Area 52 HKH

I'm Not Crazy

by Orrymain

URL: http://area52hkh.net/aso/orrymain4/imnotcra.php
Summary: When SG-1 returns from a mission and Daniel sees creatures no one does, the archaeologist fears being placed in a mental hospital as he was years earlier. Will Jack allow history to repeat itself?
Info: This is a Danielized story for S6, meaning there is no Jonas and Daniel is with SG-1 per normal.

I'm Not Crazy
Author: Orrymain
Author Email: marciastudley1@comcast.net (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: 6 - April 21-23, 2003
Spoilers: Sight Unseen (Danielized), Legacy (minor)
Size: 76kb
Written: April 9-15, 2017
Summary: When SG-1 returns from a mission and Daniel sees creatures no one does, the archaeologist fears being placed in a mental hospital as he was years earlier. Will Jack allow history to repeat itself?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "Jack and the Profesesor," "Calming Influences," and "After the Calm"

I'm Not Crazy
by Orrymain

"Tie down the boonie, Daniel," Jack quipped as he walked away from the Stargate. "Carter, a little miss there on the weather?"

"We knew it would be windy, Sir," Sam reminded as she felt the heavy breeze ripping against her BDUs.

"Windy, Carter?" Jack queried. "Windy is like Chicago. This is a gale, a tempest, a ..."

"Jack, it's windy," Daniel interrupted.

"Windy is as windy does," Jack retorted, shrugging when he saw his teammates staring at him with blank expressions. "Okay, kids, let's see what goodies we can find."

The team was on P9X-391. They knew little about the planet upon their arrival, except that the MALP reported an architectural structure in the distance that appeared to be some type of ruins.

As they walked, the team was strung out, with Jack and Daniel side by side, Sam a few yards behind them, and Teal'c several yards behind the major.

"You're not upset?" Daniel asked his colonel.

"About?"

"Jack, two days ago we were on a planet not much different than this one. As I recall, you and Teal'c were bored and you were ..."

"... grumpy," Jack completed for his Love. "There's one big difference between that mission and this one."

"Which is?"

"Those other guys aren't here," Jack explained as he referred to three somewhat bumbling scientists who ended up more a part of SG-1's last mission than was ever intended.

Daniel slightly bobbed his head a couple of times and let the conversation die.

"Carter, how far?" Jack questioned, turning his head back to look over his shoulder for a moment.

"About four clicks, Sir," the major responded, swatting away some sand that blew against her mouth as she spoke.

As the team made their trek to the unknown structure, they observed a desolate world, barren of activity except for the winds of nature and their exploration. Wearing their desert camo uniforms, the four easily blended in with the bland white and tan colors of the planet.

"Doesn't look like much," Jack observed as the site came into view.

"Definitely ruins of some kind," Daniel opined.

Sam sprinted forward, eager to examine the area, and immediately noted, "There's not much left."

"There's something," the archaeologist pointed out about an interior section of the ruins.

"Let's check it out," Jack suggested, though the science twins were already walking inside. "Kids and their toys," he quipped. "Teal'c, not that there's anything here, but just in case, keep an eye out."

The Jaffa nodded and began his watch outside of the area.

"Carter, set up the link," Jack ordered in preparation for checking in with Stargate Command.

Jack and Daniel slowly looked over the inner ruins while the link with Stargate Command was established. Once the connection was made, Jack advised that the mission was on schedule, but as of yet, they hadn't found anything significant.

"Uh, this is interesting," Daniel stated as he saw steps leading downward into a chamber of some kind.

"Find something?"

"I don't know," Daniel answered as he started down the steps.

"Whoa!" Jack ordered, reaching out to stop Daniel from taking another step. "I'll go first. Wait here."

"If you insist," Daniel returned.

Cautiously, Jack went down the stairs, his senses on full alert as he canvassed the room.

"Okay," the colonel permitted.

Daniel walked down into the room and began to look around, taking note of the various items scattered around.

"Dark and dungeon-like," Jack opined as he held his weapon at the ready.

"I think this might have been a lab or ..." Daniel trailed off and then continued his thought. "Maybe this was a research station." He continued to review the broken or decayed objects. "This could have been a science outpost for some civilization."

Sam joined her teammates and quickly agreed, "Daniel could be right, Sir." She looked upward at the domed ceiling and took in the circular shape of the room which in and of itself was intact. "Maybe it was an observatory."

As Daniel continued his review, he nodded his assent to Sam's hypothesis.

"Look at this," the archaeologist said as he pointed out a large cylinder on a table in the far corner of the room.

"What do you think it is?" Sam asked, her eyes focused on the rectangular unit as she walked over and stood opposite Daniel.

"I have no idea." Daniel's eyes were intensely focused on the object. "Maybe ..."

Jack stood back, sighing as he watched Daniel and Sam engage in a broad speculation of what the object could be.

"The Ancients," Daniel spoke with a bit of wonder in his voice.

"What about them?" Jack asked.

"These glyphs," Daniel began, his right hand hovering over a collection of glyphs that were along the side of the object, "they're in the language of the Ancients."

"Daniel, don't touch that thing," Jack ordered.

At the same time Jack spoke, Daniel reached forward and made contact with the object. Immediately, it began to glow in an orange hue, causing Sam and Daniel both to back away a bit.

"Daniel, I *told* you not to touch it."

The archaeologist shrugged nonchalantly as he walked forward to get a closer look.

"You must have activated it," Sam surmised as she studied the object. "Sir, we should take this back with us."

"You sure it's not a bomb?"

"It's not a bomb," Daniel replied.

"How do you know?" Jack questioned curiously.

"It's not ticking."

Jack let out a groan, but ordered, "Pack it up." He looked around and queried, "Is there anything else around here you want to play with?"

Having rolled his eyes at his lover's terminology, Daniel simply shook his head in response.

"I haven't seen anything else of interest. The other equipment appears to be broken or eroded with time," Sam responded.

"We should still look around a little more," Daniel put forth.

"Carter, contact SGC and tell them we're bringing home a present."

"Yes, Sir."

"I'm going to check on Teal'c and make sure our perimeter is secure. Let me know when you're ready to leave this little paradise."

After a more thorough examination of the ruins and with the object crated and placed on the MALP, SG-1 headed back to Earth.

====

"Welcome home, SG-1. How did it go?" General Hammond asked as he stood at the base of the ramp.

"Oh, General, you know how I love those sandy planets," Jack answered.

Smiling, Teal'c responded, "The wind was most pleasant."

Feeling proud at having taught Teal'c well, Jack slapped him on the shoulder and quipped, "Jaffa sarcasm at its finest, General."

Amused, Hammond chuckled. He was happy his flagship returned safely to their home base. It was a relief he felt when every SG team returned unharmed through the Stargate.

"As it turned out, Sir, there wasn't much left to study," Daniel noted.

Sam quickly elaborated, "Most of what used to be there has been eaten away by sandstorms, but we did find evidence suggesting that it was some sort of science outpost or observatory built by the Ancients."

The major then opened the crate on the MALP to show the general the object.

"What is it?" the general inquired.

"I have no idea," Daniel replied.

With a nod, Sam agreed, "We're not sure."

"I'd say it's some kind of bug zapper, General," Jack interjected lightly. "Or a large glow worm."

Everyone stared at the colonel, but no one uttered a word, causing Jack to shrug off their indifference to his jokes.

Sam continued, "All I know is that it's emitting energy."

Daniel explained, "It was hidden in an underground chamber just below the main section of the ruins. When I touched it, the crystals started glowing."

"I told him not to touch that thing, General, but you know Daniel. He just *loves* touching things," Jack teased, though part of him was seriously upset that his lover kept putting himself in danger by coming into close contact with alien devices, something he'd done from the very beginning of their explorations together.

Sam surmised, "Touching it must have somehow activated it."

"You're certain it isn't dangerous," Hammond put to the team.

"It's not ticking," Jack retorted, getting a version of the evil eye from his archaeologist for stealing his line. "It's not copyrighted," he mumbled.

Sam ignored her commanding officer's remark and replied, "Well, as certain as I can be without knowing what it is exactly. As I said when we reported in, my initial scans indicated the energy it's emitting is harmless. That in itself makes it worthy of study as a potential power source, Sir."

