Crown Infernal

A Little Misunderstanding

Part 5

Chapter 19 - in which Daniel and Janet look for reasons

Once Jack had been seen safely inside the isolation room, most of the escorting party departed, leaving two S.F.s on guard. Daniel also remained outside, despite a slightly reproachful look from Jack. He waylaid Janet as she arrived and asked for a few words with her before she saw Jack.

"What's troubling you, Daniel?" she asked when they were alone, sitting in the observation room.

"It's about Jack," he replied, holding up a hand to stop her interrupting. "Yes, I know you can't discuss his case with me, but I think I might be able to shed a little light on his... ah, condition."

"You know?"

"Ah, yes. Jack told me just now."

"Go on."

"Hm... I don't know what you learned when you came to Arcadia, but I'm guessing reproduction didn't come into it?"

"Correct. It doesn't have any bearing on the work I do here... Or at least it didn't," she added sotto voce, "but I did read your reports - yours and Sam's."

"Oh. You did? So you do have some idea of the way they do things there? Good. However, what you probably don't know is that this is a truly egalitarian society. Everyone is valued equally, regardless of gender... or sexuality. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is a totally alien concept to them. For instance, I've gotten to know Ilarion quite well now. I don't think you met him, did you?"

"No, I don't think so, though they all look very much alike."

"That would be the Ancient Greek inheritance, I suppose," Daniel smiled.

"And the clothes..." Janet added, rolling her eyes.

"Well anyway, Ilarion's their Minister of Culture. He and his partner are legally married, and Verenos is currently carrying their child."

"And Verenos is a man?"

"Yes. I don't know much about how this works except that they combine D.N.A. from both parents in vitro and then implant the resulting embryo into one of the parents. How it obtains nourishment and develops there when that parent is a man, I've no idea."

"But why should they have done this to Colonel O'Neill?"

"I really don't know. In fact it's rather strange. Jack even had to give permission for them to operate on his knee and back. Hm... I wonder—"

"What, Daniel?"

"Er, well, as you've read my report, you'll know that the Arcadians are empathic. They use this ability to detect negative feelings - anger, sadness, that sort of thing - and then try to put things right before they become critical."

"So there's no crime and everyone's happy?"

"Ah, yes, that's the general idea."

They both looked through the mirrored window into the isolation room below where Jack was pacing up and down like a caged lion.

"Well, Colonel O'Neill doesn't look particularly happy right now," Janet said drily, "and his actions earlier were potentially criminal..."

Daniel sighed. "I really think they were trying to help him. It's in their nature, and nothing ever seems too much trouble for them. I'm guessing they picked up on his grief over Charlie's death."

"But you reported that they don't read minds. How could they know about that?"

"I suspect Jack may have told them - or one of them. They're curious like us, and ask a lot of questions— No, actually I'm wrong about that. They just say things that give you an opening to talk about how you feel. And then they listen. They do it very sympathetically too, so you find yourself pouring your heart out to them." Daniel gave a small smile. "They'd make very good therapists..."

Janet raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"You know, I think this is all a misunderstanding," Daniel continued. "Looking back to that dinner party they gave for us the first day, Jack was sitting next to Athnasia. She's their Minister for Health, and she made the arrangements for Jack's treatment. I was there when Jack signed the consent form which, now I come to think about it, was rather vague - just a general permission to 'restore him to full health'. But it was obviously the form they normally used so I didn't think anything of it then. Now, I'm wondering if they don't include mental or - or emotional health in that treatment... erm, a holistic approach— which term comes from the Greek, by the way. Jack thought he was signing just for the physical when in actual fact he was signing for the whole deal. And they didn't realize he wasn't..."

"But Daniel, you can't replace a child that's died, just like that!"

"No, I know. Somehow, I don't think they do. I mean, children are highly valued there because there aren't many of them - just enough to keep the population stable. With the Arcadians' medical abilities, probably very few children actually die. When someone does die - around two or three hundred years old - they're replaced by a new child. That's their normal way of working. Charlie died. He needed to be - well not replaced exactly. More like there was a hole in Jack's heart that they believed needed filling..."

"Even so, to tamper with someone's body like that— "

"I know. Cultural differences take some getting used to."

"I'll say!" Janet exclaimed.

She thought for a while. Daniel watched the changing expression on her face as she seemed to be trying to get her head round something. After a while, she took up the conversation again.

"Didn't you say they take D.N.A. from both parents?"

"Er, ye-es," Daniel said slowly, seeing where Janet's mind was going.

"They don't produce clones?" she asked.

"That would be a no."

"So what? Where did they get the other D.N.A. from? Sam would be the logical choice," Janet mused, failing to notice Daniel wincing at the thought, "but then, as she has the relevant reproductive equipment, why do this to the colonel?"

