"Run, Carter!" Jack waved his arm as his second in command hesitated at the crest of the hill. "Teal'c, cover her! I've got Daniel." He watched Carter as she scrambled and half slid down the loose gravel. She took off towards the Stargate at a full out run, Teal'c covering her back as he too ran.
"C'mon, Daniel!" Jack yelled. He watched as Daniel came out of the high grasses at an angle to Jack's own position. Daniel ran past him and Jack followed, turning to fire one last time at their pursuers.
"Go, Daniel, go!" Jack urged. Daniel slipped on the gravel as he increased his speed. Jack reached out an arm to steady him but Daniel had already lost his balance. Jack saw Teal'c stepping away from the Gate, coming back towards them. Their pursuers were coming over the crest of the hill.
"No, Teal'c. Get yourselves back home," Jack yelled, motioning for them to move and saw Carter's nod. Teal'c and Carter disappeared through the Gate and time slowed.
Daniel had stopped sliding and was pulling himself to his feet. Jack heard an unfamiliar buzzing and watched as Daniel toppled back to the ground, his body convulsing from the aftermath of the weapon's discharge. Jack ran, half crouching, to Daniel's side, fighting down the panic that threatened to overwhelm him.
Daniel's eyes were clenched shut, one hand curled into a tight fist, and little grunts were escaping his mouth as his body trembled. His back arched once more and then he lay still. Jack tapped at the other man's face.
"Daniel? You with me?"
"Unngh." Blue eyes opened but didn't focus. Saliva dribbled from the side of Daniel's mouth and Jack reached out to wipe it away. Daniel's eyes closed again without acknowledging Jack's presence, but at least Jack knew he was alive.
"What the hell did you do to him?" Jack knew yelling was useless, but it felt good, letting them see his anger. The aliens didn't seem to understand or chose not to. He made himself go limp as they pulled him away from Daniel. They wanted to take him prisoner; they could damn well work their asses off carrying him. Cold metal pressed against the side of Jack's throat, the last thing he felt before his world went black.
Jack paced around the small room one more time. He looked at the window placed high in the wall. Too small to fit his body through even if he could figure out a way up to it. He walked to the door of his cell, standing on his toes to see through the grate. The view was of a gray hall lit with a sickly yellow light. There didn't appear to be other cells across from his so he didn't think he was in a prison. His own room had a stone slab that Jack figured was a bed and a bowl-like contraption that Jack had discovered was this planet's version of a toilet. Pressing a series of buttons along one wall had provided Jack with water and a form of gruel that, although disgustingly brown, appeared to be warm and filling.
Jack knew Carter and Teal'c had made it home. He sank down against the door and rested his head in his hands. Of Daniel, there had been no sign. But surely if the aliens wanted kill Daniel they would have finished the job out on the hill. Jack gave a small bitter laugh. Daniel always argued with him when he called aliens alien.
"Um, Jack? Technically, we are the aliens," Daniel would say, index finger raised for a moment and then he'd give that little frown and his brows would lower.
And Jack would say, "If I want to call them aliens, I'll call them aliens."
"You do that, Jack," Daniel would say and then in a mutter to Sam and Teal'c, Jack would hear him continue, "But you're still wrong."
Wrong or not, these aliens were definitely alien, reminding Jack of lizards on steroids. A scraping sound alerted Jack to action in the hallway. He pushed himself to his feet, standing on his toes once again. Jack controlled the emotions that raced through him at the sight outside his door.
Daniel was being pulled down the hall, each arm supported by one of the steroid lizards, his feet dragging, head hanging down. As Jack watched, Daniel struggled a bit, trying to get his balance and his feet under him.
"Daniel!" Jack called, realizing an instant later that it might have been a very bad idea.
Daniel's head came up, searching for the source of his name. "Jack?"
The lizards didn't seem to care that Jack had tried communicating with their captive, just tugged at Daniel until he was out of Jack's line of sight.
