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Loyalties

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Loyalties

He sat in the dark, curled up in as small a ball as he could manage on the narrow bunk, staring at the camouflage pattern of his helmet. He didn’t belong here. He wasn’t a soldier.

He was a scientist. Who was completely out of his element.

If it hadn’t been for Teal’c practically picking him up by the scruff of the neck and tossing him head first into the Stargate, he would have died on that dismal little rock of a planet. Just as, on another too-close-to-call mission, Colonel O’Neill had done the same thing. Captain Carter had saved his ass on more than one occasion. And what had he done in return?

Gotten distracted. Again. Nearly blown the mission. Again. Just about gotten the whole team blown up. Again.

Oh, the briefing had been less painful than he had expected. The colonel had given General Hammond the facts, but presented in a way that he, Daniel Jackson, Deadweight, hadn’t come off too badly. In a way, it actually hurt that the general hadn’t been the least surprised. His "You’re a scientist, son, I understand" had only made Daniel frustrated. Because Hammond didn’t understand.

None of them did.

And there were times, like now, in the dark, feeling his bruises and his sense of failure at once again not finding his wife, that Daniel thought that he understood least of all of them.

The door opened, and a bright blonde head popped in. "You ready to blow this joint, Daniel?"

He didn’t bother looking up. "In a little bit, Sam. You go ahead."

"We were going to meet down at the O club for a drink, wind down, you know. You’re invited." To his ears, it sounded perfectly sincere, but he didn’t take her up on the invitation. One more place where he didn’t quite fit in. After all, he wasn’t an officer, either.

"No, thanks," he answered listlessly. "I’m just going to go home and get some sleep." Home. Now, that was a joke. He’d only had one place in his life that had felt like home. And the Goa’uld had taken care of that. He nodded perfunctorily at her soft goodbye, and idly rapped his knuckles on the top of the helmet. Then he counted off, under his breath. Exactly three minutes and twenty seconds after Sam’s aborted effort to get him to join the group, a darker blond head appeared at the door.

"C’mon, Daniel, there’s a keg with our name on it. And after this afternoon, we both need it."

He looked up at Jack O’Neill, past the friendly smile on his face to the real concern in the dark eyes, and his answering smile was a little more genuine. "No, thanks, Jack. I’m going to go home and sleep for a week."

The colonel edged his way into the room and leaned against the wall, just inside the door. "You got the time. General’s given us a breather, two weeks stand down. Give Teal’c time to recover, give us all some down time."

Daniel winced at the reminder of the wound the Jaffa had taken protecting him as he’d dialed them home. "Is he, uhm, is it going to be okay?" He’d hovered in the background as Doctor Fraiser had patched Teal’c up, worry and guilt gluing him in place.

"Yeah, doc thinks so, but it was close to the womb, and she’s being pretty cautious."

"Good," was all he could think of to say. Jack opened his mouth as if he’d like to add something, then closed it again. Daniel stared at him patiently, too tired and too depressed to even try to figure the other man out.

"You okay, Daniel?" O’Neill leaned toward him, and Daniel instinctively drew back into the shadows of the lower bunk.

"Fine, Jack," he snapped, then moderated his tone with an effort. "I’m fine. I just need some … down time, I guess." Glaring at his helmet, ignoring the invitation Jack was offering, he added, "Alone. Please."

O’Neill stared at him for a long moment, then said, quietly, "Okay, if that’s what you want."

Need, not want, Daniel thought, but he just nodded. Go away, Jack. Please just go away. His thoughts must have been written on his face, or O’Neill could read body language pretty well, because he stopped pushing.

"You need anything, you call, okay?"

Daniel smiled up at him, briefly, before staring back down at his helmet. "Okay."

Jack shifted, opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Okay," he finally reiterated, then moved back out of the room. Daniel waited until the echo of his footsteps had faded, then picked up the helmet and threw it as hard as he could against the far wall.

"Right."

Then he picked up his jacket, walked out of the crew room, and headed off Cheyenne Mountain for his own book-filled apartment. Maybe he could lose himself in the past, as he had so often done when he didn’t feel at home in the current century. Maybe the books would soothe him as they always had. Maybe, for a few days, he wouldn’t miss Sha’re as much, and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t want what he couldn’t have.

 

In a small, richly appointed den in an upscale Manhattan apartment, a slender, dark man with dead eyes sifted through several white folders with broken red stripes printed along the side. Since his predecessor’s untimely meeting with a car bomb several months previously, he’d been looking for a way to make his mark with the Consortium. Staring at the eight by ten black and white photos spread across the polished mahogany of the desk top brought a cold smile to his sculpted face.

He did believe he’d found it.

It appeared that there were at least three indigenous Earth species. What had developed into humankind, the more advanced species that had left Earth and was now returning to turn it into a giant incubator, and a parasitical species that had used early Humans as hosts before colonizing other worlds through this ingenious gateway device. The smile widened. Perhaps these ‘goa’uld’, or ghouls, as he thought of them, could be used to fight against the ice-age pseudo-aliens that were threatening to turn them all into snacks for their larvae. Better to be a host/slave colony, and retain their power, than to lose everything in the civil war between the shape-shifters and the nesters. They certainly had a surplus of host bodies to offer the ghouls. And it would allow them to maintain a level of control that the nesters were not willing to give them.

He’d always been a deal-maker.

But in order to make a deal, and retain his power, he needed information. What did they want? How did they travel? Who was aware of the gateways, how many were there, how could they be used, with whom should they bargain? Their contacts in the military, even in the special intelligence branches of the Air Force, were not being particularly useful. They … no, he would have to go to the source. The other members of the Consortium would be kept out of the loop until he knew, for certain, exactly what they were dealing with. Until he had the edge. Then he would make the deal.

He reached for a dark blue telephone, an untraceable, secure land line. Quickly dialing in a number, he patiently waited through five relays before the man he wanted answered.

"Krycek." The gravelly voice sounded cautious. Good. He needed cautious, careful and even slightly paranoid for this mission.

"This is Abdin. I have an assignment for you." Thirty minutes later the details were arranged to his satisfaction. Very soon, he would have the most vulnerable member of the premier gateway team in his possession; the member with the longest association and most experience with the project. They would either turn him, or take every ounce of information he possessed and make him disappear.

The smile reappeared. He could practically smell the power. It would work.

It had to work. He had no other choice.

And neither would Doctor Daniel Jackson.

 

Alex Krycek slowly lowered the telephone onto its rest and stared at it blankly. Fuck. This was out of left field, and from where he was sitting it was a damned stupid idea. He knew a little bit about the Worms, as his contacts in the alien resistance called them. Didn’t matter if they were home-grown or alien invaders – they were bad business, and this planet had enough on its plate to deal with without bringing in another player.

Especially another player with delusions of godhood.

He shook his head, wondering for the thousandth time what his ‘superiors’ used for brains, and reached for his laptop. No way he could say no to this assignment; he was already suspect because of his previous association with the Well Manicured Man, and he’d worked too damned long to get where he was to blow it now. There was a war on, and he was, in his own multifaceted way, fighting for the survival of his species. But he did have allies of his own. Even if they were a little … reluctant.

