc still planning to come over and check on Daniel?"

"Well, that's why I was calling. Janet had mentioned that she wanted to but we weren't sure if you had anything else going."

"No, in fact, that's a good idea." Jack scratched his five o'clock shadow and then ran his fingers through his hair, thinking quickly. "Daniel had a nightmare last night and had a little accident. He wouldn't come in this morning, but I'd like her to look at him."

"Just a minute." He heard Carter turn and say something to someone off the phone. Another woman's voice replied, then Janet Fraiser spoke on the receiver to him.

"Colonel O'Neill?"

"Yea, Doc."

"What happened?"

"Well, we had a PTS thing last night. He went for a walk in the dark and broke a glass and cut himself. It's not too bad, but it needs to be looked at. I patched it up, but..."

"No problem, Colonel. I wanted to check on him anyway. Did he fall?"

"I'm not sure and he doesn't remember. He was down when I found him though." Jack felt like an informer, but Fraiser had to know...unless he did mail in their paperwork.

"Hit his head?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I'll bring my bag and do an exam. Hold on." He heard her exchange words with Carter in the background, and then his 2IC came back on the phone.

"Sir."

"Yea, Carter."

"We'll be by around six. Cassie wants to see Daniel. Shall we bring some food?"

"Yea, that'd be great. Tell Doc to get some wine again with the food, like we'd talked about. Tell her to get the good stuff and I'll pay her back. Teal'c coming too?"

"No, sir. He's gone to visit Ryak. He'll be back by the end of the week."

"Good. He needs to do that more often." Jack thought warmly of the big man and his son. "We'll be expecting you at six. Thanks Carter."

"See you shortly sir."

*****

Jack sauntered back into the bedroom and looked down at his Daniel sleeping in his bed. My, that sounded good. `His Daniel, his bed'. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Four thirty, the women would be here in an hour and a half. He could let his lover sleep for a while longer anyway.

He continued to move softly around the bedroom, picking up worn clothing and collecting some clean things to put on after his bath. Daniel didn't move.

Jack shook his head in amazement at what had happened earlier. He really hadn't expected the younger man to take the lead in that fashion. After his ordeal, O'Neill had thought that it would frighten Daniel for him to be in such a relationship so soon, or at the very least cause him some nervousness. But upon reflection, he didn't know why he had thought that. It was so very much in the character of his young friend to see something he knew he wanted or needed and then it was `damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead with the USS Jackson in forward motion. Icebergs and Bird Colonels beware!'

O'Neill went back into the main bath off the hallway. He turned the shower on and stepped in, allowing the hot water to sooth some muscle strains he seemed to have `attracted' in the last few hours. As he smoothed the soap over his lean form, he allowed his thoughts to travel to his lover. There was so much there to explore, to savor. Daniel reminded him of a mysterious, oriental puzzle-box he had found in a little shop in Tokyo one time. Every time you picked it up, you found a new drawer, or catch that opened a secret part. And every piece or part was engraved or lacquered or inlayed with mother of pearl; so lovely, so fragile but so enticing... begging you to touch it, wanting you to need it. Jack felt full...he felt full of Daniel.

******

A little while later, dressed back in his cut off shorts and a tank top, Jack went in to wake the still sleeping man. In less than an hour the female entourage from Cheyenne Mountain would be arriving. Daniel had shifted again in his position. Earlier he had moved over to Jack's side of the bed and had effectively cocooned himself in the sheets. At some point, he had apparently decided it was time to slough off the cotton casings and had divested himself from most of the bedclothes. Jack frowned...the red marks from their play earlier was easy to spot. A bite mark here, a suckle bruise there. And he knew there was no way it could be camouflaged. It would have to be explained as collateral damage from last night's Post Traumatic Stress episode. He hoped that the little white lie wouldn't do anything to alter the report or Daniel`s recovery status.

Jack sat down on the side of the bed and studied his lover's body carefully. He was still thin, though no he longer looked starved and underweight as he had when they'd gotten him back. Daniel's hair was longer than normal as they hadn't bothered to go and have it trimmed yet, so it was now nearly to his shoulders. It made him appear even younger, especially when he tried to look up through the bangs without his glasses' frames to hold the strands back. The black eye and facial bruising were pretty much gone with only a mere shadow under the left eye, though the scraped area along the high cheekbone was still rough to the touch. But when someone viewed his body's sides and back it was still horrific to look at. The fine fair skin was a mass of mottled bruising, whelps, scrapes, and stitches closing deep, half-healed lacerations. These injuries extended from Daniel`s neck to his upper thighs. They were all healing now, many only showing clean healthy healed skin underneath the uppermost scabs.

