Tete de Pont

By: Delilah

EMAIL: Delilah

tete de pont -- bridgehead; a forward position seized by advancing troops as a foothold for forward advance

 

~Jack~

"Seriously, Jack." Danny is talking through a mouthful of chocolate-glazed donut and bucking the truck to a halt every five or six feet as he tries to change lanes in the drizzly ‘Springs traffic. "I’m tired of being in’tarred by Stargate wannabes. You can play William-the-Conquering-alien this time. Besides, I thought General Hammond said he was going to put an off-world training facility in the budget."

"You know the budget is a totally jam-tomorrow kind of thing."

"A jam-tomorrow kind of thing?" You love it when Daniel repeats stuff you say with that question in his voice like he’s translating some new tongue.

"The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day." It’s a flat-out quote, which you’ve gotten right. But Danny is still over there silently mentally digesting. You know about the foster homes, but surely by the time Danny’s parents were gone, they’d had time to teach him a little bit about Alice. "You have read Through the Looking Glass, haven’t you?"

"Oh, I understand the quote, Jack. It’s a way of saying it’s a promise that will never be kept. I got that … it’s just a change from your usual Oz sayings."

"You mean like ‘where do you want to be oiled first’?"

You can hear Danny smile. You swear it. You can hear it.

"Look, think of it this way -- you get to sit in Hammond’s chair," you remind him. Who knew Danny had a serious leather-office-chair jones? You tack another possible onto your mental Christmas list. Danny. Leather. You barely restrain yourself from making the strangled sound of Homer Simpson. Mmmmmm … beer nuts.

Four brand new Yokohama tires hydroplane into a brief skid, taking all your attention from forever-to-be-unfulfilled-visions of Danny’s butt clad in cowskin.

"Whoa" is mumbled around a mouthful of Krispy Kreme and sadly, not to your surprise, a strong palm presses you firmly against the passenger seat.

"Danny …" you warn.

The hand is promptly removed with an apologetic pat of fingertips against your breastbone for treating you like a five-year old.

You feel like you fight this stuff all the time. Teal’c and his overzealous guide-dog tendencies. Sam’s silent observation of every step you take in her lab that you can literally feel. You will not have Danny doing the protect-the-blind-guy dance.

"Okay," you say. "In’tar me."

 

~Daniel~

Hammond isn’t as easily convinced. "You’re sure about this?"

And Jack is trying to look … I don’t know … insulted, I think, that the general isn’t turning handsprings over the thought of Jack being the one who plays head-of-the-foothold-brigade but we both knew this would be an uphill battle when Hammond won’t even let him get a cup of coffee by himself.

"He looks … harmless," I put in, feeling Jack’s foot firmly connect with my toes. Jack still regularly stumbles off the front porch steps but he can kick unerringly. "Well, that’s why you always make me do it," I protest. "Because I look like I –"

Jack joins in, in that kind of weird echo thing we sometimes have going. "—you wouldn’t kick a puppy."

Teal’c, of course, raises an eyebrow. "I, also, would not perpetrate violence against unmatured canines."

Sometimes I think we should ditch the whole ‘gate business and take the Jack-n-Jaffa show on the road.

 

~Jack~

Daniel’s the actor in the family. Yep, tell mild-mannered Dr. Danny Jackson you need a malevolent, power-crazed Goa’uld and you get … a malevolent, power-crazed Goa’uld. It’s kinda scary actually. Makes you wonder if he ever does that in his off-hours. If one of those sweet "Yes, Jacks" that he says is actually just a mask put on by a seething archaeologist/linguist who’s really going to leave you tomorrow because he can’t put up with you another day.

"Colonel."

"Hmmm?"

"Could you put that down?"

"What, Carter?"

"That power converter it took us two days of negotiation to get from the Aneurians, could you put it down?"

"That what this is?"

Fingers ever-so-firmly disengage yours from the cool hunk of metal. "Yes, sir."

"For cryin’ out loud, would you stop with the ‘sirs’?"

Though you better get used to it; two days from now you’ll be playing head-of-the-seriously-Goa’ulded.

~oOo~

It’s an elaborate little game Hammond and the training staff cook up every few months to weed out the undesirables from the wannabe-SG ranks. You’re thinking you deserve an Emmy at least, if not a whole electroplated Oscar, for playing civilian-consultant-who-gets-snaked. Of course, first, you just have to play civilian-consultant-who-is-harmless and make all friendly with the troops.

"Having fun, kids?"

Danny’s got a firm grip on your elbow, which he keeps ballasting to keep your tray level, so you’re pretty sure that you’re actually pointed in the direction of the six possible recruits who have no idea that, around the SGC, you get lunch-theater with your … whatever the hell it is today.

"Mind if we sit?" asks Daniel, letting go of your arm only long enough to dispatch your tray from your fingers, set it down, and then grasp your flesh again. Definitely gonna have a talk tonight about taking this make-the-old-colonel-look-helpless thing a little too far.

You smile while politely jerking your arm away. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Danny clears his throat and you smile a little more. If you didn’t then have to grope for the damn chair, no helpful Danny-hand being currently available, the overall effect would be better, but, hey, it probably does nothing to harm the helpless-guy image. So you’ll just consider it planned.

"This is Dr. Daniel Jackson," you put in, "head of linguistics and archaeology. Big guy. Big, big guy on base. And I am Jack O’Neill."

"Colonel O’Neill?" Voice #1 is male, you’d say about two seats down, and, you have to say, properly awed.

"The very same," you confidently declare. "Danny?"

"Oh!" Your inattentive co-thespian has clearly been distracted. "Sorry, Jack. Your … um … what is that, Jack?"

"Cow. I said ‘gimme the cow.’"

"Okay." Danny sounds clearly perplexed. "Your ‘cow’ is at eight o’clock. Mashed potatoes at twelve and," you feel him lean close and give your plate a poke, "your … casserole is at four. Coffee’s at about two."

You can feel stares. Blind-guy-eats-lunch always proves fascinating. Time to put a stop to that. "So, kids. How’s the training going?"

You get back indecipherable mumbling.

"Well, why don’t we start by going around the table and all saying our names, shall we?"

 

~Daniel~

I’ve watched kids react to Jack for years and that includes wet-behind-the-ears Air Force officers that minutes before were trembling beneath their salutes. In a couple minutes he has them talking about hockey, god help me. And one of the lieutenants, an Air Force brat in the mold of Sam Carter, turns out to practically have been a groupie for the Avalanche in her younger years. So that relationship is practically love at first reciting of stats.

"Ahem."

Teal’c stands in perfect parade rest, hands clasped behind his back, feet shoulder-width apart and muscles prominent.

"Teal’c!" Jack either has no idea of the look of annoyance on our usually-friendly Jaffa’s face, or, more than likely, heard it in the ‘ahem’ and is choosing to ignore it. "Come sit down, buddy."

The rest of the table, however, has a near-Pavlovian response to Teal’c’s raised eyebrow and a rigid silence prevails.

 

~Jack~

"Was no one aware of the hour?"

Not that you can really explain it, but Teal’c’s voice is like dark, rich honey. When you can’t see the whole … scariness of him, it’s hard to do much but want to beg him to recite something. You have this disturbing compulsion to hear him read Daniel’s book of naughty ancient Latin poems while you make passionate love to Danny.

Great, now that you’re tenting your napkin, everybody gets up and goes like the place is on fire. That’s okay. You’re a civilian. You’re … harmless. You can just sit here and cover up your …

You can sense Danny staring at your plate, which at least means he’s not staring … elsewhere.

"Really, Jack, what is that?"

So you mumble around a forkful. "I dunno. But if you don’t have to look at it, it tastes pretty good."

You’re thinking the head of linguistics and you are in definite need of an afternoon conference. Oh yeah, definitely.

 

~Daniel~

Jack is grumpy: which means he’s tired. Which means I’m enduring pointed Jack-silence on the drive down the mountain.

"Something go wrong this afternoon, Jack?"

"You had a meeting."

"Yes, I did - with Woolsey over the mistranslation he did on PW3-491. How exactly do you mistake ‘Dogs sleep with your mother’ for a hearty, local greeting, anyway?" It is a question on which my companion is strangely quiet. Guess it only gets a laugh out of him once. "So, how did my meeting ruin your day?"

Long fingers pluck at the loose trim of the passenger seat. "I had plans."

"Plans. You wanted to leave early? That’s what all this is about?"

"No." The long fingers manage to divest the car seat of a couple more inches of fine faux leather. "I kind of thought we’d…"

Ah, so that’s it.

I used to think, on Abydos, that if I ever got back to Earth I’d take Shar’e to the finest hotel I could find and rent the penthouse so we could gaze out over the city lights, drink ten year’s worth of Abydonian wages in champagne and make love on something other than a pile of dusty skins. I thought about the same thing the week before Jack … the one week I had before he spent days lying feverish in my arms, the week before I learned we were lucky that all he lost was his sight.

