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Angel With A Shotgun

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“Walking the Great Path brings great responsibility. You cannot fear it nor hesitate in your resolve.”

It was Daniel’s choice to make. Stay, and let them try to save him. Or go. Oma wouldn’t judge him either way.

He could see them, standing by his bed. Waiting for him, hoping for him to pull through.

This time… This time he couldn’t.

“I understand. I’m ready to go with you.”

 

“I’m gonna miss you guys.”

Saying goodbye to Jack is one of the hardest things he’s ever done. Despite everything that had happened between them, despite the fact that they can no longer coexist in harmony. Nothing makes it any easier.

They’d tried so hard, they weren’t willing to give up on him.

They didn’t have to.

“Yeah… You too.”

He gave up on them.

 

“Thank you. For everything.”

“So, what? See you around?”

Jack wants to believe he’ll back out of it. Still thinks there’s a last minute victory they can pull.

“I don’t know.”

Jack won’t give up hope until well after he’s gone.

 

“Hey - where are you going?”

On to better things, hopefully. Somewhere he can actually make a difference.

Somewhere he belongs.

“I don’t know.”

 

~~~

 

Ascension wasn’t exactly what Daniel thought it would be. Sure, he felt more at peace than he had in his entire life, but it was almost impossible for him to relax knowing the battle his friends were still fighting. He thought once he’d ascended he’d be learning, doing, everything he could to help.

Instead, he’d been hit with a bunch of rules. Daniel felt more trapped than he had been back on earth. But still, he knew there was a lot he could learn here, and he wasn’t about to give up so easily. And he was still learning things, just...not at the pace he expected.

Maybe that’s why he kept going back.

He knew he wasn’t supposed to, that he was supposed to abandon all his earthly ties, but he couldn’t help it.

The first time Daniel visited them wasn’t long after Jonas joined the team. Just to observe, of course, if he interacted with anyone he figured he would get a pretty good scolding. But what he observed surprised him.

Everyone was still coming to terms with Daniel leaving. In his eyes it was like he’d just moved away, but to them it was like he’d died. Which shouldn’t have surprised him, if he hadn’t gone with Oma that’s probably where he would’ve ended up. But to watch them all grieve him was entirely unexpected. Especially Jack.

When he left, they weren’t in the best of places. They’d always bickered and fought and pushed each other to what they thought were their limits, but the most important thing was they always bounced back. Until they didn’t.

That’s why Daniel thought Jack would be fine, that he would be the rock for everyone else. Honestly, he thought Jack wouldn’t care.

And then he watched everyone else accept it, move on. Jonas became a regular part of the SGC and SG1, and no one had any doubts about whether or not he could fill Daniel’s shoes. Except for Jack. Daniel watched Jack go home, emotionless, and then simply clock back in for the next mission, day in and day out. It was sickening.

Daniel stopped checking in on Sam and Teal’c, they were fine. They missed him, he could glean that much, but they’d be fine. No, Daniel found himself sitting, undetectable, in Jack’s living room most days. Asking him questions he knew he couldn't hear, and if he could, would never answer.

“Why haven’t you moved on yet?” Daniel whispered, staring in confusion across the living room at Jack.

Jack, of course, didn’t answer.

Sometimes he could get thought fragments or a general emotion from someone if he was around them long enough. Teal’c was really good at shielding his thoughts, but sometimes when he was really relaxed Daniel would get something. Sam was pretty much an open book who said what was on her mind, so there was nothing unusual there. But the only time he got anything from Jack was when he was really drunk, and by that point everything was jumbled and confusing. Otherwise, his walls were impossible to get through.

Another thing his new ascended being powers couldn't help him with.

“I thought you of all people would be okay with this,” Daniel said accusingly, rising from the couch.

Jack sighed and reached for his beer bottle.

“Do you really need more of that?” Daniel asked, cupping his hands around the bottle. Like it would actually stop him.

Jack continued reaching for the bottle, and reached his hand right through Daniel’s.