All of a sudden, Daniel became alarmed. He saw a large red insect that appeared to be somewhat translucent. It was flying and began to dive towards his soulmate before altering its course and returning to the top of the room.

"Jack!" Daniel exclaimed as he pushed the older man back with a jarring grab of his shoulder in the belief his life was in danger. He pulled out his zat and pointed it upward, his aim dead center on the creature as it flew near the ceiling. ~What is that?~

"What?" Jack called out in confusion. "Daniel!"

Jack, Sam, and the Special Forces personnel readied their weapons, certain there must be some unseen danger nearby. Why else would the normally peaceful Daniel Jackson raise his weapon in the gate room?

"There! What? Jack, don't you see it?"

"What is it I'm supposed to see?"

The archaeologist maintained his grip on his weapon, watching in astonishment as the creature flew out of view.

Blinking as he relaxed somewhat and lowered his weapon, Daniel advised, "It just disappeared into the wall."

"What did?" Sam asked, her confusion matched by everyone else in the gate room.

Suddenly aware that the insect was only visible to himself, Daniel tensed as he replied, "I don't know what it was. It ... it was something, a ... an alien creature of some kind. You didn't see it? It was right there. Jack, it looked like a ... like a bug, a very big bug." Daniel's eyes darted around the room, taking in Jack's brown eyes and Sam's blue ones. He saw doubt, especially in the eyes of the SFs. "Jack, I'm not crazy." He looked at Hammond and insisted earnestly, "General, I saw it. It flew around the room and hovered up at the ceiling before going ... in it."

Daniel let out a sigh, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. He knew he wasn't crazy, but he also realized his words sounded as if he were crazy.

Hammond looked at the civilian whom he considered to be a friend and respected as much as anyone he'd ever known. He gave Daniel a nod and quickly walked to the wall and pulled the alarm.

Picking up the red phone, the major general ordered, "This is Hammond. I want a Class One security lockdown of the base as of now. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill."

The klaxon blared and the blast door lowered to protect the control room.

"It was a bug?" Jack queried.

"I don't know. It looked like a bug," Daniel responded, his voice tainted with anxiety.

"This is a joke, right? You're pranking me for the bug zapper line," Jack suggested as he searched for an explanation.

"No."

The answer was succinct and clear, causing Jack to let out a brief sigh.

"Okay, let's go."

SG-1's first stop was the locker room where they changed into their blue BDUs. After that, they underwent extensive post-mission examinations in the infirmary. Once cleared, they grabbed a bite to eat in the mess, after which they wrote their reports. On any other day, they would have changed into their street clothes and left the base, but with the Mountain on lockdown, they had no choice but to remain.

"Any point to ordering some shuteye?" Jack asked his team.

As it happened, P9X-391's day and night were in opposition to Earth's. SG-1 left on the mission Monday at ten in the evening in order to arrive on the planet at ten in the morning. They'd spent just under four hours on the colorless world before returning through the Stargate, meaning the foursome had a full day ahead of them.

"I'm good, Sir," Sam responded.

"I am not yet in need of kelno'reem, O'Neill," Teal'c replied.

"I want to know where that bug went," Daniel returned, knowing he couldn't sleep under any circumstances.

"That's what I thought," Jack acknowledged. "Okay, we'll wait for the word."

Sam and Teal'c both walked away, Sam towards her lab and Teal'c to monitor the search.

"Danny ..."

"Jack, I saw a big bug."

"Okay, so ..."

"I'm not crazy, Jack," Daniel snapped.

"Hold it," Jack stated forcefully, putting his hands on his soulmate's shoulders. "I never said you were crazy."

"No, but you're thinking it, just like ..."

"Just like what?"

"Nothing. Forget it. I have work to do," Daniel verbalized, pulling away from Jack and turning to walk in another direction.

"Daniel!" Jack sighed and called out again, "Daniel!"

"Later, Jack."

Jack wasn't sure why Daniel was so upset, but he was certain that seeing invisible bugs would make anyone a little nervous, so he opted to give Daniel some space at the moment. After all, he figured the security sweep wouldn't last more than another two hours.

====

~Hit it right on,~ Jack thought as he entered the briefing room with his teammates. ~0800 hours. Let's zap the bug, wherever it is, and get out of here.~

Sam and Teal'c quickly sat down, but Daniel walked to the large window overlooking the Stargate and stared at it. Jack considered saying something, but decided to wait. He sat down, though he stood again when the door opened and Hammond entered.

"As you were," the bald-headed man ordered, allowing Jack and Sam, who also stood up, to sit back down. "In the past six hours, security teams have swept the base three times. They found no trace whatsoever of the creature you described."

Looking at Daniel, Sam asked, "You're certain what you saw disappeared into the wall?"

"Yeah. I mean, isn't it possible that something followed us back through the Gate? It wouldn't be the first time."

"Something with the ability to penetrate solid matter?" Sam returned, her uncertainty evident in her facial expression and tone.

"Come on, Sam. We've had strange situations like this happen before."

"Nothing showed up on the video," Jack pointed out. ~He's too anxious. What's going on in that mind of his?~

"Doctor Jackson, I'm not questioning your judgment, but without any further evidence, I have no choice but to return the base to normal operating status."

"Yes, Sir. I understand."

"SG-1's had a particularly busy mission schedule lately. I believe you're all due for some downtime, and I suggest you take it starting right now. Dismissed," Hammond ordered before leaving the room.

"Daniel, you only saw a flash of this creature. Are you sure it wasn't some sort of hallucination or reaction to some ...?" Jack inquired as he tried to explain the sighting, though his thought was cut off by his frustrated soulmate.

"Are you suggesting I'm delusional? Or maybe just plain crazy?"

"No," Jack answered strongly. "That's not what we're saying."

"Then what are you saying?"

"I'm saying the sweep didn't turn up anything, so why don't we just take the downtime and come back refreshed in a couple of days."

"Jack, there was something alive down there. It *was* real."

"I believe you," the colonel responded, his eyes laser focused on his Love to communicate the sincerity of his words.

"Me, too," Sam added with a confident smile.

"As do I," Teal'c interjected.

Daniel nodded and took a deep breath.

"Downtime!" Jack exclaimed, standing up and eager to get going.

Sam and Teal'c left the briefing room, but Daniel turned and stared through the large glass pane at the Stargate. He felt the presence of his soulmate a few seconds later.

"I don't know what it is, but I know it's there."

"I said I believe you."

Daniel sighed and responded, "Go fishing, Jack."

"Look, I know that was the plan, but ..."

The archaeologist turned, his arms folded protectively across his chest as he cut off Jack's words with, "We have a plan, a game we're forced to play. It called for you to go fishing for a couple a days once today's mission was complete. If you don't go, people will talk, and don't forget to ask Sam to go with you."

"Daniel ..."

"Jack, we have to do this." Daniel attempted a smile, though all he could manage was a tentative upturn of his lips. "We agreed on this the other day."

"What if she says yes?"

"She won't."

"Hey, it's fishing."

"I doubt this is news to you, but Sam doesn't want to go fishing with you."

"She might."

"Jack."

"Daniel."

"Jack."

"Okay, I'll ask her, but she could say yes."

"Then take her."

"Daniel!"

"Jack!"

Both men smiled, their tension somewhat relieved by their familiar banter.

"Danny ..."

"I'm fine, Jack. Really, I'm fine."

Jack reached out and touched his lover's neck, rationalizing the move by saying, "There's a bug crawling on you."

"Jack!"

The colonel's hand on Daniel's nape was gentle and calming. Under the guise of a bug, Jack stole a moment with his soulmate. It was a brief caress, easily explained should one of their enemies get a hold of briefing room footage and try to make something of it. Jack was a toucher, and this slight connection was nothing compared to other supportive touches he'd given females and males alike over the years.

"I am fine," Daniel repeated, wishing the touch didn't have to end, but knowing it did. "The ... bug is gone."

"Yeah, I see it on the floor now."

"Thank you."

Jack nodded and regretfully backed away. He didn't believe Daniel was fine. Fine to Daniel usually meant he was in crisis, and during the briefing Jack remembered why he probably felt that way now.