He finished typing the file, encrypted it, and attached it to an email message to Fox Mulder. Time to call for back-up, and this time the guys in the white hats (and white coats) needed to be in from the beginning. He knew how the other man thought, knew he would need time to check and triple check the information, and Krycek didn’t have any time to waste.

Closing down his programs and running a memory wipe to the third level to at least slow down any eavesdroppers who might snoop, he shut the laptop and stowed it away. Then he gathered up his ‘special equipment’ bag, tossed it over his shoulder, snagged his jacket, and headed for the Rockies.

 

For all his plans to sleep for a week, after eight days of leave it seemed like he was getting very little actual sleeping done. Every time he closed his eyes he saw Sha’re, screaming as Apophis’ soldiers dragged her away, smiling as she turned away from him after being implanted with the Goa’uld. Or Teal’c, normally stoic face twisting in pain as he shielded Daniel with his own body, getting hit with blast after blast from enemy staffs. Or O’Neill, shrugging and turning away as Daniel screwed up … again. For some reason he didn’t want to examine too closely, the last image was the one that always woke him up, usually more tired than when he managed to fall asleep. So he gave up on the sleep effort and concentrated on the books.

To an extent, it worked. He caught up all his field notes in all his various planetary expedition journals, worked on decoding some of the unknown elements from Ernest Littlefield’s notes, even wrote in his personal journal. All the frustration and alienation he was feeling poured out onto the pages, lifting the weight a little from his shoulders, but not alleviating the underlying feeling of uselessness that was the root cause of his anger. Intellectually, he knew that he was an integral part of the team. But his gut kept telling him he was completely out of his league, and it was only a matter of time before he let Jack down one time too many. Then he’d be out on his ear, and he’d never find his wife.

No damned wonder he was having nightmares.

He stretched along the sofa, took a sip of coffee long since gone ice cold, grimaced, and set the cup back. Three o’clock in the morning. Guess it was time to call it a night. Reaching for his journal, intent on finishing the current entry and trying to rest, again, he didn’t see the shadow slip through the side window, didn’t feel the slight current of air as the figure moved closer. All he felt was the sudden sting of a dart biting into his back below his shoulder blade. He had time to twist, accidentally shoving the journal off the edge of the cushion, where it slipped under the coffee table. He scrabbled for the lump biting him, looking up and over the back of the couch, focusing vaguely on a dark, man-shaped shadow before his eyes rolled up behind his lids and he relaxed, unconscious, against the cushions.

Krycek stared at the limp form for a moment, calculating weight and angles. Kidnapping had been much easier when he had two arms. But he still preferred to do things alone, so he’d just learned to compensate. Gently removing the unconscious man’s glasses, he folded them and placed them on the table. Then he crouched, put his right shoulder at Dr. Jackson’s waist, and with a slight grunt, heaved the body up in a classic fireman’s hold.

Boy was heavier than he looked. He shifted slightly, got a firm hold on the long legs behind the knee, and silently walked out the front door. He’d timed it perfectly. No one saw a thing.

Two days later, a still-drugged, nicely bound package was delivered to a small testing facility near Caddo Lake, on the border of Texas and Louisiana. No one told him differently, so Krycek stayed with his charge as the scientist became the subject. Just a few days into the testing, Alex began to hope that Mulder wouldn’t be too paranoid, for once. The kid was tough. Damned tough. But the men trying to break him were tougher.

 

Staring at his computer, really hating the entire connotation of ‘domestic terrorism’ when translated to checking out very large piles of cow shit, Special Agent Mulder wondered how long he would be stuck in hell before he managed to find a way to get the X Files back. When the tinny bell dinged and the mailbox flag went up, he switched immediately to email, happy to have anything to do that didn’t carry the odor of ordure. Making sure there was no .exe on the attachment he found, he opened it up.

Then he stopped dead and stared at the encrypted mush that flowed over his screen. He recognized it. Knowing he was an idiot for even getting into this again, he slowly pushed the buttons to start a special decryption program he’d installed just the previous week, one of the Lone Gunmen’s special Hanukkah presents. Sure enough, it worked.

He stared at the message as it was translated, automatically burning the words into his brain as they flashed by. They didn’t make sense, but then, given the source, even if it was supposedly anonymous, it made sense that it didn’t make sense.

Krycek was like that. His life, when it involved Krycek, was like that.

Black ops, alien beings, other planets, shadow figures trying to use the military against itself, innocents caught up in the middle, yadda yadda yadda. He stared at it, trying to make sense of it against his better judgement, which was yelling at him to just delete the damned thing. But then, he usually didn’t listen to his better judgement where the Rat was concerned, so he’d think by now it wouldn’t bother to try. Then, to his surprise, the message began to eat itself.

He punched frantically at the buttons, trying to get it to stop, but it was too late. The information was missing; his screen was blank. The message header had even disappeared. He shook his head, blinking several times, wondering what the hell had just happened.

"Mulder?" came Scully’s voice. He glanced up to find concerned blue eyes staring over at him. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," he answered automatically. "Just e-mail weirding out on me." He looked meaningfully at her, and she sighed. "Up for a beer after work?"

She nodded resignedly, and he knew she’d caught his meaning. Thank god for partner telepathy.

"This time, you’re buying," she informed him, then turned back to her own computer.

"No problem," he said distractedly. Thank god, too, for eidetic memories. This one was a weird one.

But then, with Krycek, it always was.

 

The last clear memory he had was clenching his fist around the pen as he wrote in his journal. Pissed off at the world in general and himself in particular that it was taking so long, that she was still out there, that he was a failure … that entire days would go by when he wouldn’t think of her, that sometimes the dreams that woke him up were about someone else entirely. Another kind of betrayal, one he tried to turn away from but couldn’t seem to stop, one that would never see the light of day.

Then pain in his back, the world going blurry, jolting, sleeping, waking but not quite waking up. Cold, efficient hands at his clothes, warm water closing over his body, some sort of jacket wound around him, his arms trapped against his torso. Lights, bright, glaring, burning into his brain.

Questions.

Needles, and a burning under his skin along his shoulder, running the length of his arm. His lips were numb, and his eyes watered constantly. He was thirsty, and he didn’t have his glasses. And they still kept asking him questions.

He didn’t answer. But it was hard. And it got harder.

They kept making him think about things he didn’t want to think about. The Goa’uld, slithering into people’s bellies, coiled there, like beasts in the pit. Winding up spinal cords, extending like spikes into brains, glowing through hands and eyes, eating the spirits of the people they stole. He screamed, when the pain grew too strong, when the images were too vivid.

They didn’t stop. But the emphasis changed.

He’d lost track of time. He knew there were times when they fed him, times when they bathed him, times when they stood him up and let him go to the bathroom. Times when they combed his hair and brushed his teeth. But his arms remained trapped next to his body, and his vision remained blurry, and the questions never stopped.

Who were they? How did they get here? Who is their leader? What kind of weapons do they have? How do we contact them?