"...Ah, I think the other parent is me..." Daniel replied tentatively.

"You?" Janet said in surprise, then added, "You think?"

"Um, no, I'm pretty sure actually," Daniel replied a little awkwardly.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry, I hadn't realized. This must very hard for you too, after what Hathor did to y—"

"No!" Daniel exclaimed, anger suddenly blazing in his eyes. "This is nothing like what Hathor did to me. And thank you so much for bringing back a memory I've been trying very hard forget!"

Janet stared at him nonplused. Daniel sighed, then drew a deep breath.

"What she did was rape. I knew what was going on - all the time - but I couldn't stop it. What was worst was that, at the time, I enjoyed it," Daniel said, a look of absolute disgust on his face, "at least, I thought I did. Afterwards... Well, you can imagine how - how unclean... how... tainted... I felt."

A shudder ran through him. Janet reached out a hand to his for comfort. Daniel snatched his hand away before she could touch it. It was purely a reflex action, but it spoke volumes for what that bitch had done to him.

"S-Sorry," he said, looking away shame-faced.

Slowly he uncurled his fingers from their protective ball, and replaced his hand on his knee.

"No need to apologize, Daniel. That wasn't you, that—"

"No, I know. At least, intellectually I know. Emotionally...? I have no control over what I feel."

Involuntarily he looked down to where Jack was still pacing, head down and chewing a fingernail now.

"The main difference is that the Arcadians have— seem to have - our welfare at heart. Something Hathor never did," he said with a grim look.

He paused in thought for moment then changed tack, wanting to get away from the subject of Hathor.

"Looking back, I think she - uh, Demris that is - did ask for my permission. At least she asked if I was willing too, which I thought was a little odd at the time. I think - I suspect - they used D.N.A. from the samples they took when we first arrived. We were unconscious at the time, and before you say anything, it was just the sort of samples you take. Okay, that was without our permission, but they did at least tell us afterwards, otherwise we wouldn't have known. And it was completely pain-free."

"Snide, Daniel," Janet said with a mock scowl.

He grinned back at her, and noticed with some apprehension that she was thinking again.

"Surely, if you didn't knowingly provide a D.N.A. sample, then there's no reason to think it could be yours?" she asked.

Crunch time...

"Janet, this is confidential, isn't it?" Daniel asked cautiously.

"Of course. Why?"

Daniel took a deep breath. "Because some of the Arcadians - for all I know, most of the Arcadians! - picked up on the close friendship between Jack and me, and also that things were a little... strained... between us."

"Like that's news, Daniel," Janet said gently. "Didn't have to be an empath to see that."

"God, was it that obvious?"

"Well, you two've been friends for as long as I've known you, but lately, I've sensed that things were a little off."

"Yes. They were. Anyway, the Arcadians also thought that we were not just friends— Which kind of took me by surprise. Jack too, I guess. I resisted the idea for a long time, but the thing was, they were right. Our feelings for each other do go much deeper than that, though neither of us knew how the other one felt. Even though the Arcadians continually referred to us as 'yemacca', - that's partner, or mate - we didn't accept it for a long time."

"I see. This is why you think they might have used your D.N.A.?"

Daniel nodded.

"Thank you, Daniel. You've been most helpful. Now I'd better see what I can do for the colonel," Janet smiled.

"Oh, just one more thing," Daniel recalled as she was about to leave.


"Don't mention the 'P' word. It... upsets him."

Chapter 20 - in which Daniel has a startling idea

"Colonel O'Neill," Janet smiled as she entered the isolation room. "Please sit down."

Jack sat on a gurney at the side of the room. Janet hopped up beside him.

"Now, Colonel, perhaps you'd like to tell what you were trying to do?"

"I don't really know," Jack muttered mendaciously, looking down at his hands, fingers interlaced and resting on his thighs. He knew perfectly well what he'd meant to do, or thought he did. "I guess I just... over-reacted... a little..."

"You could say."

"I was a tad wound up. I mean, it's not every day a guy finds out he's..."

Jack couldn't finish the sentence.

"...Expecting?" Janet finished gently.

"Yeah," Jack whispered.

"It's my fault. I didn't handle it very well."

"Like there's an easy way? No Doc., short of tying me down, you couldn't have stopped me."

"So, what do you want to do?"

"Right now? I just wanna go home... think about things... get my head round this, y'know?"

"I'm not sure you're in a fit state right now, sir..."

"I'm okay. I've got my act together. I won't do anything stupid. If you're concerned about it, Daniel can keep an eye on me."

Janet considered his request - thought about what Daniel had told her. If anyone could keep an eye on Colonel O'Neill, he could.