It was a few years earlier when no one believed Daniel saw and heard things that were unexplainable in the moment. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia by Doctor MacKenzie whose opinion was supported by Janet. He was placed in a mental ward at the Air Force hospital, locked away in a private room and forced to take medicine that masked the truth.

Jack still felt guilty for not being there for his Love, and it had taken the archaeologist a long time to forgive and forget Janet for her role in his incorrect diagnosis and treatment. The entire experience was one of those the couple wanted to forget. Now, it was also motivation for Jack taking a strong stance in supporting Daniel. The colonel couldn't explain it, but if Daniel said he saw bugs, he saw bugs.

Alone in the briefing room, Daniel faced the Stargate and stared out for another minute before he left the room and went to his office.

====

Having changed into his civilian garb (yellow shirt, faded light blue jeans, and a tan jacket), Jack peeked inside his 2IC's lab and called out, "Carter."

Looking up from her computer station, Sam saw her CO motion for her to join him, so she stood and went to door, walking alongside Jack when he started down the corridor.

"How's Daniel?" Sam asked.

"Fine."

"He must have seen something," Sam put forth.

"No doubt about it," Jack agreed. He gritted his teeth, feeling uncertain about following through with the plan. He wanted to stay with Daniel and decided to see how the thought would play out with the major. "I could stay."

"We've all been cleared, Sir. The base is clean. Daniel might not have seen what he thought." Sam saw Jack look at her with a huge unhappy expression. "All I mean is that maybe there's an explanation we haven't thought of yet. It could have been a freak reflection."

"Yep." Jack accepted Sam's idea, though he wasn't sure how there could be a reflection on concrete walls. Arriving at the elevator, he scanned his key card and suggested, "You could come with."

"Sir?"

"Fishing, Carter. I'm going fishing."

"You know I'm planning on studying the artifact."

"Yes. There's always something isn't there," Jack stated as the elevator opened, revealing a technician and SF inside.

As Jack stepped inside the elevator, Sam responded, "Oh, come on, Sir. We both know the only reason you asked is because you knew I had something else to do." She mused, ~I should say yes, just to see his reaction.~

"No, really. I think you should come, fish; fish some more," Jack spoke lightly, grateful when the doors closed. ~Whew! Fishing with Carter: about as exciting as listening to her technobabble.~

Sam grinned, fully aware of the game and pleased that two personnel witnessed the lighthearted conversation with the fishing invite.

~That'll take maybe an hour to get around the base.~

====

"Hey, Sam," Daniel greeted as he entered the lab where the alien object was located.

"Hi," Sam returned brightly.

"Whatcha' doing?" the archaeologist asked, hoping for a distraction from his inner thoughts and unpleasant memories.

"Not going fishing," Sam teased, loving the small smile she saw form on Daniel's face.

"He asked?"

"Like always," Sam acknowledged. "We were overheard by at least two personnel. I'm sure it's spread by now."

"You could have gone," Daniel put forth.

"Daniel, you know me. I find this more relaxing." Sam looked at the computer screen for a moment and then asked, "Why didn't you go fishing with the colonel?"

"He wouldn't have fun," Daniel sighed. "I thought I'd study the glyphs," he said while pointing at the device the team brought back from the planet.

"Fine with me. I mean, the truth is I still have no idea what we're dealing with. I've scanned it with X-rays, ultraviolet, mild EM pulses. Nothing has had even the slightest effect on the particles it's emitting."

"Particles?"

"Well, for lack of a better word. I mean, really they're just energy patterns. So far, I haven't been able to identify them or determine their purpose. Actually, I was hoping that the writings on the device itself would tell us more," she confided with a hopeful look of encouragement.

"Okay, well, let's see what it says."

"Daniel," Sam interrupted, walking forward a few steps, her light tone replaced by something more serious. "I want you to know. I believe you saw something."

"You don't think I'm crazy?"

Sam shook her head and made a slight "Nuh-uh" sound, followed by the admission, "You were right. We've seen too much to discount the possibility that something might have followed us through the Gate or ... well, I don't know, but you're not crazy, and I know Colonel O'Neill doesn't believe that either."

"I know," Daniel conceded. After a pause, he began to study the glyphs and noted, "The symbols are, uh, definitely a form of language used by the Ancients."

"Great."

"Uh, maybe. The problem is that the Ancients have been around so long that the language has evolved."

"You don't know what it says?"

Daniel ran his thumb fast a few times along the right side of his chin and responded, "Not completely; not yet. We do have a base reference, though. It's uh ..." He casually placed his hand on the cylinder as he thought. Suddenly, a very large blue and yellow caterpillar came out of the device and crawled up to the top. "Yow, what ... gawd!" he exclaimed in alarm while stepping back several feet. "You think I'd be used to this stuff."

"Daniel?"

"You don't see that?" Daniel asked as he stared at the giant bug that was crawling down the side of the object.

"See what?"

"Sam, it's there, the bug, right in front of you."

"I don't see it."

"Maybe I am going crazy," a vulnerable Daniel vocalized. "It's right there, clear as can be. You don't see it?"

"No, I'm sorry," Sam spoke dejectedly. "Daniel, I think maybe you should talk to Janet."

"Right," Daniel responded dryly. ~It won't take her long to put me in a straitjacket again.~

"Daniel, General Hammond ..."

"It's okay, Sam. You have to tell him."

After Daniel left the lab, Sam reluctantly picked up the phone and notified the major general that Daniel was still seeing creatures that she herself couldn't see.

====

After a full examination of the archaeologist, Janet met with both Daniel and General Hammond to review the results.

"There's no indication of any viruses or toxins in your system, Daniel. Your cat scan, MRIs, blood work: they all came back clean." Looking at the base commander, she reported, "He's in perfect health."

"Physically," Daniel clarified as he waited for the other shoe to drop.

Janet responded, "That's all I can say definitively, but you haven't shown any signs of stress or fatigue that usually accompanies these kinds of hallucinations, and ..." The petite physician paused and smiled confidently as she opined, "there's no one on this base who is more sane than you."

Daniel was agape, not expecting such a strong statement from Janet. He had put the past behind him and yet, all things considered about the current situation, he was certain she would recommended he take a trip to the psych ward.

At that moment, Sam entered the area and quietly took a position just behind General Hammond. Everyone was aware of her presence.

SGC's chief doctor faced her patient and stated, "Daniel, I don't know why you're seeing these things. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't, except to say that in my professional opinion, whatever is going on has nothing to do with your mental faculties. There's absolutely nothing to support the theory that your visions are the result of any kind of disorder."

"That's good enough for me," Hammond stated as he stood up. "Doctor Jackson, until we find out exactly what's going on, SG-1 will removed from off-world activities." He looked at Sam and ordered, "Find out the cause, Major. I need my number one team on full duty as soon as possible."

"Yes, Sir," Sam acknowledged, watching as Hammond left the infirmary.

"Sam, these visions only started when we returned with the device."

"There's nothing I've found that suggests the device has anything to do with what you're seeing, Daniel."

"I need to translate the glyphs."

"You'd better hurry."

"Why?"

"General Hammond told me that the device is being shipped to Area 51 tomorrow."

Daniel let out a sigh, but then quickly stood up and exited the infirmary.

Sam and Janet exchanged a look of concern as they wondered what was the true cause of the bug visuals.

====

Less than thirty minutes later, Daniel sprinted into the lab, happy to see Sam was there. He called out her name to get her attention.

"Daniel?"

"Teal'c saw one of the bugs."

"When?"

"Just now. He went to tell General Hammond," the nearly out-of-breath archaeologist reported. "We ... we were walking. I was telling him about the plans to send the device to Area 51 and he, he saw one."

"So it's spreading," Sam surmised. "We need to find out what's causing it."

"The answer has to be ... this," Daniel surmised enthusiastically as he pointed to the alien device.

"Let's get to work," Sam suggested, getting a happy nod from her friend.

====

Meanwhile, Jack began his fishing excursion later than expected, opting to go home first and tend to some business, including checking on Daniel's fish. He couldn't remember if they'd refilled the fish food container and the last thing he wanted was for Daniel to come home to dead fish. Once was enough for the colonel, and he knew that was true for Daniel as well.

