The pirate ship moved stealthily towards its' prey. In the middle of the night, with no moonlight, a ship without its running lights wouldn't be seen until it was too late.
Twenty-eight year-old Daniel Jackson, anthropologist and linguist, lay sleeping below decks on the Merchant Navy vessel. The young man had spent the previous ten years abroad, most recently in India, and was now heading home to England. He was the only passenger on board the ship, paying an enormous fare to travel with the Navy as there would have been no other ships leaving India for several months. The trip had been peaceful so far and he had used the time to get his research in order, for when he got back to England, he was going to publish his findings. And finally he would prove to his rich grandfather that his choice of career had been worthwhile.
He was woken by loud bangs and lots of yelling. Reaching for his glasses, he tried to work out what was going on. Given the musket fire, he assumed that the ship was under attack, most likely by a group of pirates that roamed the Indian Ocean. Daniel got out of bed, lit the oil lamp, and then hurriedly got dressed. As he did so, he wondered what the odds were of him surviving the attack.
The door to his cabin flew open and he spun around to see a pirate advancing towards him, cutlass held ready to slice him open. Holding his hands up in front of him, Daniel stated, "My name is Daniel Jackson, I'm an anthropologist, not a sailor."
The pirate kept advancing, backing Daniel against the wall. When he had the anthropologist trapped, the cutlass against the vulnerable throat, he peered closely at the young man.
Daniel felt extremely uncomfortable with the close scrutiny, and the nearness allowed him to see the ugly features of the pirate very clearly. Fear clutched at his insides as his mind ran through all the possibilities of what could happen to him. His chances of staying alive weren't very good at that moment.
"You're a pretty boy," the pirate observed, grabbing his prisoner by the shirt collar. "I'm gonna enjoy making you scream."
Before Daniel could even struggle, another pirate interrupted the scene. "Zeb!"
The pirate in question turned to face the newcomer. "Yes, Capt'n?"
Apophis strode into the cabin to get a better view of the captive. "What have you here?" He looked appraisingly over the boy's features and body.
"Says 'e's not a sailor," Zeb explained, disappointed that the captain was taking an interest. He never got to have any fun.
Pinning the kid to the wall by his throat, Apophis asked, "Name?"
"Daniel... Daniel Jackson," the young man managed to say. He didn't like the way the black man had been eyeing him up. "I'm an anthropologist."
"Not any more." With his pretty looks, Apophis decided that the kid would serve him well in bed. Turning to Zeb, he ordered, "Bring him."
Daniel found himself dragged along by the ugly pirate. It looked as if he wasn't going to die but he wasn't sure that living was going to be much better....
One month later
'Gentleman' Jack O'Neill was getting old for a pirate. He was thirty-eight years old, which was unusual as pirates didn't live that long unless they were very good or very lucky. He considered himself to be both.
His career in piracy had been a choice made in despair. He had been away at sea with the Navy when his wife and son died of illness. When he had returned, he had been overcome with grief, and when his next voyage had been interrupted by a pirate attack, he had made the decision to join them. The first year had been difficult but he'd survived, and eventually had worked his way up the ranks until he had become captain of his own vessel. The 'Star Dweller'. His interest in the stars was the reason for the name. Many evenings he would sit on the deck and just watch the stars, wondering what it would be like to be out among them. He believed his family were up there, and some day he would join them. But not yet. He had a duty to his crew to stick around and help them.
The 'gentleman' part of his name came from his fair sense of justice, his morals, and his manners. His crew had thought it a sign of weakness at first until one of them challenged him and discovered otherwise. He did kill without remorse but only those who were trying to kill him; he never harmed the innocents, especially women and children. He wouldn't put others through the loss that he had suffered.
"Captain, the 'Alexandria' is in sight," Jack's faithful servant, Teal'c, informed him. The dark-skinned man had come aboard the 'Star Dweller' several years ago and had immediately pledged his loyalty to O'Neill. Not once had that loyalty wavered. His age and origin, though, were still a mystery.
"Assemble the men." Today they would finally get to challenge Apophis, a completely amoral pirate who took pleasure in killing indiscriminately. Hopefully they would be able to rid the seas of the murderer and his crew.
Jack turned and headed up on deck, praying that his luck would hold one more time.
Beneath the decks of the 'Alexandria', in the Captain's cabin, a dirty, emancipated figure huddled in one corner. Chains around his wrists bound him to the bed but he sat on the floor, frightened by the noises he could hear above him. Yelling, screaming, crashes... something bad was happening.
/go away go away stop it go away gonna die stop it die die die/
He put his hands over his ears, trying to block out the sounds of the fight. Unconsciously he started rocking back and forth in distress, closing his eyes and making whimpering sounds.
/go away stop it too loud don't come down here go away/
He remained like that for a while, lost in his own world, as the battle raged overhead.
Suddenly there was another voice in the room, one that was unfamiliar to him.
He opened his eyes and looked at the stranger coming towards him. Instinctively he tried to burrow himself further into the corner, trying to get away. His breathing turned into gasps due to the panic he was feeling.
/go away don't come near me bad man don't/
"Don't be scared. I'm not going to hurt you." Jack sheathed his sword and advanced carefully towards the prisoner. He felt sorry for the kid, who looked so young despite - or maybe because of - his terrible appearance. The young man was covered in bruises and welts, his skin brown from dirt, and he looked like he hadn't eaten in weeks. Tattered brown trousers were all he wore. There was no doubt as to why he was chained to the bed. Jack disapproved of such a practice, much preferring to take his pleasure when his ship was at port somewhere. But there were two members of his crew who voluntarily regularly serviced the others - a practice which generally kept the peace. Jack felt a surge of anger towards Apophis for treating someone in such a manner.
/brown eyes he has brown eyes like my master soft face nice face sword still bad man don't talk to him talk is bad talk will get me hurt/
Unwilling to trust the stranger, he wrapped his arms around his knees, making himself a smaller target.
"What's your name?" Jack asked as he knelt down next to the kid, who looked much worse close up.
/whore whore don't have any other name used to but now it's only whore slave idiot boy not my name used to have a name but not anymore go away/
Jack reached out to touch the young man's arm but the kid shied away, blue eyes wide open in fear. "Hey, it's all right. I won't hurt you." How long had the poor kid been there? Obviously long enough to become completely subjugated. Jack managed to stroke the dirty blonde hair once before the kid moved away, trembling fiercely.
/he touched me didn't hurt master only does that after nice hand blood on it bad man hurts others might hurt me help/
/no no wasn't my fault master he came in don't hurt me not my fault/
"Apophis." Jack stood up, drawing his sword again. The whole reason he had entered the cabin was to find the pirate but it seemed that the murderer had found him.
"What did you hope to achieve, O'Neill?" Apophis asked scornfully, not even glancing at his prisoner.
"Your death was my first priority," Jack replied, stepping away from the kid and circling around Apophis. He couldn't let this misbegotten son of a whore continue living.
Apophis was supremely confident in his own skill with a sword. "You can try."
They circled each other warily, waiting for the other to make the first move. Then suddenly Apophis lunged towards Jack, who managed to deflect the blow just inches away from his chest. Jack then struck back but found the path of his sword blocked.
The two men continued to trade strikes for the next few minutes, neither one gaining any advantages over the other. Occasionally a sword found skin but nothing that stopped either man from fighting. They were watched carefully by the man in the corner, who had mixed feelings about the fight. Part of him wanted the stranger to kill his master so that he would be free but the other part was scared of what life would be like without his master.
Jack gritted his teeth in determination. He had to win this. If Apophis won, he would continue to hurt the kid and many more like him. That was just not an option. Although his arm was becoming tired, Jack pressed on, hoping for some kind of opening. He had to win soon or he would die.
Apophis sensed his enemy's fatigue and closed in for the kill. Victory was so close, he could taste it...
Something long and silver suddenly appeared in his chest, accompanied by a sharp pain. With dazed eyes, he looked behind him and saw O'Neill's huge servant standing there, sword-wielding hand outstretched. Apophis looked again at the sword that had pierced him and then crumpled to the floor, dead.
"Thanks, Teal'c," Jack said with relieved gratitude. Trust Teal'c to show up just at the right time. He went over and nudged Apophis with his foot; yep, the pirate was quite dead. Objective achieved.
/master what happened to master is he dead please please let him be dead won't hurt me anymore bad master gone/
Jack noticed the agitated rocking of the kid and went back over to kneel beside him. "He's dead. He won't hurt you any more," he said gently, unknowingly echoing the kid's thoughts. "You're free now."
The young man shook his head, silent tears running down his cheeks, leaving dirty streaks behind them.
/can't be free no no master won't let me lying lying he killed master master bad man dead can't hurt me free now free free/
"Who is he?" Teal'c asked, standing a respectable distance away, not wanting to frighten the young man further. He felt pleased that he had killed Apophis, saving the prisoner from any further abuse.
"I don't know, he hasn't said anything." Jack wiped the blood off his hand before cradling the kid's cheek with his palm. "Can you tell me who you are?"
/name name had a name wrote it down so I wouldn't forget not whore where did I write it where can say it now master dead no more hurt free where did I write it where/
He looked down at the floor and saw something scratched into the wood. His name, put there in the early days of his imprisonment.
/read it come on what does it say Da-n-i-el Daniel Daniel Daniel that's it that's my name not other names Daniel/
Jack followed the kid's gaze to the floor and saw the name written roughly there. "Daniel Jackson - that's your name?"
Daniel - he had a name now - nodded. It sounded much better than 'whore'. He was still trembling in fright, the stranger touching his face.
"Hello, Daniel. My name is Jack. I'm going to help you. Will you let me?" Jack felt an urge to protect the kid, who had obviously been through so much. It was entirely possible that Daniel's mind had broken under the strain or maybe he was just too afraid to speak.
/Jack Jack nice name knew a Jack once nice man maybe this man nice too help me/
"Master dead?" Daniel's throat was croaky through lack of use and the beginnings of dehydration. He had quickly learnt not to speak after the first few beatings.
"Yes, he's dead," Jack replied. It was going to take the kid a long time to recover... if he ever did.
Daniel held out his cuffed wrists. "Please?"
Jack motioned to Teal'c, who reached out and pulled the flimsy bed-frame apart. The metal pole fell to the floor, allowing Daniel to move away from the bed.
"Hey," Jack said, gently catching the thin arm before Daniel could run away. "We need to go back to my ship so we can cut those chains off you, all right?"
"Ja'k." Daniel tested out the name, ignoring the person.
"Yes, I'm Jack. Now we need to stand up." He got hold of Daniel's upper arms and started to lift him up.
/no don't touch dirty unclean whore bad person don't touch Jack/
Daniel started struggling weakly, his legs not strong enough to support him so he slid back down to the floor.
"For cryin' out loud, Daniel, I'm just trying to help you!" Jack got a little frustrated with the young man.
"Don't hurt," Daniel croaked, flinching at the tone of voice.
"I won't hurt you," Jack said more calmly. Deciding on direct action, he scooped the kid into his arms and was surprised at how little he weighed. For a man Daniel's size, he should have been a lot heavier - yet another indication of how badly he had been treated. Daniel tried to struggle but his body was too weak to have any effect. Therefore he resigned himself to his fate, becoming limp in Jack's arms.
"Don't worry, kid, I'll look after you," Jack promised softly, feeling that protective urge again. He would help the kid recover and depending on whether Daniel was now insane, send him back to his family.
Jack carried him all the way back over to the 'Star Dweller', earning quite a few curious stares from his surviving crew. But he ignored them as a captain sometimes should. When he reached his own cabin, Jack said to Teal'c, "Get the doc." His ship was one of the only pirate vessels with a qualified surgeon.
"As you wish."
Gently, Jack laid Daniel out on the bed. Terrified blue eyes stared up at him, seemingly unbelieving that Jack was not going to hurt him. Jack could see every rib now that Daniel was lying down, which indicated that he hadn't eaten properly for a very long time.
/bed bed no can't do that anymore Jack said wasn't going to hurt me no bed please no don't want to be here no bed no/
He lay there absolutely still, a tear escaping to trickle down his cheek, waiting to see what Jack would do to him. Scared eyes watched Jack as he found something short and metal, and came over to the bed. Daniel backed away, memories of being hurt running through his mind.
Jack noted the movement and quickly realised why Daniel was scared. He held up the metal rod and said, "This is for taking the chains off, Daniel. I'm not going to hit you." The kid stopped moving backwards so Jack slowly reached out to hold onto one wrist and started to fiddle with the lock.
He had one cuff unlocked when Andy 'Doc' Warner arrived in the cabin. Doc took in the sight of the unfortunate man with professionalism - he had seen injuries that were much worse. "Apophis?"
"Who else?" Jack replied, stepping aside for Doc to examine Daniel, but he continued to unlock the second cuff.
/stranger no don't touch only Jack Jack hasn't hurt me go away/
Daniel started moving away from the stranger's hands, whimpering in fear. He felt someone stroke his hair and his eyes darted upwards to see Jack standing over him, talking to him.
"It's all right, Daniel, Doc here's going to help you get better." Jack kept up the stroking, trying to reassure the kid. "I won't let him hurt you." He was gratified to see a hint of trust appear in Daniel's eyes, probably because of the non-threatening way he was handling the kid.
Doc stepped forward and proceeded to examine the young man's torso, gently checking the wounds for infection. A couple of them were red around the edges but probably nothing that an alcohol rub wouldn't fix. He then carefully undid Daniel's trousers and pulled them down so he could examine the man's legs and genitals.
Daniel kicked his legs weakly, reacting to the loss of clothing. Doc placed his hands on the man's ankles, holding him still.
Jack put a gentle restraining hand on Daniel's chest. "Shhh, it's all right," he said soothingly. "Nothing's going to happen, remember?" He took his hand away from the chest when Daniel stopped moving.
/it's all right it's all right not hurt me help me Jack here won't let man hurt me/
Doc continued his examination, noting that the patient was extremely thin for his height. Interestingly, his genitals weren't marked but there were scars and bruises all over his legs. When he was finished, Doc said, "Captain, I need to turn him over."
Jack nodded. Still stroking Daniel's long, shaggy hair, he leaned down and said softly, "Daniel, you need to turn over now so Doc can see your back. I'll help you."
"Over?" Daniel croaked, fear rising in him again.
"Yes, turn over," Jack agreed. "Ready?" He put his hands on the kid's left side so he would roll towards Jack. "One... two... three."
Daniel resisted briefly but Jack was easily able to roll him onto his stomach.
/no don't like this no no no master did this all the time don't like this no/
He reached out and grabbed Jack's hands as tightly as he could, trying to convey that message.
Jack was surprised by the strength of the grip and after a few seconds, realised why Daniel was scared. He looked into the pleading blue eyes and tried to reassure the kid verbally since he couldn't use his hands. "Not too much longer, I promise, then you can turn over again."
Daniel closed his eyes and buried his face into the bedding but continued to hold onto Jack's hands.
"Make it quick, Doc," Jack commented to the surgeon.
The surgeon clinically noted the increased number of scars and welts on the patient's back, quite a few of them recently inflicted. The buttocks hadn't gone unscathed, and there was evidence of swelling and tearing around the anus.
"Hurry it up, Doc," Jack ordered, feeling Daniel's grip tighten at the invasive examination.
Doc finished the examination quickly and nodded to his captain when the young man could be turned back over.
"Daniel, you need to let go so you can roll over." The grip on his hands was slowly released and soon Jack was able to help Daniel move onto his back again. "See, that wasn't too bad, was it?"
/over now safe no hurt can trust Jack/
Daniel just stared up at Jack, some of that trust shining through. He rolled onto his side to face his rescuer, his hands automatically next to each other as if they were still chained.
Jack lay a sheet over Daniel's naked body, not wanting the kid to feel too vulnerable. He then followed Doc a discreet distance away and asked the question he already knew the answer to. "Well?"
"As you can see, he's been beaten and flogged many times. The scars don't look more than a few weeks old. He's severely underweight, and if he's been tied up all that time, I'd say that his muscles would be very weak at the moment."
"His grip on me seemed strong enough," Jack commented.
"Could he stand when you found him?" Doc only waited a second before continuing. "There is evidence that he has been sodomised, most likely every day since he was captured."
Jack let out a few choice swear words at that thought. "Will he recover?"
"Physically, he should. He will need to be bathed and some alcohol put on the open wounds to prevent them from becoming infected."
"And his mind?"
Doc shrugged and glanced over at the young man who was watching them intently. "That will be up to him. But you're assuming he wasn't always like this."
"He carved his name into the wood where we found him," Jack stated. "He's not stupid, just.... scared." And there was something in those eyes that hinted at the kid's intelligence, which made Jack wonder whether Daniel would be happy going back to his old self knowing what had been done to him. "I'll need a tub, warm water, and a scrubbing brush," he ordered.
"Warm water?" Doc queried.
"Yes, warm water. He hasn't got any fat on him, Doc; I'm not giving him a bath in cold water."
"Of course." Doc scurried out of the cabin to see to the captain's orders.
Jack went back to the bed and stood next to it, running his fingers through Daniel's hair. The long strands easily slid through his fingers and Jack was suddenly curious as to what it would look like when clean. "You're going to have a bath soon, Danny." The childhood name seemed to suit the appearance. "We're gonna get rid of all that dirt and you'll feel much better."
"Bath?" It had been so long since he'd had a bath, since he was clean.
"That's right, a bath." He would have to lift the kid into it and most likely assist with the scrubbing. "And then we'll have something to eat."
Jack continued to talk to Daniel while they were waiting for the bath, keeping his tone soothing so that the kid would realise that he wasn't going to be hurt again. Apophis had certainly done a great job of breaking Daniel's spirit, Jack thought as the young man remained silent.
When the bath was finally ready and brought to his cabin, Jack picked Daniel up in his arms, took him over to the tub, and then gently lowered him feet first into it. Daniel's eyes widened with surprise as he slid into the water. His 'baths' for the past few weeks had consisted of getting buckets of cold water dumped over him; the warmth of the water now surprised him greatly. The salt water stung his wounds but he tried to ignore that, concentrating on the feel of the water. He looked gratefully at his rescuer, the beginnings of a smile gracing his lips.
Jack smiled back, feeling strangely pleased at having made the kid happy. Going over to his table, he picked up his tin mug - it would make-do as a pitcher. He went back to the bath, filled the mug with water, and then poured it over Daniel's chest. Then he held the cup out to Daniel and indicated that he should pour the water over himself.