"I'll think about it," she said. "One thing you have to bear in mind though, I can't offer you a termination. I've no idea what the Arcadians have done and it could be dangerous to try and undo it. You'd have to go to Arcadia."

"No way. Never going back there again," Jack said with absolute certainty.

"I think I'd better drive," Daniel said as he and Jack headed out to the parking garage on their way out.

"Daniel, for crying out loud, I am not sick!"

"No Jack, I'm not suggesting that you are," Daniel soothed.

"And the Doc. wouldn't have released me if she wasn't sure I could behave myself," Jack responded with a hint of chagrin in his voice.

"Okay. I'll - er - I'll see you at your house then."


Of course he should have realized that he couldn't avoid Daniel's efforts to protect him quite that easily. As he eased out of his parking space, he saw the crafty bastard disappearing down the road ahead of him. Daniel drove at a sedate pace the whole way. This was doubly annoying in that overtaking, or turning off along an alternative route, or just plain honking, would prove to Daniel that he was right to sneak out first. Damn him!

On arrival, Daniel pulled up a little way along the street - didn't want to make the fact that he was staying with Jack too obvious even though this arrangement was official. Funny, he'd never thought twice about staying over at Jack's before they were lovers. Now, he was suddenly wary of doing a anything that might give rise to the idea that they were 'together'. Jack could certainly do without that right now - now that it was true.

He strolled up to Jack's front door as he was unlocking it. Jack wisely passed no comment about the journey. Instead he settled for advance warning, just to show he was back to normal.

"Of course, if you tell me to sit down and put my feet up, you realize I'm gonna have to shoot you? It would be justifiable homicide..."

Daniel grinned. "Wouldn't dream of it. You going to make me some coffee then?"

"Er, sorry. I don't have any coffee in the house."

Daniel's face took on a comic look of horror as though he was dangling from a parachute and someone had just cut the ropes.

"You're kidding, right?"

Jack laughed.

"Sadly not. It's the smell. Makes me want to puke. I suppose it's something to do with..." He made a rough gesture in the region of his belly. "I remember Sara having cravings, but I don't remember her going off stuff. Guess the caffeine's bad for... "


"But if you wanna go out for a coffee, there's a new coffee shop opened up a couple of blocks down the road."

"Ah, I'll manage for now thanks."

"Daniel, you can leave me for half an hour, ya know. What d'you think I'm going to do - go on the rampage the minute you're through the door?"

"No. No, of course I don't. I'm okay. Really."

"Well that makes one of us," Jack said drily.

He went through into the living room, flopped down on the couch then turned on the television and VCR.

"Got a lot of hockey to catch up on..." he said with grim satisfaction.

Daniel's heart sank but he said nothing. He knew Jack needed space right now. He also knew that, when he was ready, he would get around to talking about it. Meantime, Daniel would just have to hunker down and wait.

The next two days were fairly tense. Jack didn't seem to know what to do with himself, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. Daniel mostly kept out of his way after Jack told him irritably to stop hovering. Consequently he came to be regarded as something of a regular at the Kayumas Coffee Shop down the road.

"Way better than Starbucks," was his opinion after his first visit.

"Better than...?"

"Wa-ay better than!"

"Yeah, well, just don't breathe it over me."

"Ah, sorry Jack."

The first evening was also problematical. Daniel chose to sleep in the spare room. Officially this was on the grounds that they were - potentially - in enough trouble as it was. Unofficially, he didn't want Jack to feel he was crowding him. Whichever, Jack accepted the arrangement.

The following morning, Daniel awoke to find Jack spooned up behind him.

"Couldn't sleep," he muttered morosely.

Later that morning, General Hammond rang. He had perforce been informed of his 2IC's present situation.

"... Well, you know how it is. S.G.-1 are just Providence's favorite target for weird shi—things... weird things - happening..." he said with a stoicism he was far from feeling. "...Yes, sir, I'll - er - I'll keep you informed... Thank you, sir, appreciate it... "

As Jack put the 'phone down, he became aware of Daniel, head tipped on one side and an enquiring look on his face.

"Hammond just wanted to offer his support— and sympathy," Jack scowled. "Like this is a disease or something."

Daniel maintained an impassive expression leaving it to Jack to fill the silence, but he said nothing further. He seemed distant, as if withdrawing into himself, which was not a good sign.

The afternoon was hot and sunny, so Jack went up to sunbathe on the deck. As he seemed to be settled for the time being, Daniel went home to pick up a few things - clean clothes, reference books and his laptop - with a view to writing up his report on P3R-118.