When he finally left the house, Jack decided to head towards a favorite fishing spot in Northern Colorado. It was one he didn't get to all that much, but he decided this solo trip was a good time to hit the reclusive locale.

Needing fuel, Jack pulled into the Glenwood Market and Gas Station and drove his extended cab vehicle to one of the pumps. He exited the truck and began to put gas into the truck. As he stood with the nozzle inserted into the filler neck, he heard the station attendant approach and noticed the man's friendly name tag that identified him as Vern.

The attendant offered to finish filling up the vehicle with gas since it was a full serve station with no price reduction for doing it oneself. Jack, however, was happy to finish the job himself.

The seemingly mild black-haired attendant grabbed a squeegee and began to clean the truck's windshield, feeling like he should do something since his customer was handling the gas job. He was a talkative sort and tried to make small talk with the colonel.

"So, what do you get, like, four to five miles to the gallon with this thing?"

With a smile of acceptance, Jack answered, "Yeah, it's a pig."

As the attendant continued his attempt at conversation, Jack suddenly became concerned. He caught a glimpse of something odd near the station's sign that was located near the highway entrance to the station.

"Get down," Jack ordered as he opened the truck door and removed his pistol that he kept hidden under the dashboard.

"Geez, the money's inside in a lockbox under the counter," the panicked man told Jack.

"I'm not gonna rob you; just get down!"

The attendant dropped to the pavement, mortified when Jack began firing his weapon, shooting towards the sign and then over his head and upward in the opposite direction.

~Okay, Danny. You definitely saw a big bug.~

Jack helped the nervous station worker get up, promising him that he wasn't going to kill him. He introduced himself and walked away. He pulled out his cell phone and immediately called Stargate Command.

"O'Neill for Hammond."

"I served in the Gulf," the attendant told Jack.

"What division?"

"Motor pool." The nervous man looked over at the damaged sign and whined, "Aw, man. My sign."

"Colonel, where are you?" Hammond asked over the phone once the call was patched into the control room.

"About thirty clicks north, Sir. I just saw something ... fairly interesting."

"That means they've breached base containment."

"Sir?"

"We're seeing them here, too. They're everywhere!"

"Daniel was right, General."

"I'm not surprised, Colonel," Hammond affirmed. "He and Major Carter are working together on a solution."

"I'll head back to the Mountain."

"Colonel, I think it would be better if you make yourself available for cleanup. Stay in town and wait my orders."

"Yes, Sir," Jack acknowledged, though he really wanted to return to the base.

====

A while later, Sam returned to the lab after checking on some members of her staff who were working on another scientific challenge.

"Anything?"

"Uh, it says something about an experiment, but I'm not sure about a few of these glyphs," Daniel said, tapping his pencil against the glyphs in question. There's something ... off about them."

"What do you mean?"

The linguist pursed his lips for a moment and frowned before explaining, "This says the Ancients were studying 'beings of the something something.' Technically, it translates to 'inner layer,' but 'beings of the inner layer' doesn't make much sense." He continued to focus on the glyphs and suggested, "Maybe it's supposed to mean 'other level'."

"Could it mean 'another dimension'?" Sam wondered.

"Maybe." Daniel set up straighter as he considered Sam's idea. He blinked as he stared at the glyphs. "That could work."

"It would make sense if the creatures were inhabiting another dimension close to ours," Sam opined.

"You want to change jobs?"

Sam laughed, "I don't think so. You've taught me a lot about alien languages, Daniel, but I can't hold a candle to your translations."

"I'd do as well trying to figure out how this device works."

The two shared a chuckle, but then it was back to work. Hammond had already told Sam that he expected a full report soon, as in very soon, and there was still a lot to be done.

====

Roughly an hour later, Daniel, Sam, Teal'c, and Janet awaited a conference with the general in the briefing room.

When Hammond entered, he announced, "Colonel O'Neill is going to remain in Colorado Springs and coordinate the quarantine. The National Guard is standing by. The President is prepared to declare a state of emergency." As he took his seat, he expressed, "Hopefully, these things, whatever they are, haven't gotten too far."

Sam responded, "Sir, we're not sure we're going to be able to contain them."

Hammond confirmed that the major halted the scheduled transfer of the alien device, per his orders. With others on the base and in town seeing the strange insects, he agreed the object needed to remain at the Mountain for the time being.

"I've translated enough of the writings to figure out its purpose," Daniel advised the commanding officer.

With a schematic of the object on the screen, Sam explained, "It's broadcasting a wave of energy particles. Now, while we're not exactly sure what these particles are made of, we think they're somehow triggering the ability to see these creatures. Hopefully, only those exposed to these particles will develop this ... second sight."

Daniel added, "From what I can ascertain, the device is meant to allow us to observe beings that exist in a dimension parallel to ours."

"We think the energy particles the device is emitting create a kind of bleed-through effect, giving anyone who's been exposed to them the ability to see into this parallel dimension," Sam continued.

"So we can't contain them because they aren't actually here?" Hammond questioned.

"In a manner of speaking. They do exist, just not in any way that allows us to actually interact with them," Sam answered.

"And, if I'm right, they didn't follow us through the Gate," Daniel advised the general.

"Then, where did they come from?" the general inquired.

Sam replied, "The ones we're seeing are from Earth. I mean, theoretically, these creatures could exist anywhere. We've just been previously unaware of them."

The major went on to explain that the creatures were no threat to Earth because they only existed in their dimension.

Janet interjected, "As far as I can tell, there's no physiological interaction beyond our ability to see them."

The concern, however, was that while those working at Stargate Command might be able to deal with seeing the illuminating bugs, those in the normal world might not, especially since there was no way to control when or where a person might see the creatures.

Janet put forth, "Imagine on a small scale, a surgeon doing delicate surgery, and he's distracted."

"Or ... an air traffic controller," Sam asserted.

The physician continued, "Even something as simple as driving a car. I mean, people might eventually be able to deal with it, but not before it turns the world upside down."

"And not to mention the potential exposure of the Stargate Program in trying to explain the situation," Daniel interjected. "We're risking the world learning about us and they aren't ready for that."

With a nod of agreement, Hammond ordered, "Shut off that device."

With a bit of hesitation, Sam sighed, "We've tried, Sir."

Sternly, Hammond instructed, "Find a way," and left the room.

"Are you going to be able to do that?" a concerned Janet inquired of her friends.

Daniel and Sam exchanged a similar look of concern before both shrugged.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't have an off button," Daniel replied.

"Well, we'd better go find something that isn't there then," Sam suggested, standing and heading for the lab.

Daniel cocked his head slightly at Janet and then stood and hurried after Sam, leaving the physician and Teal'c in the briefing room.

====

"Hello," Daniel spoke when he answered the phone that was located on the wall near the lab's doorway.

"Danny, how's it going?" Jack asked.

"Slow. Where are you?"

With a hint of displeasure in his voice, the colonel answered, "Downtown, looking for bugs. Hammond thinks I'm the only one who can handle the job."

"Found any, bugs, I mean?"

"No. It's quiet at the moment." There was some silence before Jack offered, "I could come back."

"General Hammond wants you there."

"I can think of something, especially since I'm basically sitting on my duff waiting for ... them."

"Jack, the general is right. If people start seeing ... you know, we need someone there who can contain it quickly." Daniel smiled and added, "No one is better than you when it comes to ... double talk."

"Daniel, I have no idea what you just said."

"You talk a good game," the archaeologist put forth.

"Yeah, and there's a National Guard CO over there looking at me for answers about why they've been called out. I'd better go give him some of that double talk until we know for sure what's happening here."

With a smile, Daniel agreed, "Go do that."

"Hey, did you have lunch?"

"Lunch?"

"Daniel, so help me if the only food you've eaten today is a package of Twinkies ..."

As Jack trailed off, not ending his somewhat threatening sentence, Daniel looked over at the table where an open package of Twinkies was. One Twinkie was gone, having been devoured in the past half hour. The other was still in place.

"I, uh, I promise that I have not eaten a ... package of Twinkies."