Contact them? Why the fucking hell would we want to contact them? We have to kill them. We have to take our people back from them, bring our people home, have to bring her home to Abydos, have to get her back, have to save her.

Her? Sha’re, of course. Who else? The light returned, the words whispered in his mind made no sense, the drugs burned in his blood. No.

No.

No.

They could not be trusted. They were Goa’uld. They killed my people. They took my wife. They are the Enemy.

I.

Hate.

Him.

Who? Him. The one who took her. No, you know who he is, you were there, weren’t you? Of course you were, in the fire, in the pain, in the dungeon where they took her away from me.

The light stabbed into his brain; the whispers intensified. The hatred inside him struck back at the betrayal they demanded of him, and his mind shut down. His body seized, his eyes closed, and he went into shock.

Three times.

After the third time, lying in a bed, his arms finally freed from the straps but now taped to tubes with needles digging under his skin, he finally whispered a name. No one heard it but the shadow who had watched from the sidelines from the beginning. No one who would tell heard him say, "Apophis."

 

"Let me get this straight, Mulder. There’s a missing scientist from a black ops military operation dealing with aliens from another world trying to take over the earth? And Krycek wants you to rescue him?"

He smiled at her. She didn’t buy it. "I know you don’t trust him, Scully-"

"Surprise, surprise," she grumbled.

"-and neither do I-"

"Then why do you keep jumping when he calls?" she asked reasonably.

He couldn’t very well tell her the truth. She’d have him committed. Or at the very least, gelded. He tried another weak smile. "Because there are some times when the information turns out to be true. And if this is one of those times, then it behooves us to at least listen to what he has to say." He tried a hopeful look at her. It bounced off with no detectable impact.

"No."

"I’m not just trusting him blindly," as if he ever would. Fuck him blind, yes. Trust him blind? No way. He swallowed, forcibly switched off the mental images playing behind his eyes, and turned a very earnest look toward his partner. She thawed a whole degree.

"Then what?" Okay, maybe half a degree.

"I’ve got the Gunmen looking into it – you know if there’s a hint of a military conspiracy anywhere they have at least heard of it. They may not have all the details right-"

"Understatement," she put in dryly. He shrugged and continued.

"But they will hear about it. And if they do turn something up … are you with me?"

She stared down at her beer, then up at him. "You know I am," she sighed. "Even if I should get my head examined."

He smiled brightly at her. "Your head is perfectly fine, Scully. Take it from a trained psychologist."

She glared back at him. "I do. Daily."

He choked on his beer.

 

"There must be a way of breaking through the conditioning," the psychiatrist in charge of the questioning barked, glaring at the physician in attendance. She glared right back.

"There may well be, but if you maintain this level of intensity it won’t matter."

"Why not?" the dark man asked, eyes fixed firmly on the still form of Dr. Jackson in the hospital bed.

"Because he’ll be dead, and any knowledge he had will die with him," the doctor answered in a decidedly irritated tone.

"He won’t be turned. We tried it, every way there is to try, and the hatred of the ghouls is so strong he simply can’t be broken from it," the psychiatrist offered quietly.

"Then if he won’t be turned, his attention will have to be re-directed. This hatred, it springs from the loss of his wife, correct?" The dark man waited for nodded confirmation before continuing. "Then we must dilute the bond."

"Another woman?" asked the psychiatrist. The dark man shook his head and gestured toward the side of the room. Krycek stepped forward to stand beside him.

"Your speciality, I believe," the dark man waved at Dr. Jackson. "Distract him. Now, while he is still confused and disoriented."

"If it doesn’t work?" the psychiatrist asked.

"If it fails, we will have to rely on more permanent measures." He looked to the doctor, who took a deep breath and nodded acknowledgement back. "Bring him to a secured chamber," the dark man ordered, and Krycek stepped back into the shadows.

 

The burning was back, but this time it wasn’t in his shoulder, and his arms weren’t tied to his torso. This time the burning was all over, more diffuse, more widespread. His skin itched, and the heat seemed to be centered in his groin. Daniel turned restlessly, and came up against an unexpected barrier. Warm, soft skin, dusted with hair, over densely packed muscle. He burrowed against the warmth, enjoying the contact. The itching eased for a moment, then intensified.

His hands moved of their own accord, compensating for his still-blurry vision. A wide chest, sloping shoulders, a man about his own size, maybe a little shorter, but strong and well-muscled. Damn these fantasies. He groaned, knowing that it would do no good, that he could escape everything but his own mind. He found himself moving, lying back as the warm weight of his bedmate moved over him. His arms wound around a sturdy waist, his thighs fell apart to allow the strong legs to find purchase in the mattress below him. Moist lips roamed over his jaw, up along his cheek, to dust butterfly kisses along his eyelashes, down his nose, over his mouth.

Instinctively, he tried to catch the hovering mouth, straining to connect, his own lips open and begging. He’d dreamed of this for months, when he wasn’t having nightmares about Sha’re. His own barely acknowledged fear that he would never get her back blended with his equally shameful need for someone he could never allow himself to want, and they wove through the shadow land he lay in, bathing him in desperate need. She was gone, but he was not. He’d not turned his back on Daniel after all.

Need turned desperate as a knowing hand stroked him, and he lost his grip on the thick hair as their mouths broke contact. That mobile mouth moved over his chest, now, nipping the delicate skin of his nipples, teasing the hair arrowing down to his groin, ignoring his now-aching erection to thread through his pubic hair, sucking first one testicle into wet heat, then the other, rolling them in the sac, driving him out of his mind with the sensation. His knees raised, feet planted as firmly as he could drive them into the linens, as he arched up into the touch, needing it, needing more.

That hand continued on its journey across the tender skin below his sac, down to part his cheeks and probe at him. As the first fingertip breached the entrance to his body, that mouth engulfed him, and he yelped, helplessly thrusting forward into the heat, then backward onto the tormenting hand. The thrusting continued, grew more frantic, his hands weaving into the other man’s thick hair, guiding that bobbing skull, fucking himself in that incredible heat, back onto those talented fingers. With a final shout, he exploded, driving himself as far into the man’s throat as he could reach, grinding himself down on that reaching hand.

His bones dissolved. As they slowly reformed, he realized that the bed was moving. His legs were splayed widely, hooked at the ankles behind a strong waist, and his shoulders were being driven into the pillows as he was slowly fucked. His pelvis was canted up, his arms draped out at his sides, and a mouth was closed over his own, the tongue fucking his mouth in perfect time to the thrusts into his ass. He could taste himself on that tongue. He moved, gently, opening himself, too exhausted to be further aroused, but enjoying the motion and the fullness, wanting to make it good. He whimpered around the tongue in his mouth as the body moving against his froze, then whipped into him, hard, twice, three times. The kiss broke as their bodies relaxed together, and he nuzzled into the sweaty neck and kissed the skin there softly.

"love you, Jack," he managed, then passed out. He didn’t hear the muffled, "shit," he got as an answer. It was just as well.

He wouldn’t have recognized the voice.