Now, taking Jack to a strange place, even with the most romantic of intentions, is to take away his autonomy, leave him groping and lost. Jack is … well, Jack is damn superb at keeping meticulous track of all the tools he needs to orient himself at home or in the mountain. But take him to a hotel and the evening will be spent counting steps, learning the lay of the land.

 

~Jack~

Okay, so you pouted and now Danny’s gone quiet.

"Danny, whatcha thinking about?"

If the reply wasn’t whispered with a kind of poignant longing, you would have laughed.

"The lay of the land."

"Beg pardon?"

"Nothing, Jack. Sorry"

Oops. If you don’t do something quickly it is going to turn out to be one of those nights. "Did you say the ‘lay of the land’?"

It’s not often Daniel doesn’t answer, or he forgets and nods and you just think he didn’t answer. "Danny?"

"Yeah. That’s what I was thinking about."

"So you were thinking about me."

"What?"

"The ‘lay of the land’. Me."

Daniel snorts and you feel … whatever … it was pressing down on the both of you, lift.

~oOo~

"Out here, Daniel." You hear the click of the porch light. "Kill the light and come out here."

You think you can practically hear Danny blinking myopically into your world, not wanting to leave the safety of the single bulb by the sliding doors. You always found it slightly amusing that Danny was, well, only a little less blind than the proverbial bat without his glasses. His squinting gave him an oddly enduring quality and your better-than-20/20 was a nice ego-boost: may be getting gray, Jack, but you can still see better than ole Danny over there.

"It’s astigmatism," you remember hearing him lecture after you’d played the I-can-see-better card one too many times, "not a character flaw."

And all it really means is Daniel is prone to eyestrain and fatigue and squinting and not wanting to leave even a poorly-lit porch to join you in the scary darkness of the back lawn.

"Turn ‘em off," you command. "I’ll come get you."

"You’ll come get me?" echoes back skeptically.

"You betcha, bat-boy here will rescue you."

You may not have radar but you have the whole damn lawn memorized – at least if the gardeners Danny insists on hiring don’t take it on themselves to put a koi pond somewhere unexpected.

His hand is warm and solid in your own. All grumpiness on both your parts forgotten.

"Is the moon out?" you ask.

Then you smile as you just know Danny is squinting up at the sky. "Just one of those slivery ones."

"Waxing crescent," you correct. "It’s the fourth day of a new moon phase." And, you hastily amend, "Don’t you dare tell Carter I know the names of this stuff."

Those warm, solid hands make their way to your cheeks, holding your head steady and yours follow, lightly clasping strong wrists.

"Why do you do that, Jack? Play dumb?"

You bring one of his thumbs to your lips, suckle it eagerly. When you finally release the sweet, salty taste of it, you listen to his speeding breath. "Worked on you didn’t it?"

Danny laughs. He brings his lips to yours and they murmur against you. "Every time."

 

~Daniel~

"I am your prisoner."

"Already?" says Jack. "I thought the schedule said I didn’t get to imprison you ‘til 0200."

"I’m making an exception."

Jack rolls his head toward me, the shaft of sunlight creating a triangle of brightness that shows his scars all too clearly. "You just think if you seduce me, I’ll fall under your spell and let you go."

I want to run a finger along those last silvery remnants of the weapons’ fire that almost took Jack’s life. I still shudder when I think of kneeling beside him in the spiky grass of Merseger and turning him over to find his face horrifyingly unrecognizable beneath a coat of blood.

"You memorized your lines?" I croak unconvincingly. I know he knows what I’ve been thinking because he ducks his head out of the light’s warmth.

"Yes, mom, the school play will go on."

I roll on my belly, anxious to banish the haunting memory of Jack being hurt and us both being helpless.

"Are you telling me you were in a school play, Jack?"

"Hey, I was the finest carton of milk St. Ignatius’ had ever known."

I’m thinking of how Jack must have looked: tiny, lanky, light-haired and brown-eyed, arms stuck out at ninety-degree angles with an expiration date on his head.

I kiss his forehead and say I hate tell him but I think he’s gone bad.

Then for the next half hour he shows me just how bad he can be.

 

~Jack~

Basically the storyline is this – for four days Teal’c has been scaring the hell out of the kids and just when they think it’s safe and they’ve been chewed out Jaffa-style for the very last time … well, that’s where you come in and take over the base.

This all requires good communication. Better timing. Luck. And … well, pretending that with a Goa’uld in you, you can see. Because these scenarios are shaky enough without having them start to wonder why the aliens were so stupid as to take over the blind-guy for their leader.

Which means you have a confederate … good old Lieutenant Grogan, who still has a knack for getting himself shot and is, therefore, perfect for this and who you borrowed over protest from SG-9. It also means you keep to the general’s office and the briefing room to avoid bumping into as few things as possible and ruining the illusion.

This took some work on your and Grogan’s part as Danny will be, literally, tied up in the corner and gagged (which is something you’ve been trying to get him to try for months with no luck). Danny speechless during sex … you’re wondering if that would put a halt to the multitasking he seems to be doing while you’re nibbling.

It’s not conducive to passion to have a mouthful of Daniel and hear him say "You know, I think those pictoglyphs on JXR-367 may actually be hieroglyphic representations of zoomorphic deities."

 

~Daniel~

Second thoughts are not something I normally have where Jack is concerned. And I really was serious that I had had about enough of playing King of the Gou’alds. So why do I keep throwing these looks toward my significant other as we go through the morning’s pre-scenario briefing? Looks everyone else sees but him.

Maybe I just look like I’m worried about being tied up and tossed in a corner. That one’s a pretty neat trick actually, since we’re supposed to get it on camera. It takes a kind of isometric push-pull thing where Jack pushes and I kind of spring myself back with a thud then lay there looking worryingly injured.

Sam’s even got this special effect that makes Jack’s eyes flash that’s downright spooky. Something she’s cooked up with his prostheses that looks way too much like the real thing.

"You ready, Jack?"

Jack smiles and presses the hidden button that causes his eyes to glow. "Oh yeah. I’m ready."

Well … I’m not.

 

~Jack~

You haven’t varied the basic scenario much from the start, although as you’ve gone along improvements have been made. For example the Danny-as-bad-Goa’uld in the warehouse set-up has had that little problem fixed – the one that threw Elliott as to how the smart senior officer (these days, Teal’c) came to be unconscious with Carter and Danny as dueling-snakeheads standing over him in Goa’uldish standoff.

It seems to improve the chance the kids will make the safe choice and take both the possible Goa’ulds-in-sheep’s-clothing out at the same time. Sadly, this in turn lessens the chances a well-zapped Danny is any mood the night that follows for … extracurricular activities.

You know where all this I-don’t-want-to-be-in’tarred stuff is coming from. Danny, in pursuit of an ideal, will allow nothing to stop him. It’s for this reason you still have him around after fatal staff wounds, egregious torture with Goa’uld hand devices and malevolent body-switching aliens. However, military training, no matter how much Danny believes in you or George or Sam or Teal’c, is not on his list of things to suffer for. And pretty much you’ve all made him suffer. Not that Carter hasn’t gotten zapped more than a few times herself. But she’s got all that Air Force get-up-and-go that allows you to take shit for God and Country.

So, at 0100, Teal’c will run the latest crop through the force-them-to-leave-one-behind exercise and then you’ll do your Goa’uld debut. You’ll all know when Teal’c breaches the emergency hatch on the south side of the mountain so until then you just sit in Hammond’s chair, running your hands over the smooth, cool cowhide, and listen to Danny mutter over the stack of translations he insisted on bringing along with him.

"Leather chair, Danny," you tempt.

It nets you a distracted "Huh?"

And this time you sing-song it. "Lea-ther ch-air."

"Jack, this is the general’s office!"

That Daniel can sound so much like a card-carrying member of the Moral Majority when you know what he likes to do with whipped cream and maraschino cherries is a great mystery you have never solved.

"And we’re on camera!"

"No sound," you point out.

"Like the NID couldn’t find someone who reads lips."

"I can read lips." Four feet away and you can feel him narrow his eyes. "And my lips can read Braille … all those interesting little bumps and dips. By the way, do you realize you have a star shaped mole on your—"

"Jack!"

You have just scandalized a person who can (and has) read the Kama Sutra in its original Sanskrit.

~oOo~

"We’re on."

Danny puts down his papers with a shuffling sound while you make one more pass at the room, touching the pieces of furniture one last time like you think they’ve moved while you’ve been sitting and listening to Danny mutter to himself in Sumerian.

"You ready, Jack?" Hammond would normally be lording over the whole affair in security, but instead he’s sticking his head in to see if you’ve developed stage fright.

"Good to go, sir."

You’re pretty sure, despite your hearty reassurance, that meaningful looks are being exchanged between your linguist and one bald-headed, Texan general.

"Davis will ring twice when they’re on their way."

You wave in his direction. "We’ll be waiting. Chomping at the bit. Eager as a beaver."