Daniel tried to take the cup but his fingers were clumsy with reaction and he dropped it into the water.
/idiot stupid boy can't even hold onto it should be punished don't hit me didn't mean to/
He saw Jack's hand reach towards him and braced himself for the blow. When it didn't come, he allowed himself to look at Jack and with some astonishment, saw Jack retrieve the mug from the water.
"Hey, it's all right," Jack said when he saw Daniel flinch away from him. "You have to start trusting me, Danny. I'm not going to hurt you." How many times would he need to say it before it sank in? He tipped a cupful of water down the kid's back.
"Sorry, master," Daniel muttered; he couldn't do anything right. He wrapped his arms around him, withdrawing into himself.
"I'm not your master, Danny. You're free. You don't have a master anymore."
/I don't? master is dead Jack new master doesn't want that name says I'm free am I?/
"Close your eyes," Jack ordered, totally unaware of Daniel's thoughts. He held the cup over Daniel's head and a few seconds later, tipped the water out. He then brushed the damp locks back from Daniel's forehead. "Open them."
Daniel obeyed, focusing his eyes on the edge of the tub. He should have known that Jack would order him around; he was Daniel's new master even if he didn't want that name. It was only a matter of time before the hurt started again.
Jack noted the tense body language but was unsure as to its cause. Moving around the tub, he lifted one of Daniel's legs out and stretched it out over the edge of the tub. The kid didn't even struggle, continuing to remain docile when Jack picked up the scrubbing brush. He tested it on his own skin first, making sure the bristles weren't going to scratch too much. Before he started on Daniel, he said, "I'm going to get rid of some of the dirt. If it hurts, tell me and I will stop."
Daniel flinched when the brush touched his sensitive skin but didn't say a word. The pain was his punishment for letting his master die.
Every so often, Jack would look at Daniel's face to see how the kid was going. Daniel would not make eye contact or utter a sound, even though Jack could see the flinches of pain cross the kid's face. What was going through that mind of his?
/hurt hurt don't let him know my fault clumsy no good deserve to be hurt/
Jack scrubbed up to mid-thigh, revealing a large amount of pale skin, then he put that leg back in and got the other one out, then proceeding to do the same to it. All the bruises stood out more against the white skin, and Jack mentally cursed Apophis with every new injury that was revealed. He wasn't aware that he was scrubbing harder though until he looked up at Daniel and saw tears escaping from the tightly closed eyelids. Immediately he stopped, feeling guilty at causing so much pain. "I'm sorry, Danny. I wasn't thinking." Or paying attention. "I won't do that again," he promised.
He finished scrubbing the leg, Daniel keeping his eyes closed the whole time. The pirate then moved onto the arms, chest, and finally the back. And when he had done as much as he could reach, he said, "Danny, I know you probably don't want to do this but I need you to kneel up so I can reach the rest of you."
Daniel shook his head. His nerves were completely on edge after having Jack touching him for so long; he really wasn't wanting the man to clean his private parts as well. He felt safe in his refusal because Jack hadn't hit him yet.
Jack sighed; he had expected that refusal. "Well, you'll have to do it then," he said, holding the brush out in front of the kid's face.
Daniel opened his eyes and looked at the brush.
/can't hold onto it too clumsy don't want him to touch no no no have to no can't do this/
He reached out a shaking hand then pulled it back, undecided as to what he should do. Mutely, he looked at Jack, who was watching him calmly. Daniel shook his head.
"Yes, you can," Jack disagreed. "I'm not letting you out only half-clean," he said in a parental tone.
Distress was apparent in Daniel's eyes as he tried to make a decision. Concentrating very hard, he finally reached a hand out again and took the brush from Jack. Although his hand was still shaking, he held onto the brush tightly. He was not going to drop it.
The young man shifted himself so that he could access the unscrubbed areas on his front and then started scrubbing as hard as he could.
"Hey, hey, hey," Jack said, stopping Daniel for a moment. "You'll take all your skin off. Just do it gently." He slowly released the kid's arm and then watched carefully to see if Daniel would obey.
/Jack doesn't want me to hurt me gently gently not hard deserve hard must be gentle or he'll stop me don't want him to touch me must be gentle/
He gently scrubbed the rest of his front, aware of Jack's eyes on him, watching but only to make sure that Daniel was doing as he was told. There was no sexual interest there. And why would there be anyway? He wasn't very desirable at the moment.
When Daniel finished his front, he realised that he was going to have a problem cleaning his back - he needed both arms to support him in a kneeling position as his legs were quite weak. Reluctantly, he made the decision that Jack was going to have to help him so he handed the brush back and tried to get to his knees.
Jack quietly put the brush aside and helped Daniel get into the right position. Up this close, he noted that Daniel must once have had a beautiful body but it held no interest to Jack in its current state. But he could definitely see why Apophis had wanted it.
Daniel leaned forward, his hands resting on the edge of the tub, his arms taking most of his weight. He hated being exposed like that - it had been his Master's favourite position until Daniel's body no longer had the strength to maintain it. He closed his eyes again when he felt the brush touch his lower back, and when it moved across his buttocks, he ducked his head, fighting the panic. To counteract his trembling arms, he straight-armed his weight, locking his elbows so that they wouldn't collapse.
Mercifully, Jack finished cleaning him quickly and Daniel sat back down, glad that it was over. His muscles were still trembling from the unaccustomed use, and he wrapped his arms around himself to try and hide that fact.
Looking at the kid, Jack decided that the hair-washing could be done another day. He had put Daniel through enough already. "Time to get out, Danny. Ready?" The kid nodded. Jack put a folded sheet onto the floor nearby and then turned Daniel around to face the side of the tub. He swung the long legs over the side, got a good grip under Daniel's armpits, and lifted him high enough to clear the edge of the tub. Jack then lowered Daniel onto the sheet - well, as best as he could anyway - and made him reasonably comfortable while the pirate went to find something to dry him off with.
Daniel's eyes tracked Jack around the room. He wasn't sure whether he should be afraid of the man or not. Jack had been angry earlier but had stopped him from hurting himself. It was confusing.
His skin tingled all over from the scrubbing and it felt tight due to all his injuries. It also felt like every wound was on fire despite the care Jack had displayed in washing him. He tried to hide the tears of pain from his rescuer, not wanting to cause more trouble.
Jack saw the tears though when he came back and knelt down beside Daniel. He patted the kid's legs dry then wrapped the small sheet around the thin shoulders. "Hurting?"
"Yes," Daniel choked out past the lump in his throat.
"I'll give you something for that soon," Jack promised, squeezing the shoulders in a gentle hug. "After I've done your face, we'll move you to the bed and you can have some rum." He picked up a small square of cloth that he had brought over earlier, wet it, and then proceeded to wash Daniel's face.
/touch feels so nice hugged me no-one has done that for years angry though angry at me angry at master not hurting me doesn't want me as a whore treats me nice what does he want?/
"There, now doesn't that feel better?" Jack sat back and took a good look at the kid's face. The big blue eyes stood out against the pale skin, as did the multicoloured bruises. Take away the bruises, add a little bit of weight to his face and Daniel could be beautiful, Jack realised. It was too bad that beauty like that was often destroyed by those who didn't have it themselves.
"Thank... thank-you." Daniel's voice broke on the first word. His throat still felt dry from the lack of moisture in his body.
"You're welcome." Jack gently patted the rest of the kid dry then picked him up and carried him back to the bed. The kid looked, and even smelled, better now. He sat Daniel on the edge then left him there to go and collect some clothing. Jack came back with a pair of his old trousers and a shirt. "These might be a little big but they'll have to do."
Daniel lifted his feet obediently as Jack knelt in front of him and started dressing him. He managed to lift himself up for a couple of seconds so that Jack could pull the trousers up to his waist. Jack was right - the clothing was too big - but at least it meant that he wasn't naked. He lifted his arms and Jack slid the shirtsleeves over them and then over his head to hang loosely over his body. Then he lay down unresisting when Jack lightly pushed at his shoulders. Daniel looked up at the man with gratitude. He was clean, warm and clothed - something he had never thought he would be again. Jack was a good man to do that for him.
"Just relax," Jack said, stroking the long hair again. "I'll be back soon with some food and drink." He hated leaving the kid but it was necessary.
He opened the door to find Teal'c standing there with a tray of food and two cups. "Teal'c?"
"I believed that nourishment would be required," the large man explained, bringing the tray into the room and placing it on the table. He took in the clean appearance of the young man. "You had no trouble?"
"Only a little." Jack picked up the sheets from the floor and handed them to Teal'c. "But it was understandable."
Teal'c nodded as he accepted the sheets. "Apophis died too quickly." When one considered that he had inflicted such pain on an innocent being, Apophis's death had indeed been unfitting.
"Agreed." Jack looked over at Daniel who was looking at the food quietly, his hands pressed together with invisible chains. "He doesn't like company much so we'll keep the crew away until he improves. If you have any problems with that, let me know." He had hopefully rid his crew of the worst pirate qualities but that didn't mean that someone wouldn't try to take advantage of the kid.
"As you wish." Teal'c bowed then left the room.
Jack went over to the table, collected the tray, and then went to sit on the edge of the bed. The kid hadn't taken his eyes off the food, so starved was he. There wasn't a great variety of food - just bread and meat - but Jack supposed that those foods would be best for someone who hadn't eaten for a while. He cut off a piece of meat first - the bread was too dry - and held it out to Daniel. "Here, eat this."
Daniel sat up slowly then took the piece of meat and put it into his mouth. It tasted so good. There was just enough juice in it to lubricate his throat, and the meat slid down easily when he swallowed. A small smile appeared on his face as he turned to Jack.
"More?" Jack held out another piece, which was eagerly snatched away. He looked on indulgently as Daniel quickly ate the rest of the meat and some of the bread. It wasn't a big meal but it would be enough for the moment. He handed Daniel the cup, which was filled with water. "Sorry, kid. It looks like you're supposed to get some water into you before you can get drunk."
Daniel didn't care; he just wanted something to drink. He greedily drank the water then leaned back against the bed-head in contentment. He hadn't eaten so well since before he was captured. His wounds still hurt but not as badly as before. "Thank-you," he said again.
"No problem. Now, lie down and get some rest. There's some more water here if you need it. I have to go and check on my crew but I'll be back later," Jack promised.
The young man shuffled forward until he was lying down again, and reached out a hand to hold Jack's. "Don't go." He didn't want to be left alone on this strange ship, even if the man he was asking was his new master.
"I have to," Jack said, although he didn't want to go. "I won't be long." He released Daniel's hand and then left.
Daniel curled up on his side, feeling abandoned.
/alone don't want to be alone listening waiting for the master to come hate being alone no-one to talk to silence can't talk not allowed Jack let me talk nice man soothing hands seems to care about me doesn't want me though must be ugly even master stopped saying I was beautiful didn't believe him anyway please Jack come back don't leave me here alone/
His heart filled with fear, Daniel cried silently into the strange pillow until there were no more tears left.
Above deck, Jack had talked to some of his crew and had found out what had happened in the fight. Only six of his crew had died, with a few more receiving injuries. Apophis's entire crew had died; those that weren't killed outright in the fighting preferring to drown rather than be captured. The bodies of two Merchant seamen had been found below decks, their throats cut not too long before the fight. Their condition pre-death had been worse than Daniel's, mainly because the kid had only been abused by one person rather than a group of desperate pirates. Jack wondered absently whether they had been taken at the same time as Daniel.
Jack's thoughts were interrupted by the first mate, Jonas Hanson, a reliable man not too much younger than himself. "What is it?"
"Was it wise bringing the boy back here?" He had caught a glimpse of blue eyes and long legs earlier, and was concerned about the reaction of a couple of the men.
"Where else could he go?" Jack countered. It wasn't like there had been a lot of options.
Hanson couldn't answer that. "You know what Apophis kept him for, don't you?"
Jack knew exactly what he had been kept for. "No-one will treat him like that on board my ship, understood?" He had very strict rules about that.
"Yes, Captain. What do you want done with the ship?"
The pirate captain looked at the nearby empty ship that was only being kept on course by a couple of his own crew. He could, of course, give it to Hanson, along with half the crew, as a reward but that left him short-handed should any trouble arise. There were only two options - to sink her or to sail back to a port in tandem and hope to find more crew members there to help fill the two ships. "Your opinion?"
"She's still seaworthy but will need some pretty big repairs. We're less likely to be attacked ourselves if there's two ships," Hanson noted. "She can be refitted in port; it would be a shame to scrap her."
Jack nodded. "Take some of the crew and clean her out." 'Preferably the ones who might cause trouble over Daniel', was the unspoken command. "You're in command of her until we reach port." It was his reward for loyal service.
"Aye, captain." Finally, his own command. Temporary for the moment but who else would want to command the 'Alexandria'? Gathering some men, he started to make plans.
Some time later, Jack went back to his quarters and found Daniel still wide awake in exactly the same position he had been left in. "Hey, you were supposed to be sleeping."
Daniel just stared up at him mutely.
/Jack's back said he would be gone for so long left me alone so scared don't want to sleep might be dream gone when I wake not dream real master was the bad dream free now don't want to be scared Jack's here not alone now/
Jack sat down on the edge of the bed and saw the dried tear marks. "There's no need to be scared, Danny. No-one's going to hurt you here." He felt the kid capture his left hand and hold it tightly. "What?"
"Talk." He wanted proof that Jack was a good man.
"You want me to talk?" Jack asked and received a nod in return. "Yeah, I guess Apophis wasn't really big on talking. Got any ideas?" He wasn't quite sure how to carry on a one-sided conversation.
A shake of the head this time.
"All right then." Jack thought rapidly. "What about other countries? Yeah, that'll do. Have you ever been to Jamaica, Danny? Well, it's the most exotic country I've ever laid eyes on..."
He talked for about fifteen minutes until Daniel finally fell asleep. The kid hadn't let go of his hand once, although now the grip was limp, Jack could have removed it. But he didn't. He held on for a little while longer without exactly knowing why. He stopped stroking the hair though - his arm was getting tired. Fifteen minutes of stroking and talking had lulled Danny to sleep, and Jack hoped that the kid would sleep for a while; he probably hadn't slept too well in captivity.
After a few more minutes, Jack gently freed his hand and then went over to the tub where he had left the face washer. Picking it up, he wet it again then went back to Daniel and washed the young man's face. Daniel didn't even stir.
It brought back memories for Jack of when his son was alive. Wiping the tears away after Charlie had fallen over, washing away the dirt after a particularly dirty day outside, the feel of that warm little body pressed up against his... gifts of love that had been taken away from him. Oh, he could have married again and had more children but he didn't want to take the risk of losing them again. So he had stayed away, caring only about his crew.
Daniel had looked so lost, so terrified, that Jack had automatically decided to take care of him. The kid probably had a family somewhere who were worried sick about him so Jack would look after him until he was well enough to go back to them. His parents would be suffering through the pain of believing their son dead... Jack didn't believe any parent should go through that.
He tenderly laid a sheet over Daniel's body to help keep him warm, then went and started to empty the bathtub. The only thing he would have to be careful of was caring too much to let Daniel go.
//"Stop! Why are you doing this?" Daniel asked in bewilderment as the chains were locked around his wrists.
"You will not talk, whore," Apophis commanded, striking the young man across the face. He preferred silence in his slaves.
"No, I am not a whore!" Daniel argued, fighting against his restraints. "You cannot do-" His head was snapped back with the force of the blow.
"Silence!" Apophis pulled out a knife and cut the shirt from his new slave's body. He then held the knife under the young man's throat. "You will not speak unless I give you permission."
Daniel remained quiet, not wanting to get his throat slit. He swallowed hard, the movement scraping the edge of the knife. As bad as this situation was going to be, he didn't want to die. Not yet, anyway.
The knife was removed from his throat. He heard Apophis issue an order for the others to leave and then he felt hands undoing his trousers. "No!" Daniel lashed out with his feet, catching Apophis across the chest and sending him sprawling onto the floor.
Apophis was quickly on his feet again, really angry now, and struck Daniel's face several times. His head spun from the blows, making it difficult for him to concentrate enough to prevent the pirate from removing the last of his clothing. Daniel was then flipped onto his stomach, cruel hands exploring what no man should ever touch.
He wasn't prepared for the pain, Apophis splitting him open with one rough thrust. Daniel cried out, his breath turning to sobs as the pain continued to throb through his body. Another thrust...//
Jack moved from the chair he was sitting vigil in to gather the young man into his arms. He had been watching Daniel's sleep become more restless and at the vocalisation that was filled with so much pain, he just had to do something. He gently rocked back and forth, trying to provide some comfort. "Wake up, Danny, it's just a dream. Everything's all right now" he soothed.
With a large intake of breath, Daniel woke up and immediately started to struggle within the restrictive embrace.
/no let go let go don't want to be touched let go/
"Danny, calm down, you're safe," Jack said as he held onto the struggling man and stroked the soft hair.
"Jack?" The pirate's voice cut through the fear and pain. Daniel stopped struggling, still breathing heavily.
"Yeah, it's me," the pirate confirmed. He continued to rock the young man - just as he had whenever Charlie had experienced nightmares - until Daniel had calmed down.
Daniel moved out of the embrace and raised a hand to wipe away the tears that had gathered. He knew that he had only been reliving a memory but the pain had still felt as real as the first time. Arms now wrapped around his knees, he looked out the window, absently noting that it was still daylight.
Jack noticed him looking. "You've had about four hours sleep," he supplied the information. The kid looked so small and vulnerable huddled like that, that Jack wanted to go back and run his sword through Apophis a couple more times; he had died way too quickly. "I think you should drink some more water and try to eat something." Jack held out some bread.
Daniel held a hand out for the bread but saw that it was shaking so he pulled it back.
"Yeah, I sometimes have the shakes after a bad dream." Especially if it was alcohol-induced. "How 'bout we wait for a little while?"
The young man pulled his knees closer to his chin and looked out the window again. Every single time Apophis had forced him, he had felt that pain. Every single time. And there hadn't been anything he could do about it except pray that it was over quickly. He'd learnt not to vocalise his pain after being flogged for crying out. He had done everything he could to minimise the pain he received and in doing so, had been reduced to this pathetic shell of a man.