Suspicious, Jack probed, "What have you eaten?"

"Jack, I need to get back to this. Everyone here is nervous. One of the SFs almost shot himself in the foot."

"Donaldson, right?" Jack questioned. He groaned, "Good man, but he gets anxious easy and makes mistakes sometimes."

"Yeah, well, we all do. Jack, I have to go."

"Me, too."

"Jack," Daniel spoke softly, a covert passing on of his love for his soulmate and appreciation for the call.

"Me, too," Jack responded to the hidden declaration of love and need.

Without saying anything further, Daniel hung up the receiver while Jack pressed 'end' to disconnect the call on his cell phone.

====

As the afternoon ebbed, Hammond decided to check on the science twins and get an update. He entered the lab where the device was located and began by making his own advisory.

"Colonel O'Neill says there haven't been any further reports of sightings outside the base as of yet."

"We've triangulated most of the sightings to a five-hundred meter radius around the device. It seems to attract the creatures to it, most likely part of its design," Sam reported as she sat on the right side of the table on which the alien device was located.

"So the closer that we get to the machine, the more frequently we'll be seeing our new friends," Daniel added as he stood on the opposite side of the table.

"We've been unable to find any types of controls or switches. The last resort is separating the main crystal core from the unit itself. Hopefully, that will cut its power supply and stop the device from functioning," Sam told the general whom she knew was anxious to have the device deactivated.

"What are you waiting for?"

"Well ... Sir, this is a very advanced piece of alien technology. I have no idea what effect that pulling the plug will have."

"Major, if this effect continues to spread ..."

Sam understood that she had no choice. The base commander wanted the device shut off, so regardless of risk, she had to proceed.

Standing, Sam positioned herself closer to the object and advised, "Attempting to remove crystal core." She pulled out the multi-colored crystal unit and immediately the hues faded. The orange color of the cylinder itself also turned dark. Sam looked over at her computer monitor and observed, "My scans are no longer detecting any particle emissions coming from the device."

Cautiously, Daniel asked, "Anyone see anything?"

The three paused, each almost afraid to take a breath. They waited over a minute before a small celebratory tone occurred.

"Well done, Major," Hammond praised. "Thank you, Doctor Jackson, for your hard work." He paused for just a moment and advised, "Contact Area 51 and arrange to have the device transported there as soon as possible. I want this thing off my base."

Sam nodded as Hammond exited and then commented contentedly, "Looks like we made through another calamity."

"Maybe calamity should be our middle name," Daniel teased.

"Colonel O'Neill would like that."

"The name or the cliché?" Daniel mused.

"How about dinner?"

"Dinner?"

"Daniel, food, remember?" Sam chided amusingly. ~I'll never understand how he forgets food so much,~ she thought, also feeling somewhat responsible to make sure her friend consumed a decent meal before leaving the base. It was a duty assigned to her during her first year on SG-1 by her CO. ~The colonel will have me transferred to someplace lonely and cold if Daniel doesn't have something nutritious to eat today.~

"Oh, uh, yeah," the archaeologist, who hadn't eaten anything but a Twinkie all day long, responded. "I need to go by my office first, but I'll meet you there," he offered. "I promise," he added when he saw a doubtful look in Sam's eyes. He started to leave the lab, but stopped at the doorway and looked back with a sense of foreboding. "It almost feels like this was too easy."

"What do you mean?"

"We pulled the plug and everything's okay."

Sam cocked her head a tad as she shrugged and replied, "The trouble began when we turned on the machine, so why shouldn't it end once we turn it off?"

"I have no idea," Daniel answered. "Maybe we should wait."

"Wait?"

"To send it to Area 51," the man clarified. "Sam, we haven't talked to Jack yet. We really need to make sure there aren't sightings off the base before we let it go."

"You're probably right, but I'm not sure General Hammond will agree." Sam could see the worry on her teammate's face. "Tell you what. I'll drop by the general's office before meeting you at the mess."

Happy with that, Daniel stated with a lightness to his voice, "Dinner." He wanted to believe the crisis was truly over. ~Maybe I'm just being melodramatic,~ he opined silently as he turned and left the lab.

Sam took one more look at the large cylinder before leaving to speak with Hammond about keeping control of the object for a while longer.

====

Jack parked his truck and exited, jiggling his keys in his hands as he walked around the front of it. He smiled at seeing his lover's Shelby-American sports car in the driveway, indicating Daniel was home. He headed inside the house and called out to his Love.

"Danny? Daniel?"

Not getting a response, the colonel commenced a search. It was a brief one as he found the younger man in the first place he looked, in the backyard, sitting Indian style in the middle of the grass. The archaeologist liked that particular spot and often sat there when troubled or needing to commune with his inner self.

Purposefully, Jack walked to his thoughtful soulmate and, still standing, pointed out, "Daniel, we had thunderstorms this afternoon."

"I know."

"I figured you did," Jack responded, letting out a small groan before sitting down next to his Heart. Ignoring the wetness against his rear end, he put his arm around Daniel and pulled him close, causing Daniel's seated stance to loosen somewhat. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

"I heard you and Carter solved the problem, unplugged that thing. Problem solved."

"Maybe," Daniel replied.

"We haven't had any reports of more sightings. The news hounds tried to make a big deal out of it, but there wasn't anything for them to hype."

"I know."

"You haven't seen one of those things, have you?"

"No."

"Danny, what's the problem?"

"I don't know, Jack. Were we wrong to bring the device back? I mean, uh, we obviously didn't know the danger it would bring."

"We fixed it."

"This time, maybe, but what about the next time, and what if it had been something even more dangerous?"

"Daniel, I'm not good with Carter's technobabble, but the way I understand it, these bugs are here, but in some crazy other dimension. All that device did was make it so we can see them, for a while. The trouble's over. No real harm done."

"This time."

"Daniel, the entire program has risk written all over it. That's been part of the game from the beginning."

"But it's not a game, Jack."

Jack looked away for a moment. This wasn't right. There was more going on and he had to get to the bottom of it fast.

"Angel, talk to me."

"I am. We are ... talking."

"Yeah, about bugs and risk that you know are there every time we even open the Gate. That's not what's upsetting you. I say again, talk to me."

Daniel let out a huge breath and, as he leaned against his colonel's always strong shoulder, looked up at the darkened sky. It was almost nine in the evening, the sun long gone out of view.

"I guess it's the ... doubts."

"You're thinking back to our visit to PY3-948."

"No, I'm thinking back to when I was locked up when everyone thought I was a nut case."

"Danny ..."

"Jack, I know that didn't happen again. You, the general, Sam, and even Janet: all of you were supportive from the beginning. I ... I'm not sure you all didn't have doubts, but you backed me. I know that. It's just ... that was a, a very bad time."

"And it's in the past, Danny. We made mistakes back then and no way in Netu were we going to make those same mistakes again."

Daniel nodded against Jack's shoulder and revealed, "I ... Jack, it feels a little odd to be believed." He let out a tiny chuckle and looked up at his life partner. "How crazy that does sound?"

"It's not crazy. You're not crazy. You're just ..."

"Nuts?" Daniel queried lightly.

"Scared," Jack clarified. "You have a lot of baggage, Angel, none of which is your fault. What happened after the mission a few years ago was from our own ignorance, and you were the victim. I can't blame you for being afraid it might happen again, but it won't. *I* won't let it. I love you, and together, we're going to send all of your baggage packing, even if it takes the rest of our lives."

"You sound so confident."

"I am, and we have a lifetime to get there."

"Babe?" Daniel called out quietly with a new lightness to his voice.

"Yeah?"

"Why is you can't remember to buy bread, but you remember a planet designation from four years ago?"

"Has it been that long?"

"Almost."

Jack shrugged and suggested, "How about we forget about everything before this moment and go upstairs and get cozy under the sheets?"

"I like that idea."

The lovers kissed and then stood, taking the opportunity to kiss again. Soon, much more would be added to their kisses as they immersed themselves in their love and eternal togetherness.

====

The next morning, Jack and Daniel returned to Cheyenne Mountain where they intended to eat breakfast in the commissary. Hammond, however, summoned his second-in-command to his office as soon as Jack logged in.