 

Krycek closed his eyes and bit off another curse. The room was wired, there was no way in hell his master hadn’t heard that little slip of the tongue. He’d thought he’d kept Jackson’s tongue well enough occupied that there wasn’t any room for a slip.

So much for thinking.

He pulled out and levered himself off the unconscious form of the scientist. Passed out like this the young man looked even younger, with an innocence about him that made Krycek’s teeth ache. Nobody should look that pure. And from what he knew of the Consortium’s interrogation methods, after the next few days, neither would the kid.

He’d just be dead.

So it looked like the time to move was coming soon. He grimaced. He really hated being rushed.

He shrugged into his clothes and headed out of the room for a shower, watching intently as the guard set the alarm pad. He’d need that code. Halfway down the hall, he heard the trio in charge of the questioning speaking, and melted into the shadow in the hallway to listen.

"This is an unwelcome development." The psychiatrist. "There is an unexpected barrier. It would seem that Dr. Jackson has a bond of loyalty specifically to his commanding officer. This, combined with his unyielding hatred of the ghouls, could lead him to a complete breakdown should we continue the pressure to turn him."

"I’m not interested in possibilities, doctor. I want answers." The cold voice made Krycek shiver in spite of himself. "I am running out of time. You are running out of time."

"The standard drugs didn’t bring the results we hoped for," the physician reported. "There are more experimental drugs we can try, but they will result in permanent damage to the subject."

"I must protest!" the psychiatrist interjected. "Doctor Jackson is a brilliant scientist, and his loss would be extremely damaging to our work here! If we can salvage him-"

"Will they work?" The voice cut across the protest, silencing the psychiatrist. The boss man had run out of patience, as well, it would seem.

"Yes," the physician responded unhesitatingly.

"Then do it." Finality in every word. Krycek frowned. Time frame, he urged mentally, give me a time frame.

"He must be strong enough to withstand the systemic stress before we can begin, or he will die before we extract the information."

"How long?" Yes! Bingo.

"Three days to bolster his strength, then two to extract the information. You will have your answers by the end of the week."

"Very well. The patient is yours, doctor."

Krycek hurried silently along the doorway toward his temporary quarters in the compound. Three days. Not long. But he could do it. If Mulder came through at his end.

He hoped for Doctor Jackson’s sake that Mulder had found the answers he needed, and would bring the cavalry running. If not, this could turn out to be a real mess.

 

The two weeks had flown by, as Jack respected Daniel’s wish for privacy and instead concentrated on showing Teal’c a little of his world, as he’d promised to do months ago. Thursday morning, the first briefing back, he sat, hands sketching plays in the air, trying to help Teal’c understand the more arcane rules of hockey and why ‘expansion team’ was not necessarily a curse phrase. Sam stared at them bemusedly, the white circles around her eyes standing out in vivid contrast to her snow tan. Somebody’d gotten in some skiing on the break. He grinned over at her.

"You like hockey, Sam?" She grinned back.

"Only on the ice, colonel. The fans get a little too rowdy for my taste."

"The audience seemed highly appreciative of the pugilistic aspects of the contest," Teal’c said thoughtfully. Jack opened his mouth to tease him when it hit him.

"Where’s Daniel?"

"Where’s Doctor Jackson?" the question was echoed from the doorway. General Hammond did not look pleased. "I take it he was aware that leave ended at 0600 this morning?"

Jack stood up, a more relaxed version of Sam’s graceful leap to attention. "Haven’t seen him since leave started, General." At the quizzical look, he added, "His choice. I think he needed a little time away from the military, sir."

Hammond gave him an understanding nod, then firmed up to glare around the room. "Vacation’s over, colonel. Go retrieve our wandering anthropologist."

"Yes, sir," Jack sighed. He glanced over at Sam and Teal’c. "Shall we?"

Sam grinned mischievously back. "He’s probably fallen into a tub of textbooks."

"And he can’t get up!" Jack chimed back. Teal’c looked completely confused. Sam tried to explain what the American culture as a whole found entertaining about an elderly woman’s mishap and inability to save herself from the outcome of the accident, and how such an incident should become a popular catch-phrase, all the way to Daniel’s apartment. He never did understand it.

Jack managed not to laugh, but he did smirk all the way from the compound to town. By the time they arrived, he was in the mood to do some serious teasing. "Hey!" he hollered, rapping at Daniel’s door. "Absent-minded professor! Stop playing with the flubber and get back to work!"

"Flubber?" Teal’c asked Sam. She sighed, and started explaining about Disney movies, basketball, Robin Williams and remakes. Teal’c looked completely at sea. Jack just chuckled and knocked harder.

When no one answered, he dug out his key-ring, thankful that as team leader, he had dupes to all the quarters’ keys for his team members. "Ready or not, here we come," he yelled one last time, then unlocked the key. Teal’c looked at Sam.

"Children’s game," she responded shortly, completely out of explanations by that point.

Nobody was home.

The place didn’t look bad, books, magazines, and loose papers scattered over every surface, but generally well kept. There was no sign of anything amiss. Except … there was a single coffee cup with a dried crust of brackish liquid in the bottom of it, and a pen in the middle of the floor. Jack stared at the scenario for a moment, something tickling at the back of his head.

Sam headed off into the bathroom and bedroom, calling Daniel’s name. Teal’c stood there and stared at O’Neill.

"Something is wrong," he pronounced. Jack looked over at him.

"What makes you say that?"

"DanielJackson is not absent-minded about his duties. He would not leave without you knowing." Utter serenity in the statement. Jack quirked a brow at him.

"Wouldn’t be the first time young Daniel’s gotten a hair turned crossways and gone off on his own."

Teal’c frowned. "I am uncertain what the shape of his hair might indicate, but if you are referring to the instance when he brought CatherineLangford to home base, you knew."

Jack rocked back on his heels a little, considering. "Yeah. You’re right. Besides, something doesn’t feel right about this."

"Jeez," Sam’s voice came from the far side of the room. "You’d think he’d at least get a pet sitter or something. All his fish are dead."

That was it. Jack snapped to, and started scanning the room with close attention. There was a feeling of incompleteness about the room, as if Jackson had simply gone to the bathroom and would be coming back in at any minute. His work was scattered, and it looked like he’d been right in the middle of something when he’d been interrupted. "Look around," he rapped out. "See if you see anything at all that looks out of place."

"Colonel?" Sam asked uncertainly. Teal’c pointed at the back of the couch.

"Blood." Both officers swung around and stared at the cushion. Along the back was a tiny smear, not more than an inch long. Sam crossed the room and peered closely.

"Not much, and are you sure?" The Jaffa nodded. Then he bent down and picked up a small notebook from under the table. Silently, he handed it to O’Neill.

Flipping through the pages, Jack came to the last entry. The writing broke off mid-word. The bad feeling in his gut solidified. He looked over to where Sam was going over the couch, looking for more clues, and to where Teal’c was pacing every inch of the floor, trying to find any tracks that could help. Reaching for the telephone on the bookcase, he quickly dialed Hammond’s direct line.