As soon as Jack touched Daniel, all of his senses flooded. The living room was gone, replaced with endless swirls of colors. Rich blues and radiant greens streaked with incandescent yellows rolled past him, nearly swallowing him whole. Daniel stumbled and fought to keep his balance as they pushed against him like stormy waters. He looked closer at the colors, and gasped. They were memories. Of him! Overcome with total awe, Daniel let his hand drop to his side, fingertips brushing the crest below. Instantly, the colors all melted away, and the floor dropped from underneath him, plunging him into darkness.

Almost as soon as his surroundings disappeared, they reappeared just as quickly, but he wasn’t at Jack’s house anymore.

“The SGC?” Daniel wondered aloud, dazed.

He wanted to curse himself, he wasn’t done looking at the sea of colors. If he spent the rest of his days there he didn’t think it would be long enough.

Movement out of the corner of his eye dragged his thoughts away. The walls were moving.

Wait, no, he was walking. Daniel squinted in confusion. He didn’t think he was walking, and yet, he could feel his body moving, like it had a mind of his own.

“Jack!”

Daniel stopped, and turned in the direction of the voice.

No, Daniel hadn’t moved at all, he was just along for the ride. And Daniel wouldn’t need to turn to know who it was.

It was him.

“Daniel,” he greeted, Jack’s voice coming out instead.

He understood now, he’d accidentally dropped himself into one of Jack’s memories! And of course he was seeing everything from Jack’s point of view!

“Oh, are you headed to the commissary for lunch?” Daniel asked, squinting at him.

Warmth washed over Daniel - Jack - and he chuckled.

“Daniel, late in the evening,” he chided, that warmth he felt growing.

“What?” Daniel demanded, looking down at his watch, “it is not -”

He cut off as he read the time. Jack went on about how he needed to keep better track of time, yadda yadda. But the warmth he felt was coded with fondness, a fondness that didn’t reach his words at all.

Because Daniel remembered this. He remembered butting heads with Jack like normal, but then when the parted ways Daniel could tell something was different -

Irritation cut through the warmth and the fondness, harsh and sudden. It caught Daniel off guard as he felt Jack’s mood shift.

“Stop it,” Jack growled.

Daniel flinched, confused. He didn’t remember that. Past-Daniel continued babbling on about something like he hadn’t heard a thing. The irritation grew, eating away all the softer feelings. What had Daniel done to make Jack so mad? Jack’s fists clenched by his sides. The fond feeling was still there, trying to work it's way back, but irritation kept stomping it down.

“Stop thinking that!” Jack yelled, iron plates crashing down all around his mind.

With a cry of pain, Daniel fell, or rather tried to fall to his knees, but he was stuck doing whatever Jack had done. This didn’t happen, at least, not to Daniel. Why was Jack fighting so hard against feeling fond of Daniel? They were teammates, friends, of course there would always be a fondness there!

“You can’t love him!”

Time froze. The memory halted, crumbling away around him. For a moment, he was stuck in an endless abyss of nothingness. Then, he was falling again.

Before he had time to react, he was standing on his feet back in the sea of colors. He stood there for what felt like an eternity, digesting what he’d just discovered. The memories pushed against him roughly, asking to be opened. Demanding Daniel to stop disputing what he felt.

What Jack felt.

“Jack..loves me?”

Daniel wanted to take it back, it felt wrong, wrong to say it, wrong to know how Jack felt!

And yet...he couldn’t help but grin, and repeated it out loud. Jack loved him.

As soon as the last word left his mouth, Daniel was ripped backwards. It was like someone pulled a splinter out, except he was the splinter. Disoriented, Daniel fought to go back. He wanted to know more, more about why Jack loved him, how long he’d loved him - he needed answers.

But then, this was still Jack’s mind, wasn’t it?

Daniel realized this with sinking horror. Jack was forcing him out. Somehow, he knew that Daniel was in his mind poking around, or at the very least that something was off.

A moment later, Jack’s living room popped into view. He was still in the same position blocking Jack, and Jack was still reaching for his drink. No time had passed at all.

With a hiss of pain, Jack yanked his hand back. He pressed it against his head, roughly massaging his temples. Guilt pierced straight through Daniel. Coming here had only hurt Jack more.

Jack’s hand dropped away and he scowled.

For a split second.

Then he let out a gasp, his eyes widening as they locked with Daniel’s.

“Daniel?” He whispered in shock, scrambling to his feet.

In all the excitement, Daniel didn’t realize he’d made himself visible. He wanted to curse, but instead disappeared to a plane Jack couldn’t see. Even though the damage had already been done. Jack flinched, staring in confusion at the spot where Daniel had been.