Jack wondered what the faraway look in Daniel's eyes meant. It scared him that it might mean that the kid's mind wasn't 'all there' anymore. If that was true, could he send Daniel back to his family knowing they would probably lock him up in some asylum?
The two men remained sitting like that for several minutes, Jack unwilling to break the silence.
Slowly, Daniel brought his mind back from the memories. It would do him no good to dwell on them. He turned his head towards Jack, catching the older man's attention, then looked at the bread. "Please?"
With a reasonably steady hand, the young man picked up a piece of bread before the pirate could rescind the offer, and broke it into more manageable pieces. One by one, he put them into his mouth and chewed, having a mouthful of water in between each one to help swallow them. After draining the last of the water, he sat back, happy that he had been allowed to eat the small meal.
For Jack, it was like watching Charlie take his first steps, taking pride in his son's achievement. Less than half a day ago, Daniel had been a total wreck. Now he was clean, dressed, and had eaten the food without any help or prompting. It would take a long time before he was completely recovered but Jack was happy that the kid had already started on that road. "More?"
Daniel's eyes widened. He was allowed to have more? That was totally unexpected. His old master had never allowed him to have more. "More?"
"Sure. Do you want me to get something for you?" Jack started to get up but was stopped by the tentative hand on his arm. There wasn't even time to be surprised before Daniel removed his hand and cowered back on the bed, plainly expecting to be punished for daring to touch the pirate. Jack had to admit he was a little confused by the kid's behaviour; earlier Daniel had held onto his hand voluntarily, and now he was scared of being beaten for a similar thing. Maybe it had something to do with the nightmare Daniel had experienced. "What?" he asked, keeping his hands low so that they weren't threatening. "You don't want anything?"
"I should get," Daniel pointed out what he thought was the obvious, arms wrapped around his knees again.
"You can barely stand, let alone walk, Danny. And besides, you're my guest. That means I have to look after you."
"Guest?" the young man echoed. How could he be a guest?
"Yes, guest," the pirate confirmed. "So, do you want some more?"
Daniel shook his head. He didn't need too much food to fill him up.
"All right. How are you feeling now?" Jack looked intently at the kid when no answer was given. "Danny? I really want to know."
"Fine." He didn't hurt and he wasn't being hurt, so that, according to his current life, meant that he was fine.
"Uh-huh." Jack was prevented from replying further when a knock sounded at the door. "Come in."
Doc entered the room. He was armed with two bottles of alcohol and some strips of cloth. He surveyed the situation then asked, "Is this a good time to treat the wounds?"
"As good as any." Moving off the bed, he made way for the doctor to get close to Daniel. "Need me to do anything?"
"Given Daniel's current emotional state, it might be wise to hold him down," Doc stated. "And give him some of this. Cleaning the wounds may hurt a little."
Jack looked at the bottle of brandy he had been given. Maybe he should have some for himself too... "Right. Danny, have a drink of this." He held the bottle out.
Breaking off his staring at the doctor, Daniel switched his attention to Jack, understanding what they wanted him to drink. Brandy? Why did they want him to get drunk? He slowly shook his head, wanting to keep what was left of his wits about him.
"It'll dull the pain. Come on," Jack coaxed. He hated to cause the kid more pain but it was necessary to prevent the wounds from becoming infected.
/pain? he said he wouldn't hurt me no more pain don't want drink no pain/
Daniel backed towards the wall, pressing up against it. He wasn't going to let them hurt him.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud!" Jack knew that he had made a mistake in mentioning pain. "If those cuts get infected, you'll get sick and we don't want that to happen, do we? Now get back here so the Doc can treat you." The command just slipped out in his frustration.
Slowly, contritely, Daniel inched his way back to the edge of the bed, head down the entire time. Tears pricked his eyes as Jack's angry voice washed over him. If he didn't co-operate, Jack might kick him off the ship, or hit him, and Daniel didn't want that to happen. He would have to obey.
Doc indicated that Jack should sit behind the patient so he couldn't move away. Then he focused on the young man. "Daniel, can you hold out your left hand please?"
Daniel, very aware of Jack's presence behind him, held out his hand. Cool fingers held it while examining it, turning it over and carefully checking the chafed skin. Then alcohol was tipped over his wrist, causing him to hiss in pain and to try to snatch his hand back. But it was held tight, the Doc then proceeding to bandage it with a piece of cloth. As soon as he was able, Daniel took his hand back and cradled it to him, the pain subsiding to a dull burning.
"Now your other hand, Daniel." Doc noted the reluctance with which the patient complied. It was obvious that the young man only obeyed in fear of what would happen to him if he didn't. He treated the second wrist with alcohol, holding tight when Daniel reacted in pain, then bandaging it also.
Now Daniel cradled both hands to his chest. He vaguely understood that they were trying to help him - the soft litany of words from behind him told him so - but he hated the fact that he was trapped and that more pain was going to be inflicted on him.
"You're doing very well," Doc praised the young man. "Now, I need you to take off your shirt. Can you do that?"
He could but he wasn't going to. Daniel uncrossed his arms and started to move back wards away from the doctor but was stopped when he ran into Jack. Turning his head, he shot a pleading look at the pirate, hoping that Jack wasn't still angry at him.
"Sorry, Danny." Jack knew that the kid didn't want to be hurt any more but he didn't want Daniel to get sick or even die.
Daniel crossed his arms and held himself tightly so that they couldn't take off his shirt unless it was by force.
Jack shared an exasperated look with Doc. The pirate really didn't want to resort to giving orders or forcing Daniel to comply because that would reinforce the kid's belief that Jack would hurt him. Then he had an idea. "How about if I go first?" Jack asked, taking his shirt off and baring his torso for the Doc to examine. There were a couple of small gashes on his left side which he hadn't noticed before now - he had been too busy looking after Daniel to think about them.
Doc poured some alcohol onto the gashes, and Jack did his best to hide the pain - the things he did to set a good example! He let Doc bandage his waist then put his shirt back on, noticing that Daniel's eyes were tracking his every movement. "Your turn."
Daniel slowly slid forward then took his shirt off and held it in his lap. He didn't look at either of the men while he was stripping. He tried to ignore the doctor's probing but couldn't ignore the sting of alcohol on a couple of open wounds. Biting back the whimpers, Daniel curled his fingers tightly into the shirt he held. He had to get through this as quickly as possible, then the doctor would go away and leave him alone.
A slight pressure on his upper arms indicated that he should turn around so his back could be treated. Slowly, he shuffled himself around so that he was facing Jack but he kept his eyes averted. Now that he knew the injury was there, Daniel fixed his gaze on the small blood-stained area of Jack's shirt. The pirate had been carrying him around, lifting him and bathing him, and hadn't once complained about his injury - that was a gesture of unselfishness that the young man hadn't seen for a very long time.
Cool fingers skimmed over his back and he did his best not to flinch away from the touch. It was different to the examination earlier - for starters, he had been too scared to take it all in; now, though, he knew what was going on. A couple of quiet cries of pain escaped him as the alcohol was poured onto the cuts but he didn't move an inch.
The doctor wound a long piece of cloth around Daniel's torso, covering the worst of the wounds, then said, "Daniel, you can put your shirt back on."
The young man did so as quickly as he could, then wrapped his arms around his chest.
/no more no more no more no more/
Unconsciously he started rocking back and forth, communicating his agitation to the other two.
"Daniel." Jack put his hands on the young man's shoulders, ignoring the attempt to shrug them off. "Daniel, stop it." He held on as the rocking slowed then stopped. The rocking had brought back the memory of when they had first found Daniel, and Jack hated the thought that the kid might still be scared of him.
"Hurts," Daniel stated, wanting to trust Jack but was scared to.
"I know." Jack ran one hand through Daniel's hair - he was beginning to enjoy doing that - then tilted the stubborn chin up. "But you know I wouldn't make you do anything that wasn't good for you."
"No more," Daniel pleaded with his voice and his eyes.
Jack groaned mentally. The urge to protect the kid was hard to resist. He looked over Daniel's shoulder at Doc. "Is it really necessary?" he asked, referring to the removal of Daniel's trousers.
"I believe so, yes," Doc replied, noting that the captain appeared to be becoming emotionally affected by the patient.
"Right." Jack refocused his attention onto the kid. "Danny, the doc has to finish his job so I need you to be brave for just a little while longer."
/brave? not brave scared hurts don't want any pain survived without this before clean now should be fine don't want him looking please Jack no/
Daniel shook his head, the movement limited by the fact that Jack was still holding his chin.
"Please, Danny? Then it will all be over."
The young man considered this, knowing that he was probably safe in refusing but not quite sure. But Jack had promised that it would be quick, and then the doctor would leave him alone. So reluctantly, he nodded.
A soft smile lit Jack's face, pleased that Daniel was co-operating. He shifted off the bed and helped Daniel to lie down on his stomach, then stood near the head of the bed, holding Daniel's hands to reassure him.
"Just relax, Daniel," Doc said as he lowered the trousers to mid-thigh. There were only a couple of wounds that needed the alcohol, and he warned the patient before pouring it on.
Daniel whimpered softly, the alcohol stinging. He squeezed Jack's hands, wanting the pain to go away.
"One more." Doc was very careful as the wound was across one buttock, and he put a piece of cloth nearby to stop it from dripping. He heard the hiss of pain, then said, "All done."
Carefully but quickly, Daniel sat up and pulled the trousers back up, relieved that it was over. Then he moved back against the wall, drew his knees to his chest, and wrapped his arms around them. Sitting on the wound was slightly painful but he ignored that, as sitting was the most defensible position.
"Well done, Danny," Jack praised the young man.
Daniel just stared blankly at him, withdrawing into his own world until the pain went away.
Jack left Daniel alone for a few hours after Doc's visit to let the kid have some space. Daniel's privacy had been continually invaded since he had arrived on board, which wasn't a good thing after spending so much time being abused. So Jack spent some time up on deck planning where they should go next and visiting the other ship.
Walking into Apophis's cabin, Jack noticed that although the body had been removed, the bloodstains remained on the floor. But he was more interested in the corner where Daniel had been chained. He knelt down, running his fingers over the name scratched into the floor, recognising that Daniel had likely been a middle- or upper-class kid, literate and educated. What a shock it must have been to suddenly find himself living like this. Had he been spoilt and pretentious, or shy and unassuming? Whatever he had been, he would never be that again, Jack knew. To be taken as a slave, beaten, starved, repeatedly raped, chained up... that would do permanent damage to anyone's soul. Daniel would never fit back into rich society whether he recovered or not; he would be changed by his experience. But Jack also knew that life as a pirate would not suit him either, so that left him in a quandry about what to do with Daniel.
Getting up slowly, he looked at the bed. How many times had Apophis made Daniel lie there while he abused him? He cringed away from the sight of bloodstains on the dirty sheets, hating the man who had caused the blood to be spilled. How dare Apophis treat anyone that way!
On impulse, he gathered the sheets up, went up onto the deck, and threw them over the side. He ignored the eyes of his crew on him, seeing only the sheets as they disappeared beneath the rolling waves. Feeling marginally better, he turned and went back down below to see if he could find any riches to share with his men.
When Jack had left, Daniel had thought he was being punished for not obeying; after all, Apophis had frequently done that, albeit Daniel had usually been naked - leaving him alone like that to imagine what the punishment would be for his disobedience.
So now Daniel was wondering what his punishment would be, if that was Jack's intention. The pirate's behaviour so far hadn't indicated that the man would voluntarily hurt him but Daniel was too scared to believe that wouldn't change.
He remembered the care Jack had taken when bathing him, and the support he had shown while the doctor was treating him. Why had he done this? Daniel was a stranger to him. Pirates didn't have the reputation for being caring or kind, yet Jack had displayed those very qualities. Was he genuine or was this the way he would try to get Daniel into bed?
Daniel didn't like that idea, not only because he didn't want to be used that way again but because he didn't want to believe that of Jack. Sure, the pirate had spoken angrily at him but that could easily be frustration rather than true anger. There was something comforting, something honest, about Jack that made Daniel want to trust him, to believe that he wasn't a threat. But he had suffered too much to readily do that.
He slowly unwrapped himself, suddenly curious as to what Jack was like. Gazing around the room, he noticed that compared to Apophis's cabin, Jack's taste in decorating was very Spartan. There was very little in the way of ornamentation; a few pieces of clothing were draped over a plain chair; one picture hung on the wall; and a few personal items lay on the wooden table. Besides the stained-glass windows behind him, there was no colour in the room, just browns and whites. The man who lived there obviously had no interest in living like a king, preferring a simpler life. That was something in his favour.
Daniel moved over to the end of the bed so that he could look at the objects on the table. There was a comb, a mirror, a mug of water, and a picture. He picked the piece of parchment up carefully, looking at the three faces sketched on it. One of them was clearly Jack; the other two, a woman and young boy, were obviously his family. They were all dressed nicely, indicating that they were well-off money-wise. That begged the question of why Jack was living as a pirate.
He ran his fingers lightly over the picture. Suddenly, in his mind's eyes, he could see two different people staring at him; a couple who seemed familiar. His parents? Who were they? Where were they?
//"He will have to stay with you, Sir Nicholas."
"I don't want to look after a child," a gruff, accented voice replied.
"He's your grandson and now your heir. It is your duty to provide him with a home."
"Very well, if I must."//
Daniel put the parchment down, startled at that memory. His grandfather raised him? But that would mean that he had no parents. Maybe his grandfather was dead too, and that was why he was so far from his home. Maybe he didn't even have a home any more. He wished he could remember but as hard as he tried, no more memories surfaced. It was almost as if his past hadn't existed.
There wasn't anything else to investigate - at least, nothing that he could reach. Even if there had been, he wouldn't be able to go over because he couldn't walk; yet another legacy of his slavery. Just to make sure, Daniel slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed, held onto the bedpost, and then cautiously tried to stand up. He managed to stand for about three seconds before his legs gave way and he sat with a thump back on the bed. So much for that plan.
He shifted back onto the bed and lay down. He was useless! He couldn't even stand up! What kind of asset was he going to be if he couldn't even stand? He didn't want to be the ship's whore - the only qualification he had at the moment - so he would have to get himself mobile as soon as possible.
When Jack arrived back at his cabin after the evening meal with his men, he found Daniel sprawled on the floor, trying to make his way back onto the bed. He immediately went over to the kid - after putting the tray of food and oil lamp down - and hoisted him onto the bed. "What do you think you were doing?"
Daniel stared defiantly at him. He had lost his balance when attempting to stand again and hadn't been able to pull himself back onto the bed.
Jack had a fair idea anyway. Retrieving the tray, he put it on the bed beside Daniel. "If you want to go somewhere, wait till I'm here to help you."
Daniel winced at the harsh tone. He hadn't expected Jack to be angry at his attempt to stand. Tucking his knees to his chin, he wrapped his arms around his legs, instinctively protecting himself.
It was like owning a puppy, Jack thought as he looked at the hurt expression on Daniel's face - one glimpse of the soulful eyes and you were a goner. He sat down on the bed next to the kid and put his hand on one shoulder. "I'm sorry, Danny. I'm not angry at you, I was angry at someone else before I came in here." He noticed Daniel start to relax a little. "How about some food?"
More food? Daniel looked at the tray. That made three times he had been fed since arriving on board. "Mine?" he questioned, still not certain.
"Yes, yours," Jack replied patiently. "Eat up."
Daniel did so quickly, relishing the bread and slice of orange that he had been given. The fruit tasted so sweet and he savoured it, feeling its cool juices slide down his throat; it was quite likely the best thing he had ever eaten. But it was gone all too quickly.
Jack moved the tray away from the bed when Daniel was finished, still smiling at the pleasure the kid had shown while eating the orange. He always tried to keep a good supply of fruit on board so it had been no problem to secure something for Daniel.
"Thank-you," Daniel said hesitantly, his good manners surfacing.
"You're welcome." Jack gently ruffled the hair. "Now, it's time to get some sleep." He helped Daniel to lie down under the sheet then tucked him in. "I'll be in the crew quarters if you need me, and Teal'c will be right outside the door." He started to reach for the night-time bucket but was stopped by a hand on his arm.
"Don't go." Daniel might still have been somewhat scared but he didn't want to be abandoned by the man he was starting to trust.
"Daniel, I have to go. There's nowhere for me to sleep here unless it's in that bed."
That was a problem. Daniel looked behind him to see whether two grown men could fit into the bed without touching - they couldn't. So he would have to sleep on the floor and let Jack have the bed. He pushed back the sheets, preparing to get up, but was stopped.
Jack knew what the kid was planning to do and put his hand on Daniel's to prevent him from getting out of bed. "No, you stay there. You're the guest, remember?" He cast his eyes around the room, trying to come up with a solution. His eyes locked on a nail sticking out of the wall. Hmm... "I'll be right back."
Before Daniel could protest, he had left the room. When he came back a few minutes later, he was carrying a hammer, a few nails, and a hammock. He quickly hammered the nails into the walls and strung the hammock up between them. "There," he said, turning to look at Daniel. "How about that?"
The young man nodded his approval. This way, he wouldn't be alone but he wouldn't be crowded either.
"Good." Jack went over to put the oil lamp out, then carefully felt his way back to the hammock and climbed into it. It had been years since he had slept in one but he was fortunate enough to be able to sleep in or on just about anything. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Daniel echoed. He lay there for a long time, just listening to the sound of the ship creaking as it moved through the water, until sleep finally claimed him.
Soft cries nearby woke Jack from his sleep. Forgetting where he was, he went to roll out of bed and was promptly pitched onto the floor by the swinging hammock.
"All right, that hurt," he grouched to himself as he picked himself up off the floor. His left shoulder ached, having jarred it when he had hit the floor, as did his left hip, making his movements a little stiff. Another whimper from the direction of the bed reminded Jack why he had woken up. He limped over to the bed, fortunately not running into anything in the dark, and lit the oil lamp. The light allowed him to see Daniel restlessly thrashing his head about in the throes of a bad dream. His hair was plastered to his head with sweat, indicating that the dream had been going on for some time.
"Danny, wake up, it's just a dream," Jack tried to wake the kid using just words. When that didn't work, he reached down and gently shook the thin shoulder.