Jack pounded his fist against the door uselessly. "Let him go, you damn bastards! Pick on somebody your own size." There was no reply, not that he'd expected one. A nearby door opened with a hiss and Jack was able to see one of the aliens headed towards his own door once again. He stepped away, searching for a weapon, anything he could use to overpower the lizard the moment it stepped into his cell. The lizard stopped near Jack's door reaching out a three-fingered hand to activate something on the wall outside his cell. Jack whirled at the sound. The wall to his right was rising giving him a view of the room next door.
"Daniel?" Jack whispered. "Daniel?"
Daniel lay huddled in a corner of the room. Unlike Jack's cell, this cell was a stark room: no bed, no toilet, just a simple bare room with a grid-like floor made of wire. As Jack watched, Daniel pushed himself to his knees, shaking his head, before looking around.
Jack hit the window in frustration and then noticed the switch near the floor. He flipped it and saw his lover's head come up. Daniel looked towards the window. Jack waved but Daniel merely tilted his head to one side as if trying to figure out a puzzle. "Daniel?" Jack spoke loudly. He saw a quick smile come to Daniel's face and then the frown that meant he was concentrating very hard.
"Jack? Are you okay?" Daniel's voice was hoarse and tinged with concern.
"Can you see me?" Jack spoke into the intercom once more. "Look to your left." He waved again as Daniel's eyes met his. "You okay, Daniel?" he asked concerned because other than rising to his knees, Daniel had made no effort to explore his surroundings.
"I asked you first." Daniel sank back down onto his butt and pulled his legs close to his chest.
"I'm fine. Not even a scratch." Jack studied Daniel's face, unable to see any bruising, but worried at the careful way Daniel seemed to be holding himself. "Your turn."
"Fine." The one word answer told Jack far more than Daniel could guess.
"What'd they do to you, Daniel?" Jack kept his voice low and calm. "You remember what happened?"
Daniel rubbed at his forehead. "The hill, I remember running and..oh God, Jack, what about?" Daniel stopped. "Um, Jack, you know." Daniel gestured to the ceiling. "Bugs?"
"I'm sure, Daniel. The packages were sent home." Jack smiled grimly. "Return receipt requested."
"Guess we're gonna be waiting awhile," Daniel nodded, "air mail being what it is."
Jack relaxed a fraction, relieved to see Daniel's sense of humor asserting itself. "So, Daniel...got any ideas?"
"They hit me with something didn't they?" Daniel rubbed at his temples.
"Some kind of taser thingamajig," Jack filled him in. "I don't know how we got here. They hit me with something too."
Getting to his knees, Daniel pushed at the wire grid of the floor once more, then slammed his hand into it in disgust. "Another fine mess."
"Hey, Daniel," Jack tried to get the other man's mind off the negative and thinking, "you get any intel?"
Daniel leaned back against the wall. "We seem to be the only visitors to the facility. At least I didn't see anyone other than our gracious hosts."
"What..." Jack cut off his question at the grimace of pain that crossed his linguist's face. Daniel scrambled to the middle of the room on hands and knees.
"Daniel? Daniel! What's going on?"
"Guess our friends don't want me leaning against the wall." Daniel's voice came in quick pants. "Must be hooked up to some sort of current or something. It hurts."
"Can you get up, Daniel?" Jack continued to watch as Daniel rested on hands and knees breathing hard.
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Daniel called. "Just startled me a little."
Daniel slowly pushed himself to his feet and began a slightly drunken weave as he walked in a slow circle. Jack watched him, Daniel trying to learn something of value from his stark surroundings. He slowly turned back towards Jack and held up his index finger while ducking his head.
"I've been thinking, Jack. They're making no effort to communicate with us; they seem to be, well, detached." Daniel looked towards the wall. "Jack, you see anything that looks like cameras?"
Jack glanced around his own cell, finally spying a small object that appeared to have a lens near the corner. "Looks like I have one."
"I count five in here." Daniel was tapping a finger against his lips, a sign that he was in intellectual mode. Jack couldn't resist a smile at the typical Daniel gesture. "I think...no, well, that...well, unless..."
"You going to let me in this, Daniel?"
"You ever take psych courses in college, Jack?"
"One or two. Just the basics."
"Okay, well, good. Um, I think we're an experiment."
"An experiment?" Jack was sure Daniel picked up the disbelief.