“What...why…” Jack muttered, bewildered.

No, that was a thought.

Daniel scrambled backwards as more of Jack’s thoughts pelted him.

“Was that Daniel?”

“Dammit, these hallucinations are getting worse.”

“That was weird though, it seemed so real.”

“It wasn’t like all the other ones.”

“Drinking isn’t helping, all I get is another hallucination and a damn headache.”

Daniel covered his ears, but the thoughts drilled straight into his brain. It was bad enough he dropped himself into Jack’s mind, but to hear his thoughts was a total violation of privacy.

Oma Desala was right, of course there’d been a good reason for him to leave everything behind.

Suddenly he was pulled again. Harder, much harder than it had been while he was in Jack’s mind. Panic gripped him. He didn’t know who, or what, was pulling him away, but he did know he wanted to stay. Maybe if he just explained to Jack what happened he’d stop beating himself up. Sure he’d be angry, but Daniel had to do something.

Ah, who was he kidding. If he thought the anger he’d seen inside Jack was bad, his anger over Daniel’s total betrayal would be much worse.

It pulled again, but Daniel stopped fighting. The living room ripped away, replaced with blurred colors and lights streaking past him. He could feel himself pulled to where no mortal had gone before, and he knew exactly who was pulling him.

“What did you do?” Oma demanded, barely waiting for him to orient himself.

White figures floated behind her, refusing to take human shape. They didn’t need to, he could feel their anger without a face.

“I didn’t do anything,” Daniel struggled to his feet, “...at least not on purpose.”

The figures glowed brighter, seething with rage. Oma glanced backwards, concerned with whatever The Others were saying to her. She could communicate with them better than Daniel could, unless they chose to talk to him. In time he’d reach her understanding of things, but for now he was at the mercy of her translations and the general feelings he got from The Others.

“The Others aren’t pleased with you, Daniel,” Oma said, barely restrained anger in her own voice, but tinted with worry. “You’ve connected yourself to Jack’s mind and that is a serious offense.”

There was a graveness to her voice he hadn’t heard before. Like his fate had already been sealed, and there was nothing she could do. Or worse, his careless actions had done something to Jack - something more severe than a headache. Everything around him faded into background noise as he went numb. What if he’d done something they couldn’t reverse, and they’d have to put Jack out of his misery? Or even if Jack was fine, what if they hurt Jack anyways, just to teach him a lesson?

“Jack,” Daniel whispered hoarsely, unable to express all his worst fears.

Oma’s face softened, understanding what Daniel was worried about. Her eyes crinkled with sadness, but like she’d confirmed something she already knew.

“Jack will be fine, your mistake won’t affect him. The only reason he was hurt at all is because we pulled you out of his mind. He has no idea you were there at all.” She reassured him gently.

Daniel let out a sigh of relief, adrenaline and panic subsiding. But the rumble of anger still radiating from The Others grew stronger. He was far from out of the woods yet.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t think anything like that would - or could - happen, “ Daniel begged his case, “I didn’t think observing them would break the rules but I -” He broke off, looking Oma in the eyes.

“I went too far.”

Oma nodded, turning back to the others. Their displeasure subdued, but Daniel knew there would be retribution. And at least a couple pairs of eyes watching everything he did, making sure he stuck to the strict rules. No more checking on Jack from now on. He sighed, settling into a forlorn state. There was nothing he could do, so why bother?

That’s when he felt it.

A slight tug in his chest, soft, but persistent. Which definitely hadn’t been there before. He closed his eyes, tuning out everything else. Ignoring his worry, his irritation, how lost and alone he felt, how confused he was about his constant illusions -

These weren’t his feelings.

Slowly, Jack’s house materialized around him. It was dark, and the room moved with the tosses and turns of someone who couldn’t fall asleep. A sigh, then the room stopped moving.

Daniel’s eyes flew open, and he was back with Oma and The Others. They still stood, discussing, unaware of Daniel doing anything he wasn’t supposed to. All of the feelings he’d thought were his dropped to an almost undetectable level. Maybe he could still check on Jack after all.

 