"I don't know how long this is going to take."

"I'll wait," Daniel offered.

"Nah. You go ahead. This powwow could take a while. I'll catch up with you after the meeting."

With Jack in Hammond's office, Daniel went to the commissary. After adding a full cup of coffee to his tray, he chose his food, waffles with strawberry gelatin, from the buffet and sat down to eat. Teal'c walked in a couple of minutes later, grabbed some food, and sat down across from him. A short time later, Sam arrived, gathered up a tray of food that included lemon Jell-O, a banana, and a bowl of cereal, and joined her teammates at a table, taking the seat next to the Jaffa who was eating a high protein meal with plenty of greens.

"Any sightings?" Sam asked.

"Not me," Daniel answered happily, even as he chewed a bite of his meal.

"My kelno'reem was undisturbed," Teal'c responded.

"Well, I think we may have just solved the problem," the blonde stated merrily.

"Teal'c thinks we should take the device back," Daniel told Sam.

Surprised, Sam responded, "Take it back? We've barely scratched the surface of what it can do."

"That's what I was saying," Daniel spoke. "I mean, now that it's shut off, it's perfectly safe for study." He smiled at the major and clarified, "For *you* to study."

Sam bowed her head as she chuckled and took a bite of her food.

"To what end?" the determined Jaffa inquired.

Eagerly, Sam responded, "The effect that device had was groundbreaking, Teal'c. Once we've figured out exactly how to use it ..."

"And Sam will figure it out, eventually," the archaeologist mused, after which he took another bite of his cooling waffles.

"These inter-dimensional creatures are well worth studying," Sam asserted, not backing down from her beliefs.

Daniel supported Sam's contention by noting, "The Ancients certainly thought so."

"All I have to do is convince General Hammond to change his mind about sending the device to Area 51."

The trio continued to discuss the creatures they'd witnessed. Sam believed the bugs had to be aware of matter in SG-1's dimension or they wouldn't rest on solid objects. She also believed the creatures demonstrated a level of high intelligence. Suddenly, the conversation was interrupted by a scream at the back of the room.

"You were right, Daniel," Sam sighed after a few seconds, acknowledging her friend's wariness the day before that everything was again okay.

"I guess we have more work to do," Daniel put forth.

"We'd better find General Hammond and the colonel," Sam said, standing and leaving behind the rest of her meal.

"You were uncertain shutting down the device would stop the bugs from being seen in our dimension, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked.

"I had my doubts," Daniel admitted, taking one last bite of his waffles and taking his mug full of coffee with him to the major general's office.

====

After SG-1 met with Hammond, Jack was sent back to town to meet up with the National Guard. Numerous sightings were reported in the past hour and Jack was needed to oversee the handling of the situation.

Meanwhile, after discussing the possibilities, Hammond addressed Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c and insisted, "I want that thing off Earth now. You leave in twenty minutes."

There was no time to waste, so the three geared up as fast as possible and returned with the device to the sandy world.

====

On P9X-391, Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c made good time in reaching the ruins where they'd found the device. While the men returned the object to the exact spot where Daniel first saw it, Sam established a link with Stargate Command.

Hammond reported that there were not any unidentified energy patterns detected, which made him hopeful the situation was contained.

Sam pointed out there could be some residual particle radiation, but she hoped returning the device to the lower chamber would handle any residual after effects.

"Once the Gate is shut down, it should cut off any energy patterns being broadcast back to Earth," Sam reported via the MALP's radio.

"Affirmative," Hammond acknowledged. "We'll reestablish contact in one hour. Hammond out." He ordered Sergeant Davis, "Shut it down."

Davis did as instructed, but as Hammond was about to return to his office, the sergeant called out in a controlled panic, "Uh ... Sir."

Hammond turned and observed for himself multiple bugs that resembled caterpillars. They were blue and yellow in color and were crawling all over Davis' station.

"Contact SG-1 and tell them to come home," the general ordered with a huge breath of regret.

"What about the device, General?" Davis asked.

"Bring it back."

With Hammond gone, Davis reestablished the wormhole and contacted Sam with the orders to return to Earth with the alien object.

====

An hour later, Hammond and SG-1 were meeting in the briefing room to discuss the current state of affairs with the device. Sam maintained that taking the object back to the planet should have solved the problem and yet reports of sightings were coming in from both base personnel and Colorado Springs residents who were previously unaffected.

"What if this has nothing to do with the particles?" Daniel wondered aloud.

"How can that be?" Sam queried.

"We know that one of the functions of the device was to attract the creatures. When we shut that down, or at least thought we shut it down, they seemed to go away."

"I get it," Sam interjected, sensing what her fellow scientist was thinking. "What if the particles being emitted were only what was attracting the creatures?"

"Exactly," Daniel responded with some enthusiasm. "Like food," he hypothesized. "Shutting down that part of the device just made the creatures leave the area. Whatever's giving us the ability to see these things is something completely different."

"Something unrelated to the device?" Hammond inquired.

"No, Sir," Sam negated. "That seems unlikely, but it could be something we've missed."

"Okay, okay." Thoughtfully, Daniel began to put the puzzle together. "I was the first one to see the creatures, right? I was also the first one to touch the device. Teal'c was next."

With a nod, Sam continued her teammate's proposition, stating, "Touching the device could have imparted some kind of charge that would alter our bodies' electrical field enough to cause the inter-dimensional bleed-through effect."

"But that doesn't explain the people who had no direct contact with the device."

"It does if the charge can be transmitted like a ... a contagion, passed on from person to person ... by touching," Daniel suggested.

"I agree, Sir," Sam stated strongly.

In full agreement, Hammond advised, "I'm ordering the immediate containment of Colorado Springs and the surrounding area."

"We'll also need to isolate anyone who could have come in physical contact with any SGC personnel."

"Doctor Jackson, contact Colonel O'Neill and bring him up to date with our findings. Make sure he finds anyone who has reported a sighting and takes them to the quarantine area, and have him start with everyone he's been in personal contact with since he left the Mountain yesterday morning."

Daniel nodded and was the first one to leave the briefing room.

====

"It's crazy, Daniel," Jack said over the phone as he began walking away from the temporary headquarters that was set up the previous day.

"I'm not crazy," Daniel insisted.

"I didn't say ... Daniel, you're not crazy and I didn't say that. It's the static," Jack put forth about how the call was breaking up for some reason.

"I hear that," the archaeologist conceded, noting that for the past minute their words were choppy, making it more difficult to hear clearly.

"It's better now."

"It is," Daniel affirmed. "Where are you going to start? I mean, how many sightings have there been?"

"Too many, but I'll start with me. I'm headed for the gas station."

"Good luck, Jack."

"You, too."

The call was quick, but Daniel still felt good about the short chat. In times of crisis, hearing Jack's voice always brought him a sense of safety. With the call ended, Daniel returned to his work.

====

As the day progressed, barricades were set up around Colorado Springs and a quarantine area was set up. The cover story was finalized with residents being told that an accidental spill of an experimental chemical occurred and that the chemical could have a hallucinogenic effect on them.

Daniel and Sam continued to work on the device and together came up with the possibility that it was the configuration of the crystals that caused the situation. They wondered if changing the setup of the crystals might alter what the device did. To that end, they began experimenting with how the crystals were arranged.

At the same time, Jack was retracing his steps, beginning with a return to the Glenwood Market and Gas Station. When he, accompanied by the National Guard, arrived, they found the station abandoned. The colonel ordered someone to stay at the station in case the attendant returned and headed for his vehicle. As he did so, he noticed the attendant watching him from across the street. Right then a car swerved and crashed, its driver quickly exiting the vehicle and exclaiming in terror that a big bug had slithered over his car. The distraction alarmed the attendant who ran away before Jack could catch up with him.

"Crap."

====

"I have a good feeling about this one," Daniel said with a smile.

"We don't have a lot of choices left."

"So, this is the one," the archaeologist stated with a confident air.

"I'll call General Hammond," Sam responded as she walked over to the lab's phone and contacted the base commander.

Hammond left his office and quickly joined the two scientists, eager for a resolution to the calamities happening not only at the Mountain but throughout Colorado Springs.

