'The Drake Equation' by Eos

Part 4

"Back me up," Jack whispered. Daniel nodded. Jack sprang out of the cabin, spear held high, racing to the spot from where the noise had originated. Daniel followed just a few steps behind.


Both Daniel and Jack stopped dead as Jacob Carter stepped into the light, hands held out in front of him.

"Jacob?" Jack said, thrown by the Tok'ra's unexpected appearance. "Are you...?"

"O'Neill, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, following Jacob into the clearing. Sam appeared immediately behind him.

"...alone," Jack finished.

"Col...whoa, hey!" Sam yelped, looking away.

"Sam, why don't you go back to the ship and get the spare clothes we brought with us," Jacob suggested. Sam mumbled and nodded and faded into the darkness again.

"Clothes...? Oh," Daniel said, looking down at himself.

"Hey, if we'd known you were coming, we would've dressed," Jack said easily.

"We wouldn't want you to go to any trouble on our account," Jacob said, an indulgent smile on his face. He nodded at Jack's hand. "You can put the spear down now, Jack."

"What?" Jack realized he was still holding the weapon in an attack position and quickly lowered it. "Sorry. We just don't get many visitors in this neck of the woods."

"Not the two legged kind," Daniel agreed.

"You both appear to have survived in good condition," Teal'c said.

"Uh...." Jack exchanged a look with Daniel. "Yeah, we're doing okay."

"That is a great relief," Teal'c said. "All your friends have worried greatly about your fate."

"As have we about yours," Jack said. "About your fate, I mean."

"I take it you got off P9S okay?" Daniel interrupted.

"We had no difficulty," Teal'c said. "Other than being unable to locate you."

"Um...sir," Sam said. She edged toward them, her eyes averted. Jacob stepped over and retrieved the bundle of clothing, passing it to Jack.

"If you'll excuse us," Jack said. He backed toward the cabin, dragging Daniel with him.

Once inside the cabin Daniel stared at the pile of green and black cotton as Jack began to dress. It suddenly struck him that their world had changed—again—and he began to wonder what rescue meant for them. Before Daniel could say anything to Jack, Jacob appeared in the doorway.

"Nice place," Jacob said.

"We were going for the rustic look," Jack said, buttoning his pants.

"You succeeded," Jacob observed dryly. Daniel finally grabbed the fatigues and began to dress, watching surreptitiously as Jacob looked around cabin. Daniel grimaced as he pulled on the boxers. He'd definitely gotten used to going naked; naked was much more comfortable. As he reached for a shirt, Daniel noticed Jacob staring at their table and blushed. Being seen naked by Sam hadn't caused so much as a blip in his heart rate, but Jacob's puzzled study of the table embarrassed him.

"It's a table," Jack said, noticing the direction of Jacob's gaze.

"Don't tables usually have legs?" Jacob asked.

"No chairs," Jack offered as explanation. Jacob blinked a couple of times.

"Right," he sighed. "So, you ready to go?"

"Um...," Daniel said vaguely. He looked around the cramped, dark cabin and felt an unexpected pang of loss. He, at least, had been happy here.

"We don't have all night," Jacob prodded.

"I know." Daniel grabbed his journal and a couple of other small things, more as remembrances than because they were necessary. He noticed that Jack was doing the same. He couldn't help but grin as Jack cast a last, regretful look at their table.

"That it?" Jacob asked.

"Yes," Jack said. "Let's go."

"We have shaving gear, sir," Sam offered as soon as they'd reached the small personal quarters on the Tok'ra ship. Jacob was at the helm, already guiding them through hyperspace and to the nearest safe stargate. Sam and Teal'c, on the other hand, hadn't gotten more than five feet away from either him or Daniel.

"What? You don't like the rugged, manly look?" Jack asked.

"You and Daniel look just about perfect to me right now."

"Don't go getting all girly on me, Carter," Jack said with rough affection.

"Wouldn't dream of it, sir."

"Right," Jack said dryly. He threw Daniel a challenging look. "I got dibs on the john."

"Fine," Daniel nodded. He was looking forward to getting reacquainted with indoor plumbing, but he was feeling so edgy at the sudden shift in his reality that he was finding it hard to stay in any one place for more than a few moments.

