"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
"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 changedagainand 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
"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
"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
"You and Daniel look just about perfect to me right
"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,
"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
"The Djouma are...information traders," Sam
"Spies?" Jack asked.
"No, not really," Sam said. "They collect and
trade all kinds of information. When they found you on P9Swe still don't
know if that was deliberate or just bad luck on our partthey 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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"He had pneumonia a few months ago. Hasn't been the same
"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
expectedhopedto 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 knowif 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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Energy level okay?"
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
"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 methe 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
"I checked out okay," Jack said, leaning casually
against his own locker.
"Good," Daniel said with a sharp nod. "I'm
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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 usjust 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
"About what?" Daniel said, turning back into the
"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, seethat'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
"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 knowtreat it,"
"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.
"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
"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
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 airthe
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
"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
"Thank you," Daniel said, tucking the reminder in
"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
"Okay," Janet said reluctantly, waving them toward
"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 mewhat 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
"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,
"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
"Why? In case you haven't noticed we have no place to
"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 suitethat 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
"Most likely taking a very long hike off of a very short
pier, career-wise," Jack said. He smiled. "I don't care
"I care," Jack admitted. "But not as much as I
"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
"Yeah, we are."
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