"An experiment. Lab rats for lack of a better term. I, um, I think you may be the control subject and I'm the experimental, uh, rat."
"Yeah, peachy." Daniel's sigh was loud enough to be picked up on the intercom.
Jack scrubbed a hand over his head. He didn't remember details of a lot of the psychological experiments he'd studied, but he did remember the fate of the lab rats when the experiments were over.
They were in deep shit.
Jack pressed one hand against the window into Daniel's cell while pushing the toggle to open the intercom.
"Daniel," Jack traced his hand over the window as if he could somehow give comfort to his friend, his lover.
"Jack," Daniel's voice cracked. Jack wondered if it was emotion, residual pain, fatigue, or a mixture of all three. "You have a good rest?"
Jack watched as Daniel shivered in his wet clothes. "Yeah, Danny. I'm sorry."
"No, no." Daniel's voice though hoarse held anger. "Don't you dare be sorry. You needed rest."
Jack sighed. Daniel had been right. The scientists were evidently using him as their control subject. Daniel hadn't been allowed to sleep, some type of shock being administered through the floor whenever he nodded off. Daniel had been sprayed with water, the temperature of the room he was in had been raised and then lowered. The lighting was brighter now then when Jack, after Daniel's stubborn arguments, had finally lain down to rest for a few hours.
"How long, Jack?" Daniel's sentences were becoming shorter; a sign that Jack feared meant Daniel was giving up hope of being rescued.
"I don't know, Daniel. You know they're on their way. Probably with Ferretti."
"No, Jack." Daniel pulled at his clothes. "No. No one else."
"Lou would understand, Daniel." Jack closed his eyes and fought to keep his emotions from taking over his need to be in control. Unlike Jack, Daniel didn't have any toilet facilities.
"No, promise me, Jack," Daniel insisted stubbornly.
"Okay, okay, Danny. Me, I'll come for you." Jack smiled as Daniel looked at him from his place in the center of the room. Daniel's one attempt to get closer to Jack had been disastrous, receiving a jolt of pain so severe Jack had been wincing in sympathy.
"Hey Jack?" Daniel said wearily. "I've been thinking."
"I've been thinking that maybe we could go fishing. You know, if we..."
"Not if, Daniel, not if. When." Jack curled his hand into a fist and hit the window. "You'll love the cabin, you know."
"Yeah? Teal'c told me there were lots of mosquitoes." Daniel grinned half-heartedly.
"Plenty of food for the bats." Jack laughed.
"Wouldn't want the bats to go hungry." Daniel gave a broken laugh. "Jack?"
"Tell me about it. You know, the cabin."
Jack watched as Daniel pulled his legs tighter to his chest resting his chin on his knees, staring towards the window at his best friend and lover.
"It's not very big. Just a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms. Not fancy or anything."
"Sounds nice." Daniel lifted his head and smiled. "You have a fireplace?"
"Yeahsureyoubetcha. What would a cabin be without a fireplace? We'll even make s'mores."
"Not with those chocolate graham crackers, Jack. Only the real kind with the chocolate bars," Daniel warned with a mock frown. Jack wasn't fooled. Daniel was hanging on to hope by the tips of his fingernails and they were starting to break.
"Nothing but the best for you, Danny." Jack fingered his jacket as he watched Daniel shiver. He hoped that Carter and Teal'c and whoever else came along for the rescue left one, just one, of those lizard bastards to him so he could rip it apart for taking Daniel's jacket.
"What else are we going to do?" Daniel's voice was wistful.
"We're going to get up really early one day and go down to the lake and watch the sunrise."
"You gonna give me coffee?" Daniel rubbed at his eyes, blinking hard.
"As if I'd get you out there any other way. Do you think I'd take my life in my hands otherwise?" Jack closed his eyes, picturing the lake just before dawn on a summer's day. "There's always a mist hanging over the lake in the morning and if we're lucky we'll hear the loons calling. Maybe we'll see some deer coming to drink and then we'll just sit until the sun rises. We'll have a thermos of coffee and some of the blankets from the cabin."
"Sounds n..." Daniel's head dropped back to his knees and he tilted sideways. Jack winced in sympathy, as Daniel started awake at the pain that always accompanied his nodding off.
