Area 52 HKH

Poisoning The Soul

by Orrymain

URL: http://area52hkh.net/aso/orrymain4/poisonin.php
Summary: The Tok'ra want Daniel to take out the System Lords while the rest of SG-1 wait on Revanna. What price will a successful mission exact on the secret lovers?

Poisoning the Soul
Author: Orrymain
Author Email: marciastudley1@comcast.net (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: 5 - May 23-28, 2002
Spoilers: Summit, Last Stand, Hathor, Deadman's Switch, Pretense, The Curse, The Fifth Man, Proving Ground
Size: 206kb
Written: May 28-31, June 1-6, 13-15,18-23, 2016
Summary: The Tok'ra want Daniel to take out the System Lords while the rest of SG-1 wait on Revanna. What price will a successful mission exact on the secret lovers?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Years ago, Dove Grey had lots of questions regarding what really happened during the Summit and Last Stand episodes. I kept those questions in mind until I finally wrote the story, so thanks to Dove Grey for the queries and thoughts that helped to make this fic complete.
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "They Don't Understand," "Guilt's Indiscretion," and "Murphy's Law"

Poisoning the Soul
by Orrymain

Daniel Jackson, the leading civilian scientist at Cheyenne Mountain, was in his office on Level 18. He was standing by his long worktable, trying to make sense of an object found three weeks ago by SG-3 while on a rescue mission. His focus was difficult to maintain, however, because every few seconds his lover, Colonel Jack O'Neill, was doing something destructive to other artifacts on the shelf.

"Jack, put it down," the archaeologist demanded.

"It's just a rock," Jack responded as he tossed the object up into the air and then caught it on the way down.

"Jack!"

Daniel's disdain for what Jack was doing was obvious. His voice was like that of a parent scolding their child, and his face was taut. He gritted his teeth for a moment before letting his head drop in frustration.

Putting the object down, Jack walked over to stand next to the younger man and rationalized, "Come on, Daniel. It's been a tough few weeks. Let's play a little."

"Play?"

"It's not a swear word."

"Jack, I am so behind. SG-3 brought this back from PR8-233 three weeks ago. They weren't exactly careful with it."

"Looks okay to me."

"That's because you need glasses," Daniel retorted. He took a short breath and expounded on his problem. "They stuck this in with their assorted 'let's kill the enemy' weapons without doing anything to protect it. It's chipped," he pointed to the bottom of the object, "and this side has been completely scratched."

"So. Cars have scratches in them," Jack returned defensively.

"Would you, uh, like me to take this ... rock and run it across your truck?"

Jack's eyes changed from playful to stern.

"That's what I thought," Daniel stated agitatedly. "There are writings on this artifact. You can barely see them, but they're there." He thrust the item towards the colonel and pointed to three different tiny segments of writing, one of which was only partially visible, thanks to the scratches made from the object being banged around in SG-3's weapons arsenal. "I need to figure out what this says."

"So ... not in the mood to play?" Jack asked as his torso leaned forward slightly.

"Gawd, you're incorrigible."

"Danny, take a break," Jack requested tenderly.

"I ..."

At that moment, the lovers heard an announcement over the tannoy that an unauthorized Gate activation was in progress. Without hesitation, Daniel put down the alien object and followed Jack to the control room.

As they approached, Jack and Daniel saw that Sam and Teal'c were already there, standing behind Sergeant Walter Davis. General Hammond was standing there as well. Daniel stopped by Sam, while Jack crossed the room to be next to the base commander.

Jack heard the words that made his heart drop.

"Receiving IDC transmission, Sir. It's the Tok'ra," Davis announced.

Once Hammond gave the command to open the iris, Jack quipped, "Oh, here we go," and headed for the gate room to see which Tok'ra representative was inbound. ~Just what we don't need. Bet they don't bring a fruit basket, either.~

Daniel watched the team leader exit and hoped the day wasn't about to enter the dark zone. His lover wasn't that fond of the Tok'ra. Except for Garshaw, he'd found them deceptive and secretive in non-acceptable ways for races that were supposed to be allies. Daniel was far more understanding and tolerant. Even so, he really wanted to return to his lab to continue his examination of the item from PR8-233.

The visitor was Ren'al, a member of the Tok'ra High Council. This was her second trip to Earth and so was recognized immediately upon emerging from the Stargate by General Hammond, who introduced her SG-1. After the greeting, Ren'al advised that she came to talk about a very serious situation dealing with the System Lords. Without hesitation, Hammond ordered SG-1 to the briefing room.

Jack and Daniel held back for a moment, taking a quick pause to be together before whatever calamity was about to be thrust upon them.

"It's always suicide mission this, save the planet that. No one ever just stops by to say 'hi' anymore," Jack whined.

Watching Jack walk away, Daniel stayed in place, letting the essence of the message sink in. Trouble was brewing, and both men sensed it.

~I wonder if maybe I went straight to the elevator, took it all the way to the top, and just ...~

"Daniel, you don't want to miss the fun, do ya?" Jack called out from the gate room exit.

"Fun? No, I wouldn't want that," Daniel replied dryly. ~So much for a quiet escape.~

Daniel joined his soulmate and headed for the briefing room.

====

Hammond and SG-1 took their seats at the table in the briefing room, while Ren'al remained standing.

Jack wanted to sit next to Daniel, but he went to the opposite side of the table where Sam was ready to sit. Just this morning there had been some whispers, a few floating rumors from those wondering just how close Jack and Daniel truly were. They couldn't afford that. Right now, things were dicey in the political world, so Jack had to keep up the ruse that he and his 2IC were involved romantically, at least to some extent. It was the game he and Daniel played, with Sam's consent.

Ren'al revealed that with the deaths of Cronus and Apophis, the remaining System Lords have had heavy losses and used much of their resources in fighting one another in an attempt to gain power over the others.

The news caused Jack to quip, "Let the good times roll." Internally, he thought, ~They want something. She didn't come hear just to be an intergalactic news anchor.~

Ren'al responded, "Unfortunately, the good times may be coming to an end. They've declared a truce, and now it looks as if they are going to have a meeting to discuss the establishment of a new order."

Jack was getting an uneasy feeling as he listened to Ren'al say that the Tok'ra was in favor of the meeting as it would give them the chance to take out all of the System Lords at the same time.

~Oh, it's coming, and we're gonna be right in the middle of it,~ the colonel opined. "Welcome to the dark side," he retorted her remarks.

"This has always been part of our long-term plan. We just weren't quite prepared for the opportunity to present itself so quickly."

~Hold on. I think we're there,~ Jack told himself.

"Where exactly is this meeting taking place?" Daniel inquired.

"A space station in the Hassara system. It is considered neutral territory. Security will be tight, no weapons will be permitted on board, and access will be by cargo ship only."

~Might as well ask,~ Jack told himself. "Defenses?"

"Impenetrable."

~Wonderful,~ Jack thought in full sarcastic mode. Then he found out that the cargo ships going to the meeting would be scanned upon approach to the Hasara station. "Okay. Let's hear it," the colonel prodded. ~I'm not going to like this. I already don't like it.~

Ren'al explained, "Every System Lord in attendance will be permitted to bring one human slave."

"And you want one of us to do it," Sam concluded with a smile that had her envisioning herself as some sort of Goa'uld bait.

The Tok'ra clarified, "Specifically, we need someone who speaks fluent Goa'uld." Seeing that all eyes focused on Teal'c, she further clarified, "Someone who is not Jaffa."

~I don't think so,~ Jack determined strongly as he, and everyone else, looked at Daniel.

The archaeologist fidgeted somewhat the news. His eyes darted around the room as his heart rate increased. His hands that were already interlaced on the table suddenly gripped themselves tighter. Ren'al couldn't be serious. The Tok'ra honestly wanted him to take out the entire Goa'uld leadership?

~That's, uh, not something I really want to do,~ Daniel admitted. ~It's not that I don't want to see them defeated. I do, but ... me?~

Ren'al looked at the archaeologist and stated, "If you agree to participate, we ask that you come to our base on Revanna tomorrow. Jacob will be there; he will tell you all you need to know.." She paused and then challenged, "It is up to you, Doctor Jackson."

~Thank you,~ was Daniel's sarcastic silent response as he nodded to Ren'al.

Jack's heart rate had increased a tad as well, but he was calm because inside, he knew there was not a chance in Netu that his lover would ever take on the assignment to personally kill what was left of the Goa'uld hierarchy.

~That's so not Danny.~

Hammond leaned forward and put forth, "Ren'al, SG-1 needs time to consider the full ramifications of your request."

"I understand." Ren'al looked at Daniel and reiterated, "Without you, Doctor Jackson, the System Lords will unite and be stronger than ever. You are the only one who can prevent that."

Jack leaned forward. There was something about that last remark that irked him. His Daniel was big on doing the moral thing. The fact that Daniel didn't instantly strike down the thought was also lingering within him.

"We'll think about it," Jack stated as he stood up. ~Then we'll say no, right, Angel?~ Daniel's silence continued to grate on the colonel. ~Okay, we need to talk.~

"Colonel, escort Ren'al to the Stargate," Hammond ordered as he stood and headed for his office.

The rest of SG-1 stood and walked away, including Daniel. The failure of the archaeologist to wait for him was extremely noticeable to Jack.

~Get the heck of our planet, Ren'al.~ Jack smiled graciously and said, "You know the way." He groaned, ~Don't let the Stargate kick you in the butt, but do.~

====

Daniel returned to his lab and resumed his study of the artifact brought back by SG-3. He'd barely begun when a smiling Sam entered and casually walked to his side.

"Whatcha' doing?" the major inquired.

"Playing with a rock."

Sam chuckled and said, "I'm sorry, Daniel. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'm fine, Sam."

"You know best, but are you really okay with what the Tok'ra are suggesting?" Before her friend could answer, Sam added, "We don't even know what their plan is."

"Are you not sure we can trust them?"

"I'm not saying that."

"I know," Daniel sighed as he put down the artifact. "We have to hear them out, Sam."

The blonde nodded in response and assured, "You know I'm here for you, the whole team is. We've got your six."

Daniel smiled and watched as Sam stood with a smile of her own on her face. To the archaeologist, her support was important. However, his friend appeared nervous, even as she left his lab. Initially, Daniel was confident that she would jump at the chance to fulfill this Tok'ra mission if it were possible.

~And so would Jack.~

For another moment, Daniel stood in contemplation. A hunch caused him to follow Sam's steps outside of his lab and into the corridor. Sure enough, there was Sam, leaning the against the wall, her torso moving back and forth.

"Hi," Sam stated with some hesitance.

"Hi," Daniel replied. "Let's, uh ..." he outstretched his arm towards his office.

Taking a breath, Sam followed Daniel inside and back to the worktable. Both leaned against it.

"So," the archaeologist stated.

"So," Sam echoed.

"Sam, you want me to agree this mission."

"No, yes, maybe," Sam responded. "Daniel, I want you to do what is right for you."

"Okay, you want to go Revanna." The woman's silence spoke loudly. "Why?"

"Daniel, the Tok'ra have been stonewalling me for months."

"About?"

Growing somber, Sam answered, "Martouf, or rather Lantash." She gathered her resolve and explained, "I always wondered why Lantash didn't save Martouf."

"The symbiote survived?"

"Yes, that much I know. I think the Tok'ra didn't do all they could because they wanted to study Martouf's brain tissue."

"You're talking about their zatarc technology."

"Yes. Daniel, when they took Martouf back to their base on Vorash, they kept him in stasis, for months, Daniel, and then one day, they just ..." Sam looked away for a moment as she steadied her emotions. It wasn't appropriate for her to react like this, but then she was with Daniel, and he always stirred up emotions in her. "They took Martouf out of stasis and removed Lantash."

"His symbiote? Why?" Daniel queried. "Wouldn't he be able to heal Martouf, I mean, if they were both still alive at that point?"

"Not fast enough, I guess. Ren'al hasn't responded to my request for more information."

"But you have a theory," Daniel prompted.

"I think they looked at Martouf as a specimen," Sam confided quietly.

"How many chances do they get to study brain tissue of a zatarc," Daniel surmised.

"Right. They won't give me any information on their zatarc research. I keep getting these ... memos that remind me that their research is restricted. I tried to get Dad to help, but he said that's not in his authority. He said he talked to Ren'al."

"You don't believe him?"

"I don't know, Daniel. He's ..."

"... military?"

"His Air Force rank and experience has made him the perfect Tok'ra operative. He's a leader. He's love it."

Daniel could sense what Sam wasn't saying. From simple observation, he sensed the relationship between father and daughter was becoming a bit strained. He didn't really know why, but while they often had happy reunions, he wondered if what happened between their reunion greetings and partings was as happy as his friend wanted them to be.

"You think the Tok'ra sacrificed Martouf to study his brain tissue."

"Yes, I do. I know he was badly hurt; I figured it would take time. I believe Ren'al when she's told me that Lantash was weakened, too, and that it wasn't easy for him to heal Martouf, but I don't believe Martouf couldn't be saved. They gave up on him, Daniel, and I need to understand why. I need to know for sure why they let him die."

Daniel nodded and looked down at the artifact he'd been studying. His plans for the day just weren't working out.

"Daniel, about the mission, don't do it because of me, but if we had a reason to go to Revanna, I could confront Ren'al face to face, and maybe she'd tell me the truth."

With nothing more to say, Sam left the lab, leaving Daniel to his thoughts.

====

After a few minutes, Daniel gave up on his study of the artifact. He couldn't concentrate on it. Not only was Sam's request weighing on him, but his mind was wandering with flickering images of a past life. He sighed as he walked to his desk and sat down. Staring at the desk drawers, he opened one and slowly pulled out a wooden picture frame. Inside was a photograph of his late wife, Sha're, a beautiful Abydonian woman kidnapped by Apophis, implanted with a symbiote named Amaunet, and forced to live out the rest of her days as the wife of a System Lord.

Daniel tried as hard as he could to rescue her, and Jack helped. Occasionally, they had opportunities to save her, but something always interfered. In the end, Sha're died at Teal'c's hand while Amaunet tried to kill Daniel.

Guilt was part of Daniel's life, and he still had mounds of it whenever he thought about not having saved his wife as promised. As he stared at the woman with the voluminous black hair, he wondered if this was a chance to finally even the score and get the revenge he sometimes sought.

The picture of Sha're used to be displayed prominently in Daniel's lab, but then the archaeologist became involved with Jack. No one was more surprised than he when that happened, but once they did connect, Daniel didn't feel right about leaving the picture out. Part of it was guilt. Even so, he sometimes kept Sha're's photograph on his desk or a shelf. It was good for the game he and Jack played, the one that involved Sam and kept their enemies from knowing the truth. For Jack's career, their love affair had to be kept quiet. There was more guilt there. Sha're was not a pawn to be used in the game. She was a woman, one Daniel truly loved.

Still, the archaeologist didn't want to shove the picture and reminder of his wife in Jack's face. Though Jack didn't often admit to it, Daniel knew his soulmate had his own guilt about interfering in Daniel's marriage to Sha're. Putting the picture in the desk drawer or on an obscure shelf in his lab where it was not center stage was something he did for Jack, though the two never discussed it. Unfortunately, there were those times when their enemies were closing in and Daniel had to place the picture front and center. It helped the game for people to believe he was still mourning his wife and didn't have any current romantic liaisons.

In fact, that was Daniel's excuse on the few occasions when someone asked him about the photo that moved from shelf to shelf, then disappeared only to show up in plain view one day. He'd always say he was missing her. Sometimes, Daniel would claim it was too hard to look at Sha're and not be pulled by the pain of her loss and his failure to rescue her. At other times, he'd say he brought it back out because he needed to see her beauty and it gave him the strength to move forward. How Daniel hated putting Sha're in the middle of the game. He often rationalized it by using the truthfulness of his feelings. He did love her and he did most definitely feel guilty.

Right now, Daniel couldn't stop staring at the image. Part of him felt like he'd betrayed the Abydonian woman. He'd let her down. He didn't keep his promise. It was all buried deep within him, the failure to keep her safe, the failure to be faithful to her, the failure to find her and bring her home to her father on Abydos. It was a triple does of guilt that he kept buried in his soul.

Daniel had to do something to make it up to Sha're. After all these years, that something was now on the table. All he had to do was follow through and do whatever it was that the Tok'ra needed.

"I have to do this for you, Sha're. I owe you that much."

Daniel let the picture drop out of his hand. It was now laying flat to his right. He leaned down, placing his head on his hands on the edge of the desk.

~I'm sorry, Sha're. I'm going to make it up to you now. The System Lords will never hurt another woman or child again. None of your sisters on Abydos will ever fear being abducted by the Goa'uld again. I'm going to make that happen, for you.~

====

Twenty minutes later, Daniel pulled himself out of his depressive funk. He started to reach for the picture to put it away, but he couldn't. He needed to reinforce his decision and looking over at the picture every now and then helped him to do that.

Wanting to get back to work, the archaeologist pulled out some text to study. Even as he reviewed the alien text, he wondered where Jack was. In fact, he was surprised the colonel hadn't barged in to object to the proposed mission.

~Maybe he thinks it's the right thing to do. Maybe he doesn't care anymore. Maybe he wants me to ...~

The insecurity in his thoughts was interrupted when Teal'c entered his lab.

"DanielJackson?"

"Yeah?"

"Have you considered the Tok'ra proposal?" the Jaffa inquired.

"Yep," Daniel answered without diverting his eyes from the text. ~Like I could really be thinking about anything else.~

"If successful, it would deal the Goa'uld a mortal blow," Teal'c asserted.

~No doubt what he wants me to do.~ The archaeologist replied, "Yeah, I realize what's at stake."

"DanielJackson, you have stated many times that in circumstances such as this, you would avoid using such action if given a better option."

"Right. You think there's a better way of overthrowing the Goa'uld?" Daniel asked. ~If ever I asked a dumb question, that was it.~

"I currently have no plan that would accomplish as much as the one put forth by the Tok'ra."

~That's not really a surprise. I know what you want, Teal'c.~ After a thoughtful pause, the archaeologist returned, "That's why I'm going to do it."

Teal'c bowed his head as if in gratitude for the decision. That's when Jack walked in.

"Daniel, we need ..." The colonel saw the Jaffa and greeted, "T."

"DanielJackson has agreed to assist the Tok'ra."

Jack looked at Daniel, who evaded his glance, and said, "Is that so?" As he continued to look at his lover, he requested, "T, would you mind. I need to talk to Daniel."

With another bow of his head, Teal'c left Daniel's lab. As soon as he did, the colonel exploded.

"Are you out of your friggin' mind?"

"Jack, be calm."

"Daniel, this is *so* not happening."

"Look, we'll go to Revanna tomorrow and hear the plan ..."

"... a *Tok'ra* plan," Jack interjected harshly. "You know how they are."

"Yes, yes, I do, but you know that this is an opportunity that may never come again. Think of the lives it could save."

Jack leaned in, both of his hands gripping the side of Daniel's desk as he replied, "I'm thinking of one life, and not just the beating of his heart, but the sake of his soul."

Daniel looked down, his eyes not focusing on anything specific. There was a moment when nothing was said.

"Jack, Teal'c's right."

Warily, the colonel questioned, "About what?"

"There's no better way of defeating the Goa'uld. It's the only way."

"Over my dead body," Jack responded, turning and leaving the lab.

====

Furious, Jack headed for Level 25. He was on a mission, a very unhappy one. He tapped on the door, his tap becoming more hardened with each one.

"O'Neill," Teal'c stated even before opening the door to his quarters.

"Do you really think sending Daniel alone into a den of Goa'uld crazies is the answer to the Jaffa prayers?"

Ardently, Teal'c answered, "I cannot think of a better alternative."

"We're talking Daniel here."

"DanielJackson is a great warrior."

Jack stared at his friend, biting his lip. He wanted to say so many things, but as he stood at the door, he realized there was nothing he could say, so he simply turned away.

~A little selfish there, T,~ the colonel opined as his pace quickened. ~Daniel is not the answer to the Goa'uld nightmare, not like this, not on his own, no way.~

Jack was heading back to Daniel's lab when a first lieutenant tracked him down. Hammond wanted to see him right away. With reluctance, Jack diverted from his original destination.

~I'll handle it tonight.~

====

Meanwhile, Daniel walked into another lab and went over to where Megan Williams was working.

"Megan, I need you to handle a few things for me this week," Daniel stated.

"Are you going on vacation?"

"No, I, uh, I'm headed off-world for a few days," Daniel advised. "Here's what I need you to focus on."

Daniel proceeded to hand Megan a few files as well as a list of priorities for the civilian to reference while he was away. He had a great staff, but Megan was his most efficient and reliable worker so he trusted her to get everything done.

"No problem," Megan acknowledged after hearing all that her supervisor wanted her to handle.

"Thank you," Daniel acknowledged, turning and taking a few steps towards the exit.

"Daniel," Megan called out. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Okay," Megan replied. "Hey, I hope the mission goes well," she added lightly while smiling.

Daniel nodded and left the lab while thinking, ~Ignorance is bliss, at least in this case.~

The archaeologist kept walking towards his office while feeling surprisingly grateful for the brief chat with Megan. In a day when his friends and teammates were asking him to do things that were objectionable to his being, it was good to have a lighthearted conversation with someone who only wanted him to be well. In a glimpse of darkness, though, he wondered if Megan would have said the same thing if she had been aware of the details.

~Everyone wants the Goa'uld defeated. I guess the question is, do they want them defeated, or dead.~

====

"Hiding?" Jack asked that evening.

The colonel had just walked into Daniel's apartment where he found his lover dusting, of all things.

"I'm not hiding."

"You're here," Jack accused.

"This is my apartment."

"It's *the* apartment. It's not your home," the older man reminded, a fact he was quite pleased about since Daniel moved in two years ago.

"Jack ..."

"Daniel, you're dusting. You're standing there friggin' dusting *the* apartment when tomorrow you've decided to be the human version of the atomic bomb."

Putting down his cleaning rag, Daniel turned and requested, "Please calm down."

"Blast it, Daniel," Jack spat angrily. "What the heck are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking ... I'd like some wine."

Jack let out a giant audible groan and turned around in disbelief. He watched Daniel pick out a bottle of wine and pour a glass.

"It's not even St. Julien's," the colonel groused about his Love's favorite wine.

Daniel couldn't help but be amused and replied, "It's at home."