~oOo~

You pick up the phone, yelling over the unexpected wailing blare at Davis. "I thought we didn’t use the siren!"

Fuck.

"Would you repeat that, Sergeant?"

Fuckity. Fuck.

"Danny," you say, not realizing you’ve reached out into the darkness until a strong hand clasps yours and you grasp it back convulsively. "We’ve got a security breach. Possible foothold. I’m not kidding here. The real kind." The phone connection crackles with the sound of energy weapons then goes silent.

"Stay here, Jack. And keep down!"

"No! Daniel!" Danny’s hand strips itself from your grasp. The door slams itself shut and you try desperately to crush the general’s handset in your fingers. "Damn it!"

You’re pretty good with weapons identification. Staff blasts and zats and the ricocheting sound of P90s. You heard the blast doors bang shut almost immediately. You were a good little soldier and took cover as ordered, crouching behind the desk, knowing these days that all you’re good for in a firefight is providing a distraction to your own side.

"Jack!" The side door thumps open. "We’ve got to fall back!"

Making your way in a kind of blind duck waddle you find yourself suddenly anchored by Danny’s strong arm around your chest and hefted to your feet. He holds you with one hand and fires the P90 he’s gotten from somewhere with the other, the rebound rattling back through his body into yours.

It’s like nothing so much as riding one of those motion rides with your eyes closed and the special effects dousing you every so often in smoke and unnamable liquids. You careen off other warm bodies and belatedly realize you’re being protected, surrounded by Daniel and the others.

Daniel pushes you into a sharp turn, stopping long enough to plant your hand on the railing and gasp, "Stairs, Jack, we’re going up." His voice sounds raspy and raw and you wonder if he’s hurt, but then he takes your arm and wraps it round his waist. "Just hold on to me."

You want to ask if he’s okay. Hell, you want to see. Instead you concentrate on following his body with your own, with lifting your legs high enough to mount unseen risers. Halfway up, you slip and someone’s hands catch you from behind as Danny resolidifies his grip.

~oOo~

"Daniel!" The second clue that something is wrong is the clear alarm in Janet’s voice as you are dragged into the infirmary.

"Take care of Jack," he rasps as you are suddenly released to free float in the blackness, your heart pounding in your ears.

"Daniel?"

A warm hand grips your wrist momentarily. "I’ve got to…" What is surely a staff blast reverberates from the corridor. "Gotta go, Jack."

Fuck. Okay, so you’re a one-syllable kind of guy, but that one syllable pretty much conveys your current emotional state ‘cause you are fucking useless in the fucking dark.

"Come on, Colonel." Janet is already pushing you toward the rear of the infirmary. "We’ve got to move these people." She halts you, slapping your hand against the end of one of the beds to orient you. "I need you to help Lt. Sanderson." The mattress shakes against your hand. "Up and at ‘em, Lieutenant. The emergency evacuation plan calls for us to move everyone to Level 19. Jack, the lieutenant’s a little shaky. I need you to provide some support."

You’re hastily positioned and Sanderson’s arm is slung over your shoulders. "Move it!" orders Janet, her retreating voice testament to the fact she’s already moved past you.

~oOo~

"How bad is he hurt?"

Janet is a flurry of motion somewhere off to your right. "Who, Jack?"

"Daniel. I could hear it, in his voice." You point your nose in the direction of Janet’s tired sigh. "How bad?"

"He was on his feet. He could still fire a gun."

You haven’t forgotten the rules of engagement. Haven’t forgotten you would have done the exact same thing to save you and yours. It’s only that this is Danny. A goddamn archaeologist, who’d probably never even heard the term "P-90" before he met you. You’re the soldier – for what little that’s worth these days.

Janet jerks at your hands, pulling you forward, startling you from your self-flagellation. "Press down here. Hard. And stay there ‘til I get back."

The low moans of the wounded surround you. You’re not even sure where you are. Some place on Level 19 that’s deemed, temporarily, to be safe.

Viscous warmth turns chilled under your hands, the dam you’re providing doing little to slow the blood loss. It could be anyone under your weighted palm: Carter; Hammond; one of the fresh-faced cadets for whom this was all supposed to be a training exercise.

It is hard to find an anchor. You think of Danny’s steadying presence in the dark. Of the way his arm feels under your fingers, of sinewy muscle that leads to calloused hands.

"Colonel!"

The voice is not one you recognize.

"Teal’c …" there’s a gasp as the messenger tries to catch his breath. "We have to move. He says he can’t hold them."

You blink into the disconcerting darkness. "Where is he?"

"He provided distraction so I could get down here."

Fuck.

"Where’s Janet?"

"Janet?"

You realize it’s one of the kids, the trainees.

"Dr. Fraiser," you explain. Although it does no good, you lift your head searching for her. "Do you see her? Janet!" You swallow and try to find your best commanding officer tone, the one that can still cut through even this cacophony. "Janet!"

"Here." A small hand takes the one you, again, hadn’t realized was reaching out. "Here. I’m here."

"We’ve got to move."

"What? There are people that shouldn’t be moved, Jack."

Probably the one still losing blood under the press of your other hand is among them.

"No choice. Teal’c sent him," you point your chin in the direction you last heard the young voice, "to tell us they can’t hold them. We got to go down."

Down. Not up. The only decision to be made. Less chance that you will provide accidental access to the higher levels. In the end, if the foothold can’t be contained, whether or not you move people who shouldn’t be moved won’t matter. The mountain will be sacrificed.

"Okay," agrees Janet, undoubtedly knowing the same thing. "Okay."

In an instant, the warmth of her is gone from beside you and she is melding into the vast dark, shouting orders, sounding composed and sure.

"I’m going back." The voice is taut with determination.

Your free hand shoots out blindly again and the trainee hesitates. "You’re Sharpe, aren’t you?" You’ve suddenly connected the young voice to a name heard mainly in Teal’c’s disapproving tones. "I know you want to go back to Teal’c but somebody has to cover this retreat, and you and I are the only ones available. And I need eyes."

The rapid breathing slows a bit, "Yes, sir."

There is a rush of displaced air and Janet hunkers back down beside you. "We’re going. It’ll take a few minutes though. I don’t have enough healthy bodies to carry the wounded ones."

She tries to move your hand from where it’s gone numb in your effort to maintain constant pressure and you find yourself fighting to maintain your hold. "You can stop now, sir," she says quietly.

"Too late?"

The small hand covers your bloody one. "Too late."

 

~Daniel~

I have nightmares. Have always had nightmares, actually. At least since that … day in New York. They used to be all falling stonework: heavy bulwarks of rosy granite and pale yellow sandstone crashing down to pin me, still conscious, but trapped, sometimes dying, to a tiled floor.

Now they’re all about me being separated from a wounded Jack. Most of them in caves or other subterranean structures, phantasmagoric stand-ins for my subconscious, for that part of me that doubts my strength. That part of me that doubts Jack’s.

So this isn’t really my nightmare because Jack was fine the last time I saw him.

And I’m the one with the staff-like blast cauterizing my side. Not that much bleeding at the moment but the pain is … distracting. Okay, I’m not Teal’c -- it’s more than distracting, but distracting is all I can let it be.

I am not dying down here having left Jack behind.

~oOo~

The invaders are alien.

Not that everyone we meet these days isn’t an alien, But these are alien aliens. There’s no category to put them in. Their morphology is vaguely feline. Their weapons: Jaffa staffs or the near equivalent. Their clothing with its stripes and insignias shows a hierarchical social structure. Orders are given and received in a high pitched tone, part of which may be beyond the hearing of anything on base except the security dogs they keep up NORAD-way.

One thing we’ve discerned -- they know the Goa’uld. Intimately. They carry the spoils of battle on their chests, like metals. Among them I see the intricately curved cases of Goa’uld hand devices. Small bits of what looks like Gou’ald bone structure.

They have met the Goa’uld in battle.

And they have, apparently, triumphed.

We take another corridor. For they are moving. They have … purpose.

~Jack~

"Come on, Sharpe."

Footsteps that you should be hearing clearly are too soft and distant. The kid is lagging, watching your wounded, retreating six way too closely. Or way too far away.

"Sharpe!"

"Sir …" You don’t like the way this is hissed. Too low. Too panicked. "They’re coming!"

Fuck.

"Sharpe, get your butt back here." Now there’s running. You hold out a hand, waving it until you catch a BDU-clad bicep. "We need cover." You find yourself swiveling your head, trying to see in a way you haven’t in a long, long time. "What am I looking at?"

"It’s a corridor, sir."

"I know that!" God, Daniel, even in his first na´ve days, when he was all hair and wide blue eyes, would done a better job. "Describe it! What kind of cover do we have?"

"There’s an elevator shaft to your left."

"Any chance they’ve been using this space for extra storage?"

"Yeah, there are some drums …"

"Then we set up there." You pull the somewhat resisting body further down the corridor, your other hand gripping the handle of the P-90 Janet reluctantly turned over to you. You’re trying not to think of how fittingly the phrase "broad side of the barn" applies in this situation.