It wasn't until the following evening that Jack, having caught up with the backlog of hockey, muttered, "Doc says she can't offer me a termination. Because she doesn't know what they've... Doesn't know how, I guess. Under the circumstances... You know."

"A termination? Is that what you want?"

"It would be... convenient."

"Then we could pretend it never happened?"

"Something like that. I already lost one kid and I don't think I could go through all that again."

"But... ?"

"But... I've seen it, Daniel. And I'm so— so torn. If I hadn't seen it... if it was just a... a thing... growing inside me - like a... like a cancer - I'd say, yeah, get rid of it. But now. Now that I have seen it... It feels like it would be destroying another life. An innocent life. Like Charlie—"

A tear glistened for a moment on his lashes then trickled slowly down his cheek. Daniel moved over and sat on the couch next to Jack. Silently, he wrapped his arms around his lover and held him close - held him close for a long time.

"Whatever you want to do, Jack, I'll back you. All the way."

"All the way," Jack echoed mournfully. "That's the kicker, isn't it? I'm in way over my head here and there's nothing I can do. I feel like I'm no longer in control of my own life. At the moment, I can't even see beyond tomorrow..."

"I have an idea. Why don't we go back to Arca—"

"No! . I don't ever want to see those bastards again!"

"Ah, yeah, I can understand your anger towards them..."

"Understand, but not empathize?" Jack spat out the word.

"...But I think they're the best people to help you."

"I think it might help if I could shoot a few of them," he growled.

Daniel sighed. "You don't really mean that...?"

"Guess not. It's just how I feel right now - kind of out of control of my life, and they're the ones who took away that control - like a prison without bars."

"Oh. Makes some sort of sense, I suppose," Daniel nodded. "In any case, you wouldn't get two steps through the 'Gate before you got zatted. Or had you forgotten?"

Jack looked thoughtful.

"When I went... "


"Huh... Yeah... It never entered my head. I realized fairly soon after. Guess I wasn't exactly thinking straight - or something. I remember Sara lost her mental acuity when she was— expecting Charlie. 'Maternal amnesia', they called it. And that thought just makes me feel so much better."

"Maybe you need a work out with Teal'c first - get rid of some of that anger."

"No! He might hurt th— me..." Jack tailed off looking a little sheepish.

Daniel quirked a smile.

"You know, I really think the Arcadians thought they were helping you— Us," he said, and told Jack the theory he'd worked out while he was with Janet.

"So you're saying I should forgive them?"

"Well, I know you're not big on the forgiveness front, but I think you should give them the benefit of the doubt at least. You've seen how happy Verenos and Ilarion are. Arrelambros and whoever probably thought they were giving us the same happiness. Misguided, yes. Wrong? Maybe. But well-intentioned I think. You know, you could do worse than talk to Verenos," he concluded, "seeing as you're both in the same boat... as it were..."

"What, and compare knitting patterns?" Jack said acidly. "No thank you! And we're no way in the same boat. He and Ilarion are married for one thing—"

"So, you want me to make an honest - er, man of you?" Daniel grinned.

"That is so not funny, Daniel. What I was going to say is that no one regards Verenos as a freak."

"Oh. Well, maybe we can keep this quiet."

"Daniel! How?! How the hell can we keep this quiet - not to mention the - um - the end product?"

Daniel looked a little abashed for a moment.

"Well, we could - I don't know - take a sabbatical—"

"From the Air Force?!"

"Or something. Heaven knows it owes you - several times over. We could live off-world for a few months and... And I have an idea—"

"Well, I hope it's better than the last one!"

Daniel slid off the couch and on to one knee in front of Jack. He took one of his hands in both of his.

"Jack O'Neill, will you marry me?"

"Daniel, you've taken that joke far enough!"

"No. No, I'm serious. I know it wouldn't mean anything here, but we could get married there. On Arcadia. Please, Jack...?"

Jack regarded Daniel with a look of total incredulity for a long minute.

"Daniel, you take my breath away. Your mind is one scary place. Only you... only you could come up with such a crack-pot idea!"

"Well...? Will you?"

Jack shrugged.


That night, there was no pretence about sleeping in separate beds, although Jack didn't feel like much beyond kissing and cuddling. While he was feeling happier - much happier - he still hadn't entirely regained his equilibrium. He slept better though, and longer, not waking until after Daniel was up and getting dressed. He noted the time on the clock-radio on the night stand with some surprise. It said 08.47. Daniel bent over and kissed the tip of his nose.

"I'll go and make a start on breakfast," he said.

He went downstairs and decided to make a detour to fetch in the mail. He opened the door and blinked. Several times. In shock.

Chapter 21 - in which all does not go as planned

Daniel was blinded by what seemed a hundred flash bulbs, but could have been more.