Daniel rose unsteadily to his feet, his left hand in a fist, the only outward sign of his distress. "I'd better try to walk." Daniel shook his head to clear it, looking over at Jack and smiling apologetically. "I'm sorry you have to be going through this with me, Jack."
"You're sorry?" Jack held both hands flat on the wall. "I'm the one with the bed, the food, the water, and you're sorry."
Daniel began a slow pacing. "Although maybe I was wrong. Maybe you're not the control and I'm not the experiment. Maybe they're somehow testing the both of us. Does that make any sense? I'm not sure if I'm making sense any more."
"You mean, like maybe they're seeing how two aliens react to being separated?" Jack nodded. "Could be. Sure as hell would be easier if we knew what the test was about."
Daniel stopped his pacing to look directly at Jack. "I'm sure the lab rats think that too."
Jack smiled. "I'll just bet they do, Danny."
"You think the others are on their way?" Daniel began rubbing his forehead. "Headache, sorry. It's a little hard to concentrate."
"They're coming. I know it. You just have to hang in there a little longer."
"I'm so tired, Jack." Daniel sank to the floor once more. "I'm cold, I'm hungry. God, I'm whining."
"No, you're not, Daniel. You're making the best of a bad situation."
"I wish I could be over there." Daniel eyed the invisible line he'd tried to cross before. "Be closer to you. I need you."
Jack saw the stubborn set of his lover's jaw, a familiar sight, and realized what Daniel was going to do. "No!" he shouted as Daniel determinedly began walking towards the window. Jack stood, shaking his head as Daniel fell against the window that separated them, panting, his face contorted with pain.
"No, Danny." Jack fell to his knees, unconsciously mirroring Daniel's position. He held his hands against the glass, his fingers uselessly clenching and unclenching on the smooth surface, as if somehow he could reach out and touch his lover. "No, Danny."
Daniel looked up at him and smiled despite the pain that Jack knew was coursing through his body. "I need to be here, Jack." He pulled his arms tight around his middle. "With you. I don't want to die alone."
"Daniel," Jack whispered. "what.." he stopped. Any words he had were useless. Jack was helpless to stop Daniel's pain.
Daniel curled up on the floor, his body shaking, unwanted, unbidden tears filling his eyes. "Sorry, Jack. I'm so sorry."
"Danny." Jack slumped down, one hand splayed on the glass near Daniel's face. He traced the outline of that beloved face slowly.
"I like that," Daniel said, his voice soft.
"Like what?" Jack took in a deep breath. God, if he could have taken Daniel's pain he would have without hesitation.
"Danny," Daniel smiled. "I like that."
Jack forced himself to smile in return as Daniel's eyes met his. Daniel had once told him that Danny was the name that reminded him he was loved when he was a child, the nickname he'd only allowed his parents to call him. Once they had died, Jack was the only person he allowed to use that name again.
"Oh God, Jack, it hurts," Daniel gasped out and his eyes closed as he shuddered.
"Move back, Daniel," Jack begged. "Please move back to the middle."
Daniel shook his head and looked at him sadly. "I can't, Jack. Too hard to move."
"I'm sorry, Daniel. I'm sorry. God! Please hang on!" Jack pleaded. He got up from the floor and went to the door, pounding against it with all his pent up rage and frustration, heedless of the blood on his knuckles.
"Let him out, you bastards! He doesn't deserve this!"
"Jack," Daniel's voice cut through his anger, "I need you here."
Jack punched the door one more time, his rage spent. Swallowing back tears, he rushed back to the window, so helpless and so useless to the man he loved. "God, Daniel. Stay," Jack choked out.
Daniel bit his lip, lifted a hand to meet Jack's on the window. "Fishing sounds good right about now."
"Fishing, s'mores, what more could you ask for?" Jack joked, despite the lump forming in his throat. He was going to lose Daniel. They'd had so little time together. Who was he kidding? A lifetime with Daniel wouldn't be enough.
Daniel smiled even though his eyes were closed. "Remember," he whispered, "remember."
"I will, Danny."