~Daniel~

There are twenty-eight levels to Cheyenne Mountain.

So far we’ve managed to contain them to the bottom nine, but things are not looking good. There are times I wonder how I came to be guarding the Earth with a phallic-looking alien weapon all because I had to prove the old academic guard wrong and point out that the damn pyramids were really a lot older than most of the people at Oxford believed.

Peering around another corner, I can’t help but wonder where Jack is and if he’s safe. Right until an energy beam takes off a chunk of reinforced concrete just about at the height of my nose and my mind moves momentarily to more urgent matters. I left him in Janet’s hands so he should be all right.

Assuming he didn’t wander.

Assuming he’s not out battening down hatches he can’t see.

But somehow I know he is.

If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be … Jack.

~Jack~

Drums. Not that you’re sure what they’re drums of, as all you know is they’re cool and curved and metallic against your palm.

"Sharpe?"

The kid tends to wander, his one Daniel-like trait. When it’s all the other Daniel-like traits you could really use right now. Like his brains and his ability to make sense out of the most senseless and musical of unknown tongues and, if those failed to deliver, his rather newfound ability to deliver a marksmanship score that makes Carter envious.

You know he’s not your naive archaeologist any more. But you also know how those little gasps of pain separated his words the last time you heard his voice.

"Sharpe!"

The damn kid better get back here. You can hear the strange high-pitched whine of the aliens’ communication.

Fuck.

You press your cheek against the cooling metal of the drum then spin the P-90 in the direction of the footsteps that click toward your unguarded back.

"It’s me, Colonel. I was looking for a way out."

"No one is going out, Sharpe," you hiss back. "We’re here to make sure that’s exactly what they don’t do."

"There’s too many, sir. We’ll never hold them."

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. The word cannot be repeated too often.

"Okay, fine, look … you found a back door? You go out it and find Teal’c or Hammond or Major Carter. Tell them you’ve got a nice foothold committee meeting going on in Corridor …" Not that you know what the hell corridor it is you’re cowering in.

"D-5," supplies Sharpe.

"Tell them to slam down the bulkheads and cut off the air vents. I doubt they came prepared for an anaerobic environment."

"What are you going to do?" He’s breathing so fast that in a minute the aliens won’t have to subdue him -- he’ll hyperventilate his way into unconsciousness.

"I’m going to charm them into submission."

"Sir, if we cut off the oxygen in here, you’ll …"

"I got that part, Sharpe." You reach and unlatch the ID bracelet from around your wrist. The one everyone assumes says "Jack O’Neill" on the front in Braille, just like it does in engraved English on the reverse. The one that says, instead, in a kind of modern parody of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription that appeals to brainy archaeologists: Beloved of Daniel. "If this works," you search for his hand, dropping the bracelet in his open palm, "give that to Dr. Jackson."

"Yes, sir."

"So, go," you order, still remembering how to bring that certain confidence to a command that gives your subordinate no room to question.

"Yes, sir."

~oOo~

You’ve done a lot of things since the world went dark. Things that made your own personal archaeologist very nervous, though he tries his best to keep it to himself: that Teal’c lets you spar with him and, though he is exceedingly gentle for a Jaffa, he still roundly puts you on your ass when you deserve it; that you wrap your arms around Carter’s taut waist after straddling the back of her Harley and take the mountainous curves at a speed only slightly less than supersonic. These things Danny lets you do with only a slight gritting of his teeth apparent in his voice.

Danny has long forgiven you for being … you.

He will not forgive you for this, though. Although, you hope he’ll come to understand that you’re doing your one last bit for God and Country and, mostly, for everyone in these concrete confines that you love.

You hear them coming, a steady, martial march and you clutch the little switch that adds the see-me-I-am-Goa’uld flash to your otherwise useless eyes. The little box that gives your voice a Goa’uldish edge has already been switched on.

Rising on complaining knees, you pray that you won’t trip and land flat on your face. And you step from the cover of the barrels with a not-to-be-disobeyed, "Halt!"

A startled alien sounds remarkably like a startled human. Steps halt. Breaths huff out. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be simply shot in short order. But it’s oddly … reassuring. You might be able to keep these guys occupied long enough for Sharpe to find someone to put your desperate plan in motion.

~ Daniel ~

"Sam, thank God."

The room I’ve burst into luckily contains an intense-looking Sam in almost direct interface with the base security system.

"Reversing the ventilation now."

"What are we doing?" The schematic on the screen pulses red to show where the bulkheads have slammed down.

"There’s a large phalanx of the aliens in corridor D-5. We’ve sealed the bulkheads and are reversing the ventilation system. We figure even they need oxygen."

The cameras are still functioning and the black and white feed reveals fifty or so of the aliens milling in the shut-off corridors.

"How did you know to trap them there?"

I hadn’t noticed before now how pale Sam was, but she’s practically the color of fresh parchment. She gestures toward a body slumped in one of the chairs. It’s one of the trainees looking shell-shocked. "Jack…"

"Jack?" I question, looking around. "Is he hurt?"

Apparently Sam has just now really seen me. She grows even paler when she spots the slowly spreading stain of red making its way down my side. "You’re hurt, Daniel." She tries to pull me into the chair she’s just vacated.

"Dr. Jackson?" I’m fighting against Sam’s pull and losing, but only inch my inch, until the trainee gasps my name. "He said if it worked I should give you this."

There is something shiny and metallic clasped in his hand. The chill I remember coming over me when the last settling crash resounded as two tons of rock dropped to the floor of a New York museum slips its icy hands down my backbone. The fingers I hold out to retrieve whatever he is going to hand me are shaking: shaking so badly that I can barely hold on to the thick silver links to run my thumb over the raised Braille.

"Daniel?" Sam’s voice sounds very far away and it’s with this same disembodied feeling that I realize my knees have given and I’ve landed on my injured side on the cold concrete floor. The pain jars me to some kind of wakefulness, but in truth I don’t want to be awake. Don’t think I can live with what the cool touch of metal in my hand must mean.

~Jack~

In your time you have pissed off some seriously heavyweight beings. Senators, Generals, Tok’ra and even a few Goa’uld can be counted among the I’ve-tried-to-kill-Jack-and-failed alumni. That doesn’t mean you have ever taken for granted how quickly life can be taken from the living. You have only to think of a mislaid gun and a child you loved.

And standing in the dark in the D-5 corridor pretending you are Apophis is not a ruse that is likely to work for very long. Just, you hope, long enough.

Communication difficulties are always good for a few lost minutes. And without Danny (and even giving Danny’s genius its due, possibly with him) the sibilant whistling that passes for these guys’ language is untranslatable.

But even if they didn’t get "halt", they were startled enough to cautiously snap their weapons to ready, the crackling sounding scarily like the opening of a staff weapon. A sound you know too well.

Your voice sounds deep and resonant and gives you nearly the creeps that hearing Danny sound this way does. You try to quickly come up with some sufficiently arrogant rejoinder to having multiple staff weapons primed in your direction and then decide it probably doesn’t matter. Unless they have a universal translator they probably have no idea whether you’re speaking English or gibberish. Though there is one word they probably would recognize.

"I trust you know the word ‘Goa’uld.’"

Oh, they know it all right. What sounds like at least a dozen weapons do an alien version of snap, crackle, pop as they’re aimed more firmly in your direction. The tip of one of them is poked against your shoulder, leaving a numbed, tingling feeling behind like you’ve stuck your finger in a light socket.

"Not a big fan, huh?" you observe.

The staff tip is poked with more force and you have to fight the grimace.

"Hey! Kree! Cut it out!" You slap the thin body of the staff away and hear a kind of snarling whistle. What feels like talons cut their way into your suddenly captured arm. You knew your performance would be short-lived, but you’d hoped it would last a little longer than this.

The arm the talons must be attached to hauls you in a tight circular turn, the object of which, you quickly discover, is to give them access to the back of your neck. A hard, sharp claw is drawn down the narrow vertebrae at the base of your skull. Less because you’re still trying to play a Goa’uld and more because you just don’t feel like being manhandled by the alien-of-the-week, you jerk away from the touch.

"Kree’ta!" More of Danny’s vocabulary lessons have made it into your brain than you’ll ever admit to. "Rin’tel’noc!"

That you are in dangerous territory here is past being a given. In truth, even if you could see, you’d be screwed at this point and it’s been a while since you could even summon Danny’s face properly in your mind’s eye. You suspect you’ve given into the habits of the blind, turning your ear rather than your eyes toward whoever is speaking and you self-consciously point your nose in the direction of the head whistler.

But your little charade is over. Multiple sets of pointy-clawed hands grab and hold you and you are frog-marched out a bulkhead obviously not locked down. Your only hope is that the patter of footsteps sounds like there’s only three or four of the whistling guys and, maybe, the others will stay put long enough for Sharpe to follow orders.

~Daniel~

"You with me, Daniel?"