"Sir? We have a problem." He glanced up. Both his remaining team members were staring at him, shock in their eyes. "Doctor Jackson is missing."

 

Back from a four day road trip to Arkansas, where he and Scully had so thoroughly enjoyed being up to their elbows in cow shit, Mulder was trying his best not to fall asleep at his computer when the email beep woke him up. Thank god. Something interesting.

More than that. Fascinating.

"Agent Scully," he invited formally, "Would you care to go for an early lunch with me?"

She tossed him an exasperated look over her shoulder. "It’s ten in the morning, Mulder."

"Got a hot tip on some frog legs."

She shuddered. "I hope that means what I think it means, Mulder. Or we’ve been spending much too much time in places like Berryville."

He grinned. "The only bullshit here is the stuff on the screen."

She grinned back. "Feed me."

They took the long way round to the Lone Gunmen’s hideout, not that anyone was noticing. Once there, Frohicke practically bounced on the soles of his shoes. Well, as much of a bounce as he ever got.

"You’re unnamed source hit a gold mine, Mulder!" he greeted them, snapping nine different locks shut behind them.

"We have sources of our own in the military industrial complex, and they have informed us that a rock has been thrown at a very important beehive," Byers agreed, pointing at a computer screen that Langley was staring intently at.

"Very Important Scientist dude has gone missing on a hush-hush black ops project out at Cheyenne Mountain," Langley offered.

"And the project has gone ballistic," Frohicke added. "Haven’t been able to get a name match, but the scientist is a civilian attaché, something to do with languages and cultures. And he’s a pretty high mucky muck in the operation, too, because they are doing everything but calling out the national guard to try to find the guy."

Mulder stared over Langley’s shoulder, matching the patchy description of the project the boys had identified with his clear memory of the information Krycek had sent him. "Son of a bitch."

They all looked at him. His partner slowly raised one brow.

"He came through this time, Scully. The information was right – at least as far as it goes."

"So, now what?" Byers asked expectantly.

"Thanks, you guys!" Mulder beamed at them momentarily, then headed for the door at high speed. "Nachos and beer on me, next Alien marathon!"

"We’ll hold you to that," Frohicke warned as he unlocked the myriad of metal on the doorframe and let them back out.

"Well, Mulder," Scully repeated the earlier question when she had him to herself. "Now what?"

He settled himself behind the wheel and stared through the windshield. "If the basis of Krycek’s information is correct, then it could well be that all of it is. And if that’s the case, then he may not be in any position to help this man. And if we get there first … let’s just say there are a few questions I’d like to ask the man, myself."

Scully tightened her seatbelt and stared at his profile. "Pretty big ‘if’, Mulder."

"With Krycek, it always is," he had to agree.

She called in to the office and spun a plausible story of a lead on a case – back in Arkansas – that they had to follow, and because Mulder didn’t try to elaborate, they got away with it. All the way to his apartment, they argued possibilities and fallback plans. As soon as he walked in his door, all the contingencies they’d discussed went out the window.

A very large Black man with a Colorado Rockies cap pulled low over his brow stood like a rock in the middle of his living room. Beside him was a much smaller female in jeans and a sweatshirt, and slightly in front of him was a man in his early forties who, despite the jeans and pullover, was undoubtedly a military officer. There was something about his eyes.

"You always leave your door unlocked, Agent Mulder?" the man asked. His voice was pleasant, with an undertone of solid steel. Mulder involuntarily glanced over his shoulder at the door.

"Might as well," he answered. "Place is Grand Central Station anyway. Did you happen to see any envelopes lying on the floor when you came in?" The blonde woman pointed at the top of the fish tank. Mulder sighed and picked up the envelope. "Come in, make yourselves at home, have a beer, who the hell are you?" Scully stood poised for action beside the door. For some reason, Mulder didn’t feel threatened. Perhaps familiarity bred contempt, and he was so used to strangers barging into his living room that it didn’t phase him anymore. He was too busy reading the familiar handwriting on the short note to worry about it.

"I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill. This is Captain Carter, and Mister Teal’c." Mulder’s head came up at the odd name, and he stared at the expressionless man who stared right back at him.

"Nice name," he fished.

"Thank you," the guy deadpanned back. Okay, no luck there.

"Whatcha doing in my living room?" Might as well go for the direct approach. Scully still had her hand on her gun. He was covered.

"You’ve been doing some searching on military databases about a certain scientist. We want to know why."

"How do you know we’ve been doing any searching for anyone?" Scully wasn’t giving anything away.

"The person, and the project, you were researching are red-flagged. There were a number of unauthorized attempts to access files, and the information was traced to an organization of paranoia peddlers called the Lone Gunmen. From there, it was a pretty easy trace to you." The blonde, Carter, wasn’t giving anything away, either. Just rapping out the facts, in a tone that made it very clear she was tired of wasting time. "In addition, you’ve accessed related information from your own workstation at the FBI. If you were trying to cover your tracks, Agent Mulder, you didn’t do a very good job."

"So, the question remains," the colonel’s voice cut through the room, "why were you trying to get that information? What do you know about this man’s disappearance?"

"A source in a shadow organization that works outside the realm of the legitimate government contacted me and said that organization had kidnapped a scientist in order to get information from him about a gateway between worlds," Mulder explained defiantly. Let them explain this one, or choke trying. "This shadow organization is interested in forming an alliance with the extraterrestrial biological entities that are contacted through this gateway."

Stone stillness met his explanation. He stared from one to the other.

"This cannot be," the big one finally said.

"No, Teal’c, and it won’t be," the colonel replied grimly. "Who the hell is this so-called shadow organization and what do I have to do to get my man back?"

"Is it true, then?" Mulder asked challengingly. "About the other worlds? The EBEs?"

"There can be no alliance," Teal’c said chillingly. "Only subjugation." Before Mulder could ask what he meant, the colonel stepped in.

"Enough, Teal’c. I repeat," and his tone made it clear he would do so only once, "what do I have to do to get my man back?"

As Mulder’s mouth opened to ask further questions, a tinny bell rang. "Hold that thought," he told the colonel, and reached for his cell phone. "Mulder."

"You had time to think about it?" Mulder nearly dropped the phone. "’Cause his time has just run out."

"Krycek?" Scully jolted forward, and he tilted the phone so she could hear. "What do you mean?"

"They’re going to kill him if I don’t get him out of here, now. Meet me tomorrow at 1500 at Trout’s Truck Stop, off I-24 by Cheatham Lake, northwest of Nashville." There was a distinct click, and the dial tone rang in their ears. Mulder and Scully shared a look over the dead handset.

"What?!" The colonel sounded ready to shoot something. Mulder raised a placating hand.

"That was our source. He’s going to break your scientist out."

"Where are they?" "Will he do something stupid?" "Why can’t he wait until we can get there?" The questions overlapped, and Mulder put his other hand up in an attempt to stop the flow.

"He doesn’t have time to wait. He said if he didn’t get the guy out tonight they were going to kill him. He gave us a place to meet."

"Where and when." The colonel’s brown eyes were blazing by this point.