The young man had been severely beaten for an attempt escape and injuring a guard and O'Neill had a good idea what had precipitated the attempt. Daniel had said earlier that he tried to go along with his captivity with the hopes that the SGC would be trying to locate him. He had even established a communication of sorts with a minor ship's doctor, but being a valuable commodity due to his looks, someone had decided that he needed to be groomed and trained for the Exotic Great Tent sale on Sabor. Daniel hadn't gone into any great detail with him yet, but Jack was sure the training had involved some degree of sexual assault, if not out and out rape. But in true Jacksonian luck, this act of defiance had managed to get him from the frying pan into the fire. He had been beaten with a whip until unconscious, drugged into submission and finally, sold to two brothers in search of a sex slave. The fact that it had been he and Jacob Carter in disguise was enough to make an old failed catholic go and light some candles at the local parish church. Later on, they had been approached by the ship's doctor, Daniel's friend, who warned them that their slave hadn't been completely trained and needed special handling. Jack knew he probably owned Daniel's life to that young, and not yet completely jaded, ship's physician. He just wasn't sure he approved the method of payment the doctor had apparently taken in return. But with his knowledgeable use of drugs, at least Daniel hadn't been able to resist to the point of irreparable internal injury and tossed out the ship's airlock as a bad investment. They had gotten him back in mostly one piece, however far the later training had progressed.

O'Neill took a deep calming breath to settle himself and reached over to wake Danny up. He leaned over and touched the small smooth spot of skin left unblemished on the sleeping man's right shoulder. "Daniel, com..."

*****

The next thing Jack O'Neill knew, He was lying on the bedroom floor with something cold on his forehead. He lay there a moment, trying to remember what the heck had happened. Nothing came to mind. He could hear odd snuffling noises and his head really hurt in that well-thumped feeling that came after a good fistfight but he couldn't put it together in his mind where or who he`d been enjoying it with. Oh, and someone was holding his hand, very very hard.

He opened his left eye, the only one working properly it seemed, and saw Daniel. Danny's face was very white, his eyes were closed and he had Jack's hand in a grip so hard that Jack quite literally couldn't feel it anymore. It was wrapped in both of the other man's hands and clutched tightly to his chest. Danny was sitting naked and cross-legged on the floor next to Jack, rocking to and fro on his thighs.

"Hey." Jack managed to get out. He received no response from Daniel. He blinked and tried again. "Hey..."

Jack realized that Daniel had that dazed look on his face again that he had been wearing in the bathroom when he`d found him there, and he wasn't responding to O'Neill's voice.

"Danny?" Jack composed himself physically and collected his thoughts. This was not good. He rolled towards the younger man managing to get it together enough to sit up. He reached his free hand towards Daniel's closed face. "Daniel, look at me." No response. "Daniel, talk to me..." Jack touched the cold cheek and spoke loudly. "Daniel. Look at me!" He slapped the younger man lightly on the face. "Daniel!" Finally, in response to the direct command and the physical stimulation, the blue eyes opened and centered on him. Some conscious function seemed to emerge from the young man.

"Jack?" The voice was strangled but understandable.

"Hey." O'Neill scooted a little closer and pulled him into a one armed embrace. The other hand was dead asleep anyway from the viselike grip that had hold of it. "Hey, what happened?"

The voice beside his ear replied shakily. "I don't know...I think I hit you."

Jack sighed into the light brown hair that enveloped his face. "I think you did." He agreed in a light tone. "And I think you did a damned fine job of it too."

"I could have killed you, and I wouldn't have even known it." Daniel whispered.

"Nah," Jack pulled back to look in the younger man's face. "My Dad used to do that to me every year or so when I was a kid in Chicago. He was a lot better at it than you are. That's why the Irish are so hard headed, we kill all the one's with soft skulls." He reached down and tilted Daniel's face up to look at him. "See. Still here. No problem." Finally, Daniel was beginning to look fairly normal to him.

"Jack."

"Yes, love."

"Why am I doing these things?"

"Because," O'Neill shook his head, inhaling Daniel-scent. "Because some bastard has hurt you and drugged you and you can't help yourself." He pulled back and looked into the beloved eyes. "Because you haven't recovered from all the shit you`ve been through, and it'll take a little while, but it'll be worth it when you do...and you will do it, I promise."

"But, it's always you...that I hurt."

"Cause I'm the one here, Danny. That's why. It could be Teal'c or Carter or Doc...But it's me... and I, of all people, should know better than to sneak up on someone with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and touch you without warning." He leaned forward and touched his forehead to Daniel's. "It was my fault. I know better. I'm sorry."

Daniel looked at him stubbornly. "I hurt you and it's your fault?"

"Yes." O'Neill didn't argue, he just stated the fact. They continued to stay in contact sitting on the floor in Jack's bedroom. Finally, Jack slowly raised his head up so that they were within centimeters of touching noses and lips. "Daniel."

"Yes."

"Daniel, can I have my hand back? I can't feel it anymore and it's gonna hurt like hell real soon when the blood supply starts back up to all my fingers."

Part 2