"But first I gotta know...how'd you find us?" Jack asked, accepting an armful of towels and toiletries from Sam.

"Luck mostly," Sam admitted. "We had no idea where you'd gone."

"We did not see or hear anything unusual on P9S," Teal'c said. "You were simply...missing."

"Hammond sent another team back with us to search, but...."

"We figured as much," Jack said. "One minute we were standing in the ruins, the next we were on a ship. It was quick and clean. As much faith as I have in your skills, I knew you wouldn't find anything. I can't believe that you did manage to find us."

"We might not have," Sam said, obviously pained by the thought. "If it hadn't been for the Tok'ra."

"A Tok'ra operative encountered the Djouma purely by chance," Teal'c said. "He recognized the alien's description of you."

"The Djouma are...information traders," Sam explained.

"Spies?" Jack asked.

"No, not really," Sam said. "They collect and trade all kinds of information. When they found you on P9S—we still don't know if that was deliberate or just bad luck on our part—they realized that you were from a different culture than anyone they'd encountered before. Therefore you were a potential source of new information."

"They questioned us for days," Daniel said, nodding his head. "About anything and everything."

"Questioned?" Sam asked, looking at Daniel's cheek. Daniel ran his fingers along the scar self consciously. Jack had assured him that it was little more than a thin, white line, barely noticeable, but Sam certainly hadn't missed it.

"Not torture," Jack reassured Sam and Teal'c. "Just constant, unending, unrelenting questions."

"And when they decided that we didn't have any useful information they dumped us on that uninhabited planet," Daniel said.

"Not exactly uninhabited," Sam said.

"What?" Jack and Daniel said together.

"It is, in fact, the Djouma homeworld," Teal'c said.

"What?" Jack said again.

"B-but we never saw any sign of...of anyone," Daniel protested.

"Most Djouma now live on ships, constantly traveling the galaxy. They have but one, relatively small, permanent population center. And it was on the opposite side of the planet from your location," Teal'c explained.

"That's why we had to come by ship," Sam said.

"And quickly," Teal'c added.

"Quickly?" Jack asked.

"Sir, the Tok'ra who discovered that the Djouma were responsible for your disappearance was undercover with one of the System Lords," Sam said. "We were afraid that simply by asking questions about you the Tok'ra might have renewed the Djouma's interest in you. We were afraid they might decide to bring you back in."

"They didn't even know if we'd still be alive," Jack said incredulously.

"We didn't even know if you'd still be alive. That didn't stop us from looking," Sam said.

"Good point," Jack said, pointing at Sam. "And thank you, by the way, for not stopping."

"What would've happened if they had come back for us?" Daniel asked. "Do they sell people, too?"

"Not that we have been able to determine," Teal'c said. "However, if a Goa'uld was to hear news of your capture, he would not concern himself with arranging the terms of purchase. He would simply take."

"Right," Daniel said.

"So...good work, guys," Jack said approvingly.

"Teal'c, would you mind getting the ship's medical kit for me?" Jacob asked. Teal'c nodded and left the bridge. Jacob noticed Daniel frowning at him from the copilot's seat. "You've got some...marks. I have an ointment that'll heal them up a lot faster."


"Your neck and shoulder," Jacob said matter-of-factly, keeping his eyes on the instrument panel. "I noticed back at the cabin."

"Oh. Um... that's...I can explain that."

"The two of you were stranded, alone, with no realistic hope of rescue," Jacob said, glancing kindly at Daniel. "You don't have to explain it to me. But not everyone would understand so...."

"Right. Thank you," Daniel said. Teal'c's hand suddenly appeared over his shoulder, offering a small tube of ointment, and Daniel wondered how much he'd heard.

"There is not sufficient time for the medicine to fully work, but the marks will be much faded and may go unnoticed," Teal'c said.


"Would you like some assistance in applying the medicine?" Teal'c asked.

"No! No, thank you," Daniel said, hastily stuffing the tube in his pocket and looking anywhere but at Teal'c or Jacob.


"Fine. I'm fine," Daniel said rapidly before Jacob could complete his question.

"How are you two really?" Jacob asked as Jack settled in the copilot's seat.