Mulder considered trying to explain why surprising Krycek, or attempting to take on the Consortium with anything less than the combined UN forces, would be bad ideas. He also briefly considered a short treatise on why he, personally, had no faith in the United States Air Force or its officers. Then he gave up and asked, simply, "Will you trust me?" At the immediate lack of enthusiasm in the group’s expressions he added, "It’s the only way to get him back. If we call in the big guns these guys will kill him before we can ever get to him."

The colonel exchanged glances with his team, then nodded, once. "We’ll go in quietly. But we are all going in."

Looking at the determination, not to mention the sheer size, of the group in front of him, Mulder had no choice but to agree.

 

The timing, as usual, had to be perfect. The scapegoat, the psychiatrist who had protested the brain drain, left the compound and made his usual stop at a little grocery store on the outskirts of town before heading off to his small apartment.

He never arrived.

Krycek hit him as he got in the car, breaking his neck with a quick twist as the man was looking down to fasten his seatbelt. "Let’s hear it for safety first," he muttered, as he efficiently bagged the corpse and stuffed it into the trunk of his own car. Then he returned to the compound and used a weakness in the perimeter defense that he’d set up earlier that day to sneak back on the grounds.

Luring the guard away was ridiculously easy – funny how the old rock in the far corner trick still worked so well. Might have something to do with the average intelligence of the Consortium’s thugs. The guard was put down with an overdose of sedatives from the psychiatrist’s own needle, in a blind corner from the video net. The watching camera was next, one shot with a silenced dart gun, since even a silenced round from a real weapon would trigger alarms. He estimated that he had three minutes from the time the camera went down until the first squadron arrived.

He made it in two.

Punching the code in, he grinned ferally when the door slid open. Dr. Jackson had been dressed, after a fashion, in his jeans and nothing else. Krycek quickly shrugged out of his leather jacket and wrapped it around the groggy captive. At least Jackson was with it enough to help, not deadweight to be carried. Krycek twined Jackson’s arms around his waist, took his gun in hand and headed for the door.

The next five minutes were among the longest of his life. The alarm had freaked the scientist out, and he’d wasted a precious moment convincing Jackson that he had to stay quiet or the bad guys would get them both.

"Jack?" The doctor sounded very spacey. Krycek sighed, hauled him into a supplies cabinet while soldiers ran past outside the door and gave in to temptation, kissing Jackson senseless.

"Yeah, what?" he demanded when he let the kid draw a breath.

"Goa’uld?" Anger warred with fear in big, doped blue eyes.

"Yeah, uh," what the hell was the kid’s name? Oh, right! "Daniel, we gotta be quiet and move fast or the, er, ghouls are gonna get us. Can you do that?"

The combination of intent concentration and drugged lethargy would have been funny under any other circumstances. Right now, they were wasting valuable time. He didn’t want to knock the scientist out, but he couldn’t afford a stray sound giving them away.

"Jack?" Appreciably quieter. Krycek smiled.

"Yeah?"

"Let’s get th’hell outta here."

"Sounds like a plan to me."

Hugging the swaying body close to his side, Krycek listened until it sounded clear, then shouldered the door open. Moving as quickly as they could, he led them through the back corridors until he returned to the broken fence where he’d come in. As he’d hoped, the syringe in the dead guard led them to think it was the psychiatrist, and the guards converged on the front gate while he and Jackson were slipping out the back.

After that it was amazingly clear sailing. At a lime pit chosen for its lack of use in Hoxie, Arkansas, the corpse of the scapegoat was buried and left. Doctor Jackson slept through it. They drove through the night, carefully, along small roads and state highways, avoiding the interstate until they had to take it. There was one pit stop at a rest station when they crossed the Tennessee state line. By then Jackson could at least stand on his own, although walking was iffy. Thankfully, at just after five in the morning, the area was deserted.

The drugs were slow in wearing off, having fully impregnated his system, and Krycek was hoping Jackson would sleep them off. No such luck. The scientist was a snuggler. Unable to fend him off, having only one arm and needing that to drive, Krycek put up with the affectionate nuzzling. When the sleepy mouth got too close to target, he’d rock his hip until the heavy head got heavier. Jackson spent most of the drive with his face in Krycek’s lap.

By the time they got to Cheatham Lake, Krycek was about ready to explode. Arriving two hours early, he canvassed the area by car, thoroughly, before driving off to a heavily wooded area off a country road some miles from the meeting point. Then he parked, swiveled in the seat, kissed Jackson until his mouth ached, opened his zipper and shoved the scientist’s face back where it had been for the last several hours. It took no further urging for Jackson to suckle him like a baby. A starving baby. A surprisingly well trained one, at that.

Then he stopped thinking, because he couldn’t anymore, since his brain was on fire. He stuffed his fist into his mouth both to stop the scream and to keep from burying his hand in that thatch of blond hair and choking Jackson to death by cramming his cock all the way down the boy’s throat.

When the stars finally cleared from in front of his eyeballs, he stared down at Jackson, still nuzzling at his groin. "No joy there, kid," he advised. Then he pulled Jackson up by the scruff of the neck, and stared at him.

God. The kid was gorgeous. And with his mouth swollen, his eyes half shut, hair falling over his forehead, naked to the waist and harder than a rock, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Fox Mulder.

Krycek had never been any good at bypassing temptation. He slid the tensed body up against the car door, ripped open the buttons on his jeans, and swallowed him whole. He didn’t taste like Mulder. Or smell like him. But he still tasted good. He’d tasted good in the lab, and he tasted even better in the middle of nowhere for the last time before Krycek handed him over.

Illicit thrills were the most satisfying kind.

It didn’t take long to milk the kid dry, and Krycek enjoyed every moment of it. Well, he could have done without being called ‘Jack’ at the end, but he was sort of used to being called by other people’s names. And since he’d been calling Jackson ‘Mulder’ in his mind, he guessed turnabout was fair play.

Jackson slumped over, finally asleep, by the time Krycek was finished, and as he licked his lips and looked over the utterly relaxed man, he wondered why he hadn’t pulled over to the side of the road and done that hours ago. One hell of a sleeping pill. Then he grinned, shrugged, zipped himself back up, and headed for Trout’s.

He had a package to deliver.

 

"Hey, they have chili cheese fries!" Mulder tried to lighten the mood. For some reason, he was absolutely convinced that Krycek would do as he said. The other four people with him didn’t look so certain.

"He’s late," the colonel growled. Mulder successfully resisted the urge to roll his eyes and solemnly agreed.

"Three minutes. Could be a difference in watches, you know. Don’t worry," he added, growling a little himself. "He’ll be here." He turned away from the two men glaring at him, and glanced over to the front of the combination store and restaurant. Scully and Carter had their heads together, digging into a bag of some sort of granola stuff. They looked very at ease with one another.

There were times when he really envied Scully’s ability to plunk down in the middle of any social situation and make it her own. She and the blonde Captain were getting along like a house afire. He glanced back at the men who managed to stand at attention even leaning against the side of Mulder’s rental car. Too bad the lady’s comrades weren’t so easy to get along with. "Seed?" he offered, holding out his bag of sunflower seeds to the really big guy. Dark eyes stared down at him, then into the bag, then back at him.