"You're certain you've reprogrammed the device properly?" Hammond asked.

"To be honest, Sir, we're not sure."

"I have a good feeling about it," Daniel stated lightly, earning a confused look from Hammond to which Daniel just smiled and looked to the blonde for her next comment.

Sam tried to hide her chuckle as she pointed out, "This is one of the last few configurations to try." She completed the configuration which immediately resulted in the device lighting up with a green glow. "We're hoping this means it's now programmed to emit a charge that will essentially reverse the effect on us."

"Doctor," Hammond stated as he looked expectantly at Daniel.

"Okay," Daniel sighed, slowly moving his right hand until it made contact with the device.

"Feel anything?" Sam asked.

"Not really, but I didn't feel anything the first time I touched it, either. I only remember Jack bellowing." Daniel saw Hammond's expression of uncertainty. "He was telling me not to touch it, Sir."

Hammond nodded understandingly and inquired, "Do you see anything?"

Daniel removed his hand and waited a moment before answering, "No. Do you?"

It was a few moments later when both Sam and Hammond noticed one of the insects on the cylinder.

Daniel pointed in the direction of the device and stated, "If there's a creature right there, I'm not seeing it." Feeling good about what was happening, he called out expectantly, "Sam."

With a nod, Sam reached out and Daniel took her hand. After a moment, she smiled and nodded.

"I think it worked, Sir. I'm not seeing it anymore."

Hammond walked over to the major and took her hand for a moment. He was pleased when the bug disappeared from his sight.

"Well done, Major, Doctor Jackson."

"Thank you, Sir," both scientists responded with a second of each other.

"Major, reach out and touch someone and make sure everyone on base follows suit. Let's get this situation rectified as soon as possible."

Sam nodded and left the room, after which Hammond also exited the lab. Daniel stared at the alien object for a few seconds and began to reach out at it.

~Not a good idea,~ the archaeologist told himself before he left the device behind.

====

With everyone on the base ordered to shake hands with people in their assigned areas, it wasn't long before Janet entered Hammond's office to give him a status report on the cure.

"From what I can gather, the antidote seems to be working. There have been no new sightings, and everyone previously affected is no longer seeing creatures."

"Good. All we need to do now is spread the cure to Colonel O'Neill and the containment team so they can spread it throughout the exposed area," Hammond replied.

"I recommend using a placebo pill to sell it to the public; and provided the containment holds, we should eventually be able to undo the damage."

Just then Hammond's phone rang. It was Jack, who told the general that there was a breach of the quarantine. He suggested Daniel and Sam get some Intel on where the fleeing attendant might go.

"The man's name is Vernon Sharpe. He's a non-com; served in the motor pool in the Gulf. See what they come up with."

====

Having received their orders from the general, Daniel and Sam began by getting some private information on the attendant.

"According to his bank records, Vernon Sharpe drained all the money from his accounts several hours ago," Sam stated as she reviewed the computer information.

As the two talked, Daniel asked a probing question that altered the direction of the search.

"Sam, why is he running? He's ex-military. He can't be running simply because he's a little scared."

"He doesn't buy the cover story," Sam surmised.

"We need to figure out where he's going. Does he have any friends or family near here?"

"Let's find out," Sam responded as she began a computer search. "Got it," the major said with bright eyes. She wrote down an address and said, "Let's go."

====

After speaking with the grandmother of Vernon Sharpe, Daniel and Sam left the woman's home and walked towards Sam's car where Teal'c was waiting. The Jaffa quickly emerged from the vehicle, his cell phone in hand, and told his teammates there was another sighting. This time it came from a man who said he'd picked up a hitchhiker resembling Vernon Sharpe. The man told authorities that he dropped the hitchhiker off at Piedmont-Hawthorne Airfield.

Taking the phone Teal'c handed her, Sam contacted Jack to advise him of what they'd learned, including that Vernon Sharpe would probably be headed for Las Vegas where his friend Chuck lived. In response, Jack ordered her to contact Hammond and have all flights out cancelled. He added that he and the containment team would be at the airport in about forty minutes.

When the call ended, Teal'c quickly got inside the car. As Sam walked to the driver's side, she paused and looked across the vehicle's top at Daniel, who was about to open the passenger-side door.

"Is something wrong?" Daniel inquired.

With the windows closed, Sam felt somewhat free to talk, so she answered, "You're going to tell him, aren't you?"

Daniel looked at Sam, realizing what she was referring to by the hesitant expression on her face.

"I ..."

"You have to," Sam sighed.

"It didn't mean anything and it was nothing."

"Absolutely," Sam agreed. "I mean, it was nothing, absolutely nothing."

"You might ..." Daniel began.

"Yeah, I'll hide out for a few days," Sam teased. ~Not a tease. I know just the project I can work on. The colonel won't want to be within a hundred yards of me. Lots of technobabble.~

"Sam?"

"I'm good," the major stated with a smile, her 'avoid the colonel' plan now fully in place in her mind.

~She's going to avoid Jack for at least a week.~ Daniel smiled as he slid onto the seat. He watched Sam as she settled into the driver's seat and started the car. ~Maybe two weeks.~

====

Jack and the containment team caught up with Sharpe at the airport, though he gave them a short chase when he fled from the terminal to a hangar inside a plane from Anderson Air. Jack wanted to settle the situation as quickly as possible. Rain fell earlier in the afternoon and though there was a brief break in the weather, heavy snowfall was forecast into the early evening. He opted to go in alone and before long, he coaxed the attendant into the clear. They talked about the circumstance with the bugs.

"I'm seeing one right now," Sharpe reported as he stared at a large red insect that was flying around Jack.

"Well, we can make it so you don't."

"Then what?" the skeptical man queried.

Jack sighed and admitted, "Look, Vernon. This can't get out, not yet. The world is not ready to know."

"So you, you just want me to keep it quiet?"

"Well, think about it. Who's gonna believe you? I mean, government experiments are one thing, but we're talking aliens here," Jack pointed out realistically.

"Yeah, but other people have seen them."

"Not for long. Besides, they're all buying our cover story," Jack asserted. He could see the attendant was pondering what he'd just said. He decided to play the brotherhood angle to reel him in. "Vernon, your country needs you. I'm asking you, one soldier to another, play ball on this."

"Okay, but, uh, I'm not taking any pills or needles or anything."

"You won't have to," Jack promised. He clicked his radio and reported, "We're all clear." Then he reached out and placed his hand on Sharpe's shoulder. "We good?"

"Yes, Sir."

Jack moved his hand from Sharpe's coat-clad shoulder and briefly touched the side of his neck, thereby assuring that the attendant would no longer see the bugs from another dimension.

"So, what planet are they from?"

"Who?" Jack asked, having already put the entire debate behind him.

"The aliens."

"Oh. Ah, a place called Melmac."

"Isn't that where Alf is from?"

"Who?" Jack asked innocently.

"Alf: you know, on TV, the puppet?"

"Never saw it," Jack lied.

"No kidding."

"I'm more of a 'Star Trek' guy," the colonel remarked. "Space. Exploration. The final frontier."

"I'd like to go into space one day. I'm more than a motor pool guy."

"I can see that," Jack agreed, playing along. ~He's not a bad sort, just a little different. Time in the Gulf will do that to a man, regardless of his assignment.~

====

By nightfall, the containment team managed to round up everyone who reported a sighting or might be infected via personal contact with another infected person. Per the cover story, pills were distributed and purported to be the cure to the side effects of the chemical accident. Of course, every person brought into the quarantine area had some type of skin-on-skin contact with those distributing the pills, thereby receiving the real cure.

The long day was finally over and Jack took a deep breath as he disembarked his dark-colored truck. It was cold out, the predicted snowfall occurring, resulting in the slushy stuff making the ground pure white. With Daniel's car in the driveway, Jack broke out into a grin. He felt happy just knowing his soulmate was inside the house.

"Danny?" Jack called out.

"Here," the younger man responded as he sat in front of the fire he'd made only a few minutes earlier.

"Hey," the silver-haired man greeted, sitting on the carpet next to Daniel.