It was the way Daniel spoke the word 'home' that broke Jack's heart. He just could not conceive of his soulmate going on a potential suicide mission, especially without backup.

"Jack, there's always something going on. You know that. Think about the last few weeks. You almost died. Teal'c almost died. There's too many almosts."

"That's not a word," Jack refuted quietly. "Maybe it's time for me to retire. I'm getting tired of this playing, anyway."

"Jack, this is important."

"I love you, Daniel. What good will it do us if the game protects us, but you die in the process?"

"I'm not going to die, Jack. It has to be done. We can take out all the System Lords. Think about it."

"It's not you, Daniel. You're a good soldier, but that's not your true function, and you know that. I don't like this. I don't like this at all."

Frustrated with the situation and scared out of his mind for Daniel, Jack walked over and embraced his archaeologist. He held on tight, not wanting to ever let go.

"I don't like it either, Love, but what else can we do? It's not time for us to leave yet, Jack."

"Us?"

"Yes, us. When you retire, Jack, I'm out, too. This is all or nothing, for both of us. I won't go through the Gate without you, not once you've retired and aren't there to drag me away to eat ... or ... something."

"I'll always be there for you, Danny, to drag you away ... to eat ... or something."

"Really?"

"You know it!"

"Show me."

Both knew their game of pretending to be friends and teammates and nothing more had to go on. They had to save the world, again, from Goa'uld tyranny. Tonight, though, was about their love and the evolving of their private universe. They would not retire from SGC, but they did retire to Daniel's bedroom and a very long night of lovemaking.

====

The next morning, Jack made breakfast. Of course, he'd had to make a run to the store for the ingredients because Daniel had little that was edible in his kitchen, a result of the archaeologist having been in Russia over the past few days. The best part about the grocery run was that when Jack returned, he went into the bedroom to check on Daniel, who was still tired and suffering from jet lag. When the archaeologist opened his eyes and saw his lover, he was quick to pull him in for a lustful kiss, which led to another round of lovemaking. Daniel had momentarily forgotten that he returned to America two days ago.

"That's what I call saying good morning," Jack had teased before getting up and taking his second shower of the day.

"Sabah el kheer," Daniel had yawned in Arabic before falling back asleep.

"Daniel, eat something," Jack commanded now that both were sitting at the kitchen counter, pushing a plate full of eggs, ham, and toast in front of the younger man.

"I'm not very hungry."

"I wonder why."

Daniel drew a heavy breath and leaned back, saying, "Jack, don't start."

"I don't like this, Daniel."

"We already talked about it, Jack. We have to at least hear the Tok'ra out."

"I heard enough. Ren'al said *one* human slave, *one*, Daniel, and we're talking slave here. Exactly what does a Goa'uld do with a human slave?"

"Don't get paranoid."

"You're way too calm about this," Jack spat as he stood up and took his plate to the sink. "The Tok'ra are not the most trustworthy of races."

"They have their own way of doing things," Daniel responded as he remained at the table.

Jack turned and while leaning against the counter put forth, "You're as scared as I am, Danny. We don't have a clue what this big plan is, but we both know it means you and a whole lot of arrogant, self-righteous, pompous, egotistical ..."

"Jack."

"I don't like this."

"You've said that, several times."

"But not enough to get it through your skull that this is a really bad idea."

"Jack ..."

An exasperated Jack continued, "Danny, I can't believe you still want to do this."

"Want may not be the right word. You know how I feel about this." Daniel stood and approached the other man. He didn't stop until there were only inches between them. "Jack, if there's a chance of stopping the Goa'uld, I have to take it. If it were you, you'd do it, too."

"Danny ..."

"You'd do it."

"You're not me."

"But I'm a good soldier. That's what you said."

"You're a better man than me, Daniel. You do what you have to do, but you are not a mass murderer."

Daniel blinked a couple of times, but said nothing. His blue eyes simply looked expectantly at the brown eyes they loved so much.

"Ah, Danny," Jack sighed as he raised his right hand to caress his Love's cheek while his left hand pulled Daniel closer. "I love you."

"I love you, too, so much."

Jack leaned his head forward, his head touching Daniel's. It was something the two normally did when off-world when they needed a silent moment to connect and relay their love for the other, moments when they didn't have words.

"We'd better go," Jack finally said.

"Jack ..."

The lovers kissed, longer than they had time for, but they did it, needing the reminder that they always had each other's backs and that their love was eternal.

====

"Any ideas on what the Tok'ra plan could be?" Sam asked her teammates as they finished gearing up.

"DanielJackson will destroy the System Lords," Teal'c responded.

"The word you mean, Teal'c, is assassinate," Jack corrected sternly, "and I'm not convinced it will work."

"Why not, Sir?" Sam questioned innocently.

"It's a Tok'ra plan, Major."

"I see," Sam replied tentatively. Inside, she knew her commanding officer's concern. From what SG-1 knew at this point, Daniel would be going in alone. It was risky. "Maybe we can find a way to provide backup, Sir."

"That's the plan," Jack announced.

"DanielJackson must succeed," the Jaffa put forth strongly.

Ignoring Teal'c, Jack ordered, "Let's go," and quickly left the room.

Daniel was the last to walk out. He appreciated the concern of his teammates, but he was also determined to proceed. He knew any potential backup would be too far away to be able to help him, if the need arose. He was worried about one other thing: Jack's animosity toward Teal'c. He'd heard about Jack's visit to Teal'c's quarters the day before, not from his lover, but from Nurse Marie Hill, whom he'd had coffee with shortly upon arriving at Cheyenne Mountain. She'd heard it from someone else who had been nearby at the time of Jack's visit.

~He's angry. Actually, he's just worried about me. I'm afraid he'll take it out on Teal'c. Don't get distracted, Jack. You need to survive this, too.~

====

The flagship team entered the gate room and took note of SG-17's presence. This was Major Mansfield's unit. Seeing the colonel, Mansfield ordered his team to attention.

"At ease." As he adjusted the brim of his cap, Jack overheard Sam greeting Lieutenant Elliot who recently was accepted into the Stargate Program after passing a rigorous challenge overseen by SG-1. ~He'll do a good job, especially after he gets over the first mission hump.~ When he heard Elliot say that he was excited to finally see some action, Jack stated, "It's just your basic off-world orientation, Lieutenant. There is no action."

"Maybe not, Sir, but I am looking forward to meeting the Tok'ra."

Starting the walk up the ramp, Jack droned, "You'll get over it."

====

Upon arriving on Revanna, SG-1 and SG-17 were greeted by Sam's father, Jacob, who was now a leading member of Tok'ra, and Aldwin, who would be providing an orientation class that SG-17 was to attend.

**I still don't like this,** Jack communicated privately, though not positive his message would get through to his lover.

**I know, Jack.**

**Going forward?**

**Yes.**

**In other words, I need to just go along and deal with it.**

**Jack, please. This is the right thing to do.**

Jack did not respond for fear he'd start a full blown argument and reveal the truth about their relationship, not that he thought that was a bad thing. A big part of him wanted to take hold of Daniel and drag him back to Earth, but he knew if he did so, their relationship would be over. Daniel would not forgive him. For better or worse, Jack realized he was going to have to live with Daniel's decision to participate in the Tok'ra's plan. He just hoped Daniel lived to see the aftermath.

====

SG-1 followed Jacob to the meeting chamber and took seats along one side of the table. No one said anything until Daniel asked an important question.

"So how are you going to get me in?"

Jacob answered, "Yu will be among the System Lords attending the meeting."

"I thought you said he was going in as a slave?" Sam interjected.

"The System Lord Yu," Jacob explained stoically.

"Little joke there," Sam responded. ~Dad has lost his sense of humor.~

~This is crazy,~ Jack thought as he listened to his lover point out the obvious, that Yu would recognize him since they'd met before. ~It might be worth it to yank Daniel out of here. Okay, he'd hate me. We'd be through, but he'd be alive.~

Waiting for Jacob's response, the archaeologist was curious about a box Ren'al had just placed in front of Sam's dad. Daniel was even more curious when Ren'al answered instead of Jacob, claiming that Yu would not recognize Daniel.

~Okay, I'm not sure I understand how that could be.~ Daniel listened intently while Jacob explained the Tok'ra modified a chemical used by Reol, a race that was able to use bodily secretions to create illusions and false memories in others. It was their way of protecting themselves from races like the Goa'uld. ~The Reol. That wasn't really a pleasant experience. Of course, that was because I were fighting, sort of.~

SG-1 encountered the Reol on P7S-441 when they thought a fifth team member, Lieutenant Tyler, was injured. The truth was that Tyler was a Reol named Kaiael who was injured. Daniel hated to admit it, but at the time, he felt quite secondary to the fictional Tyler. That, and other events of the day, caused some friction between he and Jack. The lovers worked their way through that situation, and while they didn't foresee the Reol making contact with them later, it did happen. That next contact led to the Reol agreeing to allow Janet to run some tests. Her exam and extraction of DNA and bodily emissions resulted in the Tok'ra being able to do their own experiments.

"If you can get close enough to inject him, you will be able to convince him that you are, in fact, his most trusted lo'taur," Ren'al told Daniel.

"His what?" the colonel inquired.

"Lo'taur is the highest rank amongst the human slaves of the System Lords," Teal'c explained.

Jacob expounded, "They're like personal attendants. It's considered to be a position of great honor. I spent the last couple of months establishing myself as a minor Goa'uld in Yu's service. I'll be able to get Daniel onboard his mother ship and deal with the loose ends."

As the conversation continued, Sam wondered if Nirrti might show up. She would, of course, recognize Daniel instantly.

Jacob responded, "Not much chance of that. She's still a renegade and persona non grata among the System Lords. None of the other remaining System Lords have seen Danny's face."

~Danny? *Danny's* face,~ Jack echoed in a mix of ire and suspicion. ~Since when does Jacob call Daniel Danny?~

~Did he just call me Danny?~ Daniel asked himself. He looked off, trying not to cringe on the outside the way he had on the inside. Only Jack could call him Danny, and it had taken a long time for him to be comfortable with that. He wanted to say something, to tell Jacob that it wasn't okay to call him that, but Daniel let it go. There were more pressing matters that he had to think about. Besides, he didn't want to be disrespectful to Jacob, especially in front of Sam. "Assuming I make it on the space station, what happens next?"

Ren'al answered, "You will wait until all the System Lords have arrived and then you will use this." She removed a device from her chest pocket and handed it to Daniel. "These two liquids mixed together form a most virulent poison. Press the button to open the valve between the two containers. The liquid will immediately be vaporized. Within seconds the pressure will break the seal on the container and the gas will be released."

Jack strained to get a clear view of the container. All he could think was how much he still did not like what was happening.

~Now we know the how of it,~ Jack sighed. ~Maybe.~

Clearing his throat, Daniel asked, "Am I supposed to hold my breath?" as he pushed the vial away from him.

~There ya go, Danny. Survival: you have to survive,~ Jack encouraged in his thoughts.

"The poison is only deadly to symbiotes," Ren'al answered.

Everyone acknowledged it was a dangerous plan, especially since the material in the vial could kill all the Tok'ra on the Revanna base. It was also mentioned that the poison would not kill the hosts, but that a dying symbiote released its own deadly toxin.

~It's killing, and Daniel doesn't like killing. Keep talking, Jacob, and we'll catch the next wormhole home,~ the colonel urged mightily.

"Daniel, the human host of a System Lord has been through the sarcophagus countless times. We know the toll that takes. They're hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old. Never mind the psychological damage they suffered, physically, without the Goa'uld sustaining them, they die anyway," Jacob reminded.

"So we're doing them a favor?" the archaeologist returned somewhat sarcastically.

"In many ways, yes."

To say Jack wasn't happy was an understatement. He could sense the uneasiness within his lover, too. Murdering the Goa'uld was bad enough, but the hosts to the symbiotes would die as well, not from the poison, but more than likely of very advanced old age.

"What can we do?" Jack asked as the meeting wound down.

"Wait here. I'll communicate when the mission has been accomplished," Jacob answered.

Nodding on the outside, Jack was stirring on the inside. It was unthinkable to him to allow Daniel to go off on his own for such a mission. His problem was that he couldn't think of a way out of it. One thing he knew for sure, though, was that he was going to do everything in his power to keep the Tok'ra on the up and up.

As soon as the meeting ended, Jacob walked swiftly away.

~Oh, no you don't!~ Jack hurried after the Tok'ra, calling out to him. "Jacob. Jacob, wait up!" he exclaimed, literally pushing a Tok'ra he did not know out of his way. "Why do I get the feeling there's something you're *not* telling us?"

"Oh, Jack," Jacob whined as he continued walking.

Angrily, Jack responded, "*Now come on*. You're the one who's always saying that every time we knock off one of these System Lords a worse one shows up. Why should this be any different?"

"It is true that others would eventually rise up, but by taking them all out at once, we'll create a power vacuum that will lead to a massive galaxy-wide war as the remaining Goa'uld jockey for position. That'll last long enough for us to make a final decisive move."

"Which is?"

Stopping and facing the colonel, Jacob answered, "A wide-scale attack on the entire Goa'uld population using the symbiote poison." Pointing his finger at Jack, he insisted, "We're going to wipe them out, Jack, all of them," and continued on his way.

Jack stood still, processing the comment, but feeling unsettled. He ran after the Tok'ra again.

"Jacob!"

With a frustrated sigh, Jacob stopped and turned to face Jack once again. He had things to do and didn't want to continue the discussion.

"Jack, just wait here. Daniel ..."

"Don't you mean Danny?"

"Oh, come on, Jack."

"You come on, Jacob. Look, all the Tok'ra do is screw us over. You never tell us the whole plan. There's always something missing, some little thing that puts our lives at risk. You like doing your own thing, except this time, you can't. *This* time you need us, but not just any of us, Daniel. He has no business committing mass murder, snakeheads or not."

"You need to settle down, Colonel."

"You don't outrank anymore, Jacob. We give you a lot of slack because of Carter, but now you're putting Daniel's life at stake and to get him to go along, you're tugging on any emotional connection you can make. Why did you call him Danny?"

"Why not, Jack?" Jacob challenged. "Isn't it his name?"

"His name is Daniel. There isn't one SGC personnel who calls him Danny. No alien race calls him Danny. His *friends* don't call him Danny. You have *never* called him Danny until now. Why?"

"I have things to do, Jack."

"So do I," Jack barked. "I have to play Fish with Teal'c while we wait for your mission to be accomplished. In other words, I get to sit around doing nothing while Daniel kills a slew of Goa'uld."

"Goa'uld System Lords," Jacob corrected. "You know what happens if Daniel succeeds? The Goa'uld are nothing. They lose their foothold. It's freedom, Jack."

"At what cost to Daniel?"

"He'll live, Jack."

"He'd better, Jacob."

"Are you threatening me, Jack? That's not like you. None of this is like you."

"You'd better not be holding anything back."

Jacob nodded and then walked away, leaving a very unhappy Jack behind.

====

"Where have you been?" Daniel asked when Jack returned to the council meeting room.

"Sightseeing," Jack snipped. He looked over at Sam and asked, "Don't you need to spend some time with Daddy before we go?"

"Daddy?" Sam mumbled under her breath. "Sure. Um, yes, Sir, I do. Excuse me."

Jack looked at Teal'c, his glare deep and insistent.

"I will also go talk to ... Daddy," Teal'c advised, following Sam out of the meeting area and leaving Jack and Daniel alone.

"Remember, this isn't a closed room," Daniel stated.

"I needed that reminder, Daniel."

"Okay, uh, Jack, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong?" Jack responded incredulously in a raised voice. "Daniel, are you ready to poison a bunch of System Lords, killing them and their hosts?"

"Death is part of everything, isn't it? I mean, uh, you've killed, Jack."

"Yes, I have, a lot, but that's me, Danny, not you. I know what it entails. I know how to lock it away. Do you?"

Daniel crossed his arms and bowed his head. He stared at the floor as he tried to suppress his doubts and his guilt over what was to happen soon.

Jack moved forward, not stopping until he was in his lover's personal space, and put forward, "Danny, I know you and you aren't sure about this. I get the confusion. You want to protect the universe from the Goa'uld. You want to avenge Sha're." He saw Daniel's head rise. "There's nothing wrong with that on the surface, for someone like me, but I'll say it again. Killing isn't part of your anatomy, not unless you're forced to, and even then, it tears you apart. You're letting Jacob coerce into doing this."

"Coerce? That's a ... a strong word, Jack."

"Tell me you didn't notice when he called you Danny. Deny that every part of you didn't want to shout out, 'My name is Daniel.' Go ahead, tell me."

"I ..."

"He's trying to get to your soul. If he can do that, if he can appeal to your passion and humanity, he can make sure you go ahead with this."

"Aren't you being a bit harsh?"

"Daniel, if you do this, you'll be poisoning your own soul, and I'm not sure you can live with that," Jack asserted, the thought among his worst fears for the mission.

"Do you have a better way?"

The question was a stinger. If only there were a better way, they could home. Jack let out a sigh and shook his head. The regret was palpable.

"We should go find the others," Daniel suggested.

"Danny."

Daniel reached out and put his hand over Jack's heart. He smiled, but said nothing at the moment. He waited to speak, enjoying one of the last connections he would have with his life partner before leaving on the mission.

"Let's go find the others," the archaeologist repeated before walking away.

~Crap! How am I going to pick up the pieces after he becomes an assassin?~ Jack bemoaned before following the man who owned his heart to meet up with their teammates.

====

"You've got to be kidding," Jack griped loudly as he looked at the outfit Daniel was just given to wear.

"Jack, don't shout. Remember where we are."

"I don't friggin' care."

"Yes, you do," Daniel insisted. "This is the normal attire for a lo'taur."

"It looks like pajamas to me."

"You're exaggerating."

"Danny ..."

Ignoring the fact that were still in the Tok'ra tunnel complex, Daniel walked over to his lover and placed his hand over Jack's chest. It was something he did often, an outward way of demonstrating his unspoken love.

"It's okay, Jack. I'll be fine."

"Fine," Jack stated. It was both a response and a question that referred to Daniel's frequent return of saying he was fine when he was far from it. "I don't like this."

With a small smile, Daniel replied, "I know."

**I love you.**

**And I love you.**

**You'd better come home to me.**

**And you'd better be there when I do.**

Sadly, the lovers weren't in an area more concealed. There was no way they could touch. They couldn't even lean their heads together. Daniel's placement of his hand was far too risky as it was. All they could do was gaze into each other's eyes, speaking words of need and want through their ocular lenses.

"Daniel, time to go," Jacob called out. "It's a long trip and we can't be late." He saw the colonel's glare and promised, "He'll be fine, Jack."

Jack simply continued to glare and then watched as Daniel followed Jacob.

Unable to remain silent completely, Jack called out, "Daniel."

Holding the lo'taur attire in his hands, the archaeologist stopped walking and turned around to face his Love.

"Team meeting in three days. Don't be late," Jack pleaded. ~That's not exactly what I wanted to say, not even close.~

Daniel cracked a small smile and promised, "I won't," before moving away and catching up with Jacob.

The colonel was not a happy man. Not knowing what to do, he began to walk and he kept walking until he was too tired to take another step.

====

Aboard the teltac, a Goa'uld cargo ship the Tok'ra had commandeered, Daniel and Jacob changed into their undercover garb.

~I don't think this outfit looks like pajamas,~ Daniel thought as he adjusted the large black collar that reminded him of a saddle for a horse. ~It's more like a really bad Halloween costume.~ The attire made him feel very uncomfortable. ~It could be worse. At least I have pants. Well, maybe.~

For a moment, Daniel's thoughts turned to Jack. He imagined a humorous back and forth about the ridiculous outfit. Closing his eyes, he became lost in the idea of Jack ripping off the clothing and having his way with him. Unfortunately, Daniel's momentary imagery faded as he heard Jacob's footsteps. Quickly, he focused himself on the mission.

"So, why do the System Lords need human attendants?" Daniel asked Jacob.

"Well, the Jaffa serve a strictly military function. Besides, if the host of a System Lord is ever injured beyond a symbiote's capacity to heal, it can be pretty useful to have a human close at hand."

~I'm glad you didn't bring that up on Revanna when Jack was around,~ Daniel opined as he looked up. "Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that."

"Are you clear on all the backgrounds of the System Lords?" Jacob queried.

With a sigh, Daniel answered, "Oh yeah, I'm fine."

"Good, we'll be at Yu's home world in a little over an hour." Jacob began to walk away, but then he turned back. "Are you all right, Daniel?"

~Daniel.~ With a frown, Daniel answered as he did before. "Oh yeah, I'm fine."

"Listen, if you're not one-hundred percent committed to this mission, I need to know."

"I just think some of your details are a little,uh, sketchy."

"Like what?"

"Well, you're going to use poison to wipe out the Goa'uld, right?"

"Eventually."

"What about the Jaffa?"

"Well, that's still a bit of a wrinkle. Unless we can find a way to reverse their biological dependency on immature symbiotes, they'll all die as well."

"A bit of a wrinkle," Daniel repeated.

"Danny, the Goa'uld have been spreading like a plague across the galaxy for thousands of years. Now for the first time they're showing zero population growth. We're not sure why, but we intend to take advantage of the situation. We may never get a chance like this again. Are we good to go?"

~Danny.~ With a nod and silent understanding, Daniel said, "Yeah."

When Jacob walked away, Daniel again closed his eyes. Jack was right. Jacob was using his nickname in an attempt to appeal to his deepest emotions. Jacob was trying to build a connection with the vulnerability he detected in him. It was so obvious to him now. He saw it in Jacob's eyes. He'd been making sure his man wasn't going to back out from the mission.

~You were a general. I never asked what you did, but I wonder, Jacob, as much as I respect you, are you playing me?~

Daniel sank down to the floor and leaned his head back against the hard steel of the ship.

~Am I doing the right thing? Gawd, the Tok'ra are going to kill the Jaffa. They'll call it the right thing. Jack would call it collateral damage. What do I call it? What do I call killing the System Lords? I'm justifying it in the name of revenge, or maybe for the sake of the guilt I feel. Do I have that right? What do I do if I'm successful? How do I convince myself that I'm not as bad as they are?~

Daniel's thoughts began to conflict, giving him a headache. He had to silence the division in his mind. He'd made his decision and now he had to follow through.