"What - the - fuck?!" . he breathed as cameras whirred, clicked and flashed all around.

The crowd of reporters on the lawn surged forwards like a mediaeval army, only wielding microphones instead of spears.

"Colonel O'Neill?"
............................................................"...look this way please..."
.......................... "...from Fox News....".................................. "...record an interview..."
..... ..." it true that..." ..............................."...National Enquirer..." ........................"...pregnancy..."
................................................ "...Guinness Book of— "

Daniel slammed the door just before anyone managed to shove a foot in the way. He turned the key, shot the bolts, then leaned back against the door, panting.

"So much for keeping it quiet," he thought.

Several people rapped on the door with some insistence.

"Daniel! What's going on?" Jack called from the top of the stairs.

"You don't want to know, Jack. You really don't want to know!"

Jack looked through the landing window, setting off another barrage of flashbulbs.

"Shit! We're surrounded!"

He ran into the living room, and came out again with his personal 10mil. Glock in his hand.

"Jack! What the hell are you thinking? These're journalists, not Jaffa!"

"And? So? Therefore?"

"This is Colorado Springs, Jack," Daniel warned. "You can't solve everything with a gun. Wave that at them and you'll be lucky if we can get you assigned to MacKenzie's tender care."

He was relieved when Jack shuddered.

"You're right," he sighed. "I'm still not thinking straight."

"Yeah. Not to mention that it would just confirm what they've been told."

"About that. How'd they find out?"

"Well don't look at me, Jack!"

"I wasn't. Well, I was, but... You know what I mean—"

"Yeah. Guess the S.G.C.'s got itself a mole. And when we find out who it is, you are not to shoot it," Daniel said severely.

Jack gave a wry laugh.

"So what do I do? About them?" he gestured towards the front door.

"What you do best, of course. Pretend they're a bunch of System Lords and bullshit 'em. I'll call Hammond and see about getting a restraining order to keep 'em off our property. Just put the gun away first, huh?"

Back upstairs again, Jack threw open the landing window and leaned out. Flash bulbs went off as if a big star had just stepped out of a stretch limo for an Academy Awards ceremony.

"I'm sorry," he yelled, "Mary Steenbergen doesn't live here any more!"

More flashbulbs went off.

"Ya shoulda been here last week. We had a big leaving party— huge."

"Colonel O'Neill?" someone called from below. "When's the baby due?"

"Say again?" Jack cupped a hand around his ear.

"I said, when's the baby due?"

"What baby?"

"Your baby."

"Oh, you mean the malamute? She's due to pup in a coupla weeks, so I'll be getting him in - oh - about ten weeks. Gonna call him Amorak - Ammo for short. It's an Inuit name. Means 'Spirit of the Wolf'. Any more questions? 'Cos I'm kinda busy right now."

"How does it feel to be pregnant?" shouted a sassy blonde in a red two-piece.

"Well, you're a woman. You tell me," Jack suggested, his fake smile setting hard.

There was a ripple of laughter.

"Aw, come on, Colonel. We all know you're pregnant. We just want to hear your side of it."

Jack feigned shock.

"What? Me? P—? Well now, I thought you were one week late for Mary Steenbergen's leaving party. But you're not. You're... uh... twenty-one weeks late!"

Someone just had to ask.

"What for?"

Jack gave his best should-be-patented smug grin.

"For April the first!" There was an uncertain chuckle. "Aw, come on. Don't tell me you missed our totally believable spoof about Colonel O'Neil - that's O'Neil with one 'L' by the way - having the President's love-child?"

This announcement was greeted by an uncertain silence. It was broken by cautious muttering.

"Well, it's clear that someone's taken you guys for a ride, so if you don't mind, you'll get off my property. And don't forget to take your garbage with you. Haven't got time to be clearing up the yard. Thank you."

With a cheery wave and a smile, he closed the window then sat down on the floor, shivering slightly. Daniel came up to join him, hugging him and holding him close.

"I don't think they bought it entirely, but you've got them thinking. At least they've backed off for now, but we can't really stay here. We'll have to go to Arcadia."

Daniel rang General Hammond to update him.

"But how the hell did they find out? And so soon?" Hammond wanted to know.

"I have no idea, General. So far as I was aware, you and doctor Fraiser were the only people who knew - on this world anyway. We haven't even gotten around to telling Sam and Teal'c yet. So I'm afraid that ball's in your court, sir. We were hoping to keep this quiet, but..."

"I'll start an investigation right away. I take it that after this, you and Jack will be returning to the S.G.C.?"

"Ah well, we've talked it over and we think it'll be best if we come in tonight after dark. That way, it should be easier to evade any lurking journalists."

"Would you like me to send a staff car?"