Daniel's eyes snapped open, coming awake abruptly. His eyes darted about in panic, completely disorientated, until they landed on Jack. Although his breathing remained fast, he stopped his unconscious backwards movement. Dreaming... he'd been dreaming that he was still on Apophis's ship, trying to avoid the unwanted touch of the now-dead pirate. His skin crawled with the memory, and he lay unmoving under Jack's gaze, trying to fight the panic. He was safe now, no-one was going to hurt him.
Jack measured the level of panic and judged it was safe enough to try and comfort the young man. He perched himself on the edge of the bed and smoothed the sweat-soaked fringe back from Daniel's forehead as if the kid was his son. "It's all right, it was just a dream."
The young man's breathing started to slow down as his heart-rate returned to normal. Jack's touches were comforting and Daniel relaxed because of it.
Noticing how slick Daniel's skin was, he checked the shirt - it was damp with sweat. It wouldn't be good for Daniel to sleep in that so he would have to encourage the kid to change clothes. Leaving the bed for a moment, Jack went and retrieved another set of clothes, then came back, saying, "Daniel, you need to get changed or you'll catch a chill." He put the clothes on the end of the bed and indicated for Daniel to sit up.
Slowly Daniel obeyed, shivering a little as the adrenaline left his body. He watched as Jack stripped the sheet from the bed, feeling somewhat exposed.
Daniel took the shirt off, the cool night air drying the sweat on his skin. He felt Jack wrap the sheet around him and carefully dry off the exposed areas. Putting a hand to his bandages, Daniel realised they were damp also and he started to untie them.
"Wait," Jack said, seeing the action. "No, on second thoughts, you're probably right. Keep going."
Daniel finished removing the bandages, tolerated Jack putting a new bandage around his torso, then slipped the new shirt on. The cotton material felt cool against his skin. Without prompting, he then undid his trousers and lay down so that he could get them off without standing up. He managed to get them off by himself and he tolerated the brisk rub-down Jack gave him, then pulled the new trousers on. When he had finished, he smiled to himself. He had been allowed to dress himself - that was definitely a good thing.
Jack lifted Daniel off the bed and sat him down on the chair, then proceeded to remake the bed. Daniel started to feel embarrassed that he was causing this much trouble - it was almost as if he were a child who had wet the bed. Speaking of which, how could he let Jack know that he needed to relieve himself?
As Jack remade the bed, his foot hit the bucket under the bed, catching Daniel's attention. "Jack?"
"What?" The pirate turned to look at Daniel then followed the direction of the pointing finger. He pulled the bucket out. "You need this?"
Daniel nodded. He didn't know how he was going to use it though given that he couldn't stand. Maybe he could kneel?
Jack placed the bucket in front of Daniel then helped the kid stand. "I won't look," he promised.
Even more embarrassed, Daniel managed to relieve himself, then tidied himself up. As he sank back into the chair, he decided he was definitely going to have to regain use of his legs because doing that every day was just way too embarrassing.
Opening the window over the bed, Jack emptied the contents of the bucket out, then went back to making the bed. He knew Daniel was embarrassed at needing help for such a basic function so he didn't make a big deal out of it. When the bed was ready, he picked Daniel up and put him in the middle of it.
Daniel just let Jack fuss over him. It felt strange that the pirate was taking such good care of him. Granted, he was being treated like a child but after his recent ordeal, it was a nice change.
Jack finished tucking Daniel in but resisted the instinct to soothe the young man's brow. The kid had been on the ship for less than a day and already Jack was too involved. He cared about what happened to Daniel, and that was not a good thing for a pirate. Caring got people killed because they couldn't do what needed to be done. And he could not afford to let that happen. "Better get some more sleep," he said to the kid, avoiding those clear blue eyes. He extinguished the oil lamp then got back into his hammock. Helpful and detached, that's what he should be.
Daniel sensed a change in Jack but didn't know what it was. All he could recognise was that the pirate had withdrawn his friendliness a little, and that knowledge caused him to lie awake for a long time trying to figure what he had done to cause it.
When he woke up again, Daniel was alone in the room. Light was streaming through the window, warming him. Remembering the events of the previous night, his eyes darted nervously around the room, just in case Jack was out of sight. When the pirate didn't appear, Daniel relaxed a little, although he was still worried that Jack wouldn't want to look after him any more.
He spied some food sitting on the table: more bread, a banana, and some water. Obviously someone - most likely Jack - had brought that in while he was sleeping. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, he quickly sat and up and dug into the food.
When Jack hadn't arrived by the time he had finished, Daniel became nervous. He remembered the pirate's withdrawal and wondered whether he had been abandoned for the day - after all, Jack had a ship to command; he couldn't be looking after Daniel as well. Maybe yesterday had been a one-off and now things would go back to normal; pirates weren't exactly known for their compassion. But Daniel had sensed that Jack was different. It just went to show how wrong he could be.
There was a knock on the door, startling Daniel. Jack wouldn't knock, so it was someone else. He remained silent, hoping whoever it was would go away but there was no such luck. The handle turned and the door opened, revealing a young man who couldn't have been more than twenty.
Loren cautiously entered the room. He had been warned by the captain to approach the new arrival slowly and not to make him feel uncomfortable, so he was trying to obey. While he was walking, he was busy looking Daniel over; he was curious about the visitor. When he got closer to the bed, he said, "Hi, I'm Loren. The captain sent me to see if you needed anything."
Daniel remained quiet, assessing the stranger for potential threats.
"Do you want any more food?" Loren was a little unnerved by the man's silence and penetrating stare. "Something to read?"
Read? Daniel tried to remember if he could read. He knew he had been able to read his name, therefore that meant that he could probably read other things too. But slaves weren't allowed to read so why was Loren asking?
Loren saw the spark of interest in Daniel's eyes. "Wait here, I'll get something for you." He ran out of the cabin, went to his bunk, sorted through the few books he had, and then raced back to Daniel. Loren was one of the few on board who could read fluently - the captain had educated him - so he had a small store of books. "Here."
Tentatively, Daniel reached out and took the book. It was a comforting weight in his hand, familiar even. He had read books before, that was now certain. "Thank-you."
"No problem." He noticed the way Daniel held the book and was sure that he had found a kindred spirit. "I'll be back later on, so if there's anything you need, let me know."
Daniel nodded but didn't say anything. He was too busy analysing his feelings about the book.
Loren left Daniel to it and went eagerly to find the captain. He couldn't wait to share the news. "Captain!"
Jack looked up from where he was repairing some battle damage; cannonballs were such a nuisance. "What is it, Loren?"
The kid skidded to a halt, eyes shining with happiness. "I think Daniel can read," he announced.
"Why, did he ask you for something?" He might have known the two would hit it off, as they were pretty close in age. Jack supposed he could have asked Daniel about reading but he had been too busy with the repairs he had neglected yesterday.
"No, but he looked interested so I lent him one of mine." Loren couldn't wait until later when he could go back and talk about the book with Daniel. "Can I visit him later?"
Jack gave his permission; Loren was an enthusiastic kid and definitely not a threat to Daniel. Perhaps it was just what Daniel needed to help him recover.
Loren bounded off, a bundle of energy, as Jack turned back to his work. The pirate wanted to go and see if Daniel was indeed reading, but he reminded himself of the decision he had made last night; he had to treat Daniel as if he were one of the crew. Otherwise, it would just be too easy to get too involved. And he couldn't afford to do that.
Meanwhile, below in the captain's cabin, Daniel reverently ran his fingers over the leather cover. How long had it been since he had read anything? Way too long, he decided. His fingers traced over the title - 'Gulliver's Travels' - although it took a couple of minutes of concentration to work out that much. The title sounded familiar, so he had possibly read it before his life had been so devastatingly changed.
He opened the book to the first page and tried to read the opening sentence. His brain stumbled over the words but he re-read it until it made sense. Then he went onto the next sentence and found that it was a little easier. The same thing happened with the next sentence and so on until his fluency came back. And then he became lost in the story, reading hungrily as though starved for words...
When a shadow fell across the book, Daniel flinched back, the book dropping from his fingers. He looked up to see Jack standing next to the bed and for one moment, he thought the pirate was going to hit him for reading. The moment passed, as did the fear.
Jack picked the book up, glanced at the title, then handed it back to Daniel. The kid had seemed to be a fair way into it, considering he'd only had it for a few hours. The fact that Daniel could read well was an indication that the kid was well-educated. So how had he ended up with Apophis?
Daniel accepted the return of the book and continued to stare at Jack. He was puzzled by the older man's silence. Why had he come back at all if he wasn't going to say anything?
//"On your knees, whore."
"Master..." he pleaded, his solitude interrupted.
"I said, on your knees!"
Pain flared in his cheek as his master punished him for not obeying. Fighting back tears, he quickly but reluctantly obeyed. The quicker it was over with, the sooner he would be alone again...//
Jack saw the flinch and wondered what Daniel was thinking. The look in those eyes was distant, as if the young man was remembering something terrible. He probably was, Jack thought, deciding he really didn't want to know what. "Good book?" he asked, striving for a normal conversation.
"Yes." The words 'a brilliant political satire' popped into his head but he didn't know where they had come from. Something from his past, maybe.
"Feel up to some exercise?" He had to get Daniel walking again as soon as possible.
That depended on what exercises Jack had in mind. Wary, his thoughts lingering on the flashback, Daniel nodded.
"Good. Come over here then." Jack patted the edge of the bed.
Daniel did so slowly, dangling his legs over the side.
Jack knelt down in front of Daniel, linked his hands together and then held them palm outwards in front of his chest. "Now, push me over."
Was this a joke? Daniel stared wide-eyed at the pirate. He wasn't going to push Jack over!
"Look, I know you think this is weird but it's a good test of how strong your legs actually are," Jack explained. "So come on, push."
Daniel slowly raised his right leg and pressed the foot against Jack's hands. The pirate responded by pushing the foot gently back towards him. To push Jack over, Daniel would have to straighten his leg and push forward at the same time. Concentrating hard, he tried to push against the hands, succeeding in moving them a little before Jack pushed back again.
"Come on, Danny, you can do better than that," Jack goaded.
Daniel gritted his teeth and tried again, this time rocking Jack backwards but not toppling him over.
"Much better," Jack praised. "One last try." He braced himself for the push, which was just as well because Daniel put all his strength into it and nearly knocked him over. "That was good," Jack said as he righted himself.
Daniel gave a small smile, pleased that he had been able to push the pirate over. That meant that the strength hadn't entirely gone; maybe it had been a subconscious decision to try to minimise his abuse - a protest of sorts.
"Captain?" Loren's voice sounded from behind them. Teal'c had let him in.
Jack stood up, not displaying any embarrassment at being found on his knees in front of the new arrival. "Yes, Loren?"
"I've brought some food for Daniel," the boy said, holding up the items for verification.
"Well, don't just stand there, bring them over," Jack ordered.
Loren quickly walked over and handed the items to Daniel. "Have you been reading the book?" he asked eagerly, grinning when Daniel nodded. "Have you read it before?" He sat himself down on the bed.
"Don't know," Daniel muttered, slightly uncomfortable with Loren's proximity.
"It's the best book ever written," Loren gushed. He loved 'Gulliver's Travels' - it appealed to his sense of adventure. "What part are you up to?"
"I'll leave you two to discuss things," Jack said, making a strategic retreat. Loren on one of his literary rants was almost unstoppable. "Daniel, just kick Loren out if he gets too much."
Loren didn't take any offence at that; he was used to the crew ignoring him or trying to shut him up. He continued talking to Daniel, occasionally eliciting a short response.
Daniel quietly ate his food while Loren talked, puzzling over why Jack had left him again. The pirate had come in, tested his strength, then left again. There had been a hint of friendliness when Jack had come in but then it had disappeared. What had he done wrong?
A touch on his arm startled him and he automatically moved away from it.
"I'm sorry," Loren said, his voice anxious. He didn't want to upset Daniel. "I just... you looked so sad. What's wrong?"
Daniel shook his head, unable to explain; Loren wouldn't understand anyway. He tucked his knees to his chest, hugging them close. No-one would understand.
"Do you want me to leave?" Loren didn't know what to do. "Do you want me to get the Captain?" An adamant shake of the head this time. "What then?"
/don't know I don't know! tell me why Jack doesn't want to be around me anymore tell me what I did wrong/
He looked directly at Loren, aware the boy was no threat to him but still wary of speaking. But maybe Loren knew something about Jack's behaviour. "Captain... mad at me."
"Why do you think that?"
"That's because he's supervising the repairs. Both ships took a bit of damage yesterday." Not that he had been involved with the fighting but he had watched from his place below decks where the captain had told him to wait.
"Both ships?" Jack had two ships?
"Yeah, our and Apophis's. The captain claimed the ship after..." Loren trailed off when he saw Daniel's face. "Damn, I'm sorry, Daniel. I shouldn't have mentioned his name."
/Jack kept master's ship? why would he do that? bad ship owned by a bad man should have been destroyed/
//Blurry images of a dark ship, dark cabin...
Being dragged through the ship to be doused with cold water then dragged back again...
Blood staining the decks...
His blood in his corner, on the sheets, striping his body...
Sounds of pain echoing through the ship, not only his but others as well...
No hope of escaping alive...//
Loren got scared by Daniel's rocking and ran to get the captain, bypassing Teal'c at the door. He found the pirate about to climb the rigging. "It wasn't my fault, Captain, I swear. He just started rocking - I think something's wrong!"
Jack managed to work out that Loren was talking about Daniel and was immediately concerned. What had happened? He quickly followed Loren back to the cabin and found his guest in a clearly agitated state. Straight away, he went over to the bed and put his hands on Daniel's shoulders. "Danny, calm down, it's all right." Over his shoulder, he asked Loren, "What happened?"
"He wanted to know if you were mad at him, I said no, you were just busy with the ships, and he asked what ships, and I might have mentioned Apophis but I didn't know he would react like that," Loren explained in a rush.
Well, that explained the agitation. Abandoning the standoffish approach, Jack sat down and gathered Daniel into his arms, while continuing to talk to Loren. "It wasn't your fault, Loren. He's just a little sensitive about you-know-who at the moment."
"I'm sorry, Captain." Loren watched as Daniel fought against the hold and then gradually succumbed to it, going limp in the captain's arms. Feeling guilty, he left the room and headed for his sleeping space where he could be alone.
"That's it, Danny," Jack crooned into the young man's ear. "Just relax. Everything's all right." The pirate reckoned that Apophis's name must have triggered a flashback or something.
Daniel relaxed into Jack's embrace, comforted by the strong arms holding him close. Jack wasn't mad at him, otherwise he wouldn't be doing this. Maybe Jack had just been busy after all. "Not mad?" he asked in a small voice.
"Definitely not mad at you," the older man confirmed. He cradled Daniel to him for another few seconds then released him.
"The ship?" Daniel wanted to know why Jack would keep it. He kept his arms wrapped around his knees.
Jack sighed. "Spoils of war. Apophis doesn't need it anymore, and we're gonna fix it up so it looks completely different." He would make sure of it. "You won't have to go anywhere near it, I promise."
But I know it's there, Daniel thought with a tinge of fear. "Make it go away," he said.
"Make it go away!" Tears came unbidden to his eyes. He couldn't cope knowing that the place where he was imprisoned still existed and that it was so close to him. He wanted it gone.
Jack reached out and stroked the unwashed hair. "I can't, Daniel, not yet. It's still a good sailing ship and I..."
Daniel pulled away from the touch, upset that Jack was not going to get rid of the ship.
"Look, I would rather the ship be destroyed too," Jack admitted, "but I can't do it for that reason. And once the repairs are done, then you'll never see it again."
What good would that do him right now? "Want to sleep," Daniel said, lying down and curling up into a ball.
"Of course." Jack got up and headed for the door. Before he left, he looked at the resolutely turned back and mentally sighed. That went well, he thought sarcastically.
Daniel waited until the door had closed before letting the tears fall. Every time he looked out the window, he was going to see a living reminder of his imprisonment, and Jack wasn't going to do anything about it. How could Jack do this to him?
Jack went straight above decks and stood looking at the 'Alexandria'. She was a well-built ship if somewhat ugly - a reflection of her former owner, no doubt. If he destroyed the ship now, his crew would think he had gone mad. And he couldn't very well tell Jonas to keep it out of sight until they reached land, could he? Daniel was just going to have to cope with the ship being there for a week or so until they reached the nearest port. So why did Jack feel like he had just hurt his best friend?
For the rest of the day, Daniel remained in the cabin, alternatively reading and becoming lost in his own thoughts, while Jack remained above deck. Daniel refused to look out the window, afraid he would see the other ship out there. The knowledge of it, though, haunted him and he couldn't concentrate on the book.
He happened to glance at the table and his attention was caught by the picture. Reaching over, he picked it up and examined it again. Jack's family. Where were they now?
//"No! Where's my mummy? I want my mummy!"
Strong arms enveloped him, lifting him off his feet and holding him close. "Your mother won't be coming back, Daniel. Remember?"
"No! She's not dead! She promised she would come back, she promised!" Hot, scalding tears ran down his face as he struggled against the hold. "Let me go!"
"Daniel!" Another voice spoke, this one less loving than the other one. "Behave yourself. Remember who you are."
"I don't care! I want my mummy!" He stomped down hard on someone's foot, causing the hold on him to be released, and he ran through the house to his room. Flinging himself onto the bed, he looked through wet eyes at the picture on his bedside table. They had to be coming home, they just had to be...//
Real tears ran down Daniel's face as he remembered that day. His mother had promised that she would come back so that he wouldn't have to stay with his grandfather. But she had lied; he had never seen either of his parents again. All he'd had was one picture to keep their memory alive.
"What are you doing with that?"
Jack's voice startled him out of his thoughts. Doing with what?
Jack stepped forward and took the picture out of Daniel's hand. He put it back on the table then turned to face the confused young man. "Well?"
Daniel shrank back from the harsh tone. He had only been looking - why was Jack mad?
The pirate was about to yell at Daniel when he noticed the too-bright eyes. Damn, the kid had been crying again - it was amazing there was any moisture left in his body. In a slightly gentler tone, he said, "Daniel?"
"Family." Something he didn't have. "My parents died," he shared with Jack. "A long time ago."
It was the most words Jack had heard the young man speak at once. "Who raised you?" he asked curiously.
"Grandfather." A strict man who didn't like children.
There was something in that tone that made Jack suspect that the grandfather hadn't showered love on his orphaned grandson. "Brothers or sisters?"
Daniel shook his head.