**I wish you were here, Jack.**

The archaeologist knew it was impossible for his lover to hear his message, but it didn't stop him from wishing he would.

====

Jack was wandering through the Tok'ra tunnels, trying to keep his mind off his lover. Everything was so sleek in the tunnels.

~Don't these people have shelves?~

The colonel was itchy to pick something up and hold it. He didn't have his weapon or gear. That was all in a room that was near the Tok'ra's meeting room.

~Probably best,~ Jack thought about not having his weapon. ~I might accidentally shoot someone.~

The leader of SG-1 stopped and stared at the wall. He seemed to be doing that a lot on this trip to Revanna.

"Colonel O'Neill."

Jack turned to face the person with a familiar face. He stared and then he smiled.

"K...orra," Jack said, holding hard on the first sound of the man's name since it took a moment to recall it. "You're still around and kicking."

Sometime back, SG-1 came across Korra, a Tok'ra spy they'd been told was a Goa'uld named Kel'tar, during a visit to PJ6-877. They were searching for a UAV, supposedly shot down by the Goa'uld. The team had quite an adventure on that mission, coming across the self-professed best bounty hunter in the galaxy, Aris Boch. It took Sam making a connection with Boch and a self-sacrificing move by Teal'c to reach a happy ending and safe return to Earth.

Korra smiled as he bobbed his head and repeated, "I am still kicking. In fact, I leave shortly and yet another mission of utmost importance."

"Yeah. What's going on?"

"I am afraid I cannot share that with you at this time."

"I like you, Korra, but I can't say the same about this blasted Tok'ra secrecy," Jack complained disgustedly.

"And do you tell us everything, Colonel O'Neill?"

"More than you tell me," Jack retorted.

Korra changed the subject and asked, "How is your team? Is Teal'c well?"

"Teal'c's great. He's around here some where. Carter, too. She's off playing with sna... doohickeys or something," wanting to say his 2IC was playing with snakes, but opting to say something else instead.

"And Daniel Jackson?"

"I take it you aren't in on current events," Jack put forth.

"I am aware."

Jack stared at Korra for a few seconds; then looked away as he answered, "He's fine." Inside he thought, ~He's fine for now. Check with me in two days and we'll see just how fine Daniel is then.~

"I thank you again for what your team did for me." As Jack nodded in acknowledgement, Korra remarked, "I must go."

"Good luck," Jack expressed sincerely.

"Luck for SG-1 as well," Korra responded before passing the colonel and heading up the corridor.

"Hey!" Jack called out. When the Tok'ra turned, he asked, "Have you see Garshaw?"

"Soon, I hope."

Korra disappeared from Jack's sight, leaving the colonel feeling disturbed. He now suspected that Korra's latest secret mission involved one of the few Tok'ra he had any respect for at all. There was nothing he could do and he knew no one would tell him anything, so he took a breath and put it out of his mind for now. Instead, he returned to his prior thoughts of PJ6-877.

~Memories,~ Jack mused lightly. ~That was a crazy period. Danny had that ridiculous string of bad luck.~ His mind went to the Shelby-American sports car that he'd bought for his lover when turning Daniel's bad luck into good luck. He couldn't wait for the two to get home so they could take a nice long drive in the silver vehicle. ~Cozy car for two,~ he mused as he dared to smile for a moment. Looking up at the sound of footsteps, Jack was lured back to the present. He began to walk again. ~I wonder what happened to Aris Boch. Betcha' Carter knows.~

====

"Teal'c," Jack acknowledged when he returned to the room where the team gear was. "Meditating?"

"Thinking," the Jaffa corrected from his spot on the ground where he was sitting in a cross leg pose.

"I see," Jack said with a cock of his head that indicated he did not see at all. "Hey, guess who I saw?"

"A Tok'ra."

"That's a good one," the colonel praised.

The Jaffa nodded and continued looking across the room at a point in the wall.

~He's not going to ask,~ Jack surmised, taking a breath of frustration.

Teal'c gave his C.O. a glance, an undetectable smile on his face. He waited calmly, letting Jack's frustration mount until it was about to blow.

"Don't you ..." Jack began.

"Who did you see, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, his question starting at the same moment Jack began his.

Suspicious of what had just happened, but wanting to share the news, the colonel answered, "Korra."

Teal'c turned to face Jack, his interest piqued greatly.

"Told ya you'd want to know," Jack spoke lightly as he bounced slightly on his toes.

"He is well?"

"At the moment. He's off on another spy mission; couldn't tell me anything about it. The Tok'ra can never tell me anything. I wonder if Jacob's checked in."

"You mean DanielJackson," Teal'c asserted while standing up. "Neither may check in, O'Neill. You are aware of that."

"It was just a thought," Jack sighed. Not wanting to think about things at the moment, he suggested, "Let's play cards."

====

"Any threes?" Jack asked as he sat across from Teal'c.

"I have none," the Jaffa responded, hearing his commander scoffing.

"Go fish," Jack corrected.

"I do not understand."

"That's what you're supposed to say when you don't have any of the cards: 'Go Fish'," Jack explained.

"Did I not say I have none of the card you requested?"

"T, that's how the game is played. I ask and if you don't have any, you tell me to, 'Go Fish'."

"Go Fish," the Jaffa instructed. "Do you have nines?"

"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack whined as he handed over three of the named card. He watched as Teal'c laid down his fifth complete book of cards. "I thought you didn't know how to play this game."

"Do you consider this to be a difficult game, O'Neill?"

With attitude, Jack answered, "I do not. It's all about luck." He stared at his cards and then tossed them down. "Sometimes luck is everything; it's what you need to survive."

"You are worried about DanielJackson."

"He doesn't have any backup," Jack responded, though his heart was saying much more.

"He is a worthy opponent."

"He's not playing basketball, Teal'c," Jack spat as he stood up and walked around a few seconds before stopping right in front of a wall. ~How do they make these things anyway?~

"You do not approve of the mission."

"The mission's fine; it's Daniel carrying it out that bothers me," the colonel admitted.

"DanielJackson will be successful. He will kill the System Lords."

"And all Jaffa will be free," Jack sing-songed. ~And Daniel will never be the same. Am *I* the only one who recognizes that fact?~

"This is our best opportunity, O'Neill," the alien maintained. "Do you not have confidence in DanielJackson?"

"Of course, I have confidence in Daniel."

"Why then are you upset?" Teal'c stood up and walked over to stand just behind Jack. "At SGC, you were unhappy that I expressed my opinion to DanielJackson."

Jack was practically gritting his teeth. He had been angry at his teammate for his attempt to convince Daniel to accept the mission, but in his heart, Jack knew his lover would have gone anyway.

~I'm not dumb, Danny. I saw Sha're's picture on your desk. You can call it justice or revenge or a need to make a difference, but it's all the same thing in this case.~

"O'Neill?" Teal'c prompted upon not getting a reply to his query.

Turning around to face his teammate, Jack affirmed, "Yes, I was unhappy, because Daniel is *not* the right man for this mission. Yes, he's fully capable of doing it. Yes, he's a great warrior. He also has more humanity in his finger than you and I combined, and we both know that. We should have found another way, but let's not dwell." The colonel returned to his seat and picked up his cards. "Any Jacks?"

Teal'c took a few seconds before he, too, returned to his seat. He studied the colonel for a moment and then picked up his cards.

"I have one."

Jack looked up and saw the Jaffa staring at him with intensity. He took the card and laid down his fifth book.

~It's a tie, kinda like Daniel's situation. Two opposing sides, both equal, both valid, and both even. Danny, it's okay to change your mind. Change your mind, Danny. We can beat the Goa'uld without you becoming an assassin. Say no to it and get back here.~

Hearing his name, Jack nodded and handed over two queens to the Jaffa. The game had to be played out. It was impossible to stop what had begun. He glanced at his watch.

~Less than a half-hour out.~

====

Nearing Yu's home world, Jacob opened a box Ren'al gave him back on Revanna. Inside was a ring with a small needle protruding from it. All Daniel needed to do was prick Yu with it and the Reol-enhanced chemical would be released.

"The effect will be immediate. He'll believe you to be his loyal slave, Jarren," Jacob stated.

~I hope he's right. If he's not,~ Daniel groaned inside. ~Better not to think about that right now.~

Minutes later, Jacob docked his ship successfully and he and Daniel entered the palace. They sought out the real Jarren. When they located him preparing tea, Jacob distracted the human slave, allowing Daniel to zat him. Immediately, Jacob dragged Jarren away and left Daniel to his task.

~I can't believe I'm doing this,~ Daniel thought as he picked up the tray and carried it into Yu's quarters.

When Yu approached a minute later, Daniel stabbed him with the ring and Yu instantly perceived Daniel as being his lo'taur, Jarren.

Daniel promptly began to serve Yu as his master, pouring the tea Yu wanted and standing silently behind him with his head bowed until receiving his next order.

====

Lord Yu retired for the evening, leaving Daniel as his perceived servant to finish his duties. Staying busy was just what the archaeologist wanted. The busier he was, the better as it gave him less time to think about what the next day would bring. Unfortunately, he was an efficient worker and all too soon, Daniel's lo'taur obligations were completed. He had no choice but to retire to his room in Yu's palace.

The lo'taur's room was nothing special, but it was a bit bigger than those of other servants. The decor was as gaudy as the rest of the palace and not exactly something a peaceful explorer would feel at home in. Daniel checked out an area of the room that he equated to a closet, only it was extremely narrow and had only two other choice of outfits inside, neither of which were presentable in public.

~Or alone, for that matter.~

Daniel groaned. He had to make a choice of hygiene. He took off the daily servant outfit and put on the bedtime attire.

~Jack, you'd love this, but to be honest, right now, I'm hating it.~

What Daniel had to slip on amounted in his view to a pair of briefs and an odd top that had short sleeves and only went halfway down his torso. He was grateful that as a lo'taur, he had a private resting place.

Resigned to his clothing fate, Daniel tended to his lo'taur outfit, ensuring it would be ready to wear in the morning. He was about to attempt sleep on the small bed in the room. The size didn't matter. Daniel was just happy to have a bed and not a hard slab of rock to sleep on.

The archaeologist settled down in the bed and tried to sleep. He closed his eyes, but when he did, he saw hundreds and thousands of faces staring at him.

~You're not real.~

The scientist tried to sleep, but he was battling the demons of his immediate future.

~Drown them out.~

Daniel focused hard on the one thing that he knew could get him through the night, his Jack. He remembered the feeling of Jack's hands on his body. He thought about Jack's laugh and a myriad of bad jokes and puns his colonel had spoken over the years. He sighed at the whispering of special words and phrases that expressed Jack's love and wont for him.

The strategy worked and soon, Daniel was asleep. He landed safely into the realm of slumber and had peaceful, loving dreams, until suddenly, the demons slashed all the lovely visions into shreds, replacing them with ugly pictures of humans dying, gasping for breaths as they spoke in ancient tongues. They were confused and unsure of what was happening. They cried out for Daniel to save them, but he couldn't. He was the one who had caused their distress. He'd released the poison that was responsible for their lingering pain and subsequent deaths.

Cries of "Murderer" rang out in Daniel's one-time dreams that were now full fledged nightmares. "Murderer!" echoed again, over and over.

"No!" Daniel shouted as he sat up and struggled for breath.

The archaeologist looked around as he took big gasps of air. It took a moment, but he realized where he was and what the current reality of his life was. He didn't want to be a murderer. That wasn't any part of him. He'd killed. He'd become remarkably good at it once Jack trained him, but it was a war he was fighting. Every death affected him. This was different, though. This was cold-blooded and calculated. The truth was undeniable.

"It's murder," Daniel whispered sadly. He rose and began to pace the room. He had to get his emotions under control. ~I have to do this, for Sha're. It will save lives.~ He ached with the harsh reality of his intended actions. ~Teal'c expects me to do it. I made a promise I didn't keep . I'll end it, Sha're. I have to.~

Daniel's internal woes went silent when he heard a sound outside his door. There was a quick tap, followed by two more taps against his door.

~Oh, no, not in this outfit.~

There was no one who should be knocking on the door, especially at this time of night, or rather, the early hours of the morning. The servants should all be in there own sleeping areas. If Lord Yu had sent someone, the tiny taps would have been louder and without hesitation.

Daniel figured if he stood still and did not make any noise that the person at the door would go away. He figured wrong. To his dismay, the door began to open. He looked around for something he could stand behind, put on, or cover his bedtime attire, such as it was, but there was nothing.

"Jarren," a female slave called out as she entered and closed the door behind her. "You did not call ..." Stunned, the woman lashed out, "You are not Jarren."

The slave turned and headed for the door, forcing Daniel to run over and block her path.

"Where is Jarren?"

Having no choice, Daniel grabbed the woman's arm and pricked her with the ring he wore that contained the Reol chemical. The tenseness in the woman eased as she blinked a couple of times. He saw her looking at him, no longer certain who she was eyeing.

"I'm Jarren, and I'm right here. Are you okay?" Daniel asked.

"Jarren, why didn't you meet me earlier?"

"I had duties to fulfill for My Lord Yu," Daniel explained.

"Lord Yu is asleep and now we have the night."

~Ut oh.~ Daniel responded, "It is near morning."

"The darkness remains. We will have the night, Jarren," the female insisted with a confident smile.

Daniel didn't know who the woman was and feared that if he didn't act appropriately that she would out him to others. He couldn't afford to have Yu become suspicious. His problem was that he wasn't exactly sure what the appropriate action would be.

"Mmm," the woman sounded as she pressed herself against the man she believed to be Jarren.

"Uh, it is late," Daniel spoke. ~I meant, it's early. Listen, lady, this isn't going to work.~

"Our time," the woman replied as her hands worked their way over Daniel's midriff.

"You know," Daniel began, walking away from the woman. "We might be caught and our master would be displeased."

"He would cut you down at the quick and sell me for slaughter," the woman agreed.

"Yes," Daniel agreed, turning around to face the stranger. "We should not take chances on the eve of the summit."

Ogling the man, the woman sashayed across the room until she reached him and let her fingers play with the firmness of his body.

"You sound like you care about this summit. That's not like you, Jarren."

"I care about living," came the response. ~This is not good.~

"We shall have the night, Jarren," the woman spoke, determination in her eyes. "It will be as you promised when I did your bidding."

"My bidding?"

"Now you play games," the woman accused.

"No, I, uh, I only wish to satisfy our master."

"And do you? Has he turned you away from female consorts?"

"Gawd, no," Daniel responded, the very thought of having a sexual relationship with a Goa'uld causing him to quiver.

Daniel fled from the woman to the other side of the room, needing to refocus. He had gone from the hideousness of being involved with Yu to the destructive memory of being raped by Hathor. He needed a moment to rid his mind of thoughts that could now get him killed.

"At least that is more like my Jarren," the woman stated.

"I have not changed," Daniel responded, feeling stronger again, that is, until he felt the woman's hands praying on his body again. "I must be well rested for the summit. Lord Yu demands it. He forbade me from doing any activity except for sleep. He will kill us both if we are caught."

Suddenly, there was a pressure against his back. His body tensed at the scratch. It hurt, but he knew if he reacted, it would reveal him to be a pretender. He gathered himself and hoped he was not bleeding.

"You like this, Jarren. If you do not honor your promise, it will be your last night."

"I owe you nothing," Daniel claimed, trying to prolong the conversation. ~Maybe if I talk enough, she'll leave without wanting to kill me.~ His hope didn't appear to be very realistic when he felt a sharp jab against the middle of his back. ~Ouch! I wish she wouldn't do that.~

Daniel spun around and took the woman's forearms in his hands. He brought her close and spoke harshly.

"I said I owe you nothing. This night is not yours; it is mine, and I do not wish to spend it with you."

Pulling away, the woman snapped, "Then I will make sure you never show your manhood to another again."

Daniel's eyes widened when she pulled out a large knife that had been hidden within her clothing.

~Crap!~

"I made you, Jarren. It was I who told Lord Yu about you. It was I who made sure he looked at you with favor after the death of his prior lo'taur."

"And I am grateful."

"Are you?" the woman asked, still holding the knife towards Daniel. She walked closer, lowering the knife perilously close to Daniel's mid-section. "Do I slice it off, or do you honor your promise?"

After a disquieted pause, Daniel replied, "I have no choice. I will honor my promise."

The woman smiled, gloating outwardly at her success. She put away the knife reached out for Daniel's length when she felt something unexpected. Her world went dark as she succumbed to the punch.

"Sorry," Daniel spoke glibly as he stared at the woman, who had collapsed into his arms. "I don't like hitting women. I don't think I've ever hit one before, but, uh, well, you didn't leave me a choice. I'm honoring a promise I made to myself a few years ago, to never be abused again, and I'm honoring a promise to Jack to be faithful. I guess maybe some might see that as hypocritical. I wasn't to Sha're, faithful, I mean. Maybe that's why I'm doing this; maybe that's why I hit you, something I never thought I'd do and something I don't, uh, ever want to do again."

Daniel let out a breath and looked around the room, trying to decide what to do with the unknown aggressor. He had limited resources at his discretion. He saw the bed with a small space between it and the floor. There was also the narrow closet. He needed to find something to help him secure his problem.

~What's that?~ As he scoped out the room, Daniel spotted a box hidden beneath the bed. He pulled it out and opened it. ~I'll bet Jarren wished he had a better hiding place for this.~

The box contained some unusual items, including a whip, two leather collars, a straitjacket, and other unmentionable equipment.

~Okay, well, I wasn't expecting this, but it'll do.~

Daniel wasn't thrilled with what he was having to do, but if he didn't restrain the woman and prevent her from revealing his deception, the plan would fail and he'd be dead. He selected the equipment he wanted and proceeded to tie up and otherwise incapacitate the woman. He opted to push her under the bed.

"I'm sorry, but if I put you in the closet, no one will find you until the next lo'taur is assigned. I'm pretty sure, I think, that someone will find you here eventually. Ah, and you can make some noise, kicking the bed ... I think." Daniel sighed. She could make noise and if she made it too soon, Yu's palace staff might find her quickly and get word to Yu during the summit. "Sorry again," he told the unconscious woman, pulling her from under the bed and placing her in the closet.

Daniel had two choices for the closet. The first was to prop up the woman so she was standing and the second was sit her down in what would be a very tight squeeze. He preferred to sit her down, though the safer bet would have been to bound her in an upright position. With the equipment now at his disposal, he could have done that. However, he couldn't talk himself into it. He just wasn't that cruel, so he opted to take his chances and stuff her into the seated position.

"I sure hope you're not a contortionist."

Knowing the dangers of keeping the woman gagged for too long of a period, he resorted to another tactic he wasn't fond of.

~Jarren has some dirty secrets,~ Daniel deduced as he returned to the box that contained what appeared to be drugs. They were each labeled with a code instead of a drug name. He wasn't a medical doctor, but he studied the code carefully and eventually deciphered it to the best of his ability. ~This one.~

Even as he was prepping for his next action, the archaeologist wondered how a human slave managed to end up in the palace of a System Lord with drugs and other paraphernalia in his possession. Maybe it was the arrogance of the Goa'uld, not fearing human contraband, or maybe somehow Yu didn't know that Jarren had the unique collection in his room. Regardless, the clock was ticking to morning. Daniel had to do his best to ensure the woman did not have a chance to spoil the plan.

Reluctantly, Daniel injected the woman with a drug he believed would keep her asleep for hours without inflicting any harm.

Only when confident he had done everything necessary to keep the woman out of sight and yet safe did Daniel turn his attention to the pain in his back. He reached behind him and brought back his hand, blood on his fingers visible as he did so. He used water to clean the affected area, but he didn't have anything to properly cleanse the scratches and protect them from infection. He couldn't even see the scope of the wound since he didn't have a mirror to utilize. Daniel decided not to worry about it since there was nothing he could do about it anyway. It wouldn't be long before Yu would expect his lo'taur to be at his beck and call.

The archaeologist double-checked the woman's bindings, made sure she was breathing easily, and then changed into his lo'taur outfit. It had been a long, crazy night and he was ready to leave the palace.

====

Shortly thereafter, Yu and Daniel boarded Yu's ship and traveled to the space station. They were among the last to arrive. As they docked, Yu told his lo'taur that none of the other System Lords were to be trusted and neither were their slaves.

~Not a problem. I think I can safely say there is no one on this station I trust.~

As with all of the System Lords, Yu's ship was docked adjacent to his quarters which meant the ship was essentially only a room away and quickly assessable.

====

Jack's new day on Revanna began with a huge yawn and more walks through the Tok'ra tunnels. Without anything he could put in his hands to fidget with, his feet had to do the playing instead. He walked the Tok'ra halls, annoying as many of the race as he could. It was something to occupy his time, to keep him from worrying every waking second about his soulmate. Not that it worked, though, because awake or asleep, always in his mind, was Daniel. He knew the archaeologist could take care of himself. After all, Jack had trained his Love on Special Op techniques, and Daniel had buffed up over the years. He wasn't the scrawny geek Jack first encountered all those years ago. What Jack was worried about was Daniel's soul and how it would survive becoming a mass murderer. It angered him, and he had no release for that, other than driving the Tok'ra nuts.

====

With the first session of the summit about to begin, Daniel trailed Yu as they walked the outside of the meeting chamber, sizing up the other System Lords who were soon to be their allies. There was Bastet, Kali the Destroyer, Ba'al, Morrigan, Svarog, and Olokun.

Yu told his human slave that, "Olokun is still seething over a recent loss to my forces. He may try to kill you out of spite. Do not make me look foolish by allowing yourself to be murdered."

~Oh, I definitely don't want to make you look foolish,~ Daniel agreed. "Yes, my Lord."

When entering the interior of the chamber, Yu and Ba'al began a conversation that provided Daniel with a piece of surprising news. Apparently, there was a mysterious, unknown enemy warring with the System Lords.

~Who could that be?~

When the meeting began, Yu took the floor and walked the inner circle while insisting it was time to find out who was responsible for all the attacks made upon them. As others spoke, suspicion loomed over all. There was virtually no trust for one another.

Then Ba'al's slave announced that the final guest had arrived.

Daniel took a deep breath. It was time. He took out the vial and held it in his left hand. As soon as the guest entered, he would release the poison. He steeled himself for what he was about to do, his heart beating faster as he heard the sound of the doors to the chamber opener.

"I hope I'm not missing all the fun," Osiris stated while scanning the room.