"No, thank you, sir. That might look a little too— No, wait. It could act as a decoy. So, yes please. 0300 would be good. If you could have the car park out front and distract the reporters, we could sneak out the back."

"I'll see to that with pleasure, son. Is there anything else I can do?"

"I don't think so sir. Oh, is Sam in the S.G.C.?"

"Is the sea wet?"

"Ah right. Stupid question. I'll call her."

"No need. I'll have your call transferred."

"Thank you, General."

After a few telephonic clunks and buzzes, Sam answered briskly.

"Ah, Sam. We need your help," Daniel said, tension in his voice.

"Sounds serious," Sam responded. "I take it this has something to do with the colonel's going ape-shit on Tuesday?"

"Er, yes. That was when Jack first found out."

"Found out what? Daniel, you're worrying me."

"Actually, I'd better save it for when I see you."

There was a strangled squeak of annoyance from Sam.

"It's bad enough that the whole base knows about Jack's little hissy fit, as no doubt they do. I'd rather not divulge the reason why over the 'phone. They'll all know about it soon enough."

"Daniel, what have you been doing?"

"Not us. The Arcadians. And the result will likely be on the front page of every tabloid in the morning. So we need your help to get out tonight. We have to go back to Arcadia."

Later in the day, they were irritated to note that the photographers were still hanging around. Some had taken up positions at a number of vantage points in nearby houses. Jack made a few trenchant comments about his neighbors and how the neighborhood had gone to the dogs. There also seemed to be a competition for who could sport the biggest telephoto lens...

"They're not going to go away, are they?" Jack said morosely as a couple of flashes went off when he walked past the window.

"Relax, Jack. Sam and I have got it all worked out.


Jack slumped down on to a couch and hit the T.V. remote. As bad luck would have it, the first thing he got was a local station's news bulletin. There was film of himself leaning out of the window, mouthing off to the sassy blonde.

"Well, we've contacted the U.S. .Air Force for an official report but they're declining to comment at this point in time," said the dark-haired woman on the news desk with a knowing look. "So now we're going over live to Sally Firth in Colorado Springs for an update."

And there was the sassy blonde he'd had words with earlier, standing on his doorstep. "Hallo, Marji! I'm standing outside the home of Colonel Jack O'Neill right now to record an interview. Let's see if we can tempt our bold hero to come outside now and say hallo to the viewers."

She rapped determinedly on the knocker.

"Come on, Colonel, come out and meet your public!"

"Just ignore it, Jack," Daniel said. "A closed door doesn't make for interesting T.V. They'll give up eventually."

"I'm trying to ignore it," Jack growled, audibly grinding his teeth as he changed to one of the children's channels where he could guarantee not to see any more of himself as nine days wonder, "but it doesn't look like they're going to go away any time soon. When did you say Sam's coming to pick us up?"

"0300. I figured that's when people tend to be at their least alert. We'll be out of here before they notice anything happening."

That evening, the pair packed a few necessities into a couple of light hand luggage bags and called it quits early. Initially they went into separate rooms, setting off another series of flashes as they drew the drapes across the windows. A little while later, the reporters saw both lights extinguished and hunkered down for the night. Daniel crept into Jack's bed again, but they agreed sex would be a bad idea with all those reporters in earshot.

"Ya know, I'm beginning to warm to the idea of going back to Arcadia," Jack murmured. "Now that we can't have— make love, I've got a hard on you could use to knock nails in with."

"So I noticed," Daniel replied drily. "Shame to waste it..."

"No, Daniel. It's not worth the risk, not when you can make all the noise you want to tomorrow."

Daniel sighed in acquiescence, but wasn't surprised when Jack got up to go to the bathroom shortly after.

At 02.30, Sam rang to let them know she was on her way.

"I'll ring you again when I'm position," she said.

Jack and Daniel quickly dressed in the clothes they'd put ready earlier. These were the darkest things they could find, Daniel borrowing a pair of black pants from Jack's collection of sweats. They were ready to go when Sam rang again at 02.55.

"I'm in Grass Valley Drive, sir - about on a level with your house."

"Okay, on our way," Jack said and hung up.

Fortunately, the almost full moon had disappeared behind a cloud. A staff car pulled up outside the front door as Jack and Daniel went out of the back. They ran silent as shadows across Jack's yard and shimmied over the fence into the adjacent property in Grass Valley Drive. Behind them, the staff car's arrival nudged the dozing photographers into action. Flashbulbs went off like shell bursts. Too late.

Running down the neighbor's block paved drive, Daniel, in the lead, looked for Sam's car. She was parked off to the left of the drive and had the engine running for a quick getaway before the journos realized what was going on. Daniel ran up and flung open the front passenger door for Jack. Teal'c was sitting in the rear.