Jack froze as there was the sudden sound of weapons and yelling. Human yelling. "Daniel!" Jack yelled, hitting the glass with the palm of his hand when there was no response from the man on the other side. "Daniel, they're here. You hear me? They're here for us." He hit the glass again and again as if by sheer force he could shatter it. "You hear me?" Jack looked up as the wall that had separated them at first began to lower once more. "I'm coming for you, Danny. I'm coming. Soon as Doc Fraiser lets you out of the infirmary we're going fishing. You got that?"
The wall shuddered into place and Jack ran to the door. "Carter, Teal'c. I'm in here." He rose on tiptoe to see out the grate, a feeling of pride swelling in him as Carter came down the hall, followed by Teal'c, Feretti and the rest of SG-2.
"Carter, get me the hell out of here." He saw her move to the wall.
"I'm working on it, sir," she said, her hands out of his sight.
"O'Neill, are you injured?" Teal'c asked.
"No, no. I'm fine. But Daniel's next door. Feretti, get his door open. He needs help."
"Almost have it, sir," Carter muttered and then, "Got it."
Jack was out the door and running down the corridor to Feretti's side.
"Got it, Colonel." Feretti grinned grimly as the door to Daniel's cell opened.
The lights that had kept Daniel's cell in perpetual daylight were off. Jack didn't hesitate taking that first step onto the wire grid. He'd walk to hell and back to get Daniel.
"Sir?" Carter was by his side. "If Daniel's injured we shouldn't move him until we assess..."
"No, Carter." Jack motioned her back to the hallway. "I promised him."
"O'Neill." Teal'c handed him a backpack. "There may be supplies you can use for DanielJackson." When Jack hesitated, Teal'c continued. "There is no need for haste O'Neill. There is no longer a threat to the safety of the team."
Jack took it, seeing the understanding in Teal'c's eyes. "Thanks, Teal'c. And could you and Carter see that the others are occupied for the next couple of minutes?"
"I will, O'Neill."
The power to the room had been cut, there was no shock, no pain, as Jack ran across the grid to Daniel's side.
"Danny?" he whispered, pulling Daniel up from his huddled heap on the floor.
"Hey," Daniel opened his eyes, blinking slowly. "You came."
"I came," Jack nodded. He threw the pack to the floor and began pulling out a jacket and blankets.
"Not yet," Daniel shook his head. "Not yet." He leaned into Jack's embrace, breathing hard. "Not yet."
Jack pressed his face into Daniel's neck taking in deep breaths. "Not yet, Daniel. We have all the time we need."
Daniel's hand twisted in Jack's as they exited the building where they'd spent the last three days. Jack smiled down at Daniel who was not too happy about everyone's insistence that he be carried on a stretcher. He'd resisted until Jack had very quietly said, "For me, Daniel," and then he had acquiesced with a sigh.
"I'm sorry it took us so long, sir," Carter was saying. "When you didn't follow us we sent a UAV through the Gate, but we weren't able to pick up information at first. It appears that the beings holding you aren't indigenous to this planet. I believe that they may have been some sort of research team possibly..."
"Carter," Jack stopped her with a gentle touch on her shoulder, "it's okay. You did good. Now, Major, I think Daniel and I would really like to get home. You want to lead the way?"
Carter smiled up at him and then gave a fond look down to the stretcher where Daniel smiled at her sleepily. "Yes, sir."
Jack watched as Carter moved away to speak softly to Teal'c and Feretti. She brought her left hand up to her face as she stepped away and turned from them for a moment before motioning for the teams to follow.
"Jack?" Daniel whispered as Greene and Tunis began moving with a slow steady pace.
"Yes, Daniel?" Jack looked down at him, not liking the way Daniel's eyes were shadowed, the paleness of his skin, the pinched look at his mouth that meant Daniel still had pain.
"I think I'm going to sleep now." Daniel closed his eyes and smiled as the sun touched his face.
"You do that, Daniel. You do that," Jack murmured and rubbed at his eyes as they teared. Damn sun and damn those lizards who had even taken his sunglasses.
Jack gently pulled back the covers from Daniel's head, nuzzling the warm skin of Daniel's neck. His lover murmured something in his sleep and turned over to face Jack.