~Sarah,~ a panicked Daniel realized.

Sarah Gardner was someone he dated for a brief time while doing work in Chicago for a college professor. The relationship never had a chance, a combination of Daniel's focus on his work and Sarah's desire for a prestigious lifestyle. When last they met, Sarah was taken as the host for Osiris.

Automatically, Daniel backed away, turning his body from the incoming Goa'uld, fearing he would be instantly recognized.

As the conversation continued, Yu called out to his slave, extending his hand. He wanted a drink.

~I could use some backup,~ Daniel thought as he put the vial away and proceeded to pour Yu a drink. Resigned to being killed in the next minute, he remained just behind Yu and raised his head to face Sarah. ~Sorry, Jack. I'm really sorry.~

As Osiris entered, the Goa'uld went through the motions of greeting the System Lords and then made eye contact with Daniel.

~I'm about to be toast,~ the undercover archaeologist surmised.

After a pause, Osiris smiled and looked away before telling the System Lords, "I think you'll find I have much to offer. Shall we proceed?"

~Okay. I'm not sure what that was about, why you didn't call me out, but, uh, thank you.~

====

When the meeting adjourned and Yu dismissed his slave, Daniel sought out a secure location to contact Jacob. Jacob, though pleased to hear from Daniel, wanted to know why there was a delay in proceeding with the plan. When he heard Osiris was there, he asked Daniel if he was recognized.

"I don't know. I think so, but she didn't tip her hand and I don't know why."

Just then the door behind Daniel opened and Osiris walked in, saying, "Daniel Jackson. You're a rather long way from home, aren't you?" Pulling out a dagger and walking closer to the archaeologist, the Goa'uld asked, "What are you doing here?"

~Sarah.~ Backing away slowly, Daniel, who had closed the communication device and put it into his pocket, responded nervously as he stared at the large knife, "Me? Right now? Nothing, why?" He looked up at Osiris. "You have something in mind?"

Osiris placed the dagger below Daniel's chin and spewed almost seductively, "Ummm, insolence." Still moving closer, the Goa'uld demanded, "Tell me what subversions you are a part of," Osiris held the dagger up high while also gripping Daniel's neck, "or I will bleed you dry."

~I don't think so,~ Daniel thought as he grabbed Osiris' hand, pricking his adversary with the ring that released the Reol chemical. He waited a moment, aware the drug was taking effect. "May I help you?"

Osiris looked around uncertainly, allowing Daniel to continue his pretense as Jarren. The archaeologist acted as if Osiris had gotten lost and then Daniel, being Daniel, challenged Osiris.

"If you don't mind my asking, isn't it forbidden to bring weapons to the summit?"

"If you speak of it again, I promise, they will be your last words," came the threatening response.

~Had to ask,~ Daniel thought as he bowed his head obediently and watched the smirking Osiris walk away. ~This is another one of Jacob's wrinkles. I can't kill Sarah.~ He opened his communication device and called out for Jacob, who wanted to know what happened. "Ah, Osiris and I kind of got into it, but the chemical worked."

"Why didn't you just release the poison?"

~How could he ask me that?~ Daniel wondered.

"Daniel?" Jacob called out.

"Because that would have killed Sarah. There's got to be a way we can save her, *right*? You've taken symbiotes out of the host without killing them before."

"We'd have to get her out of there first."

"So?"

"Daniel, there's a bigger picture here. You have to release the poison. Do it now. You know what's at stake, Daniel. No single person's life is more important. Complete your mission."

Daniel instantly closed the connection and pondered what to do. He began to pace Yu's quarters.

~I'm not military, and I don't want to be military. Don't tell me to complete the mission. I'm well aware of the ... mission and what's at stake.~

As he paced, Daniel focused on the reality he was facing. It was a hard enough thing for him to do before Sarah arrived, to be an assassin of many, and that's what it was. All the rationalizing in the world didn't change that. His mind returned to the military approach that Jacob was taking with him.

~This is one of those 'for the better good' situations. That's what Jack would say, too; well, for most situations, situations I wasn't involved in. That's his history, doing things he buries deep inside, things he can't bare to talk about, but had to do, for the better good because no one person is more important than the overall. Right. Wrong. Every life is important.~

The archaeologist heard a noise and wondered if Yu was returning. He positioned himself appropriately, should the door open, but it didn't. After a minute, he let out a breath and resumed his pacing.

~Am I being hypocritical? Only minutes ago, I was ready to release the poison. It didn't matter who was in the room, but then Sarah walked in, and I couldn't do it. How is she different from any of the other hosts? Because I know her, it makes it all more personal. Gawd, what did I get myself into? Jack, I need you. I bet the Tok'ra are driving you crazy. I'm really going to hear it when I get back. You're going to tell me how bored you were. What I'd give to be bored right now.~

====

~This place is about as exciting as a meeting with the Brass,~ Jack opined inwardly as he moved about the room he was in. ~Maybe they have a target range?~ He reared his back at the thought. The most weaponry the Tok'ra had were zats. ~The peaceful stingy way to success.~

Teal'c watched his commanding officer walking around the room they were in. He sensed the colonel was unhappy.

"O'Neill."

"That's my name; don't wear it out," Jack snarked. Turning to face the Jaffa, Jack sighed, "Sorry, T. I need a perimeter to check."

With a nod, any ill will was forgotten.

"These folks need to find something to do to have fun," Jack opined. ~I'm bored stiff and that means all I have is time, time to worry about Danny.~

"They do, O'Neill."

"Yeah? Where?" Before Teal'c could answer, Jack observed a few Tok'ra hurrying through the tunnel corridor. "T."

Standing, Teal'c walked to Jack's side.

In response to a loud sound, Jack glanced up and around the area. He recognized the noise. It was an alarm.

"Let's find Carter," Jack ordered.

====

At the summit, the System Lords were discussing their situation. Daniel was again standing behind and to the side of Yu as he pretended to be the System Lord's lo'taur, Jarren.

Osiris had the floor and was commanding attention while proclaiming, "Weakness is befalling the System Lords. If this tenuous alliance crumbles, it will leave the Goa'uld vulnerable to threats that exist outside this galaxy. We must put aside our differences and individual struggles for power to strengthen the Goa'uld and ensure our supremacy over those who threaten our domination."

As the discussion continued, Daniel steeled himself. He had to follow through with the plan. Sarah was there, but there was nothing he could do about it. Releasing the poison was the thing to do for the better good. He removed the poison from the pouch at his side and was about to do the deed when he hesitated.

"I am here to represent the vote of another," Osiris revealed to the System Lords.

"Whom do you serve?" Yu inquired.

"Anubis."

The entire group was shocked and accused Osiris of lying. Anubis was dead. They were certain of it.

"That was what you assumed after you attempted to murder him. Was it not enough that he was banished from the System Lords?" Osiris asked. The symbiote proceeded to say that Anubis wanted to be part of the System Lords again and threatened, "He has sent me to ask that you accept him back ... or ... place yourselves at his mercy."

A certain amount of relief flowed through Daniel as he put the poison away yet again. The plan had to be abandoned and he was certain Jacob would agree. The Tau'ri and the Tok'ra both capitulated that having a group of warring System Lords was better than having one very powerful one.

The archaeologist couldn't believe how free he felt all of a sudden. It was as if his body had been a clogged drain, suffocating him because he was buried in dirt and grime. The clog dissipated and now he could breathe again. He didn't feel dirty anymore.

As soon as he could, Daniel made his way to Yu's quarters and pulled out the communication device to contact Jacob. His expectation was that the Tok'ra would arrange to pick him up and Daniel could rejoin Jack and his teammates. Unfortunately, Jacob's symbiote, Selmak, had another idea.

"Anubis has not waited this long just to return to the System Lords. There must be more going on," Selmak told Daniel.

"So ..." Daniel prompted. ~I'm not sure I'm going to like this. I really want to get back to Jack.~

"You must stay and find out what it is, if you can."

~Great,~ Daniel thought as he nodded and closed down the link. ~Jack won't be happy. Now I'm doing covert.~ He smiled for a minute as he reflected back on the special training Jack had given him. Those skills could come in handy now, as they had in the past. ~Well, it's better than killing everyone.~

====

Jack and Teal'c walked purposefully through the corridors, passing many Tok'ra who all seemed to be going somewhere fast. Finally, they came upon Sam and Ren'al.

"What's going on?" the colonel inquired.

Still walking, Ren'al responded, "We've received a transmission. Our sensors on the surface have detected a fleet of mother ships bound for Revanna. We must leave immediately."

Aldwin met up with the group to advise Ren'al that in an attempt to block the them from escaping, the Goa'uld had dialed in through the Stargate. This was bad news since the Gate could be kept open for thirty-eight minutes.

"The ships will be here before then," Ren'al acknowledged.

"Okay, we need our gear," Jack spoke as he looked at Teal'c and Sam. "Carter, find SG-17."

"Yes, Sir," Sam responded, immediately carrying out her orders.

With a stare at Ren'al, Jack prodded, "Think you can help her?"

Ren'al did not respond, but hurried after Sam.

Jack motioned with his head and he and Teal'c headed for their weapons and supplies.

====

Having just finished an errand for Lord Yu , Daniel was returning to Yu's quarters where he was expected to serve tea during a meeting with Osiris. Though late, Daniel paused when a vat caught his eye.

~A vat? Why would they have vat?~ Curious, Daniel approached the large container and removed its lid. ~Okay, wasn't expecting that. Why would these be here?~ the stunned scientist pondered while staring at a vat full of living symbiotes.

Daniel looked around to ensure he wasn't being unobserved. He replaced the lid and headed toward Yu's quarters.

====

Ready to do battle, SG-1 and SG-17 followed Ren'al through the complex.

"Do you have any ships available for evacuation?" Sam inquired while on the move.

"A few unarmed cargo ships, but they're with operatives on other missions," was Ren'al's response.

~Great,~ Jack snarked inwardly. He stopped with the others when Aldwin ran up to tell Ren'al that they had started building new tunnels. "What good is that going to do?"

The symbiote inside Aldwin answered, "Spread out the risk of getting hit by an air attack. You could lend us a hand moving life support equipment and supplies to the new tunnels."

Jack gave the order for SG-17 to assist and they quickly moved out, following Aldwin. Then he and Sam trailed after Ren'al to their destination.

====

Entering Yu's quarters, Daniel discovered Yu's guest, Osiris, was already present. The archaeologist noted the unhappy glare of the System Lord.

"I am sorry for my tardiness," Daniel spoke, going down onto his knees in submission.

"Tea," was all Yu spoke in reply.

Daniel rose and began his preparation of the beverage while listening to the ongoing discussion between Yu and Osiris.

"Time has taught him humility and respect for the union of the System Lords," Osiris put forth.

"You take me for a fool."

"Please. The Goa'uld have warred with each other since the beginning of time. Anubis has been amassing power so that he may win back your respect. He is also no fool. He knows that you would not accept him back without need."

Daniel listened while trying not to act like he was doing so. At one point, he could feel Osiris staring at him. He couldn't react. The scientist knew he needed to continue the charade. He was Jarren, preparing tea for his master and his guest. Then he heard the power play conversation taking a concerning direction.

~This is not good.~

"The Tau'ri cannot be allowed to triumph again and again," Osiris stated sternly.

"The treaty with the Asgard protect their planet," Yu reminded.

"From the System Lords."

"Who must enforce the treaty upon all Goa'uld," Yu responded.

"But not from one who's been dead for a thousand years."

"What do you propose?"

"Accept my vote on behalf of Anubis and before he resumes his position amongst you, he will destroy Earth," Osiris replied.

~Definitely not good. Can you two end this now? I need to get my spy communicator and get the heck out of here.~

Yu appeared to be swept up into the proposal and responded as if he could be swayed. It left Daniel wondering if Osiris would be able to convince all of the System Lords to go along with the plan.

~The Asgard treaty has kept the Goa'uld at bay. If Anubis is allowed to do this ...~ Daniel didn't complete his thought. ~I have to get to Jack. We'll come up with something.~

====

As the Tok'ra scrambled to escape the Goa'uld attack on Revanna, Ren'al hurried to a master control base and told SG-1, "I'm cutting power to the base. The energy signature would give away our position. Now they'll have to resort to random bombardment."

"Well, that's encouraging," Jack expressed sarcastically.

"Colonel, the Tok'ra have never had the military resources of the Goa'uld. We use disguise and subterfuge to achieve our goals. Our bases are designed to be hidden. We are just not equipped to repulse such a large enemy force," Ren'al replied.

As they bickered over what to do, Jack suggested using the symbiote poison, which Ren'al asserted the Tok'ra would use if they could. The problem was that the entire supply was with Jacob and there was no time to make more.

After Ren'al left the room, with Sam and Teal'c following close behind, Jack sighed, "Peachy." He also felt too much like a cadet at the Academy. ~Where are we going now?~ he wondered as he walked swiftly to catch up with the others.

====

Freed of his lo'taur duties at the moment, Daniel made contact with Jacob and advised, "They're going to vote on whether to accept Anubis back. Apparently, he has a plan to attack Earth."

"Did you get any details?"

"Osiris didn't say. Hey, here's a question for you. Why do you think the Goa'uld are allowing their human slaves to hear everything that's going on?"

"I'm not sure. The truth is, we suspected they were going to kill the slaves when the Summit was done."

~Excuse me?~ Daniel responded in an upset tone, "And you didn't think that was important enough to tell me?"

"Not considering that you were going to kill all the Goa'ulds."

~Hello? Anybody home?~ With an unhappy lilt in his voice, Daniel pointed out, "I'm not doing that any more."

"True. What's your point?"

"There's a big vat of live symbiotes here."

"So they're not planning on killing the slaves after all."

Daniel agreed, "Not by the looks of it."

"Get to the shield generator and shut it down. I'll get you out of there."

~Now he says it, but not good timing,~ Daniel lamented. "Not yet."

"Daniel, if you're caught and that poison falls into the wrong hands ..." Jacob began.

"I won't get caught," Daniel asserted as he put the communication device away. ~Jack would never forgive you, if I got caught. Of course, Jack may kill you when he finds out you didn't tell us about the slave killing theory. That's after he kills you a first time when he hears that I might end up being a Goa'uld. Jacob, your future isn't looking very rosy right now. My Jack gets a little ornery about these things. Can't say I'm too thrilled, either. You haven't called me Danny lately. Jack was right about this. Okay, Jackson, focus. Do what you have to do and then go home."

====

The Goa'uld were gathered for yet another session, one that would be pivotal in the direction the race would take from now on. They were voting on whether or not to admit Anubis back into the ranks of the System Lords.

Daniel watched the vote play out. It was six to one, with Yu being the only dissenter. Daniel was only a bit surprised that Yu remained opposed, but then Yu was the only current System Lord who was around when Anubis committed unspeakable crimes that ultimately caused him to be banished.

To celebrate, the rings were engaged and the same vat Daniel discovered earlier in the day was transported to the chamber.

~What are they doing?~ the archaeologist wondered as he saw the System Lords stand and encircle the vat. ~There's something strange going on here.~ The vat was opened and one by one, each of the System Lords pulled out a symbiote. What happened next disgusted Daniel. ~Gawd, they're eating the symbiotes.~

Daniel was freaked out and as he looked around the room, he noticed the other lo'taurs also looked confused by what they were seeing. At least, that's what he thought.

====

As SG-1 made their way through the tunnels, Goa'uld gliders flew overhead and released their first wave of destruction on Revanna. Sections of the tunnels began to collapse. The ground shook and it was a struggle to remain standing. Many Tok'ra were injured as tunnel debris fell atop them.

As Ren'al and his team checked on fallen Tok'ra, Jack clicked his radio to make contact with SG-17.

"Mansfield, this is O'Neill. Report."

The major quickly returned, "A section of the structure collapsed. We have some injured Tok'ra here."

Jack ordered SG-17 to get the injured out and then surveyed the situation the situation around him.

~I don't like this.~ Another wave of blasts hit the tunnels, knocking Jack to the ground. As soon as he could, he attempted to contact Mansfield for an update. ~No response. Crap.~ He stood and asked his 2IC about the injured. "How are they?"

"Not good, Sir," Sam answered.

With other Tok'ra approaching to help their comrades, Jack ordered, "Let's go. SG-17 isn't responding." He was somewhat surprised when Ren'al willingly stood to accompany the team. ~Not staying with her people? That's a Tok'ra for ya.~

====

Several minutes later, SG-1 came upon what remained of SG-17, Lieutenant Elliot and an injured Major Mansfield. They were on the move, too, trying to meet up with the flagship team. Fortunately, Aldwin was with them, helping Elliot to support the much larger major.

~So help me if he left the others behind,~ Jack snarled deep within as he recalled how Elliot responded during his testing on Earth. In that scenario, Elliot ordered his training team out of a warehouse, but did not ensure everyone actually got out. It resulted in the virtual death of a teammate. "Where's the rest of your team?"

"They're dead."

Sam stated the unnecessary, that they needed to get Mansfield to the infirmary. Aldwin already knew that the medical area had been destroyed and told the others about it. That prompted Ren'al to suggest they go to the lab. Without hesitation, Sam and Teal'c walked away, following the Tok'ra.

Elliot paused, looking at Jack. He said nothing, but he knew where Jack's mind had gone. He started to walk away.

~Maybe I was too harsh, but you don't leave your people behind,~ Jack opined silently as he watched Elliot move by him. ~Unless they're dead.~

The colonel caught up with Elliot, the two of them a few feet behind the others.

"I wouldn't leave anyone behind, Sir," Elliot promised Jack. He paused a moment before adding, "It was a Tok'ra."

Jack drew a breath as he processed Elliot's comment. There was a story coming his way, but it wasn't necessarily about the two dead members of SG-17 as he had anticipated.

"When possible, Lieutenant, you don't walk away from the injured, though sometimes it is regrettably necessary."

"Permission to speak freely, Sir."

"Go for it," Jack answered.

"I wouldn't leave the injured. He was still alive, and I was trying to dig him out. The major ordered me to go, but I refused. The ceiling collapsed and Major Mansfield was injured." Elliot stopped walking, so Jack did as well. "I wouldn't leave the injured Tok'ra. Now he's dead and Major Mansfield is injured."

"What's your point, Lieutenant?"

"I'm not arguing. We don't leave our people and we try not to leave our allies, but what do you do when your actions in that regard causes someone else to be injured?"

Jack was fully aware of where the conversation was headed and he felt a need to respond as honestly as he could to the question, so he answered, "You do you best. All you can do is make the right call for that moment. You can't worry about what happened ten minutes ago or what might happen in a half hour. You don't leave a member of your team behind, not when you're able to help him." He let out a deeper, more agitated sigh and added, "And you try not to leave anyone else behind, either, not if you have an alternative."

"Major Mansfield's orders?"

Jack looked away. How could he tell a barely ripened lieutenant that it was okay to disobey a more seasoned officer's orders. So, he didn't. He looked at Elliot intently for several seconds and then hurried to catch up with the others. If Elliot was the officer he thought he was, the message would be received.

Elliot remained where he was, processing the answer he'd just been given. With a small nod and a tiny smile on his face, he sprinted to join those ahead of him.

====

When the group reached the lab, Ren'al immediately went to the computer and explained, "I'm transferring the formula for the poison to this crystal and I'm erasing the memory of the computer. We will die before we give up our secrets."

"You know, we really should come up with a new strategy, one that does *not* include us dying," Jack stated wryly.

Elliot looked back over his shoulder at Jack and thought, ~I wish I were like him. We're probably going to die here, and he's making jokes.~

With some urgency, Teal'c advised, "We must determine what is happening on the surface, O'Neill."

Aldwin's symbiote responded, "With the power down, we are cut off from the surface sensors. You'll have to use the secondary ring room."

With Ren'al's permission, Aldwin led Jack and Teal'c towards the desired destination.

Sam remained in the lab, watching over Major Mansfield and growing more concerned about his survival as time passed. In fact, she became frustrated that Ren'al would not allow Lantash, Martouf's symbiote, to go into Mansfield and heal him.

"If we implant the symbiote, we kill them both," the Tok'ra maintained.

Sam's rebuttal was cut short when gliders again bombarded Revanna, causing more of the ceiling to separate and fall to the ground. The result of this latest action was devastating as pieces of timber reigned down on Elliot.

Without thought for herself, Sam leaned over Mansfield's body in an effort to keep him from further harm. She was unaware that in the collapse, Lantash's container broke, the symbiote and the water that protected him flowing out into the lab floor. For Sam, the world went dark.

====

On the surface, Jack, Teal'c, and Aldwin ran along the grass, hoping not to be detected by the gliders overhead.

~Have I mentioned that I hate running?~ Jack asked no one but himself. ~I really need a new pair of knees.~ The three found a spot on an embankment, where they were able to get a good luck at what was happening below. "They appear to be amassing a few troops," the colonel observed as he looked down on what appeared to be hundreds of Goa'uld and a multitude of alien vessels.

"Once the aerial bombardment exposes the tunnels, they will infiltrate and search them," Teal'c put forth.

~Yeah, not good.~ Jack attempted to contact Sam, but his 2IC did not respond. "Let's get back," the colonel ordered, hoping the lack of response was due to technical issues and not physical ones. As he, Teal'c, and Aldwin ran toward the rings, he heard a beep and asked, "What's that?"

Aldwin's symbiote responded, "A warning. The Jaffa have breached the tunnels."

~Aren't they early?~ Jack thought. Explosions interrupted any thoughts he had about the timing of the Goa'uld attack. All three men ran as fast as they could to reach the rings safely. ~Did I mention I need new knees?~ At one point, Teal'c reached back, trying to pull him along. ~I'm moving as fast as I can, Big Guy.~

Suddenly, a blast from one of the gliders was so strong that it literally lifted the three off the ground by several feet. When Jack and Teal'c recovered from the hard landing, they discovered that Aldwin and his symbiote were dead.

Jack and Teal'c looked back at the onslaught of gliders headed in their direction and moved onward to return to the tunnels.

====

Meanwhile, in the crumbled lab, Sam awoke and noticed an eerie silence. Everything was still, too still. She checked Mansfield for a pulse and found none. As was the military way, she removed his dog tags and placed them in one of her pockets. Next, she checked on Ren'al, lying motionless on the ground several feet away. Determining the Tok'ra was also dead, Sam retrieved the crystal with the recipe for the symbiote poisoning and put it in yet another of her vest pockets.