"Riding shotgun, Teal'c? Daniel grinned.

A rustle in the bushes behind him and the sound of an approaching car made him look around. Jack was struggling with a dark figure behind him. Daniel ran to help. Teal'c leapt from Sam's car pulling out a Beretta.

The attacker had Jack in a stranglehold. Jack back-elbowed the guy away as a big black car with no lights sped up on the wrong side of the road. It stopped beside them. The rear door was thrown open. A man got out wielding a gun.

Seeing the compact submachine gun, Jack raised his hands.

"Jack?" Daniel began, then saw where he was looking.

"Get in, Colonel!" a sinister voice ordered from inside the rear of the car.

"No!". Daniel cried out, as if to stop the attack with the power of his voice alone.

"Back off!" the gunman warned Daniel and Teal'c. "No heroics or I will shoot."

"Do as he says," Jack said quietly, with an agonized look into his lover's eyes. Then he got into the car followed by the gunman.

Chapter 22 - in which Jack is taken for a ride

The first attacker, who'd tried to overpower Jack in the drive entrance, ran around and jumped in the front as the driver backed up then took off down the road. Daniel and Teal'c ran back to Sam's car and leapt in.

"I know," Sam said. "Follow it."

She did a smart U-turn in time to see the abductors' vehicle turn left into Charmwood Drive, then she followed at a discreet distance with headlights off until she could blend in with other vehicles. Daniel immediately fished out his cell 'phone and called General Hammond at home.

"Sorry to wake you, General," he panted, "but Jack's been kidnaped."

There was a long silence on the other end.

"General Hammond? Are you there?"

"Yes, son. I'm here. I'm momentarily lost for words. When did this happen?"

"A few minutes ago. We're following the car now."

"Any idea who it is?"

"N.I.D.'s my best guess. Whoever it is had very good information which suggests we have a mole - or maybe more than one - at the S.G.C. It was far too well organized at short notice to be the media, I think. They were too busy photographing the staff car you sent."

"Where are you now?"

"We're in Westmeadow Drive heading for South Academy Boulevard. My guess is that we're heading for either the I25 or Peterson."

"Very well. I'll alert the airport authorities. Keep me informed. I'll be in my office a.s.a.p."

Jack found himself wedged in between the gunman on his left and another man on his right as the car shot away and swung round the corner. He was relieved of his own gun by the other man.

"Buckle up, Colonel," said the man with the gun - a MAC11 9mm SMG not an Uzi as Jack had at first thought, but just as persuasive. "Wouldn't want you to get damaged."

"You're making a big mistake. You know that, don't you?" Jack grated, resorting to his usual fall-back tactic of bravado as he fastened his seatbelt.

"Talk all you want to, Colonel O'Neill. It'll help to pass the time," the man on his right said placidly.

"So, what say you just drop me off at Cheyenne Mountain, and we'll say no more about it...? Huh?"

The man laughed as if he were genuinely amused. Jack tried another tack.

"What do you want with me anyway?"

"Well, working on a need to know basis, all you need to know is that there's a nice glass room with your name on it waiting for you where we're going."

Even in the dark, Jack could feel the smug smile on the guy's face. He almost wished he was sitting next to a goa'uld. They almost invariably rose to any fly he cast in their direction, usually to S.G.-1's advantage.

He knew, sooner or later, his team would mount a rescue mission and that worried him. Daniel certainly wouldn't rest until he was free, even if meant dismantling every building in Nevada brick by brick. Which meant that somewhere out there was a bullet with his name on it.

Please God, don't let that happen.

At least Daniel had had the sense to back off earlier, but then the danger was obvious. Who knew what dangers he'd inadvertently fall foul of without himself there to protect him?

And now that it looked like he might lose it, the invader within him suddenly became precious. It was a part of Daniel too, perhaps all he would ever have of him. He was surprised at the fierceness of the feelings that welled up. Strenuously, he repressed them. Getting maudlin wasn't going to help any. Daniel wouldn't be alone, and after himself, he couldn't have better support and protection than Carter and Teal'c.

"So it's true then?" Sam asked after Daniel finished speaking to Hammond.

"You've been home? Oh God! They haven't been pestering you too have they?"

"Um, actually no. Teal'c told me. He saw it on some of the news bulletins."

"Oh jeez, I'm so sorry you had to find out that way. Thing is, Jack took it, ah, rather badly when he found out and we've been keeping a low profile..." Daniel gave a sardonic laugh "...or trying to - while he decided what he wants to do. Looks like that's been taken out of our hands now."

"No worries, Daniel. He had enough on his plate. I understand that. I take it that's why you were going back to Arcadia?"