To Jack, it sounded like the kid didn't have anything to go back to. Feeling sorry for him, Jack picked up the picture and showed it to Daniel. "My wife, Sarah, and our son, Charlie. They both died of influenza nine years ago." No-one else on board the ship knew that. He had kept his previous life private.
"Jack sad." Not angry, just sad at losing his family. Daniel tentatively moved closer to the older man, curiously watching the emotions flit over the pirate's face.
"Yes," Jack agreed. He put the picture back on the table, then changed the subject. "Time to eat again." The pirate had brought some meat, half an orange and some rum down for Daniel. Their fresh water was beginning to go bad, what with no real rainfall to replenish the supplies they had brought on board three weeks ago, so Daniel would now have to start drinking rum like everyone else.
Daniel took a sip of the rum and screwed up his nose. He never had quite developed a taste for the drink, much preferring coffee when he could get it. Coffee...?
"Yeah, I know but it's all we've got," Jack said, noting the kid's dislike of rum. "You get used to it."
"Master... made me drink it," Daniel whispered, not quite believing he was sharing this information with Jack. Rum had been the only drinking liquid on board, and his master had often forced it down his throat before performing the more violent acts... although he had never been given enough to numb the pain.
"Daniel," Jack turned the kid to face him. "Apophis wasn't your master, and he definitely isn't now. He was just a bad man who liked hurting other people."
"Hurt me," the young man said in a small voice.
"Yes, he did." And Apophis had paid for that with his life, Jack thought with satisfaction. "But he can't hurt you anymore. You can do what you want and say what you want without anyone hurting you."
If only that were true. "You yelled."
"I know, I'm sorry. It's just - my past is private. I didn't expect you to be looking." He had been so sure that Daniel would have read all afternoon that he hadn't entertained the idea that the kid might explore. "Come on, keep eating." He held the meat out.
After the meal was eaten, Jack wasn't quite sure what to do. Normally, he would read but the hammock was too far away from the lamp for that to be practical. And he didn't think that they would both be able to sit there and read. So maybe something else was in order. "Danny, do you know how to play checkers?"
When Daniel nodded tentatively, Jack got the equipment out then set up the board in the middle of the bed. He sat at one end, Daniel at the other. As he was setting up the pieces, Jack stated, "You're allowed to win, Danny. I'm not going to be mad if you do. In fact, I'll be very happy if you try to win."
Jack wanted to lose? Why? That was very strange indeed. Daniel took the order to heart, wanting to please Jack, and did his best to win the game.
The pirate quickly discovered that Daniel had a keen mind for strategy and wondered what he would be like at chess. He watched as all his pieces gradually disappeared, Daniel occasionally shooting him wary glances as if checking that winning was still all right. When Daniel finally made the last move, taking the last of Jack's pieces off the board, the older man grinned. Well, he did tell Daniel to try and win, didn't he? "Well done, Danny."
Daniel felt pleased that he had made Jack happy, and couldn't stop a small grin from forming. It felt good to be happy again.
Jack was blown away by how beautiful Daniel looked at that moment. The blue eyes lit up, and the whole expression changed from one of fear and sadness to one of happiness. Doubts began to creep in as to the wisdom of having the boy on board; once he had regained some weight and was able to move around freely, most of the men on board would be susceptible to his beauty, and some might even try to use him. Jack couldn't allow that to happen but he was currently at a loss as to how to prevent it, short of locking Daniel in the cabin or assigning Teal'c as a bodyguard. A punishment of death to anyone who forced him might work but depending on Daniel's state of mind, it could be all too easy for the kid to give in so that he wouldn't get hurt, therefore technically it wouldn't be considered forcing him. He would have to think of something and soon.
After packing up the game, Jack tucked Daniel into bed then planted a kiss in the soft hair. So much for trying to keep his distance; Daniel brought out all his paternal instincts, so he would just have to accept that he needed to look after the kid. "Goodnight, Daniel."
"Goodnight, Jack," Daniel replied as the pirate put the lamp out. For a couple of minutes there, he had felt like a normal person again. He had missed that and was glad that Jack had made the effort to treat him like one. That gave him hope that he could become normal again. Happy, he drifted quickly off to sleep.
Over the next week, a pattern evolved. Jack would be there when Daniel woke, helped the young man to dress, then after breakfast, went through some exercises designed to strengthen the leg muscles. Jack then went above deck to perform his duties as Captain, while Daniel stayed in the cabin and either read or continued with the exercises. Loren often dropped in for a chat, as well as to help Daniel shave, and Daniel gradually started to increase his involvement in the discussions. His speech improved until he was occasionally using full sentences but he still tended to use words sparingly.
On one of those days, Jack finally got Daniel to wash his hair, and the pirate was surprised to see that the hair was golden blonde in colour. It felt silky smooth too, and he liked sliding his fingers through it.
The evenings were spent playing either chess or checkers, Daniel proving quite good at both. Jack didn't mind losing as he got to see the young man smiling on those occasions.
Daniel found himself enjoying the time he spent with both Jack and Loren, and the bad memories of his time with Apophis began to fade away. Naturally, they didn't disappear completely, especially with the 'Alexandria' sailing next to the 'Star-Dweller', but the flashbacks and dreams became less frequent. This helped him in his struggle to get back to normal, although his interactions were still quite childlike. He also began to understand that Jack wasn't his master, just his friend.
On the morning of the seventh day on board, when he was able to walk the length of the cabin unaided, he was overjoyed. Jack had been too; enveloping him in an exuberant hug that had almost knocked him off his feet. Those few steps were a huge achievement, another step - literally - towards his recovery, and the hug was the best reward.
Two days later, Jack was hovering anxiously as Daniel made his way slowly up the steps that would take him up to the main deck. Loren was walking in front of Daniel, ready to catch him if necessary, while Jack waited a few steps below. It was Daniel's first trip out of the cabin since he had arrived, and Jack was nervous as to how he was going to go.
Daniel was starting to look better, the cuts and bruises fading, and the small weight gain had started to fill out his body. He was also gaining more confidence in himself but today would be the big test when he was out among strangers again. How would he react to them?
The young man wasn't thinking about that at all. He was too busy concentrating on getting one foot in front of the other and getting himself up the stairs. His legs were starting to shake with the effort but he doggedly kept going, wanting to make it to the top so that Jack would be proud of him. Daniel had made that his main goal over the past week; he wanted to get better but more importantly, he wanted to please Jack, to make the pirate proud of him. Every time Jack smiled at him, praised or hugged him, Daniel felt good and he wanted that to continue.
When he stepped onto the deck, Daniel turned to face Jack, a huge grin on his face. He'd done it! He had climbed the stairs by himself! After he received Jack's answering grin, Daniel sat down on the top step in order to give his legs a rest. That had been the longest time he had been standing in about a month, and his legs felt like jelly now, but at least he was using them again! He waited patiently for Jack to praise him or hug him or maybe both.
Jack knew Daniel was waiting for him to say or do something like he had in the privacy of his cabin but the pirate was very aware of the nearby members of his crew. He hoped Daniel would understand why they couldn't hug, and as he placed a hand on the young man's shoulder, he said quietly, "Well done, Danny."
Surprised, Daniel stared at Jack. Why wasn't he pleased? Jack had grinned - surely that had meant that he was pleased? But Jack wasn't acting happy now - why? Daniel couldn't think of anything he had done wrong. "Jack...?" he started to ask before becoming aware of many eyes on him. He slowly looked around and saw at least twenty pirates looking curiously at him. Panic began to rise in him and he turned back to Jack, the distress apparent in his eyes.
It was Loren, however, who sat down next to Daniel and tried to reassure him. "It's all right, they won't hurt you. They're just curious." He had learnt a lot about how to deal with Daniel's fears over the past week. "It'll just be for a few minutes. You'll be able to see Cape Town."
Daniel again looked at Jack, who nodded in affirmation. A few minutes... he could manage that, sure he could. But Jack wasn't going to help him so he would have to rely on Loren to keep him upright; he hoped Loren was up to the task. His face set in concentration, Daniel stood up slowly. With Loren as a guide, he managed to walk over to the bow, keeping his eyes on the deck so he wouldn't have to look at the men around him. He stumbled going up the steps but persevered and made it up onto the forecastle.
Jack watched carefully while trying to make it look like he wasn't watching carefully. Daniel was going well. The pirate had discovered that there was a stubborn streak buried underneath the fear, which meant that Daniel didn't give up. A good trait to have in most circumstances, and it probably - in a way - had helped him while he was with Apophis because he didn't totally lose himself.
More of Daniel's personality was beginning to appear when they were together. A shy smile here, a curious tilt to the head there, and a squint that indicated that Daniel may have worn glasses. In a way, it was like watching him grow up again.
"He's a looker," Eric Parker, who was acting as first mate, said as he observed the young man's progress.
"He's off-limits," Jack replied, taking his attention briefly off Daniel. "Remember that."
"I know, look but don't touch." Parker laughed it off while watching the young man. "Has he got a body to match?" The clothes positively hung from the slender frame.
"Parker," came the warning.
"All right, just curious." The younger pirate moved away to discuss the boy with his mates.
Because his eyes were fixed on the distant landmass, Daniel didn't realise he was still being watched, which was probably just as well. He squinted a little, trying to see a little more clearly. "That's Cape Town?" The name sounded familiar but he didn't think he had been there before.
"That's it," Loren confirmed. "We should be there about an hour before sunset."
Not that he would see because he would be back in the cabin by then, away from the crew. Daniel stood there for a while longer, just staring into the distance and feeling the gentle breeze caress his body. How long had it been since he had done that?
As he turned away, ready to head back below, he saw the 'Alexandria'. Immediately he stiffened with fear, even though he knew it was irrational to be scared of a ship. He saw the pirates on board it going about their business, although a few were staring curiously at him. Uncomfortable, he headed for the stairs, waiting impatiently there for Loren to help him. He wanted to get out of sight now.
On the last step, the muscles in his legs gave out and he fell onto the deck. His face became flushed with embarrassment when he heard the snickers, and he hated them for laughing at him. He looked towards Jack, wanting to see his reactions, and found that the pirate captain was glaring at the men who had laughed. That made Daniel feel marginally better. With Loren's help, he got back onto his feet, went over to the other set of stairs, and descended into the ship.
Jack found himself annoyed at his crew for laughing at Daniel but then he remembered that they didn't know anything about the kid. They didn't know about his stubbornness that had helped him cross the ship; or his dislike of being touched, especially after a nightmare; or the thousands of little insecurities that were a direct result of being beaten and abused. They just saw him as a good-looking kid who didn't appear to have his sea-legs after spending nine days in the captain's cabin. And there was probably nothing he could do to alter that perception. Sighing quietly, he went below to check on the food stores; it wouldn't do to directly follow Daniel.
On the 'Alexandria', Jonas Hanson watched the young guest with interest. So that is what Apophis found so appealing, he thought, lowering the telescope. And if rumours were to be believed, what now kept O'Neill occupied day and night, contrary to the captain's earlier statement that the boy would not be treated as a whore on board the ship. He had never known the captain to go for men so it was more likely that the boy hadn't been well enough to leave the cabin before now. Giving the matter no more thought, he went back to work.
Back in the captain's cabin on the 'Star-Dweller', Daniel had collapsed onto the bed and was now curled up on his side, hugging his knees and muttering incoherently. Loren was sitting next to him, trying to comfort him, but having little effect. The cruel laughter of the pirates was taunting Daniel, as was the image of the other ship. He had never seen the whole exterior before and had been struck by how cold it had seemed; very appropriate considering what had occurred on board. Add to all that the fact that Jack hadn't come back yet, and Daniel was seriously agitated. All his pleasure in his achievement had dissipated. Why didn't Jack come back?
/because he was ashamed to be seen with you! you were a slave, a whore, someone to be looked down upon... he's only nice to you when there's no-one else around/
Loren was getting worried at Daniel's behaviour; the latter hadn't reacted like this for at least four days. The younger man didn't understand what had caused Daniel so much distress. So it was with some relief that Loren greeted Jack's arrival. "Captain!"
"What's the matter?" Jack looked at Daniel's defensive position - this was not a good sign. "Loren?"
"He started doing this as soon as we got back," Loren said, getting up from the bed. "He just keeps staring at nothing and muttering."
Jack went and sat on the bed, putting a hand on Daniel's leg. The young man flinched away from the touch. "Daniel."
"Only nice in here. Ashamed. Bad Daniel," the distressed man muttered, seemingly unaware of Jack's presence. "Useless. Idiot slave. Clumsy. Jack doesn't want me, what did I do wrong?"
"Nothing, Daniel, you didn't do anything wrong." Jack reached out to stroke the kid's arm soothingly. He hadn't realised how much of Daniel's confidence came from knowing that he had pleased Jack; the lack of support must have come across as rejection. "I was the one who was wrong. I'm the captain, I should be able to help you if I want to."
"I'll just..." Loren gestured to the door and received a nod of acknowledgement from the captain. He then quietly slipped out of the room, giving them some privacy.
Daniel stopped his blank staring, suddenly aware of Jack beside him, and looked at the older man. "Jack?" When had Jack arrived?
The young man uncurled and moved himself back against the wall. Jack was here, being nice again. Pitying him, stroking him like a pet. He was Jack's useless pet. "No."
"What?" Jack didn't understand.
"Not a pet. Person." He wasn't an animal.
The pirate still didn't understand. "I know that." What was Daniel on about?
"Ashamed of me but not in here."
Jack began to understand. "I'm not ashamed of you. I think you're very brave. Out there, I just... I don't know what I was thinking."
Daniel looked at Jack incredulously. "Brave?" He wasn't brave. Scared, definitely, and wanting to please but brave? Not something he had ever thought he was.
"Yes, Danny, brave. Not to mention a survivor. You survived Apophis; and today, even though you were scared, you still went up on deck. That took a lot of courage."
It had, although Daniel hadn't realised it at the time. He had only done it because Jack had wanted him too. A small smile appeared on his face. Jack thought he was brave.
Jack was encouraged by that smile to move further onto the bed to sit cross-legged in front of Daniel. "I don't think you're bad or clumsy or useless or an idiot, and definitely not a slave or a pet."
Daniel's eyes widened at the words - he hadn't said most of those things except in his head.
"You're recovering from something bad and it's gonna take a while to get back to normal. So cut yourself some slack, all right?" He reached out and squeezed Daniel's arm.
"But I was... he..." Daniel couldn't believe what he was hearing. "He told me..."
"Ah! Apophis was the bad one, remember, not you. You haven't done anything wrong." He had thought that he had banished those ideas from Daniel's head; it appeared that the kid had just remained quiet about them. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
Daniel relaxed and unwrapped his arms from around his legs. It was all right; Jack said he wasn't bad. Jack didn't mind what he had done, and didn't blame him for any of it. Knowing this, he felt better. "I thought you were punishing me," he admitted while fiddling with the hem of his trousers.
"I would never do that." How could he anyway when those blue eyes looked at him so soulfully? "Pirates aren't exactly known for their compassion, Danny. Helping you would have been seen as a sign of weakness. Even you being here could be taken as such."
And that wasn't a good thing, Daniel realised. "I should go." He didn't want to be a burden.
"Where? You're not ready yet."
"Someone might hurt you... because of me."
"I'll take that chance." He couldn't let the kid go back into the world like this - if he wasn't murdered straight away, he would be committed or taken as a slave. He thought of Daniel's grandfather who would want his grandson to be returned safely; and he thought about how if his own son had lived, how he would want someone to look after him. "I promised to look after you and I will." He had said that when Daniel had first come on board.
Daniel was a little puzzled as to when and to whom the promise had been made but the important part was that Jack was going to look after him. Jack wasn't going to let anyone else hurt him. Jack was his protector and friend. Happy, Daniel allowed himself to be drawn into Jack's arms, and snuggled up to the broad chest as a child would to his father, the hurt from earlier put aside. Jack would keep him safe until he was better.
Several hours later, the 'Star-Dweller' and the 'Alexandria' had docked at Cape Town. Many of the crew had already left the ship - except for those on watch - ready for a night of pleasure and entertainment. Jack left Daniel in Loren's company, going ashore himself but not for his usual reasons. This time he was only going to pay the docking master, then see if he could find a special treat for Daniel.
Lady Samantha Carter, explorer and closet scientist, carefully watched the men leaving the two newly-arrived ships. It was strange to see two ships arrive together, and she wondered what business they were in. The men looked fairly rough and tumble, so they were either the crew of a poor trader, or pirates. Personally, she didn't mind which so long as they could provide her with information. Ruefully, she decided as the crew brushed by her without stopping, that perhaps she should have worn a dress rather than the shirt and trousers; at least then they would pay attention to her.
A man, older than the others, caught her eye. He was talking to the docking master, and a ritual exchange of money was taking place. The man had an air of authority about him - most likely this was the captain. Maybe he would have some information.
When the man started moving again, Sam went forward and intercepted him. "Excuse me, may I have a word?"
Cool brown eyes raked her from head to foot then dismissed her. "Sorry, I'm not interested."
"I wasn't offering," she replied coolly. "Have you come from the Far East this trip?"
"Possibly," Jack admitted, eyeing the woman cautiously. She was quite tall, very pretty but had forgone the usual female attire in favour of more comfortable clothing. "Why?"
"A friend of mine was travelling from India to meet me here. He was supposed to arrive three weeks ago." She was getting very worried. She knew that there could have been delays but something told her it was worse than that.
"Maybe his ship was delayed," Jack pointed out. It happened.
"Maybe," Sam agreed. She pulled out a piece of parchment from her pocket and held it out to him. "Have you seen this man?"
Jack took the parchment and looked at the picture. He had no trouble in recognising Daniel. This woman was a friend of his? - What were the odds of that? Should he tell her the truth and have her see the young man in his current state, or lie but find out enough information to return Daniel to her at a later date? "Can't say that I have." He couldn't say that he had either. "He looks too young to be travelling around the world."
"I hardly think twenty-eight is too young," Sam shot back, disappointed but not entirely without hope. Something in his voice indicated that he was interested, and there could really only be one reason why.
Twenty-eight? Jack couldn't believe his ears; no way could Daniel be that old! He let none of his surprise show through though. Handing the picture back, he said, "Look, lady, there are plenty of hazards out there. Odds are that if he doesn't show up soon, he's probably dead." He didn't want to crush her hopes but he also didn't want her to get those same hopes up.