"Jack?" I mumble before I’m fully aware that I’m lying on the floor in the remains of a makeshift infirmary.

"Daniel?" repeats Janet, shaking my shoulder.

As much as I want to slip back into the darkness, Janet won’t let me. "Daniel, we need to move again." Her hand tightens on my arm. "Come on, we have to go."

It’s irrational, but as I pull painfully upright, Janet supporting me, my hand clenches in search of the silver links I’d been holding, only nothing is there. "Jack’s bracelet…" I scrabble my fingers along the floor.

"Daniel." Small hands stop my desperate search. "It’s okay. I’ve got it."

Her eyes are tired and lined with red. She has lost more people than I know.

~Jack~

This is the second time today you’ve been dragged through the corridors of Cheyenne Mountain. You’re not really sure why they’re actually bothering, seeing as they should have figured out you’re either the damn weakest Goa’uld they’ve ever encountered or you’re faking the whole flashing-eyes shtick. But, hey, you’re still alive, which counts for something.

Being manhandled along, you worry briefly about where Danny might be but the question is unanswerable and you really need to concentrate on putting your feet one in front of another because every time you stumble you’re turned further into a fleshy pincushion by the claws gripped around your arm.

You just hope wherever Danny is …he’s nowhere near these guys.

~Daniel~

"Jack’s …" I stumble momentarily over the name, closing my eyes, "Jack’s plan," I repeat. "Did it work?"

"Yeah," replies Janet tightly, her arm around my waist is just about the only thing keeping me from toppling over. "At least from what they could see on camera."

"Radios still down?"

"Sam thinks they’ve got some kind of jamming device. Teal’c’s deploying runners between the levels." Janet leans me against a wall for a moment, both of us needing to catch our breath. The rest of the walking wounded have already hobbled their way down the stairs that lie beyond the next corner. "They’re on 28, 25 and—"

"Here," I finish, hearing the echo of steps and the bleat of their whistling communications.

"Here," Janet agrees. "That’s why we were trying to move. A few of them escaped the trap on 19." She tugs me upright again, wrapping my arm around her, tightening the grip on my waist. I want to stay vertical; I really do, but the few remaining supplies of the mobile infirmary didn’t include much more than a vial of morphine, which, while taking the edge of the burning ache in my side, did nothing to improve the chances of me staying on my feet. It may be, too, that the will I usually scrounge from somewhere, for Jack’s sake if not my own, is lying somewhere with him in an airless corridor in section D.

"Jack was covering our six," she continues when I can’t find the strength to move. "If I let that be for nothing, he’ll never forgive me."

Under this assault I manage to lock my shaky knees. If I let anything happen to one diminutive doctor because I was feeling sorry for myself, Jack will never forgive me, either.

~Jack~

You’re thinking you’ve figured out this whole whistling thing. The whole time you’ve been with them you’ve heard lots of high-frequency whistles, but not one time have you heard the distinct click of a mechanical communications device or even the familiar hiss of static and you’ve concluded these guys are the alien equivalent of elephants, at least communications-wise and they’re chatting over vast distances sans anything from Radio Shack. It’s not for nothing that the family subscription to National Geographic comes in both print and Braille. Although they definitely sound more super than sub-sonic, ultrasonic frequencies that can make it through even the reinforced concrete.

If Danny were here, you’d bask in the momentary glow of impressing your own MENSA-card-carrying genius with your erudition. As it is, you’re tenderized again by now-familiar claws who want you to hurry up in your stumbling.

In truth, unlike Danny, you’ve always felt intellectual victories were hollow ones and the only real victory you want is for these guys to retreat through whatever wormhole they came through with their tails – literally, if they have them and proverbially if they don’t – tucked between their legs.

~Daniel~

Janet gives a little cry of surprise when, as we turn the corner, a small party of the enemy does the same at the opposite end of the straight hallway. A staff blast sends us back around the corner but not before I catch a heart-stopping glimpse of a thankfully-still-breathing Jack, surrounded and captive in their midst. It’s hard to believe in gods and guardian angels when you’ve seen the works of the Goa’uld, but, for Jack, I’ve almost come to believe there is some Jack-specific Cosmic Deity at work. Not an entirely benign Diety, no, not when It was responsible for leaving Jack in the permanent dark, but some kind of universal force that’s got bigger plans for Jack than my admittedly small and self-serving ones.

I only want Jack to be safe and live happily.

At times, I only want to be safe and live happily beside him. The fate of the universe be damned.

The universe, as always, though, appears to have other ideas.

~Jack~

You know that gasp. It’s not a whistle or a chirp or a click. That’s a human gasp – Janet’s gasp.

You know it well. You can, amazingly, still sneak up on the woman; well, if you put the cane away and tiptoe, hand against the cool infirmary wall, the ten steps from the side infirmary door to the door of her office where you wait, listening for the telltale rustling of the paperwork-beleaguered. It’s the only practice at infiltration you get these days.

Again you find your brain trying isometric exercises to force the impossible – to see through eyes no longer there.

"Janet, run!" you command, as if command is still a right you can exercise.

An unamused hand deepens the perforations in your shoulder. And, with an energy you’d previously lacked, you slap at the bony fingers. "Quit that, will ya?" You grimace as this only causes further tightening into your protesting flesh. "Janet?" you whisper, hoping against hope that you won’t get a reply.

"Sorry, Jack."

You nod at the doc’s apology. You understand. "You okay?"

"I’m fine. Daniel’s not so good."

Ah fuck.

"Danny?"

 

~Daniel~

Jack’s shoulder is bleeding but, other than that, he seems in amazingly good shape despite being manhandled by one of the staff-toting rank and file. A quick glance at the quartet that was quick-marching him shows few bells and whistles that might be rank insignias so I’m guessing that these are just lower ranked delivery boys, or girls, or, according to whatever their physiology may be, something in between.

I reach a hand out to Janet to steady myself, the morphine clearly doing nothing for either my balance or my thought processes. I hear her say "Daniel’s not so good" and am overcome with a Jack-like fit of giggling. Ya’ think? By that time though, the corridor is seriously tilting and I don’t think it’s the fault of the stabilizers that were put in the mountain way back when to help withstand nuclear bombardment.

"Danny?"

I hear Jack’s concerned tone but my tongue seems to be under the same control as my legs. Poor Janet gives a muffled grunt as she tries to catch more than her own weight and I’m rapidly horizontal again on cool concrete.

"Danny!" echoes through the corridor followed by a pained, exasperated "Yow! I told you to quit that." And, somehow, Jack is free of his captors and colliding into me as he slides to my side. Hands gently pat along my ribs, recoiling from the tape-up job that Janet did over the burn.

Janet, with the instincts of an Air Force major I often forget she is, has put herself between Jack and the advancing armed contingent.

"Jack …" I reach out to still his hands. He flinches at the horrible thud that echoes when one of the aliens dispatches our petite guardian with what is, thankfully, the less-fatal end of his staff.

His head shoots up and he tries futilely to look around. "Doc?"

At the muffled groan he gets in reply, he pats his way down my legs, arcing his hands along the floor until he finds her. I reach after him, but the pain cramps in my side and I bite my lip to hold in the moan.

~Jack~

Your knees hit the concrete hard, the recoil jarring through your shoulders, your palms slamming into the unyielding flooring, fast movement taking away your sense of position, the where and when of your body. Soft warmth brushes along one jammed wrist.

Danny.

The first cloth you encounter is stiff and tacky with drying blood and, fingertips flying, you skim lightly along gauze and cloth tape. Your fingers dampen slightly as you ghost the pads of your fingers against the haphazard square.

Damn it.

Your fingers curl slightly, right before they’re captured by familiar warmth and you lean forward toward him, this small moment of greeting broken by the dull thud of metal against bone.

No. No. No.

"Doc?"

Her groan is low and throaty and your hands yank automatically from Danny’s. Left. To the left. You pat your way down Danny’s legs, feel the solidity of his heavy boots.

And that high-pitched whining you hear better not be laughter because you swear … hitting a healer half your size, one who would have bound even the enemy’s wounds had she gotten a chance …

Danny’s hand catches you on the leg, steadying you, holding you back from illusions of grandeur that would just end up with you, too, lying in a wounded heap.

Janet is stirring, groggily asking if you need help.

As the return of the claws makes an entirely new set of perforations in your shoulder, you have to admit that maybe you do.

~Daniel~

Jack flexes his hands as he sits, wrists propped on his knees, long fingers stretching and curling, working out his agitation in small, sharp bursts of motion. Occasionally he pivots his feet up onto his heels, letting his booted toes tap loudly against the concrete, his desperate need to pace going unfulfilled.

The fact that he can’t see has done nothing to dim his need to not sit still.

Beside him Janet leans her head gingerly back against the hard coolness of the wall, the slight movement immediately making Jack halt.

"Doc?" he inquires in a voice gentle with concern.

"I’m okay," she sooths, her hand wrapping his, their clasp settling atop one hard knee. "Just a headache."