Jack squinted slightly in the dim light as he looked around the craft, refamiliarizing himself with the controls. Jacob had set the ship's illumination to low. Daniel was finally sleeping, looking almost like a stranger without his beard. Sam was sleeping, possibly, but more likely watching over Daniel. Teal'c was deep in kel-no-reem.

"You saw," Jack said lightly, tapping his fingers against the control panel.

"Aren't you a little old to be playing 'naked savages'?" Jacob teased. Jack just shrugged. Jacob didn't seem surprised or bothered by his and Daniel's apparent reversion into wildness. Or maybe it was Selmac who was so unflappable.

"Rough?" Jacob asked more seriously. "Not so bad, all things considered," Jack said. "We worked hard, but the conditions were good."

"What about your hand?"

"It's nothing. Looks worse than it is," Jack said dismissively, tucking his damaged hand under the other arm. His expression sobered. "I want Fraiser to check Daniel over good."

"What's wrong?"

"He had pneumonia a few months ago. Hasn't been the same since."


"Bad," Jack said tersely. "He's never gotten his strength back."

"Well, I'm sure Dr. Fraiser will do a thorough exam. Probably too thorough from your perspective." Jacob glanced over at Jack, who was resolutely staring out at the stars. Jacob shrugged to himself when Jack didn't respond. "You were lucky, Jack."

"Lucky?" In one respect, Jack considered himself very lucky, but he didn't think that was what Jacob was referring to.

"The Djouma are very indifferent to life," Jacob said. "At least, the lives of anyone other than themselves. If you and Daniel hadn't been so intriguing to them, they probably would've dumped you out of an airlock when they were done with you."

"Yeah, that's us—'intriguing'."

"They all thought you were dead," Jacob told him. "Sam, Teal'c, George...everyone."

"They should know better than to count us out before seeing the bodies," Jack countered even though he understood what Jacob was saying. He'd been in that position himself.

"You'd obviously been taken by someone. If it had been the Goa'uld we would've heard about it. Anyone else...well, we expected—hoped—to hear from them, asking for ransom or some kind of exchange. Instead there was total silence. We expected the worst." Jacob glanced at Jack. "You know—if you or Daniel had given them something of interest, we might've found you a whole lot sooner."

"We couldn't take that chance," Jack said.

"I know. I'm just saying that it's been a rough time for your friends."

"Believe me, one of our biggest frustrations was not being able to let you know that we were okay." Jack paused. "Well, that and the complete lack of a decent hockey rink."

"It's so good to have you back," Janet said, hugging Daniel fiercely.

"It's good to be back," Daniel said with a shy smile. Janet stepped back, visibly putting herself back into doctor mode.

"Okay, so let's get this boring medical stuff out of the way," she suggested. She handed Daniel an exam gown and turned to grab his chart.

"Uh...do we have to do this?" Daniel said, holding up the gown.

"You've been gone nearly eighteen months," Janet said, giving Daniel an incredulous look. "Yes, I'd say a full exam is necessary."

Daniel hesitated. It had only been a little over twelve hours since Sam, Teal'c, and Jacob had found them. Only slightly longer since he and Jack had been intimate. And it hadn't been one of their gentler sessions either. Tok'ra ointment or not, Janet was bound to notice the signs.

"Daniel?" Janet said, her voice becoming more authoritative.

"Right," Daniel said, reluctantly beginning to strip. He didn't have a choice. If he made an issue of not allowing a full exam, Janet would get suspicious and therefore even more insistent. He quickly slipped the gown on and sat on the edge of the gurney.

"How have you been feeling?" Janet asked as she probed gently along Daniel's neck before checking his ears and throat.

"Fine. All I really need is a long, hot shower and a soft bed."

"Energy level okay?"

"Yes, fine."

Janet stepped back, hands on hips, and stared at Daniel. He frowned, not knowing why she'd stopped.

"Okay. Daniel, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way," Janet said.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm going to ask the question again. You can either give me an honest answer or I can bring Colonel O'Neill in and ask him."

"What would be the point?" he asked, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth "Since Jack obviously already stuck his nose in."

"So?" Janet prompted.

"I get a little tired. It's no big deal."