The blonde's next move was to check on Lieutenant Elliot. She kneeled down next to him to evaluate his condition. Sam startled when his eyes opened and flashed.

"Lantash?" Sam surmised.

"I had no choice," the symbiote replied.

Sam's heart felt many things in that moment. She knew Martouf's memories and thoughts lived on in Lantash and with Lantash in Elliot, that meant he probably knew of her deep relationship with the late Tok'ra. Her feelings for Martouf were complicated and clouded by the confusion in her life that stemmed both from her military upbringing and not being certain she could ever truly love a man. It all caused her to feel rather uneasy.

"Elliot?"

"I'm afraid his injuries are severe. There is serious internal damage. It's going to take all my strength just to keep him alive. He will have to speak for both of us," Lantash responded, releasing his control and allowing the injured Elliot to speak.

The youthful officer was frightened, but Sam did her best to assure him that things would be okay.

"We need to get out of here," Sam told Elliot. "Do you think you can walk."

"Maybe."

Sam helped him up and suggested, "We'll go to the secondary ring room and try to find Colonel O'Neill."

Too weak to respond, Elliot simply nodded as he used much of his strength just to put his arm around Sam's neck.

"I've got you, Lieutenant," Sam began with a smile. "Don't let my blonde hair fool you."

"No?" the man responded softly.

"I spent a lot of years proving myself. I'm stronger than you think."

"I know you are."

Sam looked at the young man for a moment. There was something about his confident remark that reminded her of Martouf. Then she remembered that Martouf was, in a way, part of Elliot now.

"One step at a time, Lieutenant," Sam encouraged, putting more formality back into her tone.

====

"There has been a great fight here, O'Neill," Teal'c noted as he and Jack walked through the dilapidated tunnels, now full of fallen tunnel timber and dead bodies, most of which were Tok'ra.

"I'll take point," Jack stated while slowly progressing, avoiding debris that continued to fall. Finally, as he rounded a corner, he was relieved to see Sam and Elliot. "Carter."

"The ceiling in the lab collapsed, Sir. Ren'al and Major Mansfield are dead."

"As is Aldwin," Teal'c told his teammate.

"Elliot's in rough shape; there's a Tok'ra symbiote inside him," Sam informed the others.

"What?" Jack questioned in disbelief.

"Feels very weird, Sir," Elliot confided in the team leader.

Sam expounded, "Lantash. He's keeping him alive."

~I hate those things; it's just odd, that's all; but maybe they can undo it, like they did for Carter,~ Jack hoped while he looked around and debated on the next course of action. "Let's take our chances on the surface."

The team moved out, but it wasn't long before they were faced with what appeared to be an insurmountable problem: the way to the secondary ring room that led to the surface was now blocked and according to Lantash, there was not another way to reach the room.

~This is just great,~ Jack complained. ~I hope Danny's doing better than us. He should have released the poison by now. Geez, Danny.~ He knew Daniel wouldn't hear him, but he made the attempt anyway. **I love you, Angel. Be strong. Be safe. I love you.**

====

Night was falling on the space station, and Daniel wanted out of there. Things had become too creepy. However, he didn't want to leave alone, at least not without trying to save Sarah. He felt a huge obligation to her, believing that she would not be a host to a symbiote if she had not met up with him at the funeral for their archaeology professor, Doctor David Jordan.

The guilt Daniel carried for that was not unlike the tremendous regret he had for not saving Sha're. Of course, the emotions he felt about the two women were vastly different and nowhere near the same level. That didn't matter to him, though. It was his fault Sarah was a host, and he had to do his best to rescue her from that fate. Maybe if he did, some of the guilt for Sha're's situation would lessen.

As he rested on the bed in the small area that served as Jarren's quarters, Daniel thought he heard something. He leaned forward, listening carefully. Then he blinked and laid back down.

**Jack? There's no way you can hear me, right? And, uh, I didn't just hear you, either, did I? Uh, well, I love you. I have a lot to tell you. Jack?**

Only silence filled the air and nothing within Daniel's heart stirred, except for the strong feeling that his lover was reaching out to him. It wasn't the strong link they normally had when close by, but it was a feeling and somehow, that momentary bond of thought made him feel better.

====

On Revanna, Teal'c surveyed the area where more of the upper tunnel structure collapsed. He did not believe the team would be able to clear a path before being discovered by Goa'uld.

Jack stood away from his team, holding his weapon as he looked around. He knew he should be closer, participating in the discussion and seeing the condition of the passageway himself, but something was holding him in place. His heart was being pulled in the direction of his soulmate. As the ceiling was collapsing, he'd felt it. It was a strong feeling of forever. The colonel couldn't put his finger on any one word or thought, but it was an emotion that carried him to a space station that was hours away.

~Was that Danny? It had to have been.~

The silver-haired man felt his Love so firmly within his soul that he was certain for a brief second, they were together in their own private nation of two.

Then Jack was drawn back into his current predicament by the voices of the others.

"Crystals," Elliot stated on Lantash's behalf.

"What?" Sam inquired.

"The Tok'ra use crystals to form the tunnels," Elliot explained.

"Yeah, we know that."

"And we can use them to make more."

Jack was back in the game as he queried, "Where are they?"

Elliot answered, "The lab."

"All right, you wait here," the colonel ordered his 2IC. "Teal'c with me," he instructed as he immediately headed for the lab. ~We're back in it.~

====

Daniel's eyes were closed as he laid on the bed that felt like it was made of stone. He wasn't asleep. Rather, his mind was working through possibilities. He was close to having a plan that might work when he heard the door open. In an instant, his eyelids fluttered open.

~Not again,~ the archaeologist sighed in dread, though he was grateful that he hadn't changed his clothes.

"Jarren," a voice called out.

Raising his head slightly and looking over to his right, Daniel saw an unexpected visitor. He stood up without hesitation and bowed his head.

"Lord Morrigan, how may I help you?"

The buxom System Lord with fiery red hair slowly approached Daniel, eyeing him up and down.

"This night, you will do my bidding."

"Uh, I ..."

Morrigan stood within Daniel's personal space.

~Oh, gawd,~ Daniel responded. "Lord Morrigan, I thank you for the ... honor, but I have preparations to make for my Lord Yu. I was only resting for a few minutes."

Like a lizard extending its tongue to eat a bug, Morrigan whipped her hand to Daniel's nape and forced his head down to her bust.

"I do not care about your rest," Morrigan responded, forcing Daniel's face to actually nestle between her breasts.

~How do I get out of this one, er two?~

====

Having reached the lab without incident, Teal'c located the crystals and took possession of them while Jack stood guard. The colonel glanced around one of the corners and saw a number of Jaffa headed their way.

"We got company," Jack called out as he took cover.

Seconds later, the Jaffa entered the lab and Jack opened fire, taking them out. He and Teal'c moved forward and encountered more of their symbiotic enemies. Both engaged the Jaffa again, Jack with his P-90 and Teal'c with a staff weapon taken from one of the two just-killed Jaffa.

====

Meanwhile, Sam and Elliot talked in the lab. Elliot still felt strange about having a symbiote inside of him, especially since he could sense two other people within his being, Lantash and Martouf.

Hearing more explosions in the distance, Elliot believed they would not survive. Sam tried to convince him otherwise, but her pep talk didn't have any sway with the young lieutenant.

Sam cut to the quick and reminded, "You got this assignment because you were strong, both physically and mentally. Now give the symbiote inside you a chance. He needs you as much as you need him right now. Do not ..."

Another huge blast occurred, interrupting Sam's words and causing a huge chunk of ceiling to cave in, blocking the lab's exit.

"You were saying, Major," a somber Elliot stated as he realized the effect of the most recent explosion in the tunnels.

"It's going to be okay, Lieutenant," Sam insisted. "Let Lantash do his work."

Sam went over to the debris field and began the task of clearing the way. She didn't know if it was really doable, but she had to try. She'd just given Elliot a huge 'we're going to be fine' speech, so she couldn't very well give up herself.

Without warning, Sam was taken aback when Elliot said, "He loves you, Major. That's one of the only reasons he was fighting to live. He just wanted you to know."

Sam was shaken. She didn't talk about her feelings much, and it certainly wasn't the appropriate thing to do with a young officer. She decided to explain it away as simply as she could.

"The symbiote I carried was Martouf's mate. Martouf and I became close friends because of it."

"I'm telling you he loves you, as much as he once loved Jolinar. He regrets what happened, that the host ultimately died. He doesn't want you to feel responsible."

"It's okay," Sam returned in a near whisper. ~I can't think about this now, maybe not ever.~

"It's getting hard to breathe."

"Yeah. Hang on."

Sam continued to do what she could to remove the debris, but her hope was fading. There was so much debris that it looked insurmountable. That feeling doubled as her breaths became more labored as oxygen lessened. She sighed, thinking about the long day and the attacks that were sure to continue even though the night had come.

====

It was quite a while later before Sam heard her commanding officer over the radio. She was relieved, confident that Jack would figure out a way to reach her and Elliot.

"Sir, we're here. The tunnel collapsed. We're trapped," Sam advised.

"Yeah, we noticed that. Listen, how do we use these crystals to move the walls?"

Elliot explained how each crystal created a different section of the tunnel and how a small one created straight openings. He also explained that using the wrong size could actually collapse the tunnel. Jack needed to use a crystal that was perfectly square.

Teal'c took a square crystal and put it into the wall. Immediately, the blockage cleared into nothingness.

"Sweet," Jack expressed happily.

Jack and Teal'c entered the lab where a smiling Sam helped Elliot to stand up, though again, she was supporting most of his body weight.

"Thank you," Sam said to her CO.

"You bet. Any time," Jack responded as he approached his 2IC.

Elliot told the team they needed to use the long rectangle crystal to form a new tunnel. Accordingly, Teal'c pulled out the appropriately shaped crystal and placed it in the wall. The wall immediately morphed into a tunnel.

"Nice," Jack said.

Elliot also suggested the team seal the tunnel behind them. Following Elliot's advice, Jack and Teal'c fired at the ceiling of the tunnel, causing it to collapse. They were confident this would block the Jaffa from reaching them.

====

As SG-1 maneuvered in the Tok'ra tunnels, they grew more weary. Jack was taking up the rear. While Teal'c was a bright-eyed as ever, Elliot was barely holding on. The Jaffa was holding the lieutenant at his side, but Elliot was still having to expend a lot of energy and that wasn't helping Lantash to save him. Of course, Jack didn't know that for sure, but he figured it made sense. Sam was on point, sharp and focused, but she, too, was slowing some. The colonel was aware of how long and hard she worked to try to clear the blockage at the lab.

"Okay, let's take a break."

"I can go on, Sir," Sam spoke up right away as she turned around.

"It's not always about you, Carter," Jack retorted. When Sam didn't move, he repeated, "I said, take a break."

Teal'c put Elliot down and immediately Sam kneeled down to check on him. His eyes were closed and he was pale. There was nothing she could do to help him feel better, so she finally leaned up against the wall.

Jack, too, slid down to the floor, but he kept his P-90 at the ready.

"I will keep an eye out, O'Neill," the Jaffa promised.

"You do that," Jack agreed, letting his eyelids cover his brown eyes. He wouldn't sleep soundly, but he would relax, at least for a few minutes. ~I'm getting tunnel happy. I can't wait to get out of here.~

Teal'c looked over at his teammates, all fighting exhaustion. Confident that they were not being followed, he made the decision to allow them to rest, a decision he knew was the correct one when Jack roused later and did not say one word to argue about the team having rested. Instead, the colonel made sure everyone had an intake of water before moving out again.

====

Time passed slowly in the eyes of SG-1 as they wandered the new tunnel they'd created. They needed a way out, but they weren't sure where or when to make that attempt. The team took a couple of breaks, though not long rest breaks as they had hours before. Jack didn't want to slow down, but it was that, or leave Elliot behind, something he could not and would not do.

At one point, the team paused when Sam put forth, "We can't stay down here forever. We're out of water."

~We rationed as much as we could,~ Jack sighed, having given the last sips of water the team had to Elliot during their last brief respite.

"The Jaffa will not rest until they have found us," Teal'c asserted.

Jack asked, "Why do you say that?"

The group stopped walking for the moment. Jack looked back, making sure they were still alone.

"If their intent was simply to kill the Tok'ra they have weapons that could have destroyed this facility from space." Teal'c paused, tightening his grip on a coughing and nearly falling Elliot. "Their attack using ground troops suggests they are looking for something."

Sam deduced, "The poison."

"We can't let them have it," Elliot stated. "If it comes down to it, we'll have to destroy the crystal that contains the formula."

"Come on," Jack urged. "They got to stop looking for us eventually."

"Even if they do stop searching, they will never leave the Stargate unguarded," Teal'c stated.

"Well, Jacob and Daniel will be back sooner or later," Jack pointed out. ~Any time now, I hope.~

"The Tok'ra will have broadcast an alert telling them to stay away. They will assume we died along with the other Tok'ra."

"Maybe," Jack acknowledged with an unconvincing tone. ~But I wouldn't count on that. Danny won't believe it. He'd never go home without looking for me.~

"Well, without any way of communicating with them, how will they find us?" Sam asked.

"Let's keep moving," Jack ordered. ~Have some faith, Major. You should know that by now.~

====

"Carter, hold up," the colonel called out quite a while later. "Check on him."

Teal'c lowered Elliot to the ground and Sam walked over to see how he was doing.

"Teal'c, go back and see if we're being followed."

With a nod of his head, the Jaffa began a sprint back in the direction SG-1 just came.

"Teal'c," Jack called out, waiting for his friend to stop and turn around. "Be careful."

"As you wish, O'Neill."

"I do wish," Jack affirmed with a smile.

As Teal'c moved off, Jack looked over at Sam, who was talking quietly with Elliot. He sensed there was a connection between the two now.

~She liked him out of the gate,~ Jack recalled from when SG-1 first became acquainted with Elliot and other trainees who were given high marks from the Air Force Academy and recommended for duty at Stargate Command, if they could pass the big test. ~What did she say about him?~

Jack thought for a moment until the memory returned.

"... he's very intelligent, recognizes the whole point of this training program is to introduce non-terrestrial factors in our approach to a problem, and he respects you more than you know," Sam had told Jack in the mess.

The colonel walked over to Sam and ordered, "Catch a few zzzz's, Carter."

"Sir?"

"Go over there," Jack nodded to a spot that looked like it had some body support, "and relax."

Sam thought the order was a funny one, but she was tired and figured if she could take a quick power nap, she'd be good to go for whatever came as daylight appeared.

"Yes, Sir," Sam agreed, getting up and settling down into a new spot, several yards away from where Jack and Elliot were.

Jack watched his 2IC for a few moments and then knelt down in front of Elliot.

"Lieutenant," Jack called out, waiting for the young man's eyelids to flitter open.

"Colonel."

"I gotta know."

"Know what, Sir?"

"That you knew it was a test, before the end, after I pulled your team out of the gate room. You knew then, right?"

"I followed your orders, Colonel," Elliot responded weakly.

"And then you *shot* my sorry ... self," Jack reminded.

"I told you I maybe suspected something," Elliot said, coughing afterward. More directly, he admitted, "I put myself in your place, Colonel. If I wanted the best, how would I find them."

"You'd test them, test them again, and when they thought it was over, I'd ..."

"... test them one more time," Elliot spoke quietly, letting out two more coughs.

"That's the truth, Elliot," Jack affirmed. "I'll let you in on a little secret."

"Sir?"

"You graduated top of the class at the Academy, right?"

Elliot nodded, curious about what would be said next.

"Well, Lieutenant, just between you and I, you have the highest score at SGC to date."

The news made Elliot smile and feel proud of his accomplishment. He knew Stargate Command kept rankings private, so this was a surprising but welcome revelation.

"You, uh," Jack wriggled his fingers in the direction of Elliot's abdomen, "doing okay?"

"He says he likes you, Colonel. Martouf did, too, even though he sometimes thought of you as a rival."

The remark caught Jack off guard.

"Snakeheads are crazy," Jack opined as he stood up. "Teal'c should be back in a few. Get some rest while you can."

As Jack walked away, Elliot called out, "Colonel?" As soon as Jack turned to face him, Elliot said, "Thank you."

Jack gave Elliot a nod before walking further away.

~Rival? For Carter? Martouf, you wasted your time if you thought I was holding you back. The only one for me is Daniel.~ Jack sighed as he again focused on his loving geek. ~Soon, Danny. We'll be together again soon.~

====

Minutes later, Sam roused from her power nap and decided to check on Elliot. She walked over and kneeled down, instantly noticing how pale the man was. She wasn't sure he'd last much longer.

Finally, Teal'c sprinted back to SG-1's location and advised, "There does not appear to be any Jaffa currently pursuing us."

Happy to hear the news, Jack responded, "Good. We haven't heard bombers in a while. Let's try the surface."

"Elliot, can you hear me?" Sam asked. "How do we use the crystals to tunnel up to the surface?"

"Surface?"

Sam confirmed, "Yeah, we wanna get up there and get some water."

"Diamond."

As Teal'c began to search what he had for a diamond-shaped crystal, Sam asked Elliot about something he'd said earlier.

"You said the Tok'ra are probably transmitting an alert to warn others away."

Elliot acknowledged, "Long range sensors, detect incoming ships, transmit signals to deep space."

When Sam asked if the sensors could be reprogrammed to signal Jacob and Daniel instead, Elliot agreed they could be, but the team would have to travel a long ways to reach the sensors.

"Where are they?" Teal'c inquired.

Elliot answered, "Four of them, twenty-five miles from the Gate. Each is due north, south, east, and west."

"I figure we're three miles from the Gate," Jack pointed out.

Sam agreed, "Give or take. Either way, we have to get to one of those sensors."

After Teal'c used a diamond crystal to create a tunnel that led to the surface, Jack ordered, "Let's go."

It was daylight again, which Jack knew meant two things. First, it would be easier to travel and find their way. Second, it would also be easier for the Goa'uld to see them from their gliders should they launch another strike or simply a search for the Tau'ri.

====

On the surface of Revanna, the team filled up with water and made a stretcher to carry Elliot. They worked quickly and efficiently, wanting to get on their way as soon as possible.

"With this terrain, I figure we can make a mile every fifteen minutes. That should hopefully put us at the sensors in under nine hours," Sam stated.

====

On the space station, Daniel was relieved to have survived the night and Morrigan's advances. He put that out of his mind, though, and went to station's food preparation area. Ba'al's slave was already there when Daniel arrived. After a minute of casual lo'taur to lo'taur conversation and unable to stop his curiosity, the archaeologist began a discussion with the slave about the prior night's shocking development of the System Lords eating live symbiotes.

"That was a surprise last night," Daniel stated.

"A surprise?" the other lo'taur responded.

"Yes, when our Lords ate the symbiotes."

"You were surprised?" the slave asked Daniel, looking over at him briefly.

~Okay, he wasn't surprised,~ Daniel noted. "You knew they were going to eat them?"

"Yes. They do that every night for as long as the summit continues."

Daniel was confused at the lo'taur's lack of concern about what both witnessed. He asked him whether or not he thought it was strange that the System Lords would allow humans to see so much.

"I have been in the service of my master for twenty-four years. In that time I have seen and heard many, many things. Have you not?"

"My master's regular lo'taur could not be present. I took his place on short notice."

Daniel opted to take the conversation deeper and be even more up front with the slave by saying, "I believe the Goa'uld are powerful beings that use humans like us as hosts. I believe they use their power to portray gods so that the masses will follow and serve them."

"I agree," the slave concurred readily.

Daniel was amazed Ba'al's lo'taur was so calm and apparently didn't care about the risks of being a slave to a Goa'uld. The slave was not even worried about death or being forced to be a host, something that confounded the scientist.

The slave explained, "I have served my master so well for so long in the hope that one day he will grant me the honor of implantation."

"The honor?" Daniel asked. ~That's not what I would call it.~

With great zeal, the lo'taur affirmed, "Yes. Endless pleasure, and the power of the Goa'uld, and the chance to one day ascend to the rank of System Lord."

For once, Daniel didn't really know what to say. He stared for a moment and then returned to his work as conversation ceased.

~Jack's not going to believe this.~

====

Gathered together again, the System Lords were verbally sparring, something that came naturally to the rather arrogant race. Though they had voted to allow Anubis back into their fold, they were wary. They pointed out to Osiris that Anubis' rise had come at high costs to all of them.

"What does he offer now to repay the damage he has done in garnering his forces?" Olokun inquired.

"Anubis owes the System Lords nothing," Osiris responded. "He joins you for the greater good of all Goa'uld."

The System Lords continued to press Osiris, who finally stated, "As I have said before, Anubis believes that the greatest threat to the Goa'uld is that from within. As we meet here, that threat is being greatly weakened. Over the years, we have all lost a great deal to the infiltrations, subversions, and rebellious acts of the Tok'ra. Today will henceforth be known as the day the blood of the Tok'ra ran free and their rebellion ended for good."

Daniel's heart sank as he feared SG-1 would be caught up in the middle of what Osiris was speaking about. He needed details, but had no way of getting them at the moment. Something was happening, though. He knew Osiris wouldn't be talking about a weakened threat in this manner unless an attack on some level was happening.

~I call for an adjournment. Any seconds?~

====

It seemed like forever, but finally the System Lords broke for a recess. While Daniel wanted to start on his plan right away, he knew he could not draw attention to himself. He had to tend to Yu's needs and wait for the other lo'taurs to do the same.

When he felt enough time had passed, Daniel sought out Osiris's lo'taur and lied, "Excuse me. I wish to pass on a message from my master Yu to Osiris. He wishes to meet."

The lo'taur nodded and left.

~No time to waste. I hope I can pull this off.~

====

Aboard his cargo ship, Jacob had nothing but time to kill, which left him worried and stressed.

~Jack is going to kill me. It's not that I'm worried. I'm a general and a Tok'ra. He couldn't really kill me, and he wouldn't, but he sure isn't going to be happy. If Daniel lives through this, he's going to tell Jack how we suspected the slaves would be killed. Oh, Jack. I can hear you now. You just don't understand the way of the Tok'ra. It really is for the best. You should respect our need for secrecy. It's nothing against Earth, but come on, Colonel, you of all people know how crazy the power structure is there. The Pentagon doesn't know how to keep a secret these days.~

Jacob looked out the window, staring at the space station where the summit was occurring.