Sam fought back the stab of pain at hearing those words. She wouldn't accept that Daniel was dead, not yet. He wasn't allowed to be dead. "What if he was taken as a slave?" Such things did happen.
"Then he'd be as good as dead," Jack replied. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have things to do." He strode off, wondering whether he had done the right thing.
Daniel isn't dead, Sam told herself as she watched the man leave. That was only conjecture on the part of a sailor who was probably in a hurry to get to the nearest pleasure house.
"No use, pouting, honey," a voice said in her ear. "He doesn't go for your type."
Sam spun around to see a grizzled but fairly handsome man standing nearby. "He's not exactly mine either." If she were that kind of woman, which of course, she wasn't.
Jonas smiled at her; she was definitely his type. "What's the matter then?"
"Nothing, I suppose." On impulse, she held the picture out to the man. "Have you seen this man?"
The pirate looked at it, mentally lengthened the hair and thinned out the face. Well, well, well, he thought, O'Neill's little friend. "Is there a reward involved?" He was loyal to Jack but only up to a point. The boy was deadwood, a liability; it would be his duty to return the boy to his family.
Sam's lips thinned. She should have known that was what it took to get information. "How much?"
Jonas named a price that he considered reasonable, taking into account what he was about to do. When the woman nodded, he said, "Your friend's ship was attacked by pirates. He was taken prisoner by one named Apophis."
Her heart leapt for joy before sinking when the meaning sank in. "Do you know if he is still alive?" Her Daniel, a prisoner.
Jonas paused for a moment before nodding.
"Do you know where he is?" The outstretched hand in front of her demanded payment before the answer was given.
"I can take you to him right now."
Sam nodded her agreement and warily followed the man onto the ship she had seen the other man disembark from. One of the two had to be a liar but which one? If it turned out to be the man in front of her, she was very capable of defending herself. If it was the other man... what did he stand to gain from the lie?
She was led to the back of the ship and down below the main deck. Remaining alert, she took careful note of where she was in case she needed to escape quickly.
Jonas was relieved to see that Teal'c wasn't on guard duty; getting past him would have been difficult. "In here." At least, the captain's cabin was where he hoped the boy would be.
Daniel looked up from the cards he held as the door opened. When he saw it wasn't Jack - indeed that it was two strangers - he started to get scared. He instinctively disliked the male stranger and reacting to his presence, moved towards the wall away from the bad man.
Loren got up and stood in front of the bed. "What are you doing here, Jonas?" he tried to challenge the older man.
"Doing my good deed for the month," the pirate replied.
"Daniel?" Sam said tentatively. She stepped towards the bed, trying to reconcile this young man with the one she had known. He looked so thin and... and frightened. And his hair was longer than usual. As for his eyes... there was no innocence shining from them, just pain and fear. What had happened to him?
"Excuse me, ma'am," Loren stepped in front of the woman. "But who are you?" In the absence of the captain, it was his duty to protect Daniel.
"I'm Samantha Carter, a friend of Daniel's." Sam looked around the boy to try and see Daniel. She caught a glimpse of wide eyes staring at her, a hint of curiosity in them.
"Can you prove that?"
Sam held out the picture as proof.
Loren looked at it then back at Daniel. They were definitely the same person. He gave the picture back then glared at Jonas - how dare he do this to Daniel! Reluctantly, Loren stepped aside, letting the woman past.
Daniel curled up as the woman drew nearer, trying to protect himself. The bad man was smiling at him, and he assumed that even though the woman looked nice, since she came in with the man, she couldn't be. They were going to hurt him.
/Jack, come back, help me!/
Sam noticed the defensive body language - why was Daniel frightened of her? "Daniel, it's all right, it's me, Sam. Remember me?" The wide eyes just looked at her blankly, then at the man called Jonas. "Daniel?" She was beginning to get scared by his reaction.
/Sam girl Sam don't know can't remember! why is she here? come to take me away no! want Jack want to stay with Jack!/
Jonas stepped forward then, wanting the woman and the boy gone before O'Neill arrived back. He reached for Daniel, intending to pull him off the bed, but the young man avoided his hand, moving further along the bed. "Come on, kid," he said in annoyance. "You've got a home to go to. Don't make things difficult."
"No," Daniel replied. "Home here."
"This isn't your home, now come here!" Jonas reached out again and this time managed to grab the boy's arm.
Daniel immediately started struggling fiercely, not wanting to go anywhere. "No! No! Go away!" He kicked out with his feet as he was dragged closer to the bad man. "Stop it! Jack, help me! Go away!"
Loren jumped into the fray and tried to stop Jonas but was pushed to the floor. He couldn't believe that Jonas was doing this! "Let him go!"
Sam was extremely concerned at the way Daniel was reacting. And who was this 'Jack'? "Stop it, let him go!"
Jonas released Daniel, who immediately moved far out of reach, and turned to the woman. "You want him back, don't you?"
"Not like this. Can't you see he's scared?" She turned to look at Daniel, who was huddling in the corner. He had been terrified of being taken away. But wasn't he a prisoner? Why then didn't he want to leave? "Daniel, I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to take you home."
Daniel didn't say anything, just sat there trembling. Then his eyes lit up when he saw a figure appear in the doorway and he bounded off the bed, throwing himself at the man. "Jack!"
The pirate, who had returned early after finding something for Daniel at a nearby stall, caught the scared young man and held him close. Daniel's arms tightened around his ribs, and Jack could feel the trembling. He took in the scene quickly and demanded, "What the hell is going on? Jonas?"
"The lady wanted to know her friend was alive. I was just helping out," Jonas said defensively. Since you weren't going to, he added silently.
Sam looked at the man, who was obviously someone Daniel trusted, and recognised him as the one who had spoken to her earlier. He had lied to her.
"He doesn't need 'helping out'!" Jack shot back, unconsciously rubbing Daniel's back to soothe him. Just what had Jonas done to upset Danny so much?
"You lied to me," Sam accused, anger beginning to rise in her. This man had tried to keep Daniel from her. "Why didn't you tell me he was here?"
Daniel lifted his head to look at the pirate. Jack had lied? Jack wasn't supposed to lie. "Jack?"
"I didn't lie," Jack defended himself. "All I said was that I couldn't say that I'd seen him."
Daniel rested his head on Jack's shoulder again. That was all right then; Jack hadn't lied. That meant he hadn't lied to him about anything. Jack was a good man.
"You implied that he was dead!"
"'Implied' being the key word," Jack replied, one hand coming up to hold the back of Daniel's head when he felt the arms tighten again. "And could you keep your voice down - Danny doesn't like shouting."
How dare this man tell her what to do! "Why did you tell me he was dead?" For Daniel's sake, she kept her voice down but her words were still dripping with dislike.
"Because he's not ready to go anywhere at the moment, as you can see. I'm not giving him over to you just so you can throw him in an asylum when you decide he's nuts." Jack would have preferred not to be having this conversation in front of the young man but he didn't think Daniel would let him go at the present time.
"I would never do that!"
"Sure you would. He would be an embarrassment, someone who wouldn't fit in to society circles." Now he'd had a good look at her clothes, he saw that they were very well made, so he took a guess that she was probably rich too. "He's not the Daniel you knew any more."
Sam looked at the intimate embrace and had to agree. "What have you done to him?"
"I haven't done anything to him. I saved his life and now I'm helping him recover."
"Good man," Daniel muttered loud enough for Sam to hear.
Jack smirked at the woman, whose eyes had narrowed at what she thought was a false description. Well, she could hate him all she wanted; he was the one Daniel was clinging to. And speaking of which... "Danny, I need to breathe," he whispered to the young man. The pressure on his ribs eased off a little.
"Why are you helping him? What do you get out of it?" There had to be an ulterior motive.
"Friends don't need a reason to help each other." That's what he and Daniel were - friends.
"Friends," Daniel echoed softly, pleased that Jack had said so.
"It looks like more than that to me," Sam observed. The two men hadn't stopped embracing.
"Well, it's not." He felt Daniel tense at her words. "And I'll thank you not to imply otherwise. It isn't my fault Danny is upset at the moment." He glared at Jonas, who was watching the by-play silently.
"Jonas tried to take Daniel away," Loren spoke up from his position near the bed.
The glare intensified. "I'll deal with you later," he said to Hanson. "Get out."
After Jonas left, Jack felt Daniel start to fall down, the kid's legs giving way as reaction hit him. Jack picked him up and carried him over to the bed, sitting on it with Daniel as the young man refused to let go. Once they were both settled, Jack turned back to the woman. "Look, lady, Daniel's been through a very tough time recently so I'd appreciate it if you just left him alone."
"I can't do that." Sir Nicholas would never forgive her if she left his heir with these... these men. Although this one - Jack - actually appeared to care for Daniel. Still, she couldn't leave him here. "Daniel's grandfather is waiting for us to return."
"He'll just have to wait a little longer then, won't he?"
"Mr...?" Sam waited for him to supply the name.
"Mr. O'Neill, Daniel is heir to a large fortune and estate. It is his duty to go back."
"And can you really see him doing whatever you rich people do, Miss...?" 'Large fortune and estate'?
"Carter." He had a point. Daniel would not fit in at all as he was now.
"Right. Can you, Miss Carter?" He waited for a few seconds for her reply. "I didn't think so."
Sam suddenly sank into the nearby chair, Daniel's situation beginning to sink in. "I can't believe this," she muttered.
Waving a hand at Daniel, she said, "Because he's a genius. Daniel knows over a dozen languages fluently, yet at the moment, he can't even speak one. He was so passionate, so vibrant..." She looked at her friend, who still had his arms around O'Neill, and was watching her warily. He was so different, like a child.
Jack was still reeling over the 'genius' part. Over a dozen languages? It was hard to reconcile that with the Daniel he knew. Passionate, he could definitely believe that though; there had been a few hints of that surface recently. "It's still there," he told her. "Just hidden. He's been through a lot."
"And now you're looking after him?" Sam still couldn't believe that.
"Yes, I am."
"Staying here." Daniel had been staring at the woman, not participating in the conversation until then. The woman - Sam - looked at him in surprise. "Don't want to go."
"Jack's here." If he left, Jack wouldn't be able to protect him.
"You don't belong here," Sam tried to reason with Daniel. She watched him tighten his hold on O'Neill, as if afraid she would try and take him away.
"It's all right, Danny, she's not going to take you away," Jack soothed the young man both verbally and physically. "Are you?" he challenged Carter.
There was a pause as Sam thought through her options, then reluctantly decided on what was best for Daniel. "No." She saw the smirk on O'Neill's face and her next words wiped it off. "I'm going to stay here and help you get better," she said to Daniel.
"What? The hell you are!" He was not going to allow this woman to stay on board his ship.
"It's your choice, Mr. O'Neill. I stay or I call the authorities to remove Daniel forcibly." She would never do that to Daniel but O'Neill didn't know that.
"No, no, no!" Daniel said, holding onto Jack as tight as he could. No-one was going to take him away.
Jack resisted the urge to call this woman all sorts of names when he heard the distress in Daniel's voice. She had to be bluffing; if she really cared about the kid, she wouldn't do that to him. However, he couldn't afford to take the risk. "I can't let you stay on board but you can visit during the day while we're here." And that was his final offer.
Sam assessed the situation and decided that would be the best offer she would get. It would still give her plenty of time to win back Daniel's trust so that she could then take him away from here. "Done."
"Good. Loren," Jack said to the boy, who had been quietly watching proceedings. "Escort Miss Carter off the ship, and let the men on watch know not to hassle her tomorrow when she arrives."
"Aye, captain." Loren opened the cabin door. "Ma'am?"
Sam went over to Daniel first and gently touched his leg. "See you tomorrow, Daniel." There was no response so she sadly followed the boy out of the cabin.
Jack sighed with relief. At least that was over. He squeezed Daniel's waist and said, "Danny, you can let go now."
The young man reluctantly released the pirate and sat up straight. Pulling back his sleeve, he examined his right wrist where the bad man had held him. It was still a little tender, as he discovered when he poked at it.
"Danny, what happened?" Jack gently took the kid's hand and looked at the wrist. There were a couple of red marks where someone had grabbed it tight enough to bruise.
"Bad man tried to take me away. Hurts."
"I know but it will get better soon." Jack decided to get the kid's mind off the incident. "Here, I bought this, just for you." He held out the little totem. "It's supposed to ward off evil spirits."
Daniel took the wooden statue and examined it curiously. The wood felt smooth under his fingertips as he traced over the ugly features. After a minute, his face broke into a smile, pleased with the gift and amused at its ugliness. "Thank-you," he said, hugging Jack enthusiastically. Jack was the best friend ever.
"I'm glad you like it." The statue had appealed to Jack's sense of humour, and the fact that it was supposed to ward off evil spirits was a bonus. Whether it did or not was irrelevant - if it made Daniel feel safe, then it had worked. "Feel like a game of chess?"
Releasing Jack, Daniel nodded and scooted into his position on the bed. He put the statue down right next to him then eagerly waited for Jack to get the chess set.
Chuckling, Jack got the set, sat on the bed, and then let Daniel set the board up. He could well believe the genius part when they were playing, Daniel's chess game improving each time they played - Jack hadn't been able to win one game yet! Tonight wasn't likely to be much different, given his mind was going over everything that had just happened.
Daniel smiled at Jack, signalling that he was ready to start the game. As Jack made the first move, Daniel picked up the statue again, feeling very happy. Between Jack and the statue, nothing bad would happen to him again.
The next morning, Jack looked upon his sleeping friend, amused. Daniel was sleeping with the statue clutched in his left hand, obviously wanting it to scare away the nightmares. Surprisingly, that had actually worked, Daniel having an uninterrupted sleep for the first time in over a week. Maybe there was something to be said for the power of belief, Jack mused.
"Danny," he said softly, "time to wake up." Jack needed the kid to be awake, fed and dressed before Miss Carter arrived back... if she did. After all, she'd had some time to think about her offer and Jack wouldn't be surprised if she had changed her mind. When Daniel didn't respond, Jack gently shook one shoulder. "Come on, sleepyhead, wake up."
"Sleep'n," Daniel protested as he tried to ignore the pull back to consciousness.
Jack chuckled; the kid really didn't like mornings. "I know. But I have to go out this morning and..." He didn't need to finish the sentence as Daniel's eyes flew open.
"No!" Daniel scrambled into a sitting position, still holding onto the statue. "The bad man might come back."
"He won't." Jack had 'talked' with Jonas earlier that morning and warned him off going anywhere near Daniel. "Besides, this-" he tapped the statue, "-won't let anything bad happen to you. You didn't have any bad dreams last night, did you?"
Daniel shook his head.
"See? You'll be fine. Loren will visit, and Teal'c will be nearby, so no-one will be able to hurt you." Jack watched as Daniel thought it all through and then nodded. He knew he was taking advantage of the young man's childlike trust in him but he couldn't help it; there was no way he could take Daniel off the ship yet so he had to convince the kid that it would be safe to stay.
Daniel quickly and quietly got changed, then had breakfast, all the time still holding onto the statue. Then the two men went through the leg-strengthening exercises - the statue was put aside for these - and had just finished when there was a knock on the door.
Helping Daniel back onto the bed, Jack called out, "Who is it?"
"Loren, Captain. I have Miss Carter with me."
Jack sighed. The woman had come back; that was not good. But he could hardly turn her away now, could he? Handing the statue to Daniel, who was now looking scared, he said, "Come in."
Loren stood aside for the woman to enter first. He had been waiting up on deck for her to arrive, curious to see if she would come. He thought she was very pretty but he wasn't sure if he liked her yet; he would reserve judgement until he saw how she treated Daniel today.
Having learnt from the previous day's experience, Sam didn't rush into the room. Instead, she took a few steps forward, stopping well short of the bed. "Good morning, Daniel."
At Jack's nudge, Daniel replied, "Good morning." He kept his eyes on the floor, unwilling to look at her.
There was silence for a few seconds. "Well, this is awkward," Jack observed.
"Don't you have something to do, Mr. O'Neill?" Sam asked, hoping that he wasn't going to stick around. Something about the man just rubbed her the wrong way.
"Actually, I do." He was going to go buy some clothes for Daniel after organising the lumber for repairs to the ship. Jack's clothes didn't fit the young man properly so it was time to get Daniel some of his own. Turning to the kid, he said, "Danny, I have to go now. Miss Carter is going to talk to you for a while, and Loren will be here as well. I want you to behave, all right?"
Daniel nodded, holding the statue tightly. Be nice, talk a little, and try not to get upset - Jack had told him how to behave while they were exercising. He didn't think Jack liked the woman but the pirate wanted her to see how well Daniel was going with him so that she wouldn't take him away. Since he wanted to stay with Jack, he would have to do his best to get along; however, he was under orders to be impossible if she tried to take him away. He smiled up at the older man when he felt Jack's hand ruffle his hair. Jack was going to be so pleased with him.
Jack gave Daniel an answering smile, then stood up, facing the woman. "I expect you to behave as well, Miss Carter. Loren will be keeping an eye on you and if you do anything that upsets or hurts Daniel, I will have you thrown off the ship. Is that understood?"
"Perfectly." Daniel was her friend long before he was O'Neill's; she wasn't going to hurt him now. She fixed the man with an icy stare.
"Good. I'll be back in a few hours." He patted Daniel on the shoulder, then left the room.
Sam looked at Daniel, whose eyes were fixed on the door. She'd had all night to think up a strategy on how to win Daniel's trust - slowly and subtly were the key words. She moved the chair over to the bed and sat down, careful not to get too close into her friend's personal space. "Hi, Daniel. What have you got there?" She gestured to the statue.
"Did Mr. O'Neill give it to you?"
"Can I see it?"
He held it up, holding it away from her so that she couldn't take it.
"It's... interesting," Sam said diplomatically, surprised at how O'Neill had known to give such a gift to Daniel without knowing of the latter's interest in other cultures and mythology.
"Makes bad things go away."
Sam had to wonder whether she was one of those bad things, at the same time noting that the ugliness of the statue would indeed do that. "I'm sorry about yesterday, Daniel." She reached out and placed a hand on his knee. He looked at her with wide eyes as she continued. "I just wanted to know that you were all right."
"Sure you did," Loren muttered as he went and sat on the bed next to Daniel, cutting off the woman's access. No-one was allowed to hurt his friend.