"Janet …" he stretches the name out, low and doubting, and gets a concession.

"Maybe a slight concussion."

"The ringing thing?"

"Tinnitus," corrects Janet absently.

Jack shifts a little. "Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt." As he muses, the hand not holding Janet’s does a minute tactile examination of the tear in the fabric covering his other knee.

To say that I wasn’t exactly surprised to find out there were malevolent, symbiotic aliens and planet-eating mini-machinery wouldn’t strike that many people as odd – after all, I was the academic pariah who claimed Wallace Budge didn’t know his ass from a funerary cone.

To say that what actually did surprise me -- more than Goa’ulds or Replicators – was Jack … well, that might be a surprise.

And after six years, I still know only partly know how his mind works.

"Daniel?" This is said so pointedly that I know he’s previously failed to rouse me. "You okay?"

He’s swiveled his face toward Janet in order to hear me better, his bottom lip is caught between his teeth, suffering the effects of his concentration.

"I’m fine, Jack."

This only elicits a low groan. "I’ve looked up the word ‘fine’, Daniel. You don’t use it correctly."

~Jack~

"I know the meaning of the word, Jack."

At least you know that he still feels good enough to be feisty. If he hadn’t been … from the very moment you first saw him frown at a blackboard of painstakingly translated hieroglyphics and start rubbing them out with abandon … well, you’d have figured he was just another hopeless geek – destined to spend social occasions staring at his shoes and good for nothing but providing cannon fodder to the enemy.

You didn’t know you loved him then, but you noticed him in an off-handed manner: too thin bony wrists; hair flopping as he wrote in emphatic, chalky strokes; nice ass.

You knew you loved him only when he lay dying on the floor of a Goa’uld ship and he told you rather forcefully to leave him behind – and you did, because as precious and beautiful as love is, saving everyone else’s loved ones trumps it and always will.

For both of you.

"Daniel?" Your concern has roused the doctor’s own protective instincts and she leans forward, muffling the groan deep in her throat, her side pressing warmly against yours.

"I’m fine, Janet."

"See," you point a finger in Daniel’s direction, "that is not the Miriam Wimbley definition."

"Merriam-Webster," he corrects automatically, causing you to smile. "I think we need to get out of here."

In your mind’s eye, you can see Danny reaching to rap a hand against the wall, emphasizing his point. A point on which you can wholeheartedly agree, only with the two of them injured and you blind …

Fuck it all.

"Can you make out what they’re saying?"

There is a hush of air as Danny slowly puffs out a breath. "There’s clearly a chain of command. When the head … whatever gives an order, the tone changes and there’s this little click that’s reminiscent of the palatal clicking sounds in Khoisan."

Danny puts tongue to palate and produces a little popping sound.

"That get any attention?" I question, not hearing any reaction.

He tries again, louder than before, then settles back with a sigh. "Cats never did like me."

"Cats?’ This is a surprise. "We’re being invaded by tabbies?"

"Six-foot tabbies with really big guns."

"Great," you mutter, throwing up your hands in the darkness. "That little trick of mine get any of them?"

"The one where you almost died as asphyxiation?"

Even hopelessly outgunned and held captive in your own corridor, it is still Danny that manages to make you swallow thickly in remorse. "Um, yeah, but it’s not like it didn’t all work out."

"Yes, well, while I admit it’s better than you lying dead in D-5, Jack, it’s not exactly optimal."

"Hey, doc …" The lack of argument from your right-hand side starts to worry you and you give a shake to the hand you’re still holding until the entwined fingers start to grasp back.

"Sorry, Jack, I’m here."

She shifts against you, the wince of pain stiffening her muscles and you slowly blink against the darkness, the tender skin of your eyelids scraping over too dry composite. And even Danny wouldn’t have thought to bring eyedrops to this party.

"What did I teach you is the first thing to do, Daniel?"

~Daniel~

This takes a minute, as what’s left of the morphine is still taking its toll on my already sluggish brain.

"Inventory," I finally report.

"So," prods Jack, "whatcha got?"

I blink at him, thinking surely this is just an academic exercise, none of us are in any shape to take on our captors.

"Daniel," he instructs, finding that slightly resonant tone he still uses on cadets and the Braille printer when it gets stubborn. "Report."

"Um," the morphine and blood loss has made my tongue stubbornly stick to the roof of my mouth. "Okay, we’re in the corridor outside the chem labs. Six of the bad guys and three of us." I feel the weight of metal in my pocket as I carefully shift to get a better view. "I’ve got your bracelet."

"So if we want to have a jewelry show, we’ll be all set," he snaps back at me.

My palm curls around the comfort of the solid links. "Sorry," I murmur, closing my eyes as I try to regain my bearings.

"Try again, Daniel." This is murmured in a low, reassuring tone and it makes me laugh softly.

"Don’t tell me that we’re not screwed, Jack."

When he doesn’t respond I force my gaze past him to the knot of invaders whistling around the door.

"What do you see?"

Okay, report. I can do that. I can be Jack’s eyes anytime. Even if I think the effort is academic, Jack deserves all the information I can give him. That Jack knows this and might be considered a damn manipulating bastard is part of the strength that got him to colonel.

~Jack~

"Corridor," Daniel reports, "usual gray walls, gray floor, cluster of pipes overhead: one red, one yellow."

"What’s the yellow one for?"

"Decontaminant." Janet sounds weaker and I re-firm my grip on her hand.

"Anything hazardous to kitties?"

"Probably in the labs," supplies Daniel.

"How close are we to them?"

"Organic-1 is just across the hall."

"What kind of goodies do you think they’ve been cooking up in there?"

"Bacteria from NK-3923, that cold virus from PV-0891," says Janet as she shifts a bit.

"We can – what? – give them the sniffles with that? Don’t those geeks play with anything dangerous?"

"Fero-toxin," says Janet.

"What?"

"Those shiny echidna-like things that shot quills at SG-eight." Janet’s suddenly levered herself more upright, pulling her hand from yours. "Doses through the skin. Nasty stuff. Major Gonzalez nearly didn’t make it. But full incubation is several hours…"

"I was thinking something more immediately lethal."

"If Dr. Flynn was here," Daniel muses sounding worryingly sleepy, "he could talk them to death."

"Frank Flynn could talk anything to death." He has Daniel’s vocabulary but without the lyricism and pure joy in sharing that makes learning from Daniel an adventure. With Frank you’re mainly just battered to death which unpronounceable seven-syllable chemical nomenclature: dimethylwhatsits and sodiumwhosits.

"We’re screwed," you finally confess when your brain fails to come up with anything more than a diatribe on Danny’s least favorite chemist.

"Now you’re talking," murmurs Daniel and your hand is enveloped in his. "Think we should rest while we can."

So you close your eyes, then finding you can’t bear the discomfort, open them again. Not that it makes any difference. Either way, the corridor is a vast, dark space and you are anchored only by the exhausted breaths of the two bodies beside you.

~oOo~

"Jack?"

Said as it is, with the slightest rising lilt on the end, you know that the wheels in Danny’s marvelous brain have been turning while you stared into nothing, his hand and Janet’s both clutched in yours, your ass going dead on the concrete floor.

"Daniel?" you return in the same tone.

"I think I thought of something."

He shifts a little and groans softly at the consequences.

"Go on," you say, rubbing a thumb along his knuckles in sympathy.

"I’ve been watching them and I don’t think things are going well."

"Why?"

"They seem a bit lost. Like they’re not sure what they’re doing. Plus," Daniel shifts against you again, "they haven’t marched us anywhere and they’re a lot quieter."

It is true that they seem to have put the kibosh on the whole humming thing.

"So, what’s the plan?"

"Actually, you thought of it first. Sort of …"

"Daniel," you warn. "You are not asphyxiating yourself. Only colonels get to do that."

"Ex-colonels," he reminds. "Besides the odds are not in my favor that you’d live through it twice. And we don’t have to kill them, just lock them up for a while."

"And how do we do that?"

Daniel shifts again and his hand brushes your arm after he disentangles it from your grasp and you, somehow, know he’s pointing upward. "Lab section."

"Yeah …"

"Bulkheads drop for quarantine."

"Daniel, locking them up is all well and good but locking them up with us isn’t exactly what I had in mind."

"You got a better idea?"

"That would be a ‘no’," you admit, dropping your head forward to relieve the tension in your neck. "So you’re thinking one of us, the healthy, able-bodied, is going to hit the emergency switch?"

"Thinkin’ it," replies Daniel. "Not sure how we’re going to manage it, but thinkin’ it."

"I’ll go for the button," you volunteer, "just tell me where it is."

"Across the hall about 45 degrees to the left of your position."

A totally inappropriate smile – well given the seriousness of the situation – lights your face at Danny’s grasp of military-speak. "You actually listened at battle camp, didn’t you, Dr. Jackson."

"Well, given that those paint balls sting, yeah, I listened," Daniel grouses.

The light mood almost instantly vanishes.