~All right, I tried to play on your emotions, Daniel, but I had to because I know your moral compass. You're not military. I am aware of that, but you have a unique position here and that means you have an obligation to try to rid the universe of the Goa'uld. They're the mass murderers, Daniel, not you.~

As more time passed, the Tok'ra became more concerned. He hadn't heard anything from Daniel in a while. He felt edgy as he waited.

~My Sweet and Fiesty Sam. Forget Jack, Sam won't speak to me again if something happens to Daniel. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a Tok'ra.~

Jacob lowered his head and rubbed it with his right hand. The mission was going from bad to worse. Then he heard his name. It was Daniel.

"Anubis knows the location of the Tok'ra base. Osiris says he's attacking right now," the archaeologist told Jacob.

"Get to the shield, Daniel; shut it down. I'm coming in," Jacob stated.

"Forget that. I have a new plan."

"What are you doing?" Jacob asked, unaware that the archaeologist had just entered Yu's ship.

"I'm stealing Yu's cargo ship. I can fly out from inside the shield without shutting it down, right?"

"Yes, why?"

"Uh, 'cause I'm taking Osiris with me," Daniel answered. ~And don't try to talk me out of it.~

"Do you have her now?"

"No, but I'm working on it," Daniel relayed as he powered up the ship's systems.

"Daniel, the chemical weapon you're carrying could be the only way we can stop the attack on Revanna," Jacob put forth.

"Yeah, and, uh, Osiris could eventually lead us to Anubis; and you and your buddies can do your best to take the snake out and save Sarah, right?"

"How are you going to fly that ship?"

A bit lightly, Daniel answered, "Well, I've flown a mother ship. How hard can this be?"

~He *is* a pain in the mik'ta,~ Jacob opined silently. ~How does Jack do it?~

A minute later, a suspicious Osiris entered the cargo hold, calling out angrily when Daniel closed the doors behind the Goa'uld.

~Good,~ Daniel thought. ~Now to get out of here.~ He was about to walk over to the controls when he Yu hit him and flung him across the room. ~That hurt.~

Yu glared at Daniel before he opened the door and stood facing Osiris, who thrust her dagger deep into the System Lord.

Standing, Daniel decided, ~Okay, Jack wins. I'm out of here.~ He ran for the escape pod, but Osiris blocked his way and forced him back across the room. ~That didn't work.~

Osiris placed the dagger menacingly against Daniel's throat while spouting, "How unfortunate that Lord Yu could not trust his slave. Each was mortally wounded in the fight as the slave attempted to kill his master."

~Honesty is the best policy,~ Daniel decided mentally. "Sarah, it's me, Daniel."

What remained of the host temporarily gained control, stopping the Goa'uld from killing Daniel. The distraction lasted long enough that Yu was able to fight back and pull Osiris away. As the two fought for the dagger, Daniel programmed the controls that opened the escape pod door, ran in, and was able to eject from Yu's ship.

An angry Osiris fought off Yu and tried unsuccessfully to regain control of the pod.

Jacob saw the pod in front of his ship and said aloud, "That better be you, Daniel."

"Get me out of this thing," Daniel requested.

"I'm on my way," Jacob assured.

====

As quickly as he could, Jacob reached Daniel's location and used the rings to bring in the escape pod.

"Ouch!" Daniel exclaimed when his head banged against the back of the pod, a result of the pod falling backwards after being ringed into the ship.

After opening the pod, Jacob asked, "Are you okay?"

"Oh yeah. Thanks," he said after getting assistance out of the pod.

"What happened?"

"I had her and then Yu had me and ... and I had to get out of there without her finding out."

Daniel assured Jacob that he still had the poison and then they took their seats up front.

"How long is it going to take us to get there?" Daniel inquired about their destination of Revanna.

"Pushing the hyperdrive engines full power, six hours, but we may already be too late," Jacob stated honestly.

"I know this may seem unimportant right now, but I may as well tell you anyway. I think I figured out why the Goa'uld population hasn't been growing much lately."

As the ship jumped into hyperspace, Jacob responded, "Go ahead and tell me."

"That vat full of symbiotes? They ate them."

Jacob looked over at Daniel with a shocked expression.

"Yeah, that was my reaction, too," Daniel admitted. "Six hours."

"Maybe I can push it more," Jacob suggested, though he doubted that was possible.

====

SG-1 was roughly half way to the sensor when Elliot signaled for them to stop. Lantash was doing all he could, but both the human and the symbiote were weakening. Fearing their time was short, the lieutenant told Sam it might be a good idea for him to tell her how to reprogram the sensor.

As Jack observed, he again reflected on the training session when Elliot earned a place on an SG team. The youth was sometimes smug and aggressive, but he was tough, honest, and had grit, something Jack respected a lot.

Once Sam understood the reprogramming procedure, the team prepared to continue on their way.

Jack leaned over to pick up his end of the stretcher and as he did so, he quietly stated, "You're a good man, Elliot."

"Thank you, Sir," Elliot acknowledged in a weakened voice.

====

As the teltac ripped through space, Jacob received an alert from the surface.

"What's it say?" Daniel inquired.

"The base has been compromised. Assume no survivors. We should go," Jacob responded.

~I thought we were going. Move this thing, Jacob. Jack's there.~

====

Sam's estimation for arrival at the sensor was close. The team made good time, the urgency of their situation pushing them onward.

"Is that it?" Jack asked, seeing an object in the distance.

"It looks like it, Sir," Sam affirmed as she hurried forward, not wanting to waste a second of their time.

As Sam began to reprogram the sensor, Jack and Teal'c lowered the stretcher.

"Hanging in there?" Jack questioned Elliot.

"Doing my best, Colonel."

Jack nodded and walked away.

"Teal'c," Jack called out, motioning for the Jaffa to keep an eye on the perimeter. "I'll take this side," he advised, his head nodding to where he intended to keep watch.

~Danny, how ya doing?~ Jack asked himself. ~Did you do it? Geez, how'd I let you convince me to let you go?~ He was worried about his lover's state of mind. He felt in his heart that Daniel would be struggling about his actions. ~Jacob had better fly that crate of his well. Watch for the gliders.~

Jack remained lost in his thoughts while he kept a look out for the Jaffa. He glanced over at Sam a few times and saw that she was still working on the sensor. He glanced over at Elliot, who was struggling to keep breathing. Occasionally, he could hear the lieutenant giving Sam instructions.

Finally, Sam called out, "That's it. I'm done."

"How do we know if it's working?" Jack asked.

"I guess if someone comes to rescue us," Sam answered.

~Crap, that was a good answer,~ Jack thought as he nodded and looked upward. ~Danny, you're on your way, right?~

====

Daniel was feeling impatient. He was worried about Jack and the others. He knew Jacob was going as fast as possible, but if felt like they were flying at a snail's pace.

~SG-1 always finds a way; we always get out of trouble, so ... so Jack is not dead. He's alive, and so are Sam and Teal'c.~

Daniel closed his eyes and visualized his lover. The more real the vision, the more the archaeologist knew Jack was alive.

~I don't care what that message said. I'm not going back to Earth without Jack.~

As if he didn't have enough to feel guilty about, Daniel added more guilt to his soul. As he thought of the danger on Revanna, his heart kept centering in on his soulmate. He wasn't thinking much of Sam, Teal'c, and SG-17. Naturally, he wanted everyone to be safe, including the Tok'ra. Right now, though, in this moment when he could do nothing but sit in the co-pilot's seat of the teltac, all he could think about was Jack.

**Jack? Gawd, Jack, are you out there?** Daniel asked, wishing with every part of him that his colonel would hear his message.

The cargo ship was within minutes of reaching Revanna when Jacob reported, "I'm getting another signal."

"What is it?"

With a hint of a smile, Jacob answered, "It's an SOS."

"Well, it has to be Jack or Sam," Daniel purported.

"Hopefully, both, and more. Let's ride."

~Now we're cowboys,~ Daniel whined internally, but he didn't have long to critique Jacob's verbiage as the teltac was in Revanna air space within minutes and shortly thereafter began taking fire. ~Hello.~

"We've been hit," Jacob announced rather unnecessarily. "Our cloaking mechanism has failed. They must have locked onto our heat signature as we passed through the atmosphere."

**Jack, we're under fire. Are you there? Jack?**

"I can't shake 'em," Jacob stated as sparks exploded out of the control panels and the teltac began to shake.

~Well, keep trying,~ Daniel urged inwardly.

"I'm diverting power to the shields. We're losing altitude fast. Hang on, Danny, we're going in."

~Danny again? What does that mean?~ Daniel pondered as he held on tight. **Jack, we're crashing. Are you there? Jack, please answer me!**

From his position, Jack could hear the fight in the sky, but more importantly, he heard his Love.

**Danny, are you okay?**

**I'm fine,** Daniel lied. **We're going down!**

On the ground, Teal'c pointed to the sky and called out, "There," when the vessel came into sight.

**We see the cargo ship, Danny.**

Jack watched in fear as the teltac fell downward, smoke billowing as it was chased by Goa'uld gliders.

--

"This is going to be rough," Jacob told Daniel as the two braced for the impending crash.

~Come on, Jacob, get that thing away from the trees,~ Jack urged. He shook his head as he watched the ship rip through the forest. He knew it had gone down, but he couldn't tell where it landed. "Stay with Elliot," he ordered Sam before he and Teal'c hurried to search for the wreckage. **Danny?**

**I'm okay, Jack,** Daniel responded from his seat as he was hunched forward from the crash. He looked over and saw Jacob on the ground. **I need to check on Jacob.**

Breathing a tad easier but needing to see Daniel, Jack waited for the next report as he and Teal'c continued their search.

**Jacob's injured, but I don't think it's that bad.**

**Can he walk?**

**Uh, yeah. We're on our way out.** There was a pause and then Daniel queried, **Babe, why don't cargo ships have seatbelts?**

**The goal is not to crash in the first place,** the colonel responded. He felt a sense of humor that he didn't understand and asked, **What?**

**Well, Jacob said the same thing when I asked him that a few minutes ago.**

**No comment,** the colonel responded.

**There's a path, Jack. We just found it.**

"Teal'c, look for a road or a path," Jack ordered.

Teal'c nodded and altered where he was walking until he pointed and said, "There is a path, O'Neill."

**Found the path, Danny. It won't be long,** Jack promised.

**Jack, are you okay?**

**Yeah. Mansfield and two of his team are dead, though,** Jack announced.

**What about Elliot?**

**He's got a snake in him.**

With widened eyes, Daniel inquired, **How'd that happen?**

**I don't know. Carter said the snake's enclosure broke and he went into Elliot to save him, but it's not working. The kid's hanging in there, but not by much.** After a minute or so, the colonel had to ask. **Danny, the poison?**

**I didn't do it. It's a ... a long story.**

Jack didn't respond. This was not the time to discuss what happened. He'd wait and find out the specifics during the debriefing, once they managed to get off Revanna. Then later, he'd find out the rest of the story, the things not on the official report, the part of the mission that was Daniel's soul.

Finally, Jack and Teal'c could see Daniel and Jacob in the distance. Daniel's arm was around Jacob, preventing the one-time American general from falling.

**You look good, Danny.**

**You, too,** Daniel replied.

" Are you injured?" Teal'c asked the Tok'ra.

"I'll live," Jacob answered.

"How's our ride?" Jack asked about the cargo ship.

"It's not going anywhere fast," Jacob responded.

"Let's go," the colonel ordered.

"Sam?" Jacob asked as the group walked.

"She is well," Teal'c answered.

Soon, the group reached Sam's location. She was kneeling as she attended to Elliot.

"Dad. You all right?" Sam asked as she stood and hurried over to her father and embraced him.

"Yeah. Looks worse than it is. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"How's Elliot?" Daniel queried.

"He's in rough shape. He got injured during a cave in. Lantash went into him to try and save him, but it's not working."

"There's a chance we might be able to save the cargo ship, but not before this whole area is swarming with Jaffa. Those gliders definitely made our position," Jacob told the others.

"We cannot escape through the Stargate," Teal'c stated.

"We still have this," Daniel advised as he pulled out the poison.

"As much area as that will cover, I don't think the chemical will spread from here to the Stargate," Jacob opined.

"Well, we can't release it here. It will kill you, Elliot, and Teal'c," Sam pointed out.

"Then I guess I've got to figure out a way to get it to the Gate," Jack interjected.

"It's suicide," Jacob asserted. "You're assuming the Jaffa won't shoot you on sight."

"Given the lack of cover and the size of the Jaffa army, I do not believe even I could make it to the Stargate undetected," Teal'c stated as a matter of fact.

"Leave it here with me."

The comment was made by Elliot, and it drew the attention of the others with poignancy.

"What good is that going to do?" Jack inquired.

"Leave here and hide. The Jaffa will find me. I'll tell them I know the formula. They'll take me to the Gate," the lieutenant answered.

"He is correct," Teal'c agreed. "He will be taken to the base camp by the Stargate before being sent to the mother ship."

"Won't they search him first?" Jack asked.

Elliot responded, "Then I'll ... Then I'll set off the weapon, take out as many as I can."

A second later, Lantash took over and pleaded, "Please. We're both going to die. I cannot save us." Looking at Sam, he continued, "But there's a chance that we can save you."

"What about Elliot?" Jack asked.

"It doesn't make sense for any of you to risk your lives to try and save me. Give me the device," Elliot requested.

**Jack, I think we should do it.**

The colonel looked at Daniel, who was looking at him, too. He was surprised that Daniel was suggesting they use the poison.

**It's the only way we'll survive,** Daniel opined. **I want to live, Jack. I want *you* to live. If we don't do it, we all die, all of us.**

Jack nodded his agreement and watched as Daniel handed the device with the poison to the doomed lieutenant.

With the poison in his possession, Elliot urged, "Now go. They'll be here soon." He felt Sam's hand caressing his face and looked at her again. "He's happy now; he just wanted you to know how he felt."

"I do, and I'll never forget him. Or you," Sam promised.

Regretfully, Sam stood and joined her team and her father in leaving Elliot behind to save them.

Even as the group hastened their pace, they could hear the Jaffa hunting horn and the rustling of leaves behind them.

====

SG-1 and Jacob walked briskly, wanting to get as far away from Elliot's location as they could in a short amount of time. There was a risk to both Teal'c and Jacob because if the symbiote poison spread while they were within its grasp, both would die. They'd heard the Goa'uld hunting horn and knew their enemy was close. There was no time to waste.

"Sir, do we hide here?" Sam asked while still walking.

The choice was to hide, as Elliot suggested, and see what happened, or to continue on to the Gate and hide there until something occurred.

"No matter what happens to Elliot, we still have to get to Gate," Jack put forth. "We keep going."

What the colonel didn't say was that there was an uncertainty about how far of a reach the symbiote poison would have if released. Though Jacob didn't believe the poison would spread from Elliot's place to the Stargate, he was essentially guessing. Jack didn't want to take a chance at losing either man. He decided they would keep going, find cover as close to the Gate as possible, and take it from there.

Teal'c was on point and Jack intentionally took the rear. He wanted to keep an eye on his lover, to do an internal evaluation of Daniel's demeanor. He also wanted to ensure Daniel was uninjured. After that hard crash, Jack wasn't convinced Daniel was okay, so he kept his soulmate in front of him.

**Danny, how ya doing?**

**I'm fine, Jack. Let's get home, okay.**

Jack knew what that meant. Daniel wasn't fine, but he certainly wasn't going to say anything more until they were done with their SGC obligations.

~We'll do it your way, but once we're home, we're doing it my way.~

====

It took hours, but eventually SG-1 reached the edge of the woods that was closest to the Stargate, which was out in the open and still under Goa'uld guard.

"What do we do now?" Daniel asked.

"We wait," Jack answered.

"How long?" the archaeologist inquired.

"Until we don't," the colonel responded cryptically.

====

Waiting patiently was a prerequisite for SG team members, but it was never easy. At the moment, SG-1 was spread out versus being huddled together. Sam and Jacob were furthest away from the Stargate, resting and talking quietly. Teal'c was a few yards away, keeping careful watch on the vast field that led up to the Gate. Almost even with the ancient device was Daniel, sitting sedately, his knees drawn up. Jack was mere feet away and a few steps behind his lover. His eyes alternated between the field, the surrounding area, and Daniel.

"Jack, stop watching me," Daniel finally requested, feeling the brown eyes against his back.

With a sigh, the colonel moved forward. He kept watch as he had before, but now he was closer and freer to talk with his archaeologist.

"That's like asking the sun not to shine," Jack responded.

"If that's not a cliché, it should be."

Jack let out a brief smile and replied, "Just in case it helps, I love you."

Daniel looked up and observed his colonel. Jack looked to be all business, reacting to forest sounds and the activities of the Jaffa who were blocking them from going home. Yet, Jack had beautifully just declared his love. It was a dichotomy that Daniel knew people didn't understand. How could someone be so military, trained in Special Ops, and also be such a sap.

~We are both saps and no one knows it, not really,~ Daniel sighed. "It helps." He looked over at his other teammates and Jacob. At that precise moment, he saw Sam smile at him. He nodded and then focused on what was in front of him. **I love you, too.**

Jack nodded at the mental reply and understood it. They had to be careful at all times to protect themselves and the game they played. Unable to stop himself, Jack looked down at his sitting soulmate for a moment.

"Jack, stop."

"Can't help myself, Danny."

"I'm fine."

"We both know that's a lie, but ..."

"O'Neill," Teal'c called out in a harsh, hushed tone, unknowingly interrupting his CO's conversation, and walking forward to the very edge of the forest where he kneeled down to avoid detection.

Jack walked over to where the Jaffa was crouching down and immediately saw a swarm of Jaffa making their way to the Stargate.

"Everyone stay down," Jack ordered as he also crouched low to the ground.

The group needed to wait, not just for the Jaffa who would be going through the Stargate, but for those leaving in the teltacs. SG-1 was too far out to observe that location, so they would have to wait to see or hear the teltacs flying away. They assumed the gliders were long gone as they hadn't seen one in hours.

"Sir," Sam called out in a low voice. "It's Elliot."

Jack looked over and sighed, "He's doing his job."

Being carried on a stretcher, the lieutenant was hanging onto life, thanks to Lantash. A Jaffa entered an address in the DHD and watched as the kawoosh powered outward and the event horizon formed. As he was being carried toward the Gate, Elliot turned his head in the direction of SG-1. A small smile appeared on his face.

Jack wasn't sure whether Elliot could really see them or not, but he made a spur of the moment decision and saluted him.

Elliot gave the slightest bob of his head, then coughed severely just as he was taken through the Stargate.

SG-1 waited for the remainder of the Jaffa to walk through the event horizon. They remained quiet, keeping their thoughts to themselves. Their silence continued until it was interrupted by a slew of teltacs flying over them.

Finally, Teal'c stood and opined, "I believe that was the last vessel, O'Neill."

"Yeah," Jack agreed, saying nothing further as he went out into the open and walked calmly toward the Stargate.

Daniel looked over at Sam, a question in his eyes.

"You know, Daniel, I think the colonel liked Elliot more than he wants to admit," Sam put forth.

Daniel replied, "Lieutenant Elliot was more like Jack than Jack wants to acknowledge."

With a nod of acknowledgement, Sam reached out for her father's hand. The two headed for the Stargate.

Teal'c stared at Daniel, who was still standing on the edge of the woods. Daniel said nothing as he finally began moving toward the Gate, with the Jaffa following.

"Dial it up, Major," Jack ordered once the group reached the Gate. He turned and walked a few steps back to stand by his lover. Both were staring at the ancient transportation device. "Long day."

Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel seized the opportunity to make Jack and himself feel better. After all, they were closer now to that time when they could lose themselves in their nation of two.

"Longer night," Daniel replied with a small smile just as the Stargate erupted. "If you're lucky," he added and then stepped forward to go through the Gate.

Jack stood still for a moment before the comment took hold. He smiled as his eyes lit up. Feeling better, he, too, headed home.

====

"Welcome home, SG-1," General Hammond greeted from the foot of the ramp.

"General, you waited up for us," Jack teased, a reference to the late hour.

"You were worried about us," Sam surmised while turning over her weaponry to the SFs, as did the others who had weapons.

"We were notified of your situation by the Tok'ra," Hammond said without answering the question.

"It's good to be back," Jack stated sincerely.

"Jacob," Hammond acknowledged.

"How are you, George?" Jacob asked, moving forward to shake Hammond's hand. "I think I could use a trip to see Doctor Frazier."

"Daniel could use that same trip," Jack interjected, ignoring the stare his lover gave him.

"I hate to do this, folks, being that Memorial Day begins in," Hammond checked his watch, "forty-five minutes, but we'll debrief in one hour."

"It can't wait a day or two?" Jack asked.

"Considering the seriousness of the situation, I'm afraid not, Colonel. I want you all to get checked out at the infirmary. Get something to eat. It's going to be a long night into morning."

"Not what I was planning on," Jack sighed with only Daniel understanding the true meaning of the statement.

"One hour," Hammond reminded before going to his office.

"Who needs sleep," Sam said with a shrug. "Come on, Dad," she urged, putting her arm in his to lead him to the infirmary.

====

Doctor Janet Frazier and her staff immediately tended to the returned travelers. Jack and Teal'c were quickly examined and released as neither had any injuries at all. Sam's evaluation took a little longer, though she, too, was cleared for duty. Jacob's injuries were the most severe, but Selmak, his symbiote, had already repaired his internal injuries from the crash landing. The exterior cuts were tended to by Nurse Marie Hill, who once done, was eager to assist Doctor Frazier in Daniel's examination.

As often happened during missions that took on an emotional slant, Daniel held back, remaining quiet and thinking of ways to avoid the required visit to the infirmary in its entirety. Reluctantly, Daniel acquiesced and submitted to the exam. Except for Jack, the other team members were gone by now, taking advantage of the time they had before the debriefing. Jacob, too, had gone on his way, opting to spend a few moments in quiet with his daughter.

Jack had his eyes on his lover, under the guise of being the team leader. He was standing several feet away, something Janet insisted on.

Janet was used to Jack's hovering and didn't think much of it, but she at least wanted to have some semblance of protocol. She was even used to the colonel's stare being focused on her during examinations, as it was now. In response, she pulled the privacy curtain and blocked the colonel's view.