"Danny," Jack whispered, although he didn't know why. It wasn't as if there was anyone else within twenty miles or so. "Time to get up."
Jack watched as Daniel blinked as his eyes adjusted to the dim lantern light. "Dress warm, okay?"
Daniel nodded and let out a hiss as he pushed back the blankets. "It's cold!"
Jack gave him a quick kiss and motioned to the door. "I'll be in the kitchen. I've got some coffee on."
He heard the water running in the small bathroom a few minutes later, along with Daniel's quick gasps at the cold water and then a grumble about people who didn't believe in electricity and hot water in their cabins. Tonight, Jack decided, he'd heat some water in the fireplace so he and Daniel could have warm water for a bath. That'd be nice, he thought, imagining a naked Daniel lit only by firelight.
Daniel came up behind him, giving a little nip to Jack's earlobe. Jack turned to look into laughing blue eyes that held no trace of weariness or pain. "Ready, Daniel?"
Nodding, Daniel zipped up his jacket as Jack led the way to the dock. Jack put down the old quilt he was carrying and motioned for Daniel to sit. Jack settled next to him, glad for once that the knees weren't hurting. He pulled out the Thermos and poured Daniel a cup of coffee. Daniel accepted it and gave that little sigh of pleasure he always used after his first sip. Jack held his own cup up in a mock toast and grinned back as Daniel gently touched his cup to Jack's.
"Thanks," Daniel whispered. "When we were...I remember this, Jack. I remember you telling me about this. Giving me this place to hang on to."
Jack smiled and put a warm hand on his lover's cheek, tracing a cheekbone with one finger. He thought back to the time in the cells when Daniel was so close that he could see every nuance of the pain crossing his friend's face and yet not touch that beloved face to ease it.
Daniel slept for twenty four hours upon their return and then was up and giving a report to General Hammond surmising along with Carter that the lizards were aliens on that world as well, doing experiments on the native fauna, perhaps like them searching for some type of weapon to use against an enemy. Jack didn't care as long as his team and Daniel were safe, as long as there was no chance in hell they ever went back to that planet.
Daniel leaned his cheek into Jack's touch a moment longer and then pulled away with a knowing smile.
They turned back to watch the sunrise over the lake, their breath coming out in little trails of white mist, the steam from the coffee blending with the mist from the lake, until Jack thought they were drinking in peace and serenity with each sip.
A loon called for its mate from a lake some distance from their own, the sound a reminder that there still was wilderness, there still were places that offered respite from all the pain and sorrow they encountered. The clouds above were changing from the blue of night to the first rosy hues of dawn.
Daniel placed a hand on Jack's thigh and then pointed to the far shore where a young doe lapped at the water before her ears pricked and she bounded back into the forest. Jack watched Daniel, saw him visibly relax in the pale light.
Dawn came slowly as it always seemed to at the lake. Jack lost track of time, aware only of Daniel's solid presence, Daniel's warmth, the soft sound of Daniel's breathing. A fish jumping in the water interrupted the stillness.
"Want that one for dinner?" Jack couldn't resist whispering and Daniel laughed aloud, bringing them both into the morning.
"I was hoping for breakfast first, Jack." Daniel leaned into Jack, his mouth against the vee of skin where Jack's jacket was open.
"Breakfast. I can do breakfast. What's your pleasure, Daniel?" Jack murmured into Daniel's cheek, giving a quick lick that made Daniel squirm.
"S'mores." Daniel pushed back from him and rose to his feet, holding out a hand to help Jack up.
"S'mores? Aren't they supposed to be dessert?" Jack gathered the quilt and Thermos and nudged Daniel back towards the cabin with an elbow.
"Actually Jack, I was hoping you'd provide the dessert," Daniel said wickedly as he walked backwards.
"Dessert is my specialty, Daniel. And what the hell, how about we have dessert first?" Jack grinned.
"You know, Jack, life is uncertain. We should have dessert first. That sounds like a good plan." Daniel turned and began walking faster.
"Man with a plan, Daniel, that's me." Jack dropped the quilt in his haste to follow. "And if you think dessert's good, just wait til I show you the main course."