"I’m going to need a distraction. As big of one as you can make."

"What do you need me to do?" questions Janet softly.

You feel Daniel shift beside you, testing his limbs and, maybe, his resolve.

"Give me a shove in the right direction when the time comes."

And it comes quicker than you think as Daniel pushes himself to his feet and staggers across your path. You get your knees under you and Janet shoves you in the direction of the wall. Danny’s yelling how he can’t take it any more while you scrabble for the box with the big, red button on it. You hit it just about the time you hear the sound of Daniel hitting the floor and then there are sirens and the metallic scrape of the bulkhead doors and, if you could see it, the flashing red light bolstering the screaming of the alarm.

"Gotcha," you say, stumbling back across the other side of the dark divide of the hall. "Danny?" you ask, because it is Janet’s arms that catch you and because you heard the thump of flesh meeting concrete. The whistling is strident and discordant and unmistakably, even without consonants and vowels, pissed. Something hard, possibly the same staff they dispatched Janet with earlier, takes an angle across your forehead and you’re down, too, imagining you’re seeing stars, white flashes in the usually unbreachable darkness.

~Daniel~

"Not happy," slurs Jack, a hand reaching for the bruise on his temple, mine quickly clasping the wayward fingers and bringing them back down to his side.

"I know you’re not happy, Jack."

Jack’s hand slips its digits along mine. "Still got all your fingers and toes?"

"Ten of each." I’m just hoping he won’t mention the hole in my side, the one that’s started bleeding again, because I don’t think I could lie convincingly right now.

"Doc?" Jack asks, rising up.

Janet reaches across, reassuring him. "Right here."

"Our guests?"

"Trying to blast their way out," I supply.

"Won’t work," opines Jack, reaching for his head again and wincing as fingertips make contact with the swollen knot.

"Think they’re figuring that out."

"Well, we got a few of them out of the way."

"Four," I count.

"Better than three," says Jack, looking on the bright side.

~ Jack ~

"Heads up." Danny’s hand shakes your arm a little in warning and you straighten against the hard L where the corridor wall meets the floor.

"They still pissed?" Not that that’s not a given.

"I’m thinking that’s a ‘yes’," says Daniel, moving to intercept your captors by positioning himself in front of you, not that his ass isn’t just was wounded as yours at this point and needs to stay flat on the floor where it’s safe.

You can feel Janet doing the same maneuver at your other side and you let out a sigh, pushing palms against the cool concrete to lever yourself up. "Okay, it’s time I do the talking."

"They don’t talk, Jack."

"Sure they do," you reply, putting on your best smile. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."

"Oh good," Daniel’s voice is strained though he’s doing his best to hide it, "antagonize them, that’ll help."

"I think the slamming of the bulkheads probably iced our cake already," you put in. Which is not the way to lighten the decidedly gloomy mood. You twist as familiar claws tamp down on your already hole-punched shoulder, jerking you upright. "All right, all right." You counterbalance against the pull. "Give me a minute."

Fetid breath huffs close against the side of your face. "Geez, give up the stale tuna, would you? Bet you need to use that litterbox about now." The pain tightens on your arm and, knees protesting, you’re yanked across the corridor.

"I think they want you to push the button again," volunteers Daniel when you stand swaying before the wall.

"Why don’t they push it themselves?"

"They tried that, Jack."

"Didn’t work, huh?"

~Daniel~

A rolling sound like a muffled growl greets Jack’s observation and he’s hauled roughly, Janet and I both lurching forward only to be stopped by the crackling of a newly opened staff weapon. One of Jack’s ankles gives and he stumbles against his captor, a weakness I’d think he was feigning if I didn’t feel barely on my own feet, if Janet wasn’t looking as pale as death beside me -- both of us kneeling in postures not quite subservient enough for our guard. A staff slams against my shoulder, the reverberation arrowing straight to my side and I double over with a gasp.

"Hey!" Jack turns clumsily. "What are you doing?" He yanks his arm away from the clawed grasp. "Danny?"

"I’m here, Jack. I’m fine," I reassure, wincing a little at the look on Jack’s face when he hears the f-word.

"We talked about this." He manages to get a finger up to shake in my direction, wrestling against arms that try to ensnare him.

"Just push the button, Jack," I grit out. Jack ignoring his limitations may have save my butt in the past but I’m not willing to risk him further here.

Of course, pushing the button doesn’t work. Won’t work, but if Sam’s still in control of the security grid they know we’re here. The tiny blinking red light of the security camera winks above us reassuringly. If it just didn’t seem that they were taking their own sweet time…

Jack is flung back, falling against us in a tangle of limbs, an elbow catching my side so we both crumple in a heap, Janet scrambling to check us out, a deep hissing cementing the whole feline motif.

"Think I pissed off the pussy," whispers Jack as I try to disentangle myself. I’m essentially at crotch level, staring at the folds of the alien uniform. Jack’s hesitant, allowing me to move him, either worried he’ll hurt me or hurt, himself, more than he wants me to know. I look him over – battered, bruised and pale. "Danny?" he questions, raising a bloodstained hand. I run palms over his side, trying to find the source of the blood, but his shirt is dry, his body reassuringly warm under my touch. He squints his eyes, a gesture I haven’t seen in a long time, squints like he his trying to see and I realize, surprised, that it’s my own vision that’s dimming. He grunts and his arms come up clumsily and catch me as I fall against him.

~Jack~

Danny is solid and hugging him to your chest presses the breath out of you, but you don’t care. You’re not letting him go if it’s the last thing that you do. Janet, of course, has other ideas and she’s about the only one who could convince you to loosen your hold.

"Jack, let me see him."

Even then you’re reluctant to let go of the living weight but this is Janet and eventually you soften your grasp, feel him turned gently, limbs rearranged. His head lolls on your thighs and you keep your hands on the broad stretch of the shoulders.

"I need your shirt."

Stripping reawakens aches you were trying to forget about, but they’re instantly dismissed when Janet presses your hand firmly to the wadded cloth.

"Keep it there," she instructs.

"He okay?" you ask cautiously.

"For now, Jack." A small hand clasps warm above your wrist. "For now."

~oOo~

You breathe in tandem, Janet and you, Danny’s soft exhalations a counterpoint to the respirations. You’ve been counting, to keep track of the time. Five minutes, ten. You’ve made all the racket you can. If anyone’s at the controls, slamming the bulkheads should have been at least worth a glance. If they’re not up to their own ears. So you wait.

And you so suck at waiting.

Patience is Daniel’s forte – a man who can stare at the same hieroglyph for hour upon hour. The cloth under your hand is dampening and you press down harder, expecting a gasp, a complaint, anything, but there is only the soft huffs of breath.

And you wait a while more.

~oOo~

When it comes, it comes full force, in wall-shaking percussions -- okay, the walls are probably stable but the air is shaking for all it’s worth and you curl protectively over Danny’s oblivious form, holding on for dear life as explosions ricochet. You tear an arm away from your precious burden and reach for Janet, a deep breath catching in your throat until she reaches back and your fingers clasp, cold and hard. There’s no reply, though, but the sharp blasts of P-90s and the slightly off whine of the unfamiliar staffs. Concrete rains down in marble sized chunks and chest clogging dust and the bent C of your body isn’t near enough protection but it’s all you can offer, the hand not holding Janet’s grasping Daniel’s BDUs as tight your fingers can scrunch.

And then, suddenly, it’s over, the grunts and scuffing of boots a relative silence and you hold perfectly still, not giving up the slim cover you offer to Daniel or the clutch you still have on Janet’s hand.

"Jan?" Your mouth is dry and gritty with the dust-laden air.

"Sir!"

It’s definitely not Janet and, embarrassingly, it’s also the last thing you hear for quite some time.

~Daniel~

Sam is the first thing I see; she’s leaning over the rails of the bed, head turned as she talks to someone out of my line of sight. There’s a faint nimbus around her that means there’s more running through my veins than should naturally be there, which explains how the burning in my side has been replaced by a odd, gritty taste in my mouth and a too familiar heaviness in my limbs.

"Hey."

Sam’s smile is beautiful and comfortingly reassuring. Almost as good as seeing Jack myself because Sam’s no good with lying, not to me, so a smile – that smile -- means Jack’s okay.

"Hey yourself," Sam leans down, blue eyes almost level with mine.

"Jack?"

"You just missed him." She lays a hand on my arm when I manage to get enough muscles working in concert to frown. "He’s asleep," she explains.

"Ah, good?"

I really didn’t mean for that to be a question.

"It’s good," she reassures me. "He and Janet got tossed around a little, then he wouldn’t settle down until you were checked out." She moves to one side, allowing me a view of a familiar gray head bedded down across the way. If I had my glasses I could make out a little more, but he looks peaceful, head tilted and mouth slightly open in sleep. I try to remember that it was only this morning -- or maybe that’s yesterday morning – but, anyway, it hasn’t been that long ago that we were curled up together on a much more comfortable mattress.

"What happened?"