~Little Napoleon,~ Jack snarked internally while moving closer to the drawn curtain. ~Maybe I can't see, but I can hear.~

Suddenly, the curtain opened and Jack was face to fiery red hair.

"Doc," Jack stated innocently as if he hadn't been caught snooping.

"Over there, Colonel," Janet ordered, pointing to an examination area on the other side of the room.

Jack's wings meant nothing against Janet's white jacket, so he slowly backed away. He stopped short, but continued on when Janet's stare forced the issue.

Janet drew the curtain again and returned to her examination.

"Marie, I need a bandage for this," Janet requested. "Does this hurt much?"

"That?" Daniel shrugged and answered, "No."

"Uh huh," Janet responded skeptically. "Use this," she instructed, handing her patient a piece of paper. "Okay, you're clear."

"Thanks," Daniel responded, hopping down from the examination table and pulling open the curtain to leave.

"Food calls," Jack sing-songed and motioned with his head for his lover to leave the infirmary.

"Jack ..."

"Daniel, go. I'll meet you there."

Daniel knew exactly what that meant. He realized that if he debated the issue, more of his private life with Jack would be revealed. He didn't want to risk that, so he left quietly, even though he was certain Jack was about to butt in on his health.

~At least he didn't see the scratches ... yet,~ Daniel lamented as he left the infirmary.

"Doc ..."

"Colonel, what now?" Janet inquired.

"You saw something," Jack stated quietly.

Janet studied Jack's expression. Confidentiality was very important to her, but where Jack and Daniel were concerned, it was always hard to do. When one of them was ill or injured, the other was always there, demanding to know things that are reserved for family only.

~That's the trouble,~ Janet told herself. ~Neither of them have family, not that I know of anyway. They are unlikely friends, but friends they are.~

"Come on, Doc. I saw those big eyes of yours when you were examining Daniel. What did you see?"

"Daniel has a deep scratch on his back and another wound that looks something like a puncture wound."

"A puncture wound?"

"Yes. Actually, Colonel, if I didn't know better, I'd say they were scratches, female scratches."

Jack squinted his eyes, not sure what to make of what he'd just heard. He nodded and left the doctor to her duties.

====

"Dismissed," Hammond ordered as he stood, releasing those in the debriefing to leave. Normally, the major general would immediately return to his office, but he felt a need to say one more thing. "Doctor Jackson," he called out.

Daniel blinked and looked at SGC's commander. He hoped it wasn't another question. He was ready to call it a day, even though this day was just beginning.

Hammond took a deep breath and paused before finally saying, "I'm glad it worked out the way it did, Son."

"Me, too, Sir," Daniel responded.

Hammond looked over at Jack, but didn't say a verbal word.

"Yes, Sir," Jack acknowledged. ~You better believe I'm going to take care of him, General,~ he promised silently.

When Hammond walked towards his office, Daniel headed out the door with Jack close behind.

====

The sun was on the horizon when Jack and Daniel began the drive home from the Mountain. The debriefing was a long and grueling one that dealt with the facts of both Daniel's mission to release the symbiote poison and the unanticipated attack on Revanna. Though comprehensive, the debriefing didn't touch on the emotional consequences of either action. That would be left for the lovers to handle on their own time which included roughly the next forty-eight hours.

During the drive, the couple was silent. They'd done a lot of talking during the debriefing and a bit of silence was welcome to both. This was one of the special things about their relationship. They often did not need words. The mere act of being together was comforting, rewarding, and fulfilling.

Twenty minutes out from the house, Jack reached over and took Daniel's hand in his. He finished the drive in this manner, keeping one hand only on the steering wheel. The connection of their hands was calming to both men.

When the life partners arrived home, Daniel walked straight to the fish tank, wanting to ensure his fish were alive and healthy. They were. The archaeologist stared at the tiny lifeforms and for a moment wished his world was as simple as those swimmers in the tank.

"Are you thinking about Mr. Limpet?" Jack asked as he stood a couple of feet behind his soulmate.

"Who?"

"Mr. Limpet wanted to be a fish."

Not knowing the character, but going along with the idea, Daniel asked, "Did he get his wish?"

"Yeah, he did, and he saved the country, too."

"This is a movie, right?"

"Don Knotts, y'know, Barney Fife -- 'The Incredible Mr. Limpet.' Fun little movie. We'll rent it."

There was silence and then Daniel felt the warm and protective arms of his soulmate wrap around him. Instantly, Daniel fell back into the embrace and tears began to fall. Only with Jack could Daniel ever be this vulnerable and this openly real about his essence.

"I love you," Jack whispered. "Let's go to bed."

Daniel wanted to say yes and fall into his soulmate's embrace, but he couldn't, not yet.

"Jack ..."

"Danny, I know about the scratches. We don't need to talk about it now. I have better things in mind for us right now."

A relieved Daniel nodded and the two men walked slowly up the stairs. They entered their bedroom, stripped off their clothes completely, and collapsed into the large king-size bed.

Jack kept Daniel as close to him as it was possible to hold another person and for a half-hour, they simply held each other and snuggled, but then desire took over, along with the need to remind each other that they were indeed back home, safe, and together.

The soulmates made love in a powerful thrusting of their bodies until they settled, completely satiated and ready to succumb to their body's demand for sleep. Daniel rested with his head against Jack's shoulder and one leg hooked between Jack's legs. The older man rubbed Daniel's back, the movement tender and soothing. It was also automatic, his hand still making small circular movements even as his breathing eased and he slipped into slumber.

====

The lovers spent hours in their bed, catching up on much-needed sleep. Jack woke before Daniel, but didn't move, not wanting to disturb the man who was his Heart. When the younger man did awaken, he wanted to feast, on his lover, which Jack eagerly approved of with all his soul. They napped a bit after that and then shared a shower with a dabbling of making out in the process.

Finally, Jack and Daniel in silent agreement decided to go outside and relax in their favorite spot, other than their bed, the roof deck. Daniel headed straight for the deck while Jack detoured by the kitchen.

As he waited, Daniel stared up at evening sky. It was clear at the moment, the clouds nowhere in sight. He estimated it was still about eighty degrees out, or maybe a degree or two less. It wasn't even six o'clock yet, so he figured he and Jack could enjoy the entire evening away from any reality and gazing up at the heavens while holding onto each other.

~Maybe Jack has a story about the constellations. It doesn't matter, not as long as he holds me. That's what I need tonight. I need him to hold me.~

"No fruits or veggies," Jack advised as he climbed over the top of the ladder onto the roof deck where Daniel was waiting.

"Were we gone that long?"

"Nope, but we were tied up with the Stargate kidnapping Teal'c so ..."

"... so we hadn't gone shopping since ..." Daniel thought back over the past week or so and ultimately determined, "... since the training scenario."

Plopping down to sit to Daniel's right, Jack sighed and said one word: "Elliot."

Daniel reached down to the six-pack of beer his lover had just placed on the deck and pulled out a bottle, of which he quickly opened and took two large swigs. He considered reaching for an individual box of raisins or the much larger box of Froot Loops, but opted against it.

"No bread or meat?" the archaeologist asked.

"Not even a slice of bologna," Jack answered. "Pizza?" When Daniel nodded his agreement, Jack groaned internally. ~Not even going to fight for Chinese egg-goo whatever?~

"This will do for now," Daniel said as he ultimately decided as he took hold of the raisins. "Lieutenant Elliot wasn't going to survive, right?"

"The snake wasn't even strong enough to heal itself."

Daniel looked over at his Love and opined, "You liked him, Jack."

"He was a raw recruit, wet behind the ears."

"And he saved us and took a lot of Jaffa with him."

"Why does everyone think I liked the kid?" Jack asked sharply, unsure as yet if he could admit the truth out loud.

With a tiny smile, Daniel answered, "Because he was a lot like you."

"That's a joke, right?"

"Jack, remember who you're talking to, okay? I was there for the training scenario and what I didn't see, Sam told me about."

"Carter has a big mouth."

His head bowed as he recalled the late lieutenant, Daniel spoke, "He stood up to you at the warehouse. He called you out for a hole in the scenario, one you've admitted existed and fixed. He caught on to what was happening at SGC later."

"Crap, Danny, he loved shooting me."

"I can understand that," Daniel spoke dryly, seeing a glare directed at him. He drew a deep breath and continued, "You told me on Revanna that he understood your hidden, unspoken remarks. You said he had a familiar smirk. He was smart, Jack, and he was an in-your-face officer. Sam told me that Major Mansfield said Elliot was always challenging him about procedures and objectives. It upset him, not because Elliot was constantly on him, but because he was usually right. That, uh, sounds a lot like you."

"Maybe," Jack conceded. He drank some beer and recalled his last conversation with Elliot prior to the Goa'uld attack. "Maybe," he repeated.

//Flashback//
~I sure wish there was something to do around this place. It's boring as heck, which means I have way too much time to worry about Danny. Ah, I'll bet SG-17 is having a wonderful time,~ he mocked as he saw Aldwin leading the SG unit around the Tok'ra tunnels.

"Colonel," Major Mansfield greeted.

"Sir!" Elliot immediately acknowledged.

"Gentlemen. How goes the orientation?" Jack asked.

"It's very interesting, Sir, just as you predicted," Elliot responded with a smirk.

Internally, Jack smirked as well. He recalled their conversation upon arriving on Revanna when Aldwin laid out the schedule for SG-17.

"We'll begin with a tour of the facilities. After that I have prepared a lecture on the development of Tok'ra insurgency techniques since the collapse of the second Goa'uld dynasty," Aldwin had told SG-17.

The comment had prompted Jack to snark, "I take it all back, Lieutenant. This could be hot."

Elliot's reference to Jack's "hot" prediction caused Aldwin to ask the colonel, "Are you interested in Tok'ra engineering?"

With his two-tone voice, Jack answered, "Oh, interested doesn't quite describe how I truly feel."

"You're welcome to join us," Aldwin stated.

Jack could see the faces of SG-17 mirroring his feelings, especially the expression on the young lieutenant's face.

"Thank you Aldwin," Jack replied as he tapped the Tok'ra on the shoulder, "but I have to go help Teal'c ... wait ... for Daniel. Excuse me."
//End of Flashback//

"Yeah, I guess he got it," Jack sighed to his lover. "He was brash. I almost flunked him out before we even got to the scenario. He didn't let up, Danny. He never let up."

//Flashback//
"You hesitated, Lieutenant," Jack accused the fresh-out-the-Academy officer as he held his clipboard at his side.

" I was assessing the situation, Sir," Elliot responded as he stood to the right of his three in-training teammates.

"Okay, we all ended up dead. Assess that," the colonel ordered.

"I stopped to argue with Grogan and lost control of the situation," the lieutenant admitted.

"And that wasn't even your *first* mistake!" Jack looked at his clipboard. ~What is her name anyway?~ With the name located, he focused his attention to the recruit on his far right, Grace Satterfield. "What's your excuse?"

"I didn't believe Doctor Jackson was the Goa'uld," Satterfield replied.

Sam, standing slightly opposite of the long-haired brunette, was curious about the response and inquired, "Why not, Satterfield?"

"I don't know, Ma'am. That was just my instinct."

Smirking, Lieutanent Jennifer Hailey interjected, "She thinks he's cute."

~Yeah, that's what I thought,~ Sam acknowledged. Still, she was annoyed. The Air Force was a serious place. There was no room for crushes when lives were on the line. Strongly, she chastised, "You let your personal feelings for the hosts, in this case Doctor Jackson and myself, get in the way of what needed to be done."

"Yes, Ma'am," Satterfield spoke. ~But he's so darn cute. Can he be my mentor?~ she sighed dreamily to herself.

Sam called out, "Hailey?"

"I was awaiting Lieutanant Elliot's order, Ma'am."

An unhappy Jack questioned, "To do what?"

"Shoot 'em both. If you don't know who's Goa'uld and who's Tok'ra, disable them by whatever means necessary and sort it out later," Hailey answered.

"Thank you," Jack returned emphatically, gesturing outward with both hands. He looked at the lieutenant and snapped, "*That* was your mistake. It's not always one or the other."

"I understand that, Sir. May I ask how you and Teal'c were taken out?"

"It was part of the scenario," Jack answered, lowering his head and marking down a notation on his clipboard. ~Dang it.~

"I don't buy it, Sir."

~Pushing it,~ Jack thought, raising his head to confront Ellio. "Excuse me?"

"You're Special Ops trained. Teal'c is a former first prime. There's no way you'd allow yourselves to be taken out in that situation," Elliot put forth with disturbing arrogance.

"We were taken by surprise," Jack explained. ~Yep, that's the glitch.~

"Then you wouldn't have been able to call for backup," Elliot asserted. "There had to be something else going on."

A bit on the defensive, but determined not to let the recruit crush the scenario, Jack prodded with a superior tone, "And that's why you hesitated?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Okay, so one of your team members distracted you into getting shot by the enemy, and you want to poke holes in the training scenario."

Not backing down, Elliot opined, "It wasn't a fair test."

"There's such a thing as over thinking a situation, Lieutenant. When you're dealing with what we deal with, you've got to think on your feet and think fast." He groaned and told himself he was not going to engage in the debate any longer. Addressing the four officers, he stated with some annoyance, "These and other clichés will be available to you all for one more day of training with me. After that, you'll either be assigned to an SG team, or not." Jack lowered his head again and when he looked up, he saw the recruits staring at him. As if they were crazy to still be standing there, he ordered, "Dismissed."
//End of Flashback//

"I almost kicked his butt out right then and there."

"But you didn't."

"If I had, he'd still be alive," Jack sighed.

"You know you can't think like that, Jack. If you do, you have to go back and examine every choice you've ever made as an officer." Daniel paused before lamenting, "And I'd have to do the same thing."

Jack reached over and caressed the side of Daniel's face before agreeing, "You're right, Danny. We make decisions in the moment and if we second guess ourselves, we could never go forward."

Daniel turned his head to face his partner and gave him a small nod.

~Watch yourself, O'Neill. You almost made everything worse. It took a long time for Danny to move on after Templeton's and Eberly's deaths. Laura Templeton was a civilian Daniel encouraged to go on a mission with him and Brian Eberly was a member of an SG team on the same mission. Both died, leaving the archaeologist dealing with a tremendous amount of guilt. ~Stay focused on the latest crisis; don't stir up the ghosts of the past.~

//Flashback//
Jack was heading for his jeep to return to Cheyenne Mountain. He was frustrated by the truth of the failed scenario and by what he felt were lapses by the SGC recruits. As he walked, he put on is sunglasses. He could sense a presence.

~Geez, what now.~

"Colonel?" Elliot called out.

Jack glanced back, saw the presence was Elliot, and questioned, "Something on your mind, Lieutenant?"

Elliot answered, "I wanted to apologize for the attitude I gave you back there."

~Don't buy it, but hey ...~ Jack retorted, "I like people with attitude. In fact, I much prefer them to people who *suck* up." He glared at the young man. ~Capiche?~

"That's not what I was doing, Sir."

"You want my approval? You're a fine officer. The Air Force has already decided that, or you wouldn't be here, but not everyone is cut out to go off-world."

"I am," Elliot insisted confidently.

~Yeah? I have news for ya.~ Jack quickly reminded, "You don't decide that."

"What I'm trying to say, Sir, is that I feel like I've trained for this program my whole life. I don't intend to let it slip by."

"See that you don't."
//End of Flashback//

"Attitude: the kid had plenty of that."

"How many officers have you approached in the same way, Jack? How many times have you called them out for faulty procedures or missions gone bad?" Daniel asked. Not anticipating a response, he put forth, "Elliot was a lot like you, and you saw it, just like Sam did, just like I did, and I think Lieutenant Elliot knew it, too."

Jack sighed, not wanting to fight the opinion any longer because the truth was that Daniel was right.

"If he lived through all the craziness, he was gonna be one heck of an officer," Jack stated.

"He died a hero. Let's remember him for that."

"Agreed," Jack responded, taking his second beer bottle and clanging it against Daniel's bottle of beer.

The couple returned to a verbal silence, letting the passage of seconds and minutes assist in their healing process.

====

"Pizza's on its way," Jack stated upon returning to the roof deck.

"That's good," Daniel responded without emotion.

After a minute, Jack decided it was time to start healing from one of the other unexpected events from the last few days.

"So, ah, Osiris tried to kill you ... again."

"Sarah saved me, twice," Daniel corrected.

"Are you sure?"

"Jack, when Osiris walked into the meeting chamber, I was the proverbial deer in the headlights. I mean, uh, I backed away, but then I had to face Osiris."

"Yu needed a drink," Jack recalled from Daniel's remarks in the debriefing.

"Sarah saw me. I didn't know what to think, but there's no reason why Osiris wouldn't have called me out. By all rights, I should have been killed on the spot for being a spy."

"Okay," Jack acknowledged, accepting the fact. He remembered that Sha're did the same thing once or twice. It's how everyone learned that something of the host remained, even after being implanted with a symbiote. "But then Osiris tried to kill you on the teltac."

"Yes, but there was a moment, Jack, when I told Osiris who I was. For a second after that, Osiris stopped. That was Sarah."

Jack had to tread lightly. He wasn't fond of Sarah Gardner and never had been.

Almost as if hearing his Love's thoughts, Daniel stated, "You never did like Sarah."

"Danny, you don't even know her that well. You dated her for a few weeks years ago and you said yourself you had your nose in books far more than in her ... person."

Daniel wanted to argue, but he let out a tiny snort of laughter that acknowledged Jack was right more than anything else.

"She's still in this situation because of me."

"She's in this situation because she couldn't keep her nose out of your business when that professor died. She snooped into the wrong jar and a snake took advantage. Her fault, not yours."

"We don't really know when Sarah was ... when Osiris took over. Osiris could have been freed from the canopic jar during the explosion."

"And pigs could fly," Jack snarked, getting an unhappy stare in response. "Look, Daniel, I know you like to do the Anne Frank thing and believe there's good in everyone, and maybe I'm too much of a cynic, but that woman wasn't good for you when you met her and nothing has changed since then. Okay, she saved your life a couple of times. I will give her credit that, but you won't get me to believe that she's not doing it for her reasons."

"Jack, Sarah is trapped inside a Goa'uld mind."

"A fate I wouldn't wish on anyone," Jack admitted. "She recognized you and knows you're the only one who has a shot of saving her behind."

"Let's agree to disagree on this one."

"We don't disagree, Danny; you just don't want to face it." Jack leaned over and placed a tender kiss on Daniel's nape that caused the archaeologist to sigh in delight. "Danny, I'm grateful that Sarah was able to recognize you. I'm in her debt for that, twice, but every bone in my body says she's no good. But ..."

"But?"

"It doesn't matter what I think. What I want to know is what you are feeling now? What are you thinking?"

"About Sarah?"

"No, about the latest hockey scores," Jack teased. "Yes, about Sarah."

"I'm not sure I feel anything," Daniel confided. "When I saw her, I felt relieved, but it wasn't because of her. It, uh, was because I put the poison away, at least, for a while. Later, I guess it's like you said. I felt an obligation to rescue her. I couldn't save Sha're," the teary-eyed scientist spoke emotionally, "but I hoped that maybe I could save Sarah. Maybe it was a redemption thing. We never save anyone, Jack. It hurts not to save them."

"Hey, we saved Skaara."

"The Tollan did that," Daniel refuted.

"As I recall, we were his lawyers."

"Archons," Daniel corrected, using the Tollan word for lawyers. "We practiced without a license."

"I always felt like we should be on planet Beta III in the C-111 system," Jack responded lightly as he chuckled at Daniel's joke.

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

"Trek," Jack explained about the "Star Trek" television series. "They had an ep where the locals called Kirk and his buddies archons."

"Oh," Daniel acknowledged with rolled eyes. "Sometimes, Babe, I think you look at everything like a TV show."

"And food," Jack agreed with a belated smile. "The point is that Skaara won the battle and the snake is ... wherever the snake is today. Skaara's safe, with Kasuf, on Abydos."

"So, keep the faith?"

"Maybe one day, Angel."

Daniel nodded and let go of whatever emotional hold seeing Sarah put on him. Besides, seeing Sarah wasn't what was really causing his stomach to churn. He knew that and he knew Jack did, too.

====

"I thought you ordered pizza," Daniel stated when Jack returned from taking receipt of their meal.

"Nah, what's a supreme pizza when we could have egg-goo whatever," the older man laughed. He leaned in for a kiss and whispered, "I love you, Danny. I'd eat Chinese for you every day if it meant making you happy."

"Gawd," the emotional scientist reacted. "I love you, too, Jack, so much."

The couple kissed and kissed again. They kept kissing, risking their food cooling off.

"We gonna eat or ..."

"Both, but for now," Daniel stated, completing his thought by picking up a container of food.

Jack felt happy because he knew he'd just made his Heart happy. That was the most important thing in the world to him.

====

"So you think Korra's on another undercover mission for the Tok'ra?" Daniel asked upon learning that his lover spoke with the operative on Revanna.

"Yep, and I think Garshaw might be in trouble."

"Maybe we should offer to help."

"Already did," Jack responded. "I had a chance to talk with Jacob before we left. The Tok'ra are scattered right now."

"Which means?"

"Until they set up a new base, Korra and Garshaw are on their own."

"What you're saying is that Jacob wouldn't tell you anything, not even to let us help."

"It's that friggin' Tok'ra secrecy. They'll let Korra and Garshaw die before letting us help."

"I don't think they'd let it go that far," Daniel opined.

"That's my Danny, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt."

"Well, it's like you said, they don't drop by to say hello. They drop by when they need us, so I think if Korra and Garshaw need help that the Tok'ra can't provide, they'll contact us."

"Sounds about right," the colonel agreed before opening another bottle of beer, his fourth of the night.

====

"Danny, tell me about the scratches on your back."

Daniel told Jack every last detail of his encounter with the woman at Yu's palace.

"Sounds like Jarren had a pretty sweet setup going for himself, a lo'taur with a bondage fetish, and he was getting away with it," Jack noted in amazement.

"Do you know what happened to him, Jack?"

"Me? Nah. I thought you'd know."

"I never asked Jacob what he was going to do with him. The last I knew, Jacob was dragging him away."

There really wasn't anything more to discuss. Daniel didn't seem to be affected by the woman, other than feeling bad about having secured her in the closet. As a result, Jack decided to drop any further discussion. Daniel apparently made the same decision since he spoke again before Jack could.