Removing her hand, Sam tried not to glare at... what was the boy's name? Loren? Here was someone else who thought he had more rights to Daniel than she did. "Anyway, I thought this might help you forgive me." She dug into her pocket and pulled out a couple of pages with writing on them. "It's the last letter you sent to me."
Daniel's interest was caught. A letter he had written? "I wrote... them?" he questioned, looking at the pages.
"Yes, you did." Sam held them out for him, pleased when he took them.
Unfolding the sheets, Daniel's eyes ran over the tightly-written words that crowded the paper. He had written these words.
"Do you want me to read them to you?" Sam asked, seeing a hint of her Daniel surface in the wondrous expression.
"I can read," he told her. Daniel rested the statue on his lap so that he could hold the sheets with both hands, then started reading.
[Dear Sam, you would not believe the heat here! It reminds me of Egypt but a little more humid. I have spent the last two months in Calcutta alone - the city is so full of history and culture, it is amazing! Did you know that the city was named for the goddess Kali? She has a temple two miles out of town - a number of people still go there to worship.]
"You've been to India?" Loren interrupted, reading over Daniel's shoulder. "Wow."
Daniel ignored him; his mind was caught up in the memories the words were uncovering. Colours, sounds, even smells, he could now remember. Kali's temple had been as fascinating as it was chilling.
[I hate to think of the number of human sacrifices that were performed there; fortunately they have given up that ritual since the British came.]
Human sacrifices? Definitely not something he wanted to remember.
[I got your letter a while back - apparently they had some trouble tracking me down. So Grandfather wants to see what I have been 'wasting my time on', does he? Why now? You don't mention whether he is in ill-health, and that is the only reason I can think of for him wanting me to come home.]
"Grandfather ill?" Daniel looked to Sam for an answer.
"Not as far as I know," she replied. Sir Nicholas had been in fine health when she had left.
[Still, he is family (just). If you think it is that important, then I will come home. There is a ship arriving soon - I shall see if they will take me as far as Cape Town and we can then travel back to England together.]
[I am looking forward to seeing you again. There is so much I have seen and learnt since we last met. I have added several more languages to my repertoire - the locals like it when visitors talk to them in their native languages.]
"Hindu," Daniel muttered. It was just one of the languages he had learnt. Since Hindu was related to Greek and Latin, he had found it easy to learn.
"That's right. You also speak Ancient and Modern Egyptian, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, among others," Sam told him. Daniel was truly gifted in that area.
Loren looked sideways at Daniel, very impressed. He hadn't known how smart his new friend was until now.
"Very smart." She could see no harm in telling him that. Maybe if he knew how intelligent he was... used to be... then perhaps he would stop acting like a child.
Disbelieving, Daniel went back to the letter.
[I hope to be with you by the 27th, three months hence (by the time you receive this letter, I will be on my way). Take care, Sam, and I will see you soon. Daniel.]
"When you didn't turn up by then, I knew something was wrong," Sam said as Daniel lowered the letter. "So I waited, and talked to people on every ship that came in, but I didn't find you until yesterday."
Daniel was only half-listening. He was too busy trying to sort everything out. His real home was in England? Sam was a close friend? He was some kind of explorer? Why couldn't he remember any of this?
"Can you speak any other languages," Loren asked Miss Carter.
"Only Latin and French, and not nearly as well as Daniel," Sam replied. She studied her friend's face, trying to work out what he was thinking. He looked puzzled, with a hint of frustration starting to creep in. "Daniel?"
"I can't remember." He turned stricken eyes on Sam. "I can't remember!" Everything before his rescue was a blur, fragments only surfacing clearly in his dreams.
Loren put his arm around Daniel's shoulders. "It's all right, you don't have to remember right away."
Yes, he does, Sam thought. The sooner, the better. But outwardly she gave no indication of what she was thinking. "Loren's right, there's no rush. You'll remember in time. The letter was just a start."
"You want me to remember." It was a statement, not a question.
"Eventually, yes. But when you're ready." Or before, if necessary. "Can I tell you a bit about the Daniel I remember?"
Nodding his permission, Daniel hugged his knees to his chest. Maybe listening would help him to remember.
The stories washed over him, allowing him to remember small details but on the whole, it was like listening to stories about someone else. The person Sam described was full of life, intelligent, carefree... and that wasn't him.
After about thirty minutes of stories, Daniel had had enough. "Stop now."
Sam stopped in mid-sentence, surprised. Daniel hadn't said anything up to that point. "But..."
"No more." He didn't want to hear any more about the other Daniel today. It just showed him what he wasn't anymore. Sam wanted him to be like that and he couldn't, not yet. Jack accepted that, and wasn't pushing for anything more. Daniel turned his head to look at Loren. "Walk." He tucked the statue into the waistband of his trousers.
"On deck or below?" After yesterday's nervousness, Loren didn't want to take Daniel anywhere he didn't want to go.
"Below." He would save above for later in the week when he was less likely to fall flat on his face. Daniel accepted Loren's helping hand to stand up then started walking by himself.
Sam looked quizzically at Loren. What was wrong with Daniel's legs? She hadn't previously thought about why he had been sitting on the bed both times that she had seen him. "What happened to his legs?" she asked Loren since Daniel was already at the door.
"You'd better ask the captain," Loren replied, avoiding the fact that he didn't know all the details. He caught up with Daniel, standing nearby just in case his support was needed. "Can you bring the lamp please?" he asked the woman.
Daniel focused determinedly on the task of walking, pushing Sam's soft question out of his mind; he didn't want to think about the cause of his temporary disability. Instead of going up the stairs this time, he turned to the right, which he assumed would lead him further into the ship. There were a couple of steps not too far along the hallway, leading down into a dark room. He stopped, waiting for Loren to take the lead.
Loren took the lighted lamp from Miss Carter, then went down then steps first to light the way. He watched carefully as Daniel slowly made his way down, remembering the stair incident from the previous night. "That's good," he praised as Daniel stepped onto the floor.
The comment and the solicitous attitude made Sam wonder just how bad Daniel had been before arriving in O'Neill's care.
It took the trio a while to walk around the ship under the main deck, Daniel taking a couple of rest breaks when his legs got wobbly. Loren retrieved a new book for Daniel to read when they went through the crew quarters. And Sam began to get the feeling that the men who resided on the ship weren't as legitimate as she had assumed, judging from what she had seen amongst the cargo and in the forecastle.
They were back in the cabin when Jack returned a couple of hours later. He'd had a successful shopping trip, finding clothes for Daniel as well as securing fresh supplies for the next voyage. He had also made some inquiries about new crew, and expected a reasonable response over the next few days. He had looked over the repairs, noting that they were going smoothly, before seeking Daniel out.
Jack didn't know whether to be pleased or disappointed that Daniel was participating quietly in a game of checkers with Miss Carter. He returned the smile Daniel sent his way upon his arrival, then put the packages on the table and stood next to the bed. "So who's winning?"
"Me," Daniel said proudly. Sam wasn't making concessions to his current condition; she was just making bad tactical decisions. His brain slowly registered that he had seen Jack with some packages, and he looked at the table. "What did you buy?"
"You'll find out later," Jack replied with a grin. He gestured towards the board. "Don't let me interrupt."
As if you would care, Sam thought, annoyed that she would soon have to leave because O'Neill was unlikely to want her to stay. She pointedly refused to look at O'Neill and concentrated on the game. When Daniel inevitably won, she smiled at her friend, receiving a small smile in return; at least that was an improvement, she thought. "You haven't lost your touch, Daniel," she said, remembering all the times he had trounced her at the game. Finally acknowledging O'Neill's existence, she asked him, "Can I have a word?"
Jack caught the undertone that requested privacy and reluctantly nodded. "I'll be back in a minute," he told Daniel, then indicated for Miss Carter to precede him out the door.
"What happened to him?" Sam asked quietly as soon as the door was closed.
"You don't want to know."
"Yes, I do."
"No, you don't." Jack was equally as adamant in this. "Believe me."
"Why should I? I mean, you could have been the one to turn Daniel into... that."
"Fine! You wanna know?" Jack gave in, hoping to shock her with the details. "For somewhere around a month, Daniel was kept as a prisoner on the 'Alexandria' out there. Her former captain had him chained up, with little food and water, and abused him every way you can imagine! He could barely stand when we found him, and as scared as hell of anyone going near him! Happy now or do you want more details?" Jack glared at the woman.
Sam's mind provided images of a chained and beaten Daniel, and she felt sick at the thought of what he must have gone through. "He survived though."
"Barely. The other two prisoners - they died," the pirate informed her. "Daniel was lucky."
"If you call being like that lucky," Sam countered, gesturing to the cabin. "That isn't living."
"Maybe not but at least he has a chance to recover. The other two didn't." He would never tell Daniel about them; there was no use in making him feel guilty for living.
"Are you telling me that I should be grateful that he's now like a child?" She was incredulous. How could she be grateful that everything that was Daniel had gone?
"Yes." The stupid woman, Jack thought. She couldn't understand how lucky Daniel was to even be alive. "If you can't accept that, you're free to leave."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you? That way there would be no threat to Daniel's hero-worship of you." How could Daniel like this man? In actual fact, she was jealous of the trust that Daniel placed in O'Neill, the kind of trust he used to have in her, except this seemed more innocent somehow. Daniel had been through a terrible experience and he had turned to the first person that had been nice to him. She still wasn't convinced that there wasn't an ulterior motive on O'Neill's side.
"Don't flatter yourself. Daniel's not going to leave with you because he feels safe here. A few days in your company isn't going to convince him otherwise." And Loren knew what to do if she tried to poison Daniel's mind.
Sam didn't bother to reply to that. "I won't give you the satisfaction of leaving. Someone has to help him remember who he was, someone who knows."
"He'll remember eventually but right now, do you know how hard it is for him to even trust anyone? How damaging it was to be beaten every time he opened his mouth? To have no hope of being rescued? Daniel believes that everyone will hurt him because it's safer than believing they won't!" Jack realised his voice was getting louder and stopped in order to calm down.
Sam opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, tears coming to her eyes. "I didn't know," she said eventually. She had a new understanding of Daniel's ordeal, and of how patient and kind O'Neill must be towards him.
"Well, now you do. So don't push him."
"Jack?" came the call from the cabin.
The pirate realised they had been talking for too long, giving Daniel plenty of time to think about what they were talking about. He went back inside the room, aware that the woman didn't follow immediately. "What is it?"
Daniel glanced at the doorway then back at Jack. "Don't fight." He had been able to hear Jack's raised voice although not the words, but he knew it was over him.
It was on the tip of Jack's tongue to say that they hadn't been but Daniel wouldn't say anything unless he had heard something. "Sorry." He sat on the edge of the bed next to Daniel. "So do you want to open your presents now?"
"Mine?" Daniel's eyes opened wide in surprise. Jack had bought something else for him?
"Yes, yours." Jack retrieved the parcels and handed one over to Daniel. He was aware of the woman drawing nearer but concentrated on the pleasure he was giving the young man. "Go on, open it."
Carefully, Daniel opened the first parcel and was surprised to see two shirts - both beige - there. He picked one of them up, feeling the soft cotton brushing over his fingers, and then he felt the other one. New, soft shirts just for him; he was overwhelmed that Jack had got them for him.
"These should fit you better than my stuff," Jack explained. He handed the other package over, enjoying the amazement that was in Daniel's eyes.
Daniel put the shirts aside to unwrap the second parcel. He grinned when he saw the two pairs of trousers, one cream and one dark brown. Jack's were too big for him. Also included was a tan coloured belt that he could use if the trousers were too big. He grinned at Jack, very pleased with the presents. His new clothes. Eager to try them on, he took off the shirt he wore and put a new one on. It fit beautifully, with just a little bit of room for when he put on a bit more weight. "Thank-you." He turned and hugged Jack happily.
Sam hadn't looked away quick enough when Daniel had stripped, and she had seen the scars and fading bruises on his body. 'Abused every way you can imagine', O'Neill had said; she had just seen the proof of that. She blinked away the tears that stung her eyes. Daniel must have been hurt so much.
A tug on her shirtsleeve caught her attention. "Sam?" Daniel was looking at her with concern.
"I'm sorry, I was just... it looks great, Daniel," she praised, trying to smile. She was aware of O'Neill looking at her, and when she looked at him, she saw understanding in his eyes. Then it was gone and they were adversaries again.
"When you're up to it, I'll take you shopping for some shoes," Jack turned his attention back to Daniel. He had felt a moment of sympathy for Miss Carter when the reality of Daniel's ordeal finally sank in; he saw those scars every day. "That sound good?"
"When I'm ready," Daniel agreed.
After Miss Carter left, the men left Daniel to try on his new clothes. Jack immediately quizzed Loren on what had happened while he was gone. He was pleased to learn that Daniel had walked around the ship, requiring minimal assistance and rest, and that the woman hadn't tried to lure Daniel away. He wasn't so pleased about the letter because it meant she was trying to force Daniel to remember.
When he went back into the cabin, Daniel was happily admiring his new clothes. The kid had left the brown trousers on, which Jack was pleased to note did fit better than the borrowed stuff. "Not bad."
Daniel looked up, still smiling. All his new clothes fit nicely - Jack had chosen the sizes well. "Fits," he pronounced happily, turning in a circle so Jack could inspect him.
"So it does." Jack sat down on the bed and patted beside him. Daniel obediently came and sat down next to him. "How did Miss Carter's visit go?"
"She told me I'm smart," Daniel stated, then reached under his pillow for the letter. "Gave me this." He handed the sheets to Jack. "Told me about her Daniel. Jack, why can't I remember?"
How could he answer that question? "Because your brain has had a huge shock and it wants to protect you from getting hurt again." Jack took the proffered letter and looked at the handwriting.
"Like you," Daniel observed. Jack protected him.
"Yes, like me," Jack agreed. "Except I'll keep on protecting you whereas your brain will eventually relax and let you remember lots of things."
Daniel thought about that. "You'll protect me even when I'm better?"
"If you want me to, yes." He knew, though, that their friendship would change when that happened, and Daniel probably wouldn't want him around.
"Always, Jack." He leaned over and pointed out a passage to him, changing the subject. "Sam says I know lots of languages."
Jack looked at the passage - 'I have added several more languages to my repertoire'. His Danny was a linguist?
"They're hiding in my head now." If Jack said he would remember, then he wasn't going to worry about not knowing them now. "When I remember them, I'll be smart again."
The pirate didn't know what to say to that. Why would anyone that smart want to hang around with him? Ignoring the lump in his throat, Jack stated, "You're already smart, Daniel. You beat me at chess every time we play."
"You told me to." Daniel was immediately anxious.
"I know, and I want you to keep doing it," Jack assured him, putting his arm around the young man's shoulders. "I'm just saying that you're not stupid just because you can't remember some things, all right?"
"Now, I hear you went for a long walk today."
Another nod. "To Loren's room and back. I didn't fall once," Daniel said proudly.
"That's very good. Can you show me later?"
Jack shook his head. "I have to get back to work now. After lunch, you can show me."
Disappointed that he couldn't show Jack his achievement straight away, Daniel's face fell. He dropped his gaze to the floor and shuffled his feet.
"All right, I give in. You can show me now." How could he resist that? Work could wait for a while.
Eagerly, Daniel stood up and then pulled Jack to his feet. Jack was going to be so pleased with him.
The rest of the week took on a similar pattern. Sam visited in the mornings, telling stories to Daniel about his past life, and gently trying to help him recover those memories. They would go for a walk around the ship, then she would eat lunch with him and have a game of checkers or chess. When she left, Jack would come and ask him how the day had gone, listen to anything Daniel had remembered or enjoyed, and then took him on another walk around the ship. Occasionally they would go up onto the main deck so Daniel could see the city.
Daniel was beginning to remember more snatches of his life, and related them enthusiastically to Jack. Although this pleased the older man, it served as a reminder that the days he had left with Daniel were numbered. The young man had worked his way into Jack's heart, and the pirate didn't want to see him go; it would be like losing another son, or so he told himself. But he had to do what was best for Daniel, no matter what the cost to himself.
As more of his memory returned to him, and his fears decreased, Daniel found himself getting restless. He had been on board the ship for over two weeks, one of which the ship had been at dock. He had read the letter many times, played chess heaps of times, and been for the occasional walk outside the cabin. But as his mind became increasingly more active, he needed more things to stimulate it. So despite his apprehension, today was the day he was going to venture into Cape Town.
After he and Jack had discussed Sam's latest visit, he decided to raise the subject. "Jack, I'm ready."
"For what?" Jack was temporarily thrown by the change of subject. Just what exactly was Daniel saying he was ready for?
"To go into town. If... if you'll take me." He hoped the older man hadn't forgotten his promise.
"Oh, that. Sure. When did you want to go?"
The kid was keen. Jack knew there would be no use in arguing - all Daniel had to do was turn sad eyes on him and Jack always caved in. "All right. You'll need some shoes." He got up and started searching his cabin for a spare pair of boots.
"Really? We can go?" He had expected Jack to put up more of an argument. Getting off the bed, he helped the pirate look for the boots.
"Really." Jack found one boot in the cupboard, its mate still missing.
Daniel found the other boot under the bed. Retrieving the first one from Jack, he sat on the bed and put them on. They were a little big but he could cope with that. Standing up, he said eagerly, "Let's go."
Jack strapped on his cutlass then followed Daniel up the stairs onto the main deck, proud that he had helped the young man regain some of his confidence. Motioning to Teal'c to accompany them, he made sure he stayed close enough to Daniel just in case he was needed.
Daniel noticed Teal'c fall into line behind them. He still wasn't sure what to make of the forbidding man, and he turned questioning eyes on Jack. Was it necessary for Teal'c to come along?
"Insurance," Jack replied to the unspoken question. He needed someone to watch their backs while he was watching out for Daniel.
"Never mind. Are we going or not?" Jack gestured to the gangway.
Daniel looked at the wooden gangway then out at the bustling crowds. He must have been mad to think he would do this. All those people... it was too much. "I can't," he said, clutching the railing.
"I'm not going to let anyone hurt you," Jack stated, getting in front of Daniel and holding his hand out. "You can do this."
The young man looked at the outstretched hand. All he had to do was trust Jack to protect him, and he did have Ra - the totem statue - with him. So nothing bad would happen to him in the town... right?