~~~

 

Before long, Daniel didn’t even need to visit Jack through their connection anymore. It’d grown so strong he could feel Jack’s emotions without tapping into them, they came as natural as his own. Discerning them had been the hard part, but he’d managed. Sometimes he even muted them, all he needed to know Jack was okay. Okay and moving on.

And still in love with him.

He was still trying to figure out what to do with that. Of course Daniel felt the same, he had for almost as long as he’d known the man! But for just as long he knew it was impossible, nothing would ever come of it.

So he’d ignored his feelings so he wouldn't ever be let down. Oddly enough, Jack tried to do the same, but instead of gradually realizing he had feelings,they’d hit him over the head all at once. He just didn’t know what to do, and burned bridges in the process.

Daniel sighed. Nothing could ever be easy with them, could it?

A sharp stabbing pierced right through him. His shoulder screamed out in pain as he cried out. Another one pierced through his other shoulder, and he fell to his knees. Frantically, his connection to Jack tugged on him. Daniel rose to his feet, struggling to remember that these were not his wounds and he wasn’t bound by the pain they caused.

But remembering that this was in fact Jack’s pain crippled him worse than before.

Breathing in deeply, Daniel cleared his thoughts with a long, measured exhale. He opened his eyes.

He was somewhere he didn’t recognize, face to face with a Goa’uld he hadn’t dealt with before. Everything Jack had been through flooded in, the discovery in Antarctica, the disease, the implantation… Daniel shuddered. Worst of all, no one knew where Jack was.

Punishments be damned. He would make sure Jack didn't die here - especially not alone.