"No."

Well, that was definite enough. He heard a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort of laughter, but when he peered over at the colonel, all he saw was a stone face. Before he could try to think of anything else to ease the situation, he saw a late model Chevy sedan pull up beside them. He couldn’t help but grin. Krycek looked like he would jump if anyone so much as said ‘boo’ to him, and the young guy draped across the seat beside him looked totally wasted.

"Glad to see you got here-" His laconic greeting was interrupted by four other bodies pressing to the passenger side of the car.

"Daniel!" the colonel yelped very quietly, as he ripped the door open and Teal’c caught Jackson before he could fall out of the car.

"Is he okay?" Carter’s worried voice.

"Let me check him out," came Scully’s calm voice, attempting to impose order on chaos. "I am a doctor, and he needs one."

Mulder sidestepped the frantic activity to walk over and lean against the driver’s side door, grinning slightly as he looked down at Krycek. "You do know how to make an entrance."

"I try," the Rat grinned back at him.

Scully interrupted them. "We have to get him to a hospital."

"No!" Krycek leaned over to add his two cents. "You can’t take the risk. Get him away from here, to a military hospital, one run by his people," he pointed at the SG-1 team. "Colonel Jack O’Neill and company, I presume?" The colonel nodded at him. Krycek waved Mulder back and got out of the car, walking over to join the small crowd, Mulder at his heel. He ignored the shocked looks he got from a few of the newcomers to his stump. "Don’t take him to a civilian facility. The people I took him from are operating on a very narrow window of opportunity. If they can get him back in the next forty eight hours, they will do everything they can to drain him dry of any information they can get, then kill him. If you can keep him secure for that long, the threat will be neutralized."

A spate of questions battered him, but they were interrupted this time by Jackson himself, moaning softly. Krycek looked down. The kid looked like the hero of a Bernstein musical, all white skin and black leather, laid out at their feet like a sacrifice.

"He needs help," O’Neill growled again. "And it’s too far back to the compound."

"I have a friend …" Scully offered, hand clamped lightly around Jackson’s wrist as she monitored his pulse. "She has a clinic in Nashville." She looked up, worry on her face. "We can trust her, and he does need help."

Teal’c lifted Jackson, who looked like a child in his arms, and headed for the van, O’Neill right beside him. "Direct us," he ordered quietly. Mulder grabbed Krycek by the shoulder, and the entire group piled into the van and headed for Scully’s alternative.

 

"He’s suffering from dehydration, exhaustion, and drug ingestion of a cocktail of drugs I can’t sort out. While there appears to be no permanent damage, he is emotionally and psychologically vulnerable." Dr. Martinez, Scully’s buddy Lara, looked frustrated by the whole situation. Jack could empathize.

"We will take care of him, doctor, but we need to make sure he’s stable enough to travel. Is he?" Jack leaned forward unconsciously, and his movement caught Daniel’s attention.

"Jack?" His voice was reedy, but strong enough to get everyone’s attention. "zat you?"

"Yeah, Daniel, it’s me, you’re safe, hang on, buddy," O’Neill covered the fist clenching into the front of his shirt with one hand and patted Daniel’s shoulder with the other. To his surprise, the fingers under his tightened further, and he was pulled off balance to lie halfway across Daniel. When he tried to get up, Jackson’s arms snaked around him and held on for dear life.

"Wan’ go home," came a muffled wail from the vicinity of his chest. He patted the top of Daniel’s head helplessly.

"We will, Daniel. It’s okay." He stared at the doctor. "Can I take him home now?"

She looked like she wanted to tell him no. Then she and Scully muttered to one another for a little while, and she reluctantly agreed. "Keep him warm, keep giving him plenty of fluids, and let him rest until the drugs are flushed from his system!" she finished with an aggrieved frown, shaking a finger at him for emphasis. Jack agreed.

"Will do, doc." He looked around at his motley combination team, pausing to glare suspiciously at the one armed guy with the attitude before looking back at the FBI agents. "You ready to head out?"

"I can’t go with you," Krycek said calmly. "They can’t know I helped you." With that, he turned and walked out of the clinic. Mulder’s head swiveled between the SG-1 team and the departing man.

"Damnit," he muttered. He shot Jack a desperate look, and Teal’c a frankly hungry look. "Can we … talk sometime? I really can’t let him get away. God only knows when I’d find him again and he has some information I need to know. Okay?"

Jack nodded, and Mulder shot out the door on Krycek’s heels. Not that he’d tell the Fibbie anything. The Stargate was classified for a reason, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to bring in any outsiders. He shifted, and Daniel shifted right along with him, sort of a human security blanket. He sighed. Even if the guy had saved Daniel’s life, he still couldn’t tell him the truth. He wrapped his arms around Daniel and helped him to sit upright, then to stand. Teal’c came around to the other side and hefted the majority of the scientist’s weight with no fuss. O’Neill looked over for Carter, in time to see her accept a small white card from Scully. He’d have to have a little talk with Sam, too. Gratitude was all well and good, but security had to come first.

By the time they’d manhandled Daniel out to the van, the other three were ensconced in the back. The drive back to the agents’ car was a silent one. Sam drove, Scully stared out the window, Krycek stared at Mulder, Mulder stared at Teal’c, Teal’c stared at nothing in particular and everything at once, and Daniel held on to Jack like a leech to a major artery. A few miles from the truck stop, Krycek finally opened his mouth.

"I don’t know the precise psychotropics they used on him, but they were attempting to make him vulnerable to suggestion. They tried to get him to turn on you, tried to get him to lead them to the ghouls-"

Teal’c’s neck nearly snapped as his head whipped around to stare at Krycek. Daniel whimpered softly and burrowed more deeply into Jack’s side.

"but he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t turn. In the end, they decided it was useless to try, and were going to kill him. He didn’t betray you, or anything about your work. He is a very loyal man." Then he went back to staring at Mulder, who was now staring back.

Jack cleared his throat. "He is a good man." His arms tightened a little, then loosened back up as he took a deep breath. He really, really wanted to find the sons of bitches who’d hurt Daniel and kill every last one of them. But not now. Later. When Daniel was safe again.

The good-byes were short and sweet. O’Neill was anxious to get Daniel back to the base and get him settled down. As they drove back to the compound, Jack settled Daniel more securely against him, and tried to make them both as comfortable as possible. It was a very long ride.

 

Scully gave Mulder and Krycek both the silent treatment all the way back to Mulder’s apartment, and he knew he’d have major fence mending to do there. She contented herself with a single "Will you be all right?" as he and Krycek got out, ignoring the other man completely.

"I’ll be fine," he tried to reassure her. She didn’t look convinced, glaring one last time at Krycek before reluctantly pulling away. Neither man said a word on the elevator up to the fourth floor.