She looks around as if checking to see if anyone is going to shoo her away from the bed. "Well, we’d rounded up most of them when the bulkheads went down. Just took us a little while to get down there. We’ve got one down in lockup, only no one’s been able to communicate, we thought you might take a crack at." Her hand pats my consolingly. "When you’re up to it."

"Mmm," I mumble back, rapidly losing the ability to fight the effects of what Jack would call "the good stuff" and really not caring.

~oOo~

"I kept my head down."

Jack looks bent and worn, his hands worrying each other briefly before he clamps them self-consciously over his knees.

"Jack—" I start to offer.

"It’s what I’m supposed to do because I’d be more hindrance than help. Teach you that in blind school."

It’s less sarcasm in his voice than self-loathing and I reach a hand out though I know the comfort may not be accepted and, in the end, I draw it back before I make him flinch. "Jack—" I begin again and I do reach out this time as he pushes up, the plastic chair scrapping against the cold concrete. The sound loud in the infirmary’s quiet confines.

My hand grasps only air as my quarry is already out of reach.

"I’m okay. Janet’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay," I remind him. When this nets me a grimace and a further tightening of his hunched shoulders, I realize I sound like a 70s self-help book.

"Hole in the side?" Jack points to his own right flank. "Big, gaping hole in the side is not okay, Daniel." He’s wound up now – too many nights in the unfamiliarity of the infirmary, too much silence and waiting as I haven’t been the world’s best conversationalist lately -- and I know there’s no use trying to stop him. "It was a damn foothold situation. The world was almost overrun with six-foot tabbies and everything’s okay?"

"Jack, we didn’t lose anyone."

"Only by shear luck," he snaps.

"Yeah, well, it gets us by a lot." Because, really, it does – more often than we want to contemplate.

"I didn’t help."

"You nearly killed yourself trying," I remind softly. "And that really isn’t okay with me, Jack."

He shrugs this off with a hand wave. "That didn’t work either," he says, like this, too, is some kind of failure on his part.

Acceptance of the dark did not come easily, but it came in Jack’s style and Jack’s time and acceptance of this will be no different. I don’t so much help at moments like these as I fence in the places Jack’s allowed to stray, gently prodding him back from the depths where he could be lost.

"Come here," I say.

"Hmm?" He lifts his head, confused by this turn of events.

"Either that or I come over there," I threaten mildly, shifting against the sheets and letting off a theatrically soft groan that he doesn’t exactly fall for, but he does make his way over, palms held in a protective hands-forward manner, looking like he’s truly lost his way before he stops a few steps from the bed. "Come here," I emphasize, giving the mattress an audible pat.

"Why?" comes back at me suspiciously and he shuffles his feet a little, hesitating.

"’Cause I want to see you. Because," I take a quick, confirming look around the room, "we’re alone."

"Ah," he responds.

~Jack~

You know what Danny’s trying to do. You’ve gone and vented and done your little self-pity thing again and that’s gone and done it – "it" being getting Danny’s worry mode into hyperdrive when he really should be resting, getting back this strength.

It was tabbies for God’s sake – and he really is all right. You can hear the vigor back in his voice and the hands that fumble with yours are steady and encouraging. And he curls toward you in the bed, his warmth surrounding you, one arm pressed around the small of your back, one hand resting on your thigh as you sit. A chin – yes, definitely a chin – pressing into a point above your knee until you really are surrounded by the curve of his body.

"Danny," you sigh, half in exasperation, half giving back into the fears you’ve just tamped down. His hair is like cornsilk under your fingers and you stroke the short, sleek strands, getting a little murmur of satisfaction from the direction of your patella – a wordless "I’m okay."

"Janet says she’ll let me out tomorrow," comes a few minutes later, in sleepy, almost-contented tones and you palm the crown of his head only to feel him push up, look you in the eye -- as if there’s anything to be seen there. "I’m okay, Jack."

"I know that."

It’s your strength, not his, that you sometimes fear will give out.

~oOo~

Home. Before Daniel, before you got around by fingertip, it was a place to crash and that was all. Sure it held your stuff, gave you a place to lay your head, but it was just a house. Four walls. A sometimes-tended garden. A rarely-cleaned kitchen.

Now it’s a balm on your still jangling nerves. You know Cheyenne, know the corridors and the stairs and the gateroom. Know the way to the mess and the infirmary, know the fourteen by eight step confines of your officially-loaned office. But you know no place like this one. Know no sound like the exact echo of the foyer after the brief step up. Know no relief like shrugging out of your confining coat and standing your cane against the sharp corner, arm carefully around Danny’s waist, avoiding the wounded side.

"I can walk by myself, you know," he chides.

"I know," you say, tightening the hold minutely.

"You can walk by yourself," comes next, amusement in Danny’s voice.

"I know."

"Where exactly are you walking me to?"

"Bedroom. Rest. Relaxation. Janet’s orders."

You’re at the steps now, your foot automatically breaching the riser, Danny in lockstep.

"And you follow Janet’s orders."

"Rest," you return, tugging him ever so slightly as he slows, turning him, your hand finding the frame of the bedroom door. "Relaxation."

"Jack---"

"Doctor says--"

~Daniel~

Jack’s on automatic pilot now. As soon as he hits the door, the mental map that’s become subconscious takes over and it’s easy to forget he does this all by memory and some Jack-style radar. So convincing that I let myself be led. He’s in protective mode, like we’re off world, and there’ll be no arguing with him. Best just to give in and let him think I’m relaxing and sneak the laptop out later.

Besides, there’re benefits to an in-command Jack. Some that even my side won’t protest.

"Janet say anything about company in that bed?" I ask softly, turning in his grip to brush my lips over his cheek.

"Don’t believe she did," Jack says, face tilting slightly in my direction.

"Then we’ll take that as a given."

"Yes," agrees Jack, "we will."

~Jack~

You hold yourself above him, conscious of the wounded side, not wanting to put your weight on him. An odd feeling because, usually, Daniel can take all you can dish out and then some. As fragile as he had appeared at first glance, Danny was never actually anything but sturdy in mind and body. Still, you are careful, wanting to detract from his pain – not in any way wanting to add to it. You’ve done that enough already.

"Jack?" he prods because you’ve stopped what you were doing and the tone is laced with concern and just, you’re proud to say, a small bit of indignance.

So you return to your oral excavation, to the scent and touch and taste of him. And, in courtesy to the wounded side, you take it slowly and carefully and he only bucks once, a brief spasming upward before a sigh and your archaeologist is a boneless weight beneath you. His name nets you a barely coherent "mmm" and a twist of fingers in yours before another soft sigh and you know your part in relaxing Danny is done and you carefully disentangle yourself and go finish the job in the shower.

If he realizes, there’ll be a contrite archaeologist in the morning. And a contrite archaeologist is always a good thing.

~Daniel~

Seems we were just here, like this with morning sunlight throwing geometries across the pillows and if it wasn’t for the ache and the square of gauze I might could convince myself that it was only a few hours before Jack was due to play all-conquering Goa’uld. I’m vaguely aware of falling asleep right after Jack – well, let’s just say I’m vaguely aware of having come in a slow, steady, gentle sort of way and then waking up with Jack’s nose pressed into my bicep and a soft snoring tickling my arm. I can deduce the rest. Particularly from the clean, soapy smell of him and the wild way his hair stands on end when he’s gone to bed with it wet, as it does now, standing in silver, spiky tufts.

"Hey," I murmur.

The nose wrinkles momentarily. "It’s not a school day, mom."

"You let me fall asleep."

Jack rolls on his back with a groan. "Undisciplined equines couldn’t have stopped you," he mutters affectionately and the reminder of Teal’c’s influence on Jack’s otherwise flat mid-western speech makes me think of the mountain and the disgruntled feline tongue waiting to be translated.

Assuming Jack will let me out of earshot. And that’s a big assumption.

"Don’t even think it," he murmurs.

"Jack?" I return in my best innocent voice.

"I hear the wheels turning and we are staying right here today."

"Right here," I echo skeptically. As much as I love Jack, at this time of morning I love coffee equally.

"Well, no further than the kitchen. Maybe I’ll let you get the mail if you’re really good."

"Oh, I can be really good, Jack," I promise, grinning up at the ceiling like an idiot and not knowing quite why, except that we’re here and not in some gray and red-piped corridor.

A hand slaps my thigh. "You better be," he threatens, kicking his way out of the covers. "You’re going to owe me you know."

I open my mouth to point out that he was the one who let me fall asleep but he’s already deduced what I’m going to say.

"—for the coffee," he corrects. "The coffee I’m about to get." He points over his shoulder which happens to be the direction of the windows and beyond that, the back yard. But I get where he’s going with this. And he gets where he’s going too.

I owe him, I know. I owe him more than just for last night. I owe him for strength, for home, for volunteering to be in’tarred by SG-wannabes on my behalf and for fierce opposition to marauding tabbies.

Taking a day to provide a little payback is the least I can do.

END

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