 

~~~

 

Jack tried his best to intimidate his captors with a glare as they threw him in his prison, but he was too tired, too drained to muster up any actual venom. He sagged onto the floor, defeated.

Daniel watched all of this, not yet revealing himself. Not yet. As silly as it sounded, and he knew it was the longer he sat there, but... he was nervous. Besides accidentally revealing himself for a split second, the last time Jack had seen him, he...died. How would he even react? Would he yell and throw things? Break down and cry? Neither really sounded like him.

Daniel took a deep breath and exhaled. The longer he sat there hidden, the less time he had with Jack.

"Hi Jack," Daniel broke the silence.

Jack whipped his head around in the direction of the noise, ripping his focus from the cell opening. His eyes were wild, shocked with what, who sat in front of him. Daniel waved at him, in a vain attempt to ease the tension.

"Daniel?" Jack hesitantly asked, voice strangled.

It sliced right through Daniel.

"I leave, and look at the mess you get yourself into." He attempted a joke. Jack's face didn't drop any confusion, and definitely didn't let anything else slip through. Nothing was getting through the stone cold O'Neill poker face.

Emotions flooded through the connection. Disbelief, longing, wishing he was really there. Of course, with the amount of times his mind conjured up an illusion, Daniel couldn't blame him.

"It's good to see you." The words tumbled out of Daniel's mouth before he could stop them. It was true, even though he'd seen Jack more than Jack had seen him. This was different.

Jack's face changed, expression shifting into something almost angry and twisted. And then it was gone. Betrayal ran deep in his emotions, shadowing every one of his thoughts.

"Yeah, you too." He answered, tone calculated in letting very little slip through.

Groaning in pain, he pulled himself up onto the bench across from Daniel, and took a minute to get comfortable and relaxed.

"It's a shame you're a delusion," Jack said cooly, not meeting Daniel's eyes.

Smiling sadly, Daniel looked up into Jack's eyes.

"No, I'm here, I'm… I'm really here."

Jack gave him a disbelieving look like, "that sounds like something a delusion would say".

"Sure you are." The words dripped with sarcasm.

Rolling his eyes, Jack dropped his foot on top of his other leg, popped his shoe off and, oh boy, yep, he was already throwing things.

The shoe sailed right through Daniel, bouncing off the back wall behind him. Jack folded his arms across his chest, entirely too pleased with himself.

"This isn't my first rodeo and I'm sure it won't be my last. I don't know if this is one of Ba'al's tricks, or," he faltered, dropping his gaze down to his lap, "or if it's just my mind playing tricks on me, but I know he's not here. I'm not doing this again."

Squeezing his eyes shut and clenching his fists, Jack willed his brain to stop torturing him. Daniel wanted to go over and comfort him somehow, his hands itched by his sides longing to be closer than across the room. But he had to be careful in this visit - he didn't want to hurt Jack again.

"Jack, I'm not a delusion. I'm just here in the sense that my consciousness is here, not here in the full physical flesh and blood sense, which is really… neither… here nor there. The point is, you're not imagining this."

Jack's skeptical gaze held Daniel's, and with that single look Daniel tried to send as much "trust me" vibes through their connection as he possibly could.

"I just tossed my shoe through you."

He sighed.

"Yes, yes you did. That's because I've ascended to a higher plane of existence."

"Ohhhhh." Jack responded, borderline rolling his eyes. He thought he was just humoring his hallucination, doing whatever to get it to leave.

Pushing down the pain, Daniel trudged on. No matter how hard this would be, or how difficult Jack was, Daniel had to do everything in his power to save Jack. He had to save him.

"Remember Oma Desala, the whole…glowing thing?" Daniel tried desperately. "You helped me out. I couldn't have done that without you, remember that?"

"Yeah," Jack responded numbly, eyes distant.