"Yes. One more thing you might not already know - and I think you should - is that the other parent is most likely me."

"You?" Sam exclaimed, as they passed Pikes Peak Community College.

"Yeah," Daniel sighed. "We think they used some of my D.N.A. from the med. tests they did when we first arrived and were unconscious. And before you say it, it was nothing like Hathor. I wasn't violated like I was with her, and I can't think that the Arcadians' intentions were anything other than benign. Whoa! Where are they going?"

The car ahead had suddenly crossed lanes and taken the south-bound ramp on to the I25.

"I got it," Sam said calmly. "Looks like that rules out Peterson."

"If they're going to Nellis, surely they'd go north to Denver and take the I70," Daniel said. "It's far more direct."

"They could be taking the I40 I suppose."

"Big detour."

"Or they could just be trying to lose me," Sam surmised.

"Is that likely in this level of traffic?" Daniel said skeptically. "Maybe they're going some place else entirely. We don't know it's the N.I.D. It could be some media hot shot out to make a name for himself."

"I do not think so, Daniel Jackson. Colonel O'Neill's abduction was well informed and well co-ordinated. Of all the organizations capable of this, the N.I.D. would seem the most likely to be interested in O'Neill's present state."

"I agree," Sam said, "so where are they going?"

"It maybe that they expect pursuit and have set up an ambush somewhere."

"Thanks, Teal'c. Nice to have someone on board with a positive attitude," Daniel replied dryly.

"Advance knowledge is as an additional weapon." There was a slightly smug ring to the response.

Daniel refrained from comment. He rang Hammond again, and the general was equally flummoxed. All options, it appeared, were open. They carried on down the freeway to Pueblo where the supposed NI.D. car turned off on to Highway 50— heading east!

"We're still being followed, sir," the driver said.

He'd just taken a detour as if he was making for Pueblo Memorial Airport, slowed down flashing his turn lights, then switched off all lights and accelerated down Frontage Road and back on to Highway 50. The driver following, who was keeping a safe distance, hadn't fallen for it.

"Why don't they try something?" the gunman asked. He sounded like he really wished they would.

"We're not dealing with imbeciles," the leader said. "They'll just stick on our tail waiting for an opportunity - a natural break perhaps - and hope to catch us off guard."

Jack kept quiet.

"Nothing to say, Colonel?"

Jack thought about it for a bit.

"Who are you guys? You know who I am."

"You can call me Frank, if you like."

"I'm Arni," the gunman said with a guffaw.

"Shame the N.I.D. wasn't prepared to shell out for an Uzi 9mm. then," Jack snarked.

'Arni' shut up. No one contradicted the reference to the N.I.D. though, but that didn't mean he was right, Jack realized.

Meanwhile, Daniel had passed on their new route to General Hammond.

"They tried to make us think they were going to the airport at Pueblo. Could they have tipped their hand, do you think?" Daniel asked.

"I wonder," Hammond mused. "There's a small municipal airport facility at Lamar near the state border. It would be closed now, but would anyone bet against the kidnappers having a light aircraft - or a helicopter - putting down there?"

"If they're going to Nellis," Daniel said, reluctant to put a damper on things but not wanting to assume too much either.

"Won't harm to send one of our own over. You might need air transport yet."

"Thanks, General."

The journey took them through a number of small townships and a couple of bigger ones - Rocky Ford and La Junta. Jack dozed gently as the journey went on. Wouldn't hurt to get a little sleep. It might give the impression of acceptance, and he'd be that much fresher if an opportunity presented itself. That didn't seem likely for some time.

But the car slowed down just past Las Animas. Jack snapped awake at the change of pace and 'Frank''s exclamation of annoyance.

"What the fuck's a big rig doin' out here at this time? Pass it, Carl . We need to put some distance between us and the car behind," he ordered the driver.

"Road's a little narrow here, sir and there's a bridge up ahead," the driver objected.

"Just do it Carl," 'Frank' snapped, then to the strong arm man in the front passenger seat said, "Ted, call Rudy and tell him to have the chopper ready to leave. We'll be there in about a half hour tops."

They were approaching the bridge over the Arkansas River as the driver obediently pulled out and put his foot down. The two vehicles were side by side as they reached the middle of the bridge.

"Ohhhhhh, shit!"

From state highway 194, an S.U.V. came barreling up the ramp and on to a collision course. Carl hit the brakes. Rubber burned up the road. Moonlight shimmered on the smoke trail. Carl struggled for control but the tail end zig-zagged.

The S.U.V. clipped it - set it spinning ...twice around... Hard contact with the last pillar of the bridge. The car wrapped around it, the impact swinging it round. It slid down the bank out of sight.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Crown Infernal