"More tired than you used to get?" Daniel's sigh was all the answer Janet needed. "How about your breathing? Any problems with that? Wheezing, shortness of breath...?"

"No. It took a while to get over the pneumonia but I haven't had any trouble since then. And that's the truth." Daniel let out a disgusted breath. "Have you seen Jack's hand?"

"Yes, I have and don't try to change the subject."


"No buts. I'm dealing with you right now." Janet smiled coolly. "Trust me—the colonel will have his turn."

"So...you're a little anemic," Jack said, all too aware that the locker room was covered by surveillance cameras.

"Apparently," Daniel said quietly, barely looking at Jack.

"I checked out okay," Jack said, leaning casually against his own locker.

"Good," Daniel said with a sharp nod. "I'm glad."

"Doc even complimented me on my all-over tan," Jack said. He paused, frowning. "And why is it that a compliment from Fraiser is more frightening than a threat?"

"Because you think she's devious and evil."

"She is."

"Isn't," Daniel said, smiling a little. He jerked his thumb toward the shower room. "I really do need to clean up."

"Right. Catch you later," Jack said. He looked around the locker room after Daniel left, wishing for just a moment of unwatched time to talk to him. His eyes landed on the bench in front of Daniel's locker. It was a moment before he realized that Daniel's shampoo bottle was sitting there. Jack knew immediately that it had been left deliberately.

"Oh for crying out loud," he muttered for sake of the cameras. He grabbed the bottle and went back into the shower area...where there weren't any cameras.

Daniel was standing under the hot water, just letting it pour over him.

"You forgot this," Jack said.

"Oh, right," Daniel said, stepping out of the spray and taking the bottle.

"Did Fraiser say anything about, um...you know?" Jack asked.

"No. You?"

"Not a word. And she had to have noticed."

"Oh, yeah," Daniel said, his hand unconsciously going to the teeth marks on his shoulder. "It wouldn't take an M.D. to figure out I'd recently been fucked within an inch of my life."

"Maybe she doesn't care," Jack said, grimacing a little at Daniel's blunt description.

"Or, as Jacob suggested, it was a question of two people stranded, presumably for life, and having no other way of handling those needs."

"Personally, I was planning to point out that it was either you or the squirrels," Jack said.

Daniel just looked at him, his expression unreadable.

"You know that's not the way it was," Jack said.

"No, of course not," Daniel said, although he wasn't entirely convinced. Not that he thought Jack would've resorted to the squirrels, but as far as it being a matter of necessity or convenience....

"Daniel, we need to talk."

"Not now. You know they'll be watching us—just as a precaution," Daniel pointed out. "Someone's going to wonder what's taking you so long just to deliver a shampoo bottle."

"Right," Jack agreed reluctantly. "But...we need to talk."

"About what?" Daniel said, turning back into the shower.

"About what we're going to do about...you know."

"Not necessary," Daniel said, refusing to turn and look at Jack. "You made it very clear at the beginning that it was only because you thought we'd never be rescued."

"Now, see—that's exactly what we need to talk about," Jack said urgently. He cursed when a voice called to him from the locker room. "Aw...crap. I gotta go. Hammond's expecting me." Jack stared at Daniel's back, waiting for some response. "Daniel, promise me you won't say or do anything until we have a chanc.e to talk."

"I would never do that to you," Daniel said angrily.

"Damn it, that's not what I meant."

"Colonel O'Neill?" the voice called more loudly.

"Coming!" Jack shouted out. He turned back to Daniel. "We'll talk. We will."

"Don't worry, Jack. This won't take long," Hammond said when Jack entered his office. "The formal debriefing can wait until tomorrow, or even the day after. Just a few quick points I'd like to clear up now."

"Appreciate that, sir," Jack said, making himself comfortable in the chair opposite Hammond. "It's been a long day."

"It's been a long year and a half," Hammond said.

"I think in some ways it was probably longer for you than it was for us," Jack told him.

"How's the hand?" Hammond asked.

"Er...it's fine. Thanks for asking."

"Dr. Fraiser seems to think that reconstructive surgery might be a viable option."

"Yes, sir, that's what she told me."

"You don't sound too enthusiastic about it," Hammond said with concern. "No, it's great. It's just that...." Jack shrugged. "It's not something I've spent a lot of time thinking about. It bothered Daniel more than it did me."