Of course he did, he was there too, so his mind could easily make his "hallucination" bring it up. Judging by the way Jack checked out, and the gnawing feeling growing inside both of them, Daniel knew it was a sore spot.

"I'm, I'm energy now," he attempted, gesturing to himself.

"How's that working out for you?" Jack asked sarcastically, finally turning his gaze back to Daniel.

"Good, actually!" Daniel said immediately, surprising Jack, "Very……"

"Good."

He went back to not meeting Daniel's eyes. His tone lost all sarcasm, just an empty emotionless shell.

"Very good." He said tentatively. "But, you, on the other hand..."

"Yeah, well, you know what it's like," he said sharply, cutting Daniel off. He stood and crossed the room, snatching his shoe off the ground. "Coming back from the dead."

Their eyes locked for a moment, longer than Daniel expected.

"You could tell him," Jack's mind suggested helpfully.

A burst of anger stamped it out, and Jack turned on his heels and stomped back across the cell. Daniel deflated in disappointment. However, he wasn't too sure who's disappointment he felt.

After he sat, Jack refused to meet Daniel's eyes. He studied the shoe still in his hands like it might answer his questions. Several moments passed and he still sat. Thinking.

"You can't be real," he muttered.

"Jack…"

"No. The Daniel I knew never would've said he missed me. Because...he wouldn't have. I'm just imagining him again, because what else am I supposed to do. It's just, it's just history repeating itself." He wrapped his arms around himself, and risked a glance over at Daniel.

Daniel, who was lost in the feelings pouring out of Jack's broken down walls.

His eyes scrutinized every inch of Daniel, searching for something. Even though he could feel Jack's feelings, think his thoughts, the man continued to surprise him. He expected Jack to shout, make a scene, rip him a new one for leaving. This sad remnant of the man he thought he knew broke him.

"Oh god, " Jack murmured, "you're not a delusion, are you?"

pHis eyes were pools of loss and sheer sadness, staring into Daniel's like they held everything he was missing. Daniel was starting to think maybe they did.

"No," he responded softly.

Drawing out a long sigh, Jack sat up on the bench, planting his feet firmly on the ground. He hadn't met Daniel's eyes yet. An almost giddy happiness washed over him, but followed by overpowering embarrassment. Before Daniel could say anything reassuring, Jack snapped back to attention. Poker face and all.

"Okay, show me your stuff. Bust me outta here," he insisted, gesturing to his inescapable prison.

Daniel grimaced, prepared for what he knew was coming.

"I can't."

"Why not?" Jack fired back, like he was expecting Daniel's answer.

Thus began the back and forth of Jack asking Daniel to use his powers to break him out, and Daniel telling him he couldn't. The connection took all of Jack's irritation and funneled it straight into Daniel, who had to take a deep breath before he could continue. Having a rational conversation with someone while also having all their emotions thrown at you wasn't easy.

The only way he knew how to help Jack, that wouldn't get him in trouble, was to get him to ascend. But now he could see fully how much Jack hated the idea. He saw it as abandonment, deserting, ignoring real life. Was that how he saw Daniel now?

Daniel cleared the doubts from his mind. Somehow, he had to get Jack to see his side. Or at the very least, keep trying until he figured something else out. But Daniel couldn’t, with every attempt he felt Jack dig his heels in even further. Soon, they both heard the Jaffa approaching.

“They're coming." Daniel said softly, though Jack already knew.

"They can see you, right?” Jack began, distraught, and whipped around to face Daniel, “We can use that!"

"I'll be back," Daniel promised, desperate to chase away the doubt and memories of Daniel leaving that clogged Jack’s mind.

For a moment, he was successful. THan Jack shook his head, dismissing it, and everything came back down.

"A distraction - that's all I'm asking for."

He shouldn’t be disappointed. Without their connection, Daniel still would’ve guessed they would end up here. Now, knowing just how badly his ascension hurt Jack, he really shouldn’t have been surprised.

"I promise."

 