With Daniel facing the fireplace, Jack sat facing him, his legs sprawled out to his right. They kissed for several minutes, letting their lips and hands say all that needed to be said.

"Everything okay?" Daniel asked.

"Yeah, Vernon's under control. He's a little wacky, but he's a good guy."

"You didn't get to go fishing."

"I didn't want to go in the first place, but I didn't want to spend all that time with the National Guard, either."

"You missed all the fun at the Mountain," Daniel mused. "Even General Hammond saw the bugs, and you should have seen Lou Ferretti's reaction when he saw them for the first time."

For the next few minutes, the soulmates caught each other up on their day and what happened with the creature sightings, the alien device, and Jack's attempt at the six degrees game.

"Daniel, I helped Vernon up and after that, it was finding everyone he touched. Geez, do you have any idea how many people a gas station attendant touches during the day?" Jack shook his head and noted, "We sourced the origins of every touch in the Springs and incredible as it sounds, it all led back to Vernon."

"Actually, Babe, that means it all led back to you."

"Smarty-pants," Jack returned, leaning in for a tender kiss. "It's a good thing I didn't touch anyone but Vernon, and I regret that," he groaned as he thought more about how that one touch altered the course of the weekend. "What about you?" he queried.

"Me?" Daniel asked with wide eyes.

"Did Hammond have you and Carter shaking hands?"

"Sam shook a few, I think. I just ..."

"You just what?"

"Nothing."

"Daniel, what did you do?"

"Well, it was Sam. I mean, at Mrs. Sharpe's house. She, well, uh ..."

"Spit it out."

"Mrs. Sharpe had the impression that Sam and I were a ... a couple."

"And just how did she get that idea?" a bristling Jack questioned.

"We might have ... held hands," Daniel revealed. "It was totally innocent, Jack. We needed information."

"And fondling my lover was Carter's way of getting it," Jack seethed with jealousy.

"Jack," Daniel spoke quietly but with strength of conviction while also placing his hand over his soulmate's heart. "It's okay. We were undercover."

Jack's eyes blistered at the comment as he stood up and angrily paced the living room.

"Undercover, or under the covers?" the colonel snapped.

Standing, Daniel responded, "You're making something of nothing." He walked slowly across the room to where Jack stood with his hands on his hips as he was poised for verbal battle. "Stop," the linguist urged with a firm tone. "We were in Mrs. Sharpe's home, drinking tea and eating cookies. She was, well, you'd call her a character. She's his grandmother. She said her son ..."

"Daniel, forget the pedigree and get to the sex."

"There wasn't any sex and there may not be if you keep acting this way. Do you want to know what happened or not?"

"Talk," Jack demanded.

~Gawd, I hate it when he gets like this.~ Daniel took a breath before continuing to tell the story. "She was resistant, blaming the military for Vernon's situation. There may be truth to that."

"Daniel, he was in the friggin' motor pool. All he had to deal with were oil changes and spare parts."

"Maybe, but you can't be sure, can you?"

"Get back to your little tete-a-tete with Carter."

"Actually, that's a wrong phrase. Tete-a-tete refers to a private conversation, something intimate, between two people, sometimes seated on an S-shaped sofa. This was a mere chat with a grandmother at her dining table ... over tea and cookies."

"Technicality. Spill!"

With a roll of his eyes, Daniel chronicled, "She didn't want to tell us anything, especially after Sam's response to her concerns about Vernon having been affected by chemical weapon experiments."

"What did she say?"

"That we didn't know about that."

There was a pause. Both men knew plenty of experiments were done, in the Gulf, in prior wars, and certainly would be done in future military conflicts. That was fairly common during any wartime era when enemies sought to one up one another with methods and tactics.

"Anyway, Sam finally gave her a story she could believe."

"Which was?"

"That the accident wasn't an accident," Daniel answered. "Sam said it was actually a highly contagious experimental germ developed by the military designed to try and undo what Mrs. Sharpe believed happened to Vernon while he was in the Gulf. Mrs. Sharpe was still skeptical, but Sam looked at her with those blue eyes of hers and a perfectly sympathetic expression and told her that there were unexpected side effects to the antidote."

"She bought that?"

"She doesn't trust doctors, the point being that it was her distrust of the government that made her believe there was an unintentional mess up that was again to blame for Vernon's behavior."

"Daniel, this is all fascinating, but get to the coupling business *now*!"

"Sam pointed out that a lot of people were at risk and not just Vernon, and then she promised that nothing bad would happen to him. That's when Mrs. Sharpe's attitude changed. She said we were nice couple."

"Nice?"

"Actually, she said 'nice enough,' but I guess that's neither here nor there."

"Daniel!?"

"I started to correct Mrs. Sharpe, but Sam grabbed my hand and held it. I, uh, I realized what she was doing and why, so I .... played along."

"How?"

"Jack, all we did was hold hands for a few seconds."

"You said you played along!"

"I just put my other hand on top of hers and patted it ... gently. You know, it fostered the impression we were a couple."

"You lied."

"I went along with Sam's cover story for Mrs. Sharpe. It was the only way she was going to tell us anything." The younger man waited for a response, but when there wasn't one, he elaborated, "Jack, she was a conspiracy theorist and for good reason, whether or not her grandson was actually a victim or not. If Sam hadn't taken the opening to play to her weakness, which was the assumption that Sam and I were a couple, you'd still be out there looking for Vernon, instead of here, with me, at home, near a nice, warm fire."

"That's it?"

"I told you it was really nothing."

"You touched!"

"Jack, let it go."

"Blue eyes?" Jack questioned as he thought back to what Daniel said previously in their little fight. "Since when do you notice Carter's eye color?"

"The day we met on Abydos and she looked at me. It was hard to miss."

"Daniel!"

"Jack, no one watches women like you. You, My Love, are a lady watcher, so don't yell at me because I made an observation about the color of Sam's eyes the day we met. Remember, I'm an archaeologist *and* an anthropologist. Part of my life's work is noticing facial characteristics. Move on ... now!"

Jack stared into the blue eyes that made his heart sing. His Mr. Jealousy fizzled into a stomach of Jell-O. All he wanted to do now was take Daniel into his arms and hold him protectively by the aforementioned nice, warm fire.

Daniel sensed the change in his soulmate. He could see the lightness again in his Love's brown eyes, their darkness having ebbed into a more gentle gaze.

"I'm sorry, Danny. I think I'm just frustrated I couldn't be there with you. I didn't like having to hang out with the National Guard, but Hammond wanted me out there to run the show."

"We both had jobs to do, Jack. We did them and now we're safe."

"And so are the unaware residents of Colorado Springs," Jack pronounced lightheartedly while at the same time reaching out and pulling Daniel in close. "I love you, Angel. I couldn't live without you."

"I feel the same way. I love you so much, Jack."

The couple relaxed and sat down by the fire where they snuggled and fondled the evening away until they headed upstairs.

On the stairs, with each man's arm around the other's waist, Jack couldn't resist one more comment on all that happened during the past two days.

"One little correction, Danny," the colonel began.

"About?"

"Six degrees bug sights in Colorado Springs."

"Okay, I guess," Daniel responded, uncertain what his soulmate was about to say.

"It all started with you, not me. I told you not to touch that blasted thing, but you did it anyway. If you didn't touch it, it wouldn't have gone off."

"Jack?"

"What?"

"If you mention one more word about bugs or anything related to the last couple of days, I'm not going to touch *anything* for a week and then nothing at all will go off, or up, or down ... for a week. Now, do you have anything to say?"

The older man smiled without opening his mouth. He took his left hand and raised it to his mouth. He ran his fingers over his mouth, as if locking the lips shut and pretended to throw away the key.

"Smart choice, Babe," Daniel praised, breaking away from his life partner and sprinting up the remaining steps and into the bedroom. "Hurry it up, Jack. Bottom's up!"

With a happy grin, Jack hurried to the bedroom where he and Daniel made passionate love for hours.

For now, the devotion between Jack and Daniel was grand and their time together precious. Neither had ever known a greater love than their union provided and neither wanted it to end. Their forever passion was complex and strong, just like they were individually. They were soulmates and for Jack and Daniel, that was the real truth that would carry them through the good times and the bad.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com

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