"So, are you going to be okay? And what was that all about, anyway? What kind of black ops are they running? Is it alien technology? Some sort of hybrid-"

Mulder’s questions were stopped the old fashioned way – with Krycek’s tongue stuffed in his mouth. They didn’t even make it as far as the couch, much less to Mulder’s newly reclaimed and refilled water bed. The small corner of his mind that wasn’t preoccupied with getting Krycek naked as fast as possible wondered if Krycek even knew someone had excavated Mulder’s bed for him. Then even that little bit of higher functioning shorted out as Krycek managed to get Mulder’s slacks undone and dive into his shorts.

Shee-it. He might have only half the usual allowance of fingers, but he knew what to do with each and every one of them. Mulder shuddered against the wall, head banging back against the plaster, not that he felt anything, since every nerve in his body that wasn’t in his groin was too busy rubbernecking the action down below to worry itself about him accidentally smashing his skull. It all just felt too good. Much too good.

Vaguely, as his knees gave and his brains melted, he was aware of a voice by his ear. "Doctor Jackson isn’t the only one with a personal loyalty problem, tovarisch," Krycek rumbled, each breath against his skin making the tiny hairs stand up and salute. Along with every other inch of erectile tissue in his body. "You owe me a leather jacket."

Mulder tried to answer, tried to make a smart crack, but all he could come up with was a weak, "oh yeah." Then the world was exploding and he just didn’t care anymore.

He knew there was a reason he kept coming back for more.

 

The debriefing was held in the infirmary, over Jackson’s bed, since the man wouldn’t let go of Jack long enough for the colonel to go to the general. Hammond listened intently to Janet Fraiser’s recommendations of rest, fluids, and supervision for any further effects of the rapidly weakening drugs, agreed when Jack volunteered to do the babysitting, and asked several pointed questions about just how the FBI had known a Stargate team member was missing. Then he patted Daniel gently on the shoulder, turned on his heel and went after the leak.

Heads were going to roll. O’Neill smiled grimly to himself. If he ever found out who’d done this to Daniel, heads weren’t the only thing that would be on the chopping block.

"Do you need assistance in guarding DanielJackson?" Teal’c offered. Jack shook his head no.

"I’m just gonna take him home and tuck him in," he said quietly. Daniel looked up at him from his somewhat shaky seat on the side of the cot.

"Now?" He was fading fast, but he didn’t look like he wanted to stay there a minute longer than he had to. Jack sympathized.

"Yeah, Daniel, now." He nodded thanks to Teal’c, then helped Daniel out to his car. Sam left on one direction, Teal’c returned to his quarters, and Jack looked down at his half-asleep passenger. "Let’s get you home to bed, Danny boy."

"God, yes," Jackson responded with more energy than he’d shown in some time. Jack looked surprised, but didn’t answer him. As soon as they got to housing, he helped Daniel inside to the bedroom and left him sitting on the side of the mattress. When he’d locked up and returned, Daniel had managed to shed the leather jacket and unbutton his jeans, but then had apparently run out of gas, and was splayed sideways across the bed, arms out to his sides, head thrown back, thighs spread, bare feet flat on the floor.

O’Neill had to swallow several times before he got enough spit in his mouth to speak. "Jesus, Daniel, what exactly are you offering?" It couldn’t be what it looked like. It had to be exhaustion, yeah, that was it.

"Can’ gemy pan’s off," Daniel slurred. Jack didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. He came forward and knelt down, peeling the tight jeans off Daniel’s long legs.

Oh, boy. Commando. Unable to stop himself, he leaned forward and inhaled slightly. Um-hm. And somebody’d been having good dreams. A frown creased his forehead, and he leaned forward further, staring intently at Daniel’s groin and genitals. No dream. Those looked like … bite marks. Finger bruises. He raised his head to ask Daniel what the hell had happened to him when two surprisingly strong hands clamped around his head and drew him up into a kiss that threatened to suck his lungs right out of his body.

When he could tell up from down again, he found himself sprawled over Daniel across the bed, pinning him down, participating enthusiastically in the kiss. Daniel’s erection was digging into his thigh, both of them were panting like racehorses, and he was severely overdressed for the occasion, something Daniel was working like crazy to set right. His conscience balked, or tried to, but before he could say anything that made any sense – like, say, stop it! It’s the drugs talking! – Daniel managed to get his jeans open.

It was all downhill for the brain cells from there.

Clothes didn’t melt off, but they certainly gave before the doctor’s determined assault, and in less time than Jack would have expected, the room looked like it had been clothes-bombed and they were naked together on the bed. He worked their bodies until they were at least parallel to the mattress instead of perpendicular – he didn’t particularly like having his knees slip off the side, and with all Daniel had been through, having his head bouncing off the opposite side couldn’t have felt very good. Once they were situated, instincts took over, and they writhed together like they’d been doing it for years.

Eons.

Millennia.

Too damned soon, it was over, and they were moaning and thrashing and holding on tight. Jack felt like his eyeballs had imploded and his bones had been nuked, and from the way Daniel draped himself around him, he had a good idea the other man was just as wasted. He forced himself to reach for the pitcher of water on the nightstand beside him, managing to pour a good glassful before he collapsed back next to Daniel.

"Drink," he commanded hoarsely, holding the glass to Daniel’s kiss-swollen lips. "S’posed to be juicing you up, not draining you."

Daniel slurped the entire glassful down, then buried his face in Jack’s neck, barely whispering, "Feel pretty juicy righ’ now. Night, Jack," before falling asleep where he lay. Jack wrestled the warm deadweight to his side and shoved the glass back on the table before snagging the quilt and snuggling down under it, beside Daniel. Even in his sleep, Daniel’s arms came up around him.

After listening to his heartbeat gradually calm down, staring at the ceiling, Jack nuzzled the side of Daniel’s neck and said softly, "I’m honored. Even though I know you won’t remember a damned thing about this when you come to."

To his complete shock, Daniel whispered back, "Yes, I will." Then there was only silence, and the sound of breathing in the still room.

 

Scully stared out the kitchen window, leaning against the counter, inhaling the fragrance of Darjeeling tea and blueberry muffins. She’d checked on Mulder, and other than cocking an eyebrow at the turtleneck sweater he was wearing instead of his standard collar and tie, knowing the reason for the camouflage, he seemed okay. She’d half hoped to hear from Samantha, but had a strong feeling she wouldn’t. Too many secrets. Too separate lives.

The cup hit the counter with a clatter. To hell with that.

Reaching into her purse for the piece of scrap paper she’d scribbled Sam’s contact number on, she reached for the phone and punched in the numbers before she could lose her resolve.

"H’lo?" Sweet voice. Scully smiled.

"Hi, it’s me. Dana Scully," she clarified. "So, do you ever get any time off?" There was a pause, then she could hear the smile in the response.

"Yes. You?"

"Yes. Want to go out for lunch?"

"Sure. When?" Anticipation joined the smile.

"Today?"

"I’m in Colorado."

"I’m in DC. There are commuter flights. It’s Saturday."

Another, very short, pause. "See you for dinner."

Scully grinned. Life was full of possibilities, after all.

end