~~~

 

It was clear to Daniel no matter what he said, getting Jack to send wasn't going to happen. Everytime he came anywhere near close, Jack just rejected it or he was whisked away to be tortured again.

This was the only route he could go where he wouldn't end up in hot water with The Others - but he didn't care. He was going to get Jack out of that damn cell. Back at the SGC, everybody was working their hardest to figure out what to do. Maybe if he could connect to someone on a smaller level than what he did with Jack, he could try guiding their thoughts.

It wasn't staying out of it, but it also wasn't completely interfering. He just had to hope he could enact his plan before The Others caught on, and stopped him.

 

~~~

 

Visiting Jack this time was different. The link felt slow, sluggish, weighing Daniel down the closer he got. And maybe it was his imagination, but the cell felt darker, wrapping Jack in shadows.

"Daniel?" Jack whispered.

Daniel wasn’t sure if he could tell when Daniel came and left, or if Jack just hoped he’d be there to answer him. He really didn’t care either way.

"I'm here."

Relief swept through Jack, too tired and broken down to keep up his defenses anymore. Nothing held back Jack’s emotions, and everything flooded into Daniel all at once. He stumbled, so caught off guard he forgot how to breathe.

"You were gone."

The words are simple, but so hollow. Both of them heard Daniel's words echoing, "I promise I'll be back". Daniel was surprised how this man could continue breaking his heart.

"I know, I'm sorry. There was something I had to do, but I'm back now and I promise I'll stay with you until this is over."

Some doubt managed to trickle through the connection, but Jack was too tired to muster any malice with it.

"It'll never be over,” Jack laughed, a hopeless and empty laugh.

"Yes it will."

"Daniel, you have to end this."

"Jack, you just have to hang in there a little while longer."

"No. I can't go back in there. If I go back, I swear to god, I'll give Ba'al what he wants. I'll tell him."

"...what?"

Memories Daniel didn't recognize pushed through the connection, overlapping with new ones as soon as they came through.

"That he loved her."

Slow realization hit Daniel. All this time, Jack knew what Ba'al wanted to know, and he'd kept it so hidden even Daniel didn't get anything. He looked over at Jack, eyes wide, but Jack was slumped against the wall with his eyes shut. Barely enough energy to stay awake.

His willpower, his sheer determination to keep people safe - even though he didn't know this woman - was astounding.

"Kanaan?" Daniel said hoarsely, remembering he should say something.

"He came back for her," Jack said softly, then opened his eyes to look at Daniel. "He wanted to save her."

Like a movie scene, Daniel's ascension played out in Jack's mind. Except now he knew Jack's perspective. How much he wanted to refuse Daniel and keep trying to save him. He didn't want to lose Daniel, how there had to be something could do, how he would do anything to save him. And then the regret, the longing and kicking himself that came after. When Kanaan was implanted, he was overpowered with Jack's feelings.

"Ba'al doesn't know this."

"If he finds out, he'll do to her what he's doing to me. Daniel, if you don't end this, I'll tell him."

"You won't have to. It's almost over, Jack."

"How?"

"You were right. There's always a way out. Or at least, there's always a chance. Your journey isn't over, Jack, not yet." Daniel sent a reassuring smile his way.

Relief poured into him through the connection, immediately followed by a cascade of anxious thoughts.

"What did you do?" Jack asked, fear and regret in his eyes as they locked with Daniel.

This time Jack is scared. Scared he might've gotten Daniel in trouble by asking too much from him.

"It wasn’t me,” Daniel shrugged nonchalantly, “Carter, Teal'c...Jonas… They thought of something."

He didn’t need to add that he’d guided Teal’c’s thoughts to a possible scenario with a favorable outcome. It was a mere suggestion he would’ve come to on his own anyways, The Other’s wouldn’t beagle to complain too much. Hopefully.

"What?"

"This is it. All you ever wanted was a fighting chance Jack, and now you have it . If anyone can make it out of here, you can."

Suddenly Daniel was ripped out of the cell, flying through the walls and everything else in his way. That was okay, his plan was already in motion. In a matter of minutes. Jack and the woman he'd protected would be safe.

Abruptly he came to a stop. Only Oma stood in front of him this time, the others were nowhere to be found.

She followed Daniel's gaze behind her, and let out a disappointed sigh.

"I shielded your actions from them, they don't know anything about what you did."

Her gaze sliced through him.

"Thank you," Daniel stammered, the words sticking in his throat. She continued to scrutinize him, looking for something, but not sure what. Finally, her downtrodden expression returned. Evidently her search hadn't turned up quite what she wanted.

“You can’t keep rescuing him, Daniel,” Oma said softly, pleading with him.

Daniel stiffened.

“If you wish to one day understand the universe, you must leave him behind,” She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, "Love is the greatest challenge you will ever face. Please, Daniel. try to overcome it.”

Let go of Jack.

When he chose ascension, he thought he could let go of everything, but it was so much harder. And now, knowing everything he knew about Jack, he wasn't sure if he could.

"Can I at least say goodbye? Just to give him some closure?" Daniel asked, not quite meeting her eyes.

Her silent skepticism didn't fare well.

"And then… I'll stop. I'll stop saving him. I'll stop checking in on them. It'll be over." Daniel relented, with every word feeling like he'd betrayed Jack all over again.

After a moment, Oma shook her head. "It will never be over, Daniel. Don't you see?" She said, spreading her hands. But he didn't.

She shook her head again. And cast a look behind her.

"I can shield you for a little longer. After that, I can't save you again."

Daniel nodded. "Thank you."

 

~~~

 

Daniel's heart lifted once he saw Jack resting in the infirmary. He almost didn't believe it actually worked but it had - he'd really done it.

"I always seem to be saying goodbye to you." He said, breaking the silence.

Joy exploded out of Jack. Since Daniel was there, with him, then he must not be in much trouble. Daniel smiled to himself.

At first Jack tried to squash it down, then a thought trickled in through the joy.

"Why bother?"

"Yeah, I noticed that," Jack said, squinting at him. "Why don't you stick around for awhile?"