"Why did it bother Dr. Jackson?"

"He's the one who had to, you know—treat it," Jack explained.

"I see," Hammond said, nodding sympathetically. "Field medicine is never pleasant."

"Especially without the medicine," Jack said. "Not to mention a few other things. I've spent long periods in the field, but I'd forgotten how much I could miss hot running water. And toilet paper. I really missed toilet paper."

"I can imagine," Hammond said with a chuckle.

"No offense, sir, but I don't think you can."

"Well, we'll make sure you have all the toilet paper you could possibly need from now on," Hammond said with a grin.

"Thank you so much."

"And along those lines," Hammond said, opening a folder. "Dr. Fraiser tells me that if the rest of your test results are normal you'll be free to go."

"Yes," Jack said, pumping his fist.

"However, there's the small question of where you'll go," Hammond said slowly.

Jack stared for a moment, then closed his eyes and groaned.

"The house?"

"I'm sorry, Jack. But the time came when I had to make a decision. I felt it was better to sell the house than to drain your bank account by continuing the mortgage payments."

"No, you're right," Jack sighed. "I knew Daniel's apartment would be long gone, but for some reason I never stopped to think about what would happen to the house."

"We put all of your personal belongings, furniture and what-not into storage," Hammond reassured him.

"Thank you," Jack said. He gave a little one shoulder shrug. "Guess Daniel and I should've brought back our little log cabin after all."

"You're free to stay in the V.I.P. quarters until you find new housing," Hammond said. "The paperwork involved in returning both of you to active status will take a few days to process, so I've arranged a temporary expense account to get you by."

"Yeah?" Jack said, his expression brightening.

"Just don't overdo it, Jack."

"So...the Porsche is out?"

"If you decide to pass on the V.I.P. quarters, I just ask that you leave an address and phone number where you can be reached," Hammond said, ignoring Jack's jibe.

"Yes, sir," Jack said, standing. "And thank you. For not giving up."

"There may not be anything more that we can do, Jack, but we never give up hope."

Daniel's leg bounced restlessly as he sat waiting for Janet and watching Jack pace across the width of the infirmary. Again. Jack was right. They needed to talk. It might be awkward, possibly uncomfortable, maybe...maybe even painful, but it had to be done. They needed to know exactly where they stood.


Jack stopped in his tracks and put a finger to his lips. Frowning, Daniel opened his mouth to continue; then he heard Dr. Fraiser's rapid footsteps approaching. He sat back in his chair, resigned to waiting just a little longer. But not much longer. He was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic. It wasn't just the thick, gray walls and recycled air—the S.G.C. seemed so much more crowded than he remembered.

"Well, gentlemen, you're both in amazingly good health," Janet said, entering the room with their records.

"So we're good to go then?" Jack said hopefully.

"There's no reason to keep you here," Janet agreed with a nod.

"Great," Jack said. He gestured for Daniel to follow him but Janet stepped directly into their path, stopping them both in their tracks.

"Not so fast, boys."

"You said we were fine," Daniel protested. "You are. But I'm ordering both of you to make time for three square meals a day. Every day. With lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. You're both a little vitamin deficient." Janet fished a bottle of pills out of the pocket of her lab coat and handed it to Daniel. "And I'm putting you on an iron supplement for the time being, Daniel."

"Now?" Jack asked, leaning toward the door.

"I've made an appointment for you, sir, with a reconstructive surgeon," Janet continued, handing Jack an appointment card. "And one with the ophthalmologist for you, Daniel. He can fit you in tomorrow."

"Thank you," Daniel said, tucking the reminder in his pocket.

"Now?" Jack repeated.

"Just one last thing. If you need help dealing with...." Janet paused, giving them a good long look, and Daniel knew exactly what Janet thought they might need help dealing with.

"We're fine," Daniel said.

"What?" Jack asked, looking at Janet then Daniel. Daniel stared at Jack, willing him to recognize Janet's concern without Daniel, or Janet, having to spell it out. "Oh. That. Right."

"As a result of circumstances beyond your control you acted in ways that you wouldn't normally act," Janet said, speaking very formally. "There will probably be a period of readjustment and...."