"By the way, Jack, assuming we go out before we have to go back to work, Janet gave me a prescription. It's just a cream for my back. She said it was optional, but that it might heal the scratches quicker if I used it."

"We'll pick it up in the morning," Jack responded. "Then I'll give you a massage."

Daniel smiled, liking the sound of that.

"That bedtime outfit sounds hot," Jack opined and then kissed Daniel's nape.

"If you'd been the one at the door ... fireworks."

Jack and Daniel kissed for a few minutes and then settled in for more quiet time. It always felt right for them to simply hold on to each other when rehashing painful or challenging moments in their life.

====

Several minutes later, Daniel spoke a gentle, "Jack."

"Right here by your side, like always," Jack replied.

"Don't let that change, okay?"

"Never," the older man vowed. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm not sure, but it ... it scares me a little."

Jack put his arm around Daniel's shoulder and drew him close. He felt the tenseness in his Love's body. Whatever he was feeling was causing the archaeologist to be highly stressed. He leaned in closer and planted a sweet kiss on the side of Daniel's head.

"It's, uh ... well ..."

"I'm here when you're ready, Angel."

"I'm making too much of it," Daniel sighed. "It's nothing."

"I doubt it's nothing. How about a hint?"

"No, I'm being too sensitive. I mean, uh, I made the decision to accept the mission. It was my choice."

Jack understood the special language of Daniel better than anyone else on the planet. It didn't take him long to translate his Love's concern.

"Talk to me, Danny," Jack encouraged, not wanting to put words in Daniel's mouth.

"Sometimes, gawd, sometimes I still feel like a kid in a foster home, doing what I'm told."

"Daniel, you never do what I tell you to do," Jack mused cautiously. "You're about as stubborn as I am and maybe more."

"Let's not go that far, Babe," Daniel retorted, his tone firm as he spoke, even as he nestled in closer to his life partner.

Jack chuckled and then went silent, allowing Daniel to continue when he was ready.

"Teal'c, he really wanted me to go. It's understandable. He's ... trying to save his people. You can't argue with that rationale."

"True enough," Jack reluctantly agreed. ~Remain calm, O'Neill. Let him talk without my bias.~

"Sam, she had a reason, too. She needed to know about Martouf and Lantash. I can understand that. You can, too, right?"

"Carter? Daniel, what are you talking about?"

Daniel told Jack about Sam's visit to his office. He thought he'd mentioned it the morning of the mission, but apparently, the lovers had only discussed Teal'c's visit to Daniel's lab.

"She felt stonewalled. You know how that is," Daniel concluded.

"I suppose if I put myself in her situation, I'd want to know what was happening."

"They wouldn't tell her anything. She had to know," Daniel asserted quietly.

"Angel," Jack sighed, placing another kiss on Daniel's head. ~This isn't about Teal'c or Carter, specifically. It's the whole of it, Danny. Come on, you can get there, and then we can move on.~

"Everyone had an agenda, everyone."

Jack waited. Daniel needed to say it himself. It was hard for the colonel to let the pain continue, but his lover wouldn't be free until he acknowledged his feelings aloud. He had to say it and then Daniel could let it go.

"Why, Jack? I mean, I want the Jaffa to be free as much as Teal'c does, and I don't want Sam to hurt, and she was. She won't talk about Martouf and what happened much. I understand that pain. So do you, right?"

"Yeah," Jack affirmed in a whisper.

"But ... why? Except for you, no one ... I mean, everyone ..." Daniel broke down and let out a sob he had been trying to hold back. "Not even General Hammond objected, not that he should have. Megan was nice; she's always nice, but she didn't know what was really happening. I felt so alone, so ... used. I shouldn't feel like that. I know that. My head knows that, but why, Jack? Why does my heart feel so ..."

Daniel stopped talking, not knowing the words to say. He was divided on his feelings. One part felt like he was being a silly cry baby and another part believed he was justified in feeling unimportant.

Instinctively, Jack wrapped both of his arms around Daniel, letting the beer bottle in his right hand drop to the decking and spill over, releasing the liquid.

"In foster, no one cared about me at all. I was a toy for ... everyone. How I felt was never important. Gawd, Jack, how could they ask me to do this? How can people I care about *want* me to ... to ..."

"... poison your soul by committing mass murder?" Jack completed, feeling Daniel's body tense up even more. ~Direct hit. Crap,~ Jack sighed. "Confession time. I wasn't thrilled with Teal'c's visit and I less thrilled with Carter's, but you know they care, Danny. Yeah, they had an agenda, but neither of them wanted you to compromise yourself."

Daniel chuckled, but it wasn't lighthearted or free. It was a darker noise, one of disbelief and incredulity.

"Don't tell me, O'Neill, that you're okay with what they did? I don't believe that," Daniel put forth in an emotional and somewhat gasped response.

Jack drew an audible breath. He was trying so hard to ease Daniel's pain. He didn't want to tell his Love how angry he was at Teal'c, who he thought of like a brother, and with Sam, his second-in-command who in reality was a friend, too.

"All right," Jack responded. "I let off a lot of steam with Teal'c before we left on the mission and we had it out on Revanna, too. I haven't said anything to Carter simply because I didn't know until now, but I'm not happy with her either for the head game she played with you."

"It wasn't a head game. She just ..."

"Don't start rationalizing, Danny. You brought this up. Two of your best friends asked you to be a killer so that they could benefit somehow."

"No," Daniel refuted. "Sam only wanted a reason to go to Revanna. She didn't ask me to accept the mission. Teal'c did that."

"Fine. Carter's off the hook."

"And Teal'c?"

"What do you think?"

"I think ... I think maybe we would have done the same had we been in his position."

~So *not* going to press this. Danny needs peace, and he won't get it if I talk about my anger here. Go with his flow, O'Neill.~

"We would, right?" Daniel asked, needing a verbal response.

"Maybe, yeah, we probably would," Jack answered.

"Teal'c can't help it, Jack," Daniel pleaded on the Jaffa's behalf. "The Jaffa do the honorable thing."

~... like getting good friends to betray their moral center,~ Jack sighed internally.

"He didn't mean it, Jack. He just doesn't really understand. He can't, not the way you can. You didn't want me to go."

"Ain't that the truth," Jack responded immediately. "I love you, Danny. If I could have kept you from going, I would have. Dang, I tried, but you wouldn't listen. Like I said a while ago, you're a stubborn man."

Daniel let out the tiniest of laughs and closed his eyes. Jack cared. That's what mattered the most. Teal'c and Sam were his friends, but Jack was his soulmate. No one understood like Jack did.

"Don't let go yet, okay?" the archaeologist requested.

"Your wish is my command," Jack assured. ~He's battling back now. T and Carter are off the hook. He went for his own reasons. He knows that, but it hurts like heck when your friends encourage to do something you really don't want to do.~

For a few minutes, Jack held Daniel close. That's what the archaeologist needed more than anything, and Jack was happy to oblige. He needed this, too. Having Daniel need and want him made the colonel feel warm inside. He never felt so alive than when he and Daniel were holding on to each other.

When he felt Daniel was ready to listen, Jack revealed, "Danny, you need to know something. I didn't have a chance to verify it, but scuttlebutt says Hammond went after Ren'al before she left SGC."

"What do you mean?"

"The way I hear it, it went down like this," Jack responded as he prepared to tell the tale he'd heard prior to the mission from Sergeant Walter Davis.

//Flashback//
With the briefing over, Hammond returned to his office. He sat down and contemplated the mission Ren'al had just proposed to SG-1.

~Doctor Jackson can handle himself, but he's not a military man and he doesn't have the heart of a soldier. He can fight with the best of them, but that boy is a torchbearer of life and all it stands for. I'm not in favor of him being placed in this position.~

The major general debated and then walked back into the briefing room. It occurred to him that the Stargate was not yet in motion. Looking down, he noticed Ren'al was standing alone as she waited for the Stargate to engage.

"Airman!" Hammond called out, knowing there was bound to be one lurking about nearby.

Sure enough, there was. Hammond gave the man an order and then walked to his office. He remained standing, formulating his thoughts.

"General Hammond?" the unmistakable sound of the Tok'ra's voice rang out from the briefing room. "Are you here? I was told you wished to see me."

"Councilwoman Ren'al," Hammond called out, making his presence known and providing a strategic surprise entry. With the area clear of SGC personnel, except for Sergeant Davis who had just entered Hammond's office to put a few reports on his desk, the general was sure he could speak in confidence with the Tok'ra leader. "I'd like to know more about what you have planned for this mission with Doctor Jackson."

"There is nothing more I can tell you, General Hammond," Ren'al replied.

"I disagree."

"General, SG-1 will be fully aware of the situation when they come to Revanna," Ren'al promised.

"Councilwoman, I would like to believe you."

"General ..."

Cutting off the Tok'ra, Hammond continued, "Doctor Jackson is a very passionate man. He's in the unique position of understanding the Goa'uld better than anyone else on our planet. I want to know what you're asking him to do."

"I have told you all that I can."

"That doesn't dice the onion," Hammond replied, confusing the woman.

"When SG-1 arrives on Revanna tomorrow, they will be free to refuse the mission and return to Earth."

"Ren'al, my people are free to refuse the mission right now. *I* am free to refuse this mission. They follow *my* orders."

"The Tau'ri sought out an alliance with the Tok'ra."

"... in the belief that there would an appropriate exchange of information. Some believe we've been a bit shortchanged, Councilwoman."

"If you wish to break our alliance ..."

"Don't think I won't do it," Hammond threatened.

"What is it you want, General Hammond?"

"I want my people, all of them, including Doctor Jackson, home safely," Hammond replied.

"That is our wish as well."

"Ren'al, you may not want to provide full disclosure to me, but you'd better inform SG-1 fully of what the Tok'ra have in mind."

"As I said in the meeting, they will learn all that they need to know."

Frustrated, Hammond responded, "They need to know everything."

"General ..."

"Sergeant Davis," Hammond shouted. "Dial Revanna *now*. Councilwoman Ren'al is leaving."

With a final glare, Hammond walked into his office, past Davis, out his other office door, and down the corridor. At the moment, he wanted to be as far away from Ren'al as he possibly could be.
//End of Flashback//

"He did all that he could do," Jack sighed. "He delivered a message."

"It didn't do much, did it," Daniel sighed, though he felt better knowing that General Hammond did try. Then he had a flash of memory recall. "Jack, I thought the general asked you to escort Ren'al to the gate room."

"He did, and I did, and then an airman showed up with a message that I was needed to settle a bit of a disagreement between SG-2 and SG-3."

"Let me guess, SG-3 interfered with SG-2's mission."

"Big time, and Lou wasn't happy about it. I was happy to leave Ren'al at the door and kick SG-3's collective behinds instead. Hammond must have approached Ren'al after I left." Jack paused, thinking over the last couple of minutes. "Danny, you didn't think I lied to you just now?"

In a frustrated tone, Daniel responded in a stuttered, "N...no, not ... not really. I just ..." He sighed, "I'm sorry, Jack."

Jack's alarm bells went off. Daniel was very subdued, doubtful, and insecure. Daniel wouldn't truly believe Jack would make up a story about Hammond doing anything. All tolled, the colonel realized that his archaeologist was holding out on him.

~Can't let you do you do that, Danny. We share, good and bad.~ Jack bit the bullet and asked, "Daniel, what did you leave out of the briefing?"

With a heavy sigh, Daniel answered, "It wasn't really about the plan, but ..."

"But what?"

"Jacob told me the Tok'ra suspected that when the summit ended, the Goa'uld were going to ... kill the lo'taurs."

"*What?*" Jack responded, unable to hold back his upset.

"I wasn't too happy about that, either, but he said since I was going to release the poison, it wasn't important."

"Dang friggin' Tok'ra."

"Jack."

The name said it all. Jack strengthened his hold on Daniel and continued to caress him with his hands. He wouldn't let go until Daniel was ready.

"I love you, Danny. I love you."

====

After a while, Daniel settled into a more calm state of mind. He and Jack had talked about so much, and yet they'd yet to firmly tackle the real issue. Before they did that, they took a much-needed restroom break. They stretched and walked around a bit in the quiet of the evening. Clouds were filling the darkening skies as the clock neared eight.

Having restocked the roof deck with beer and the few food items that could qualify as snacks, Jack called out to his Love, who nodded and soon climbed up the ladder. Both knew the time to concentrate on the deepest issue was approaching. This time, when they settled, Jack was leaning against the wall of the house and Daniel was in front of him somewhat, his head resting against Jack's shoulder. It was a place of great comfort for the younger man, especially when Jack's hands stretched around and slipped beneath Daniel's shirt and gently caressed the smooth skin of the archaeologist. This was their comfort position, one of loving, safety, and foreverness.

"Jack, I need to tell you something."

"About the mission?"

"Well, it's, uh, about the space station, or, well, something that happened," Daniel confided.

Jack didn't like that sound of this. It wasn't about the symbiote poison. He began to get an eerie feeling as his stomach churned.

"Go ahead," Jack encouraged.

"Well, it's ... actually, it's a who."

~No damsels on that dang station and that means one thing,~ Jack lamented internally.

"One of the System Lords, Morrigan, is a, well, you'd like the host body a lot. She's ... her um," Daniel moved his hands to his chest and, palms up, moved them as a symbol of what he was trying to say."

"Big boobs?" Jack chuckled.

"You could say that."

"What happened, Danny?"

"I'm not sure if Morrigan was there on his own, or if it was for the host, you know, we, uh, just don't always know what a System Lord does or does not need. Well, there was Apophis and he clearly wanted Sha're as the host for his mate. She bore his child."

"Hey, don't go back there," Jack urged. "That's over. Sha're's free of him."

"She's also very dead," Daniel returned. He sighed and spoke, "I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to sound harsh."

"Tell me about Morrigan."

"She ... he ... whoever ... came to my room," Daniel began. He told Jack how Morrigan let it be known that Daniel, known as Jarren at the time, was to do his, or was it her, bidding. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do."

"Let me get this straight," Jack stated. "Morrigan walked in and demanded your services, starting by pulling you so that you were in between their breasts?"

"Exactly."

"Okay, what did you do?"

"Remember last week you made me watch that crazy episode of 'Star Trek,' the one where Kirk made up the game?"

"Fizbin," Jack stated. "Great game."

"It's nonsensical, Jack. The rules are insane."

"That's the beauty of it, Danny."

"I guess so; actually, I know so because that's what I did."

"Played cards?"

"No, spun a tale designed to make a System Lord not want to, uh ..."

"... do the deed?"

"... have sex," Daniel surprised Jack by saying, since he rarely used the word when in private.

"Okay, Angel, ya got me. I have no clue how you got the booby Goa'uld out of your room."

"I talked fast about nothing real. I created a disease and said I was symbiote killer, not of my own making, of course. I told Morrigan that I had been forced to have relations with other Goa'ulds because I was a slave, of course, and I wasn't always a lo'taur."

"Danny, the snakes cure the hosts."

"We all know that, but I told Morrigan that the Tok'ra were responsible for the disease as a way to get to the Goa'uld."

"Murder by sex, one Goa'uld at a time."

"Something like that, and I may have hinted that Tok'ra spies were planning to attack, by sex, during one of the upcoming System Lord orgy sessions."

"They have orgies?"

"I have no idea."

"You guessed?"

"Kirk called it bluffing," Daniel corrected. "I don't know all of what I said. I was just talking to avoid doing anything else. I don't know if Morrigan bought what I was saying or maybe tired of my talking, but finally, Morrigan left."

"Had to be the talking," Jack commented in a tone that suggested that was the obvious repellent. He felt like Daniel had eyes in the back of his head. "I'm just saying no one can talk like you do."

"Right," Daniel replied dryly.

"Nothing happened," Jack spoke quietly.

"Nothing happened," Daniel affirmed. "For a minute, though, I ... my mind went ... elsewhere."

Jack didn't want to speak Hathor's name any more than Daniel did. That was an authentic nightmare, back before the two men were lovers. During her brief reign of terror in 1998, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, inebriety, and music raped Daniel.

Jack's arms tightened around his Heart. He could feel Daniel's soul tipping to one side.

The unintended reminder of Hathor and what she'd done to him caused the archaeologist's resolve to break down. Though embraced by his soulmate and firmly on the ground, Daniel felt as though he'd just fallen inside a deep whole. He couldn't keep it in anymore. The horror of the last few days erupted from his soul that he feared he was losing. Tears flowed as he gasped for breath. The only thing keeping Daniel from succumbing to darkness was Jack's love. The emotion was tangible. It was as if Daniel could see Jack's beating heart, a heart that was sustaining them both at the moment.

"I wanted to do it for Sha're," Daniel cried. "I wanted her to have some kind of justice. You called it revenge, but it wasn't that, Jack. I just wanted someone to remember what they'd done to her. Gawd, that doesn't even sense. Who would know? No one would know. The Goa'uld would be dead and so would the hosts. Jack, something of the host survives. We know that." The tears fell from Daniel's face to his blue sweats that he was wearing. His words were sometimes garbled by the outpouring of his emotions. "Sha're was still there. We *know* that. Sarah's there. She recognized me, just like Sha're did, and she saved me, just like Sha're did. The hosts survive. We don't know what would happen. Even, gawd, Jack, remember Apophis' host? He was there. He talked to me. He felt pain and regret at all the things the snake made his body do and say. He hurt, his being hurt, and he knew, he knew everything Apophis had done. The hosts are there, and everyone wanted me to kill them. It would have been murder." Daniel let out a cry and then whispered, "I don't want to be a soldier, Jack. I'm a scientist. That's who I am, but I almost betrayed myself to do what war requires, murder, cold hearted murder."

"No one can take your soul, Angel," Jack assured. "No one has your soul."

"I sold it, Jack, for what, justice? What justice? Whose justice?"

"You didn't do it, Danny, and I don't think you would have gone through with it."

"I had the poison in my hand, ready to release it. I did, Jack, more than once," came the sobbing response.

"But you didn't do it. Almost doesn't count," Jack insisted. "I don't care what you think, Daniel. You never would have pushed that button. Listen to me, Danny. You have eyes no one else has. The vicious snakehead might be living in some self-grandiose fantasy, but you see the host and know they're vulnerable." The colonel paused a moment as he felt the tremors of Daniel's body as the pain took over. "Danny, your soul is beautiful and passionate and it has all that's right with humanity inside. There is no friggin' way on Earth that you were going to become a mass assassin. It was not going to happen. Your soul won, Danny. Don't you realize that? You want to call it luck, or happenstance, or something else, you can, but you found reasons to not push that button. You kept stalling Jacob and when it was time to bail, you left. The game plan changed and you took the out. You wouldn't have done it. It's not your true function," he whispered.

"Help me," Daniel cried.

"Always," Jack promised.

It was 8:31 p.m. and suddenly the sky teared up, releasing drops of purification.

Daniel twisted around and kissed Jack with great longing. His inner being was exploding with need, one that would release his soul from the torture that was inflicted upon on it.

Before Jack knew what hit him, Daniel had removed his gray sweatshirt and tossed it to the side. As he did, the sky rumbled with thunder and its tears fell harder and with more fullness.

The lovers rolled around a bit until Daniel was beneath his lover, his hands gripping Jack's neck. Their kisses were plentiful and demanding more with each one.

The rain became even more abundant as it thundered again.

"Danny, let's go inside."

"No, no, no," Daniel gasped between kisses. "Water is life, Jack. It's enlightenment." He ran his left hand down Jack's cheek, his eyes on fire with passion. "It's a ... a solvent that cleans everything bad in the universe. Let the rain fall."

Daniel thrust himself more on Jack until the older man rolled over, pulling off Daniel's sweatshirt as his position shifted.

"Danny, is there a god of rain?"

As another loud clap of thunder roared nearby, the scientist answered, "Tefnut, mother of Geb and Nut."

"Who and who?" Jack asked as his eyes widened from the touch of his soulmate's hand on his most sensitive private part.

"Earth and Sky."

Daniel removed his partner's sweatpants and using the purity of the rainwater eased the path that would bring them both to ecstasy. Then, as if in tune with the gods of thunder, Daniel thrust himself inside his lover as the loudest outburst of thunder rolled throughout the skies.

Jack was fully on board for the very physical union with Daniel. This was often how they survived the worst of the universe, by losing themselves inside each other and their love. There was nothing tender here. It was raw and all about the flesh.

Daniel was freeing his soul as he returned to his safe haven, to the one place in the universe where he was free, where he was loved, where his soul was understood. He was one with Jack in every way possible.

The powerful rain purged Daniel's essence of the poison that was threatening it. The fight was difficult. He lunged hard into Jack, the rain and ongoing beat of the thunder covering the grunts and shouts both made.

Then it was Jack's turn, the rain coming down like revolutionary rifle pelts upon his back. His length pounded in sync with the rounds of thunder that wasn't shown any sign of stopping.

Shortly before nine, the thunder rolled for the last time and the water that fell from the sky subsided. Jack and Daniel were breathing in long, raspy pants, struggling for air as their bodies trembled in their aftermath.

Daniel rolled to his side, his body hooking onto Jack's. His head found the always strong shoulder of his life partner, the man responsible for the bodily shaking going on within him. He nestled his head up to the left of Jack's face and kissed him on the cheek while his right hand stroked Jack's other cheek.

"Tell me," Daniel requested.

"I love you, Danny, to the moon and the stars and beyond, and back again."

"And I love you, so very much, Jack. Thank you."

"For what?"

"Finding my soul again."

Jack placed a tender kiss on Daniel's forehead and encircled his Love with his arms.

There, in the openness of the now quiet night sky, Jack and Daniel rested. Naked, happy, and exhausted from their vibrant union, they now reveled in nothing but each other. Again, they'd made it through the physical threats from being at death's door. Again, their love was their survival for their hearts, minds, and souls.

On the roof deck of their Colorado Springs home, Jack and Daniel were in love. The healing might not yet be perfectly complete, but Daniel felt the spiritual if not physical cleaning of the waters. His soul was his own and he prayed that he never came close to losing it again. All he wanted to do now was share his soul with Jack, and all Jack wanted to do was keep Daniel safe. That's how life was for Jack and Daniel, still holding each other tight as nature protected them from above. Together, they would heal and one day, both Revanna and the Hassara System space station would be nothing but a distant memory. That was the undeniable truth for the lovers on this night and every other night.

~~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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