"I can't…really."

"You just did."

"Special occasion."

That was even a stretch. Special occasion for him? Certainly. He couldn't even begin to describe to Jack how angry The Others would be with him if they knew.

"Christmas?"

"No."

"Groundhogs Day?"

"Nooooo."

"I've got my journey you've got yours?"

Daniel was fully prepared for him to say another holiday and almost said yes. But underneath that still teasing, light tone, was deep sadness and the lingering question of "why couldn't they're journeys be together?"

"Something like that…" Daniel nodded, hating the disappointment he felt.

"Look," he continued, "I know you don't think so, right now, I mean, I know you have your doubts, but…" trying to figure out a way to say this without letting anything about the connection out was more difficult than expected. "Only because you've been through something no one should have to go through - I guess what I'm trying to say is you're gonna be alright." Daniel smiled reassuringly.

"How do you know?"

There's still so much doubt and desperation hanging over him. More than anything, Daniel wished he could stay and be part of his support system. But with Sam, Teal'c, and Jonas...he was leaving Jack in good hands.

"You're just gonna have to trust me."

Finally, Jack returned the smile.

"I can do that. You gonna be okay?"

The question caught Daniel off guard, and he hesitated.

"Yeah, I'll be fine."

There was no reason to worry Jack. They could both pretend he wasn't lying.

He heard Sam walking back to the infirmary, and disappeared the way he came.

 

~~~

 

Honestly, when Oma told Daniel he needed to leave love behind, he gave it his best shot.

But now that Abydos and everyone he cared about was in danger, he couldn't. He was too human to stay, and didn't want to stick around too long and lose himself. And what kind of life was one where he couldn't be free to love?

He didn't care anymore, he would use his powers to save Abydos, save his team, and stop Anubis once and for all. This time, he chose humanity.

 

~~~

 

"Where are you going?" Jack asked harshly.

Harsh to the untrained ear. But Daniel finally had Jack figured out. It was a beg, a silent plead for Daniel to not go anywhere for once, to stay right where he was.

"I'm trying," Daniel thought at him, aware the connection only worked one way.

Concentrating, Daniel focused his energy on the room the team was all cramped in. Just one moment, one moment alone with Jack was all he needed.

Last time he'd done this, he was on the brink of death and had Oma's powers to back him up. And he'd only whisked Jack away, he hadn't frozen everyone in the room in time. He wasn't sure if he was strong enough to do this at all, but he had to try.

"Freeze," he begged.

Jack gasped, taking a couple steps back. Daniel staggered, but caught himself. Sam, Teal'c, and Jonas were all frozen stiff around him.

"What did you do to them, why aren't they moving?" Jack demanded, nervously glancing at his team.

"They'll be fine, but I can't hold this long," Daniel said, locking eyes with Jack. Jack looked back, confusion written all over his face.

"I don't know if I'll see you again, I needed to say goodbye," Daniel said softly. He knew what he had to do, what he had to say, but now that the moment was actually here, he couldn't.

"Daniel, what are you talking about?" Jack asked, eyebrows furrowed in concern.

"I promise I will do everything I can to make sure Anubis keeps his promise." Daniel locked eyes with Jack, making sure Jack understood what he was getting at.

Jack clenched his jaw, expression going grim. Daniel didn't need the link to feel the loss of hope, Jack's eyes told him all he needed to know.

"But before I go, I need you to know I," The words died on Daniel's lips. After this, there was no going back. That terrified him more than facing Anubis.

A small smile danced across his lips as he looked up at Jack. Jack looked back in confusion.This was the right thing to do. He could feel it.

"I love you too, Jack."

He let go of the connection.

Jack's eyes widened, mouth dropping open.

"I'll see you on the other side," Daniel smiled softly, and the other three came to life once again. Before anyone could say anything, Daniel disappeared.

"Daniel, wait!" Jack called after him, desperation in every ounce of his cry.

Oma was wrong. Love wasn't something he needed to overcome, it was something he needed to accept. He was just never ready for it.

But he was ready now.