"We can handle it," Daniel told Janet.

"Absolutely," Jack agreed. "Not a problem."

"Okay," Janet said reluctantly, waving them toward the door.

"Come on," Jack said, grabbing Daniel by the sleeve of his jacket.

"Why?" Daniel said slowly.

"Just...come on," Jack said, herding him down the corridor and into the elevator as fast as he could.

"But where are we going? The V.I.P. quarters are...."

"Forget that," Jack said. "I've got a pool car waiting up top."


The elevator stopped at the next floor and Sergeant Siler entered the elevator. He stared at Jack and Daniel for a moment before pushing the button for his floor.

"Siler," Jack said.

"Colonel," Siler said, acknowledging Daniel with a nod. "I heard you were back but...."

"Just like a bad penny," Jack said with a mischievous grin. "So tell me—what has Carter blown up lately?"

"Just Lieutenant Miller, sir."

"I don't remember a Lieutenant Miller," Jack said.

"He was new, sir."

"Was?" Daniel asked with concern.

"He made a full recovery. And then requested an immediate transfer to Afghanistan."

Jack and Daniel exchanged looks. Siler's expression was always so deadpan that it was nearly impossible to tell if he was joking. Only the fact that Siler almost never joked made you believe even the most unlikely things he said.

"He thought it would be safer there," Siler explained.

"He may be right," Jack said.

"Ah...look at that," Jack said, throwing his arms out wide to encompass the view from the parking lot. A thick blanket of snow covered the mountain; the ice crystals glittered in the setting sun.

"Trees and ice," Daniel said bluntly. "Two things you hate."

"Do you mind? I'm having a moment here." Jack took a deep breath of the crisp, cold air and lowered his arms. "Okay, let's go."

"Go where, Jack?" Daniel asked, getting annoyed by Jack's refusal to answer his questions.

"Would you look at that?" Jack said as he walked toward the pool car, a brown Ford sedan, and sneered at it with disgust. "Bureaucrats have no style at all."


"Get in," Jack said, walking to the driver's side door.

"Why? In case you haven't noticed we have no place to go."

"Hammond set us up with a temporary expense account," Jack said, unlocking the car door. "The Porsche was a no-go, but I booked us a suite at one of the Springs' ritzier establishments."


"Not the honeymoon suite—that would be too tacky. But we do have a Jacuzzi." Jack looked across the roof of the car at Daniel with a hopeful smile. He knew he was starting to babble, but it was either that or.... No, babbling was his only viable defense at the moment, although he wasn't entirely sure why he was feeling defensive to begin with. Daniel simply stared back, bewildered. "Big Jacuzzi."

"People will talk," Daniel said, although that really wasn't the subject he'd intended to discuss.

"We've been living together for eighteen months. If people want to talk, they've got all the ammunition they need," Jack said. "Now get in."

"Jack...." Daniel hesitated, looking around to reassure himself that they were alone. He put his hands on the roof of the car and leaned toward Jack. "You said that we would never have had that conversation if we were on Earth."

"It's different now."

"How?" Daniel asked.

"Because we did have that conversation."

"I know but...."

"I can't pretend this last year didn't happen," Jack said earnestly. "I don't want to. Do you?"


"Okay, so...room service. Cable TV. Indoor plumbing," Jack said, hoping to entice Daniel into the car so that they could get on with the rest of their lives.

"What about Sam and Teal'c?"

"Let 'em fork out for their own hotel room."

"Jack," Daniel said with exasperation.

"We'll have to tell them," Jack said. "They're our friends. And as part of the team they should know."

"Actually, Teal'c already knows," Daniel told him.

"Oh. Well, that solves half the problem," Jack said.

"Jack," Daniel said softly. "Do you know what you're doing?"

"Most likely taking a very long hike off of a very short pier, career-wise," Jack said. He smiled. "I don't care anymore."

"You care."

"I care," Jack admitted. "But not as much as I used to."

"So we're going to try this?" Daniel asked, waving his hand between them.

"We're going to try," Jack said firmly. He paused, taking in Daniel's still hesitant expression. "Aren't we?"

It took a moment, but when the smile took hold it lit Daniel's face.

"Yeah, we are."

The End

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