Gingerly, he reached out to hold onto Jack's hand and allowed the older man to lead him down onto the dock. His legs threatened to collapse as he stood on solid land for the first time in over two months but he held onto Jack's arms, accepting the support.
"You all right?" Jack asked, concerned at how pale Daniel was.
"I will be." Daniel slowly let go of the pirate and found that he could stand on his own. "Just... stay close."
Jack kept a careful eye on Daniel until the young man got his land-legs back, then led him into the market place that lined the dock. He pointed out various wares that he thought might be of interest and happily paid for anything that Daniel wanted.
They were halfway through the market place, Daniel coping well with the crowd after his initial nervous reaction, when someone ran into Jack, knocking him off-balance. By the time he had recovered and then turned to Daniel, the young man had disappeared. Fear immediately gripped Jack; Daniel wouldn't leave him voluntarily. "Daniel!"
"He is not here, O'Neill," Teal'c announced, having already surveyed the surroundings. "However, I believe if we go that way, we will find him." He pointed to an alleyway on the opposite side of the street.
"What are we waiting for?" Jack started to push his way through the crowds.
Daniel hadn't been prepared for the hand that clamped over his mouth or the arm that pinned his arms to his sides. He tried to struggle and call out to Jack, but his captor was too strong and his cries went unheard due to the noise of the crowd. He was quickly ushered into a nearby building then through it out into an alleyway at the back. He stumbled as he was propelled along, his feet unsure on the uneven ground. What was happening to him? Where were they taking him? And where was Jack?
Although he couldn't see his captor's face, he could definitely smell him - hygiene obviously wasn't important to the man. Daniel tried struggling again but it only served to make him lose his footing. The strong arms held him upright, let him regain his footing, then dragged him forward again.
Finally Daniel was led into another house where a trio of unsavoury men were sitting. All of them looked up at his entrance, and the one in the middle got up.
"What have we here?" the man said in an unaccented voice. Daniel thought it might have been British originally but he couldn't tell for sure.
"He just got off the boat," a similar but deeper voice from behind him said. "Thought you might want to take a look."
Robert Makepeace, a local slave trader and occasional pirate, went over to examine the new arrival. He appraised the good looks, noting that the boy would fetch a high price. He ran his hands down the boy's arms and over his chest, feeling the bones underneath. "A little skinny but he'll do. Release him."
With the restraining hands gone, Daniel wavered slightly but kept on his feet. He didn't try to run, instead remained standing submissively, not wanting them to hurt him. "What do you want with me?"
Robert ignored him, circling around the young man and appraising him. "Good strong shoulders; should be able to work hard." He tilted the head back and examined the features. "A pretty face; that should go down well with the female buyers."
Daniel started to get very scared. Buyers? He was going to be taken as a slave again? They couldn't do that to him! "I'm not a slave."
"Not yet," Robert agreed, circling behind the boy again to inspect the hind features. "But after the auction tomorrow, you will be," he continued, trailing a hand over the broad back and then down lower.
The young man flinched away from the touch. Jack, where are you? Help me please! he prayed.
"What's the matter?" Robert said into the young man's ear, causing him to jump. "Afraid?" He slid his arms around the slim waist and felt something hard under the shirt. "What's this?"
Daniel tried to stop the man from taking Ra but another pair of hands held him still. "Give it back!"
Robert examined the small statue and wondered where the kid had got it from. Dismissing that for the moment, he ordered, "Take him downstairs with the others."
"No!" Daniel started struggling against the hold but couldn't prevent himself from being dragged out of the room. "Please don't do this!" There was nothing to protect him now Ra was gone.
He was taken down a flight of stairs into a dimly lit cellar. A dozen or so men and women were already tied to rings embedded in the walls. As soon as Daniel saw them, he started panicking. He really didn't want to be tied up again! "No, no, please no, don't do this!"
A hand was clamped across his mouth and nose, muffling his words and making him panic even more. He couldn't breathe! His lungs started screaming for air - there hadn't been time to take a deep breath - but he kept struggling, hoping to break free.
The man holding Daniel nodded at his partner when the young man started to go limp in his arms. Quickly, a rope was tied around Daniel's wrists while he wasn't able to fight back. The hand cutting off his oxygen was removed then and Daniel, on the verge of blacking out, gratefully inhaled deep lungfuls of air.
Outside, Jack and Teal'c had managed to track the kidnappers to the right house. After drawing his dagger from his right boot, Jack opted for the element of surprise. He burst through the door, saw a man holding Daniel's statue, and promptly rammed him up against the wall, his dagger placed near a sensitive part of the man's anatomy. "You have five seconds to tell me where he is!"
"Who?" Robert looked at his attacker and knew instantly that the man would carry out the unspoken threat.
Jack pressed his arm across the man's windpipe. "The kid you stole the statue from." He was aware of the other men in the room advancing towards him, then a double swish told him that Teal'c was displaying his two wicked-looking swords. Free to be menacing, Jack pressed harder with the dagger. "Well?"
"He's downstairs," Robert managed to get out.
"Two." Abruptly released, Robert rubbed his throat as the slave's friend headed off to the cellar. He briefly considered going after him but one look at the huge black man and Robert decided against it.
Jack ran down the stairs, trying to be quiet so that he could surprise the guards. Peering carefully around the corner, Jack noted the position of the two guards as they tied Daniel's rope to a metal ring. Easing around the corner, he flung the dagger at one, hitting him in the shoulder, then drew his sword to fight the other guard.
Daniel looked groggily at the action, his brain still a little sluggish. Jack was here! Jack would save him! He watched as Jack circled the guard, toying with him before lunging quickly and scoring a hit across the other man's torso. The clash of steel upon steel brought back memories of the last time he had seen Jack fight, and Daniel was desperately hoping the outcome would be the same. He remained quiet, not wanting to distract Jack.
As Jack was fighting, he tried not to look at Daniel, not wanting to see the rope around the thin wrists. Of all the things to happen, this was one of the worst; to be kidnapped by people Jack now assumed were slave traders.
The guard wasn't very well trained, his movements hesitant and sloppy, and soon he was on the ground clutching his stomach. Blood dripped from the open wound, oozing through his fingers.
Jack surveyed the fallen men with disgust. "What are they teaching them these days?" he muttered as he went over to Daniel and started untying him. "How are you doing, Danny?"
"He took Ra." Daniel allowed Jack to help him to stand.
"I know, Teal'c's on it." Jack put his arm around the young man's waist, ready to help him walk out of there. "Let's go."
"Wait! What about them?" Daniel stubbornly stayed where he was and gestured to the other prisoners. "They should be free too."
"Jack, please?" It was the right thing to do.
Giving in - it was becoming a habit - Jack went and started cutting through the ropes. Helping out, Daniel untied a couple, his fingers shaking, making the task difficult. He helped them to stand up, only a couple of women refusing his offer.
Kneeling down in front of the two women, Daniel asked, "Why? You're free now."
One of the women shook her head. "I was born a slave. I have nowhere to go." The other woman nodded her agreement.
"But surely it would be..."
"Daniel," Jack interrupted. Those who were born slaves didn't understand life outside of their little world. "We have got to go." The longer they delayed, the bolder the slavers upstairs would get.
"But Jack..." the young man protested as the pirate took his arm and started pulling him towards the stairs. They couldn't just leave those women there!
"Not this time, Danny." He herded the others up the stairs before following them, Daniel firmly in tow.
The situation upstairs was exactly as he had left it, except the slavers were staring after the ex-slaves with a mixture of surprise and anger. Jack retrieved the statue and said to the one he had threatened, "Thanks for your hospitality but we'll be off now. But if you try this again, you'll be dead."
Robert watched them leave, angry at the turn of events. That man had just ruined tomorrow's auction; they would never have enough slaves now to make a profit. Revenge started to burn in his heart. Turning to the nearest employee, he ordered, "Find out who that was, then get me as many slaves as possible."
The men rushed to obey their boss, Robert absently rubbing his neck as he watched them scurrying about. Oh yes, he would make his attacker pay, not only for his actions but also for the loss of income. And given that the stranger had come after the boy, he had the ideal place to start...
Daniel trudged quietly along behind Jack, head down and arms hugging his body. He was relieved that he wasn't going to be a slave again but disappointed that Jack hadn't freed everyone, ignoring the fact that the women hadn't wanted to leave. Jack shouldn't have left them there.
Aware that Daniel wasn't happy, Jack slowed his pace and fell into step with the young man. As a peace offering, he held the statue out to Daniel.
Reluctantly, Daniel took Ra, clutching the statue tightly. "Thank-you," he said quietly. Neither Jack nor Ra had prevented him from being taken, damaging his complete faith in them. He knew now that bad things might still happen to him even with them around to protect him.
Jack didn't need to read Daniel's mind to know what he was thinking; the pirate was already blaming himself for letting Daniel get taken, and he knew that he had failed to protect the young man as he had promised. To Daniel, that would mean that Jack had lied, which would increase his insecurities. Therefore, Jack had to try to explain. "They were good, Danny. They knew what they were doing. They distracted me long enough to get you. Fortunately, Teal'c here is the best tracker in this part of the world, that's how we found you so fast. But I'm sorry I couldn't stop them from taking you and hurting you."
"You lied to me," Daniel accused softly, looking sideways at Jack. "You said I was safe."
"I know. And I thought you would be. I was wrong." But at least it hadn't been worse - Jack was thankful for that.
"You didn't save them."
"They didn't want to be saved," Jack replied. "They were scared of being free."
Daniel turned a puzzled look on Jack. How could anyone be afraid to be free? "I don't understand."
"I'll explain later. But right now, we need to get you some shoes." Being well aware that others might try to steal Daniel, Jack held out his hand, inviting the younger man to hold onto it. "I won't let you go," he promised.
After a moment's consideration, Daniel took the offered hand. Surprisingly, it didn't feel strange to be holding Jack's hand in public, just... reassuring. He was safe once again.
An hour later, Daniel was the proud owner of a new pair of boots. He had also convinced Jack to buy him a jacket for when the weather started to get cold, and Daniel was proudly wearing it back to the ship although it was quite warm.
When they boarded the ship, Daniel immediately went to find Loren to show off his new clothes, while Teal'c restrained O'Neill from following. Waiting until the young man was out of earshot, Teal'c stated, "You have made yourself vulnerable, O'Neill."
Unfortunately, Jack couldn't deny that. "I know. What else was I supposed to do though?"
"Perhaps it is his destiny to remain a slave."
"No." Jack was adamant.
"Or perhaps to die."
"Teal'c!" Jack had to consciously lower his voice so as not to attract attention. "I don't believe that. If he was supposed to die, then we wouldn't have found him in time, would we? And he is not supposed to be a slave!"
"We were being followed in the market place," Teal'c stated. "I believe that by rescuing Daniel Jackson, you have made an enemy."
"Probably," the pirate admitted. Their shadow would have been gathering information on them. "But I promised Daniel I would protect him, and I can't break my word." Also, deep down, he needed to protect Daniel, although he couldn't pinpoint why.
"They will try again."
"Then we need to leave as soon as possible," Jack decided. The repairs were nearly finished, and fresh supplies could be easily purchased. "We sail tomorrow."
Later that day, Makepeace's spies returned the information he needed, and he began planning his revenge...
"You're what?!" Sam Carter exclaimed the next morning when she attempted to board the 'Star-Dweller'.
"Leaving," Jack stated again.
"Why?" No-one had said a word to her yesterday.
"Because it's time." No way would he reveal what had happened the previous day.
"Then I'm coming with you." She pushed her way past the pirate and onto the ship.
"No way." Jack caught her arm and swung her around to face him. "This is no place for a woman."
"A pirate ship isn't any place for Daniel either," she countered. At O'Neill's surprised look, she added, "It wasn't that hard to figure it out. And I'm prepared to take the risk." She shrugged the hand away.
"Well, I'm not." His men wouldn't actually harm her but they could make life very difficult for her. "You're not coming."
"Then I'm taking Daniel with me." She headed off towards the cabin.
"Like hell you are." Jack caught up with her and stood in front of her. "He's not ready."
"Just why don't you want me to take him?" Sam queried, annoyed at the refusal. She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "He seems ready to me. Is it that you don't want him to leave?"
Jack ignored the question, fighting back. "You won't be able to protect him. What if someone tried to take him? Could you stop them?"
Sam reached down into the top of her right boot and pulled out a knife. "I think so."
Now that he hadn't expected. Before he could formulate a response, though, he heard soft footsteps behind him.
"Jack?" Daniel had been restless and after leaving the cabin, had heard the pirate's voice so he had gone up the stairs. His eyes opened wide when he saw the knife. "Sam?" Why was she threatening Jack?
Sam put the knife back. "Hi, Daniel."
The pirate noted the alarm in the young man's eyes and realised what the scene would have looked like. "Miss Carter was just demonstrating how she defends herself."
"Because I want you to come with me back to England," Sam cut in. "And the captain seems to think that I wouldn't be able to protect you."
Go to England with Sam? Without Jack? Although his faith in Jack's ability to protect him was no longer absolute, it was still very high. Sam was only a woman, and although Daniel was no chauvinist, he didn't trust her ability as he did Jack's. And he didn't think that Sam would have been able to pull off yesterday's rescue.
"Face it, one knife is no match for several men with swords," Jack argued.
"What if they were unarmed?" Sam shot back.
"Like that's gonna happen! Look..."
"Hey!" Daniel cut in, gaining their attention. "What about what I want? Or doesn't that count since I'm the one who needs protecting?" His tone was slightly self-mocking.
"Sorry, Daniel," Jack was quick to apologise.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Sam also apologised. She hoped she hadn't blown her chance of getting him to come with her. "Of course it matters."
"Then I'm sorry, Sam, but I want to stay here."
"With pirates?" The hurt sliced deep; he trusted them more than he trusted her.
"With Jack." There was more to the older man than his profession. "I might not belong here but I don't belong back there either, not yet." Daniel hugged himself, knowing he had hurt Sam. "Please don't be mad."
"I'm scared for you, Daniel," Sam admitted, trying a different tack. "Of what might happen to you if you stay here." He could be killed and she would never know.
"And I'm scared of leaving." There were too many bad things out there in the world that he didn't want to face just yet.
"Then I'm coming with you."
"Oh no, you're not." Couldn't the woman take a hint, Jack thought.
"Daniel, do you want me to come?" Sam appealed to her friend, knowing O'Neill would be less likely to go against Daniel.
Did he? "I-I don't know." It would be good to have someone else to talk to but given Jack's reaction, Sam's presence would likely cause trouble.
Jack glared at the woman, angry that she was using such tactics to try and stay. It wasn't fair on Daniel to be put in the middle of such an argument. "I do. You're not coming with us."
"It's Daniel's choice," Sam argued.
"Don't you dare put this all on Daniel!"
"I'll meet you in England," Daniel said quietly, looking at Sam. "That's where we're going."
"Excuse me?" They were going to England? Sam was confused.
"Jack said he would take me there so that I could make a choice about where I wanted to be." Jack had talked to him the previous night about it but Daniel already knew that he wouldn't want to stay there; there had to be a reason he was exploring the world in the first place.
Sam looked at the pirate, who was keeping a blank face. Why would he do that? Didn't he want to keep Daniel with him? Grudgingly, Sam had to admit to respecting O'Neill's tactics - by appearing to want what was best for Daniel and not forcing him to do anything he didn't want to, O'Neill would come across as the good guy. "How do I know you'll keep your word?" she asked the pirate.
"Because I don't have any reason to do otherwise," Jack replied. "And Daniel wants to see his grandfather so we might as well do that sooner rather than later." He hadn't mentioned to Daniel that he wouldn't be staying with the younger man; he didn't want to risk upsetting him too soon.
"I'll be fine, Sam." Daniel reached out and tentatively hugged her. He would miss her but they would see each other again soon.
"I wish I could believe that," Sam said, involuntary tears coming to her eyes as she held her friend tight. "Are you sure about this, Daniel?"
"Yes." As sure as he could be, anyway.
Sam drew back and kissed him on the cheek. She would have to abide by his decision. She then turned to O'Neill. "Promise me you'll look after him."
"I promise," Jack replied solemnly. He would protect Daniel with his life.
Accepting the promise with a nod, Sam then left the ship. She looked back once when she had reached the bottom of the ramp and saw Daniel standing at the side, watching her with a serious expression. It took everything she had to smile at him and then walk away.
"It was the right thing to do," Jack said, coming up behind Daniel.
"Maybe," Daniel replied, watching Sam disappear into the crowd before leaving Jack to go back to the cabin.
Jack sighed. It was the right thing, he told himself. He would teach Daniel to protect himself - which Miss Carter wouldn't be able to do - not to mention help the young man recover his memories. And he would savour the next two months because after that, he would never see Daniel again.
From his place in the crowd, Robert Makepeace had observed the little drama. His spies had discovered that the pirate was Jack O'Neill, and that the boy's name was Daniel. He had been unable to discover the relationship between the two but assumed that the boy was O'Neill's catamite. Therefore, before Robert had his revenge on O'Neill, he would have Daniel, preferably while the pirate watched helplessly. Then he would kill O'Neill and sell the boy as a slave.
Those happy thoughts in his head, Robert left the dock to ready his ship for departure. He would trail O'Neill's ship until the opportunity arose to exact his revenge.
And then he would strike.
That night, when Jack entered his cabin, he found Daniel staring blankly out the window. Quietly, he closed the door and advanced towards the bed.
"Why do some people enjoy hurting others?" Daniel asked out of the blue. He didn't look at Jack.
How should he know? "Search me," he replied, sitting down on the bed. He tried to interpret Daniel's expression and decided on sadness. "Why do you ask?"
"I hurt Sam and I didn't enjoy it. But when people hurt me, they do." He looked directly at Jack. "Why?"
"At a guess, it's because they see something beautiful and they want to control or possess it... you." That was his theory anyway. "Also, those kind of people like hurting others because they think it makes them more powerful."
"I don't understand. How can hurting people make you more powerful?"
"It doesn't but they think it does because they're the ones doing the hurting," Jack tried to explain.
"So Apophis thought he was really powerful," Daniel observed, using the man's name for the first time.
"Oh yeah." Jack moved closer, sensing Daniel was in need of comfort.
"I don't remember everything," Daniel stated quietly, "but I remember that Apophis enjoyed hurting me. Every time he hit me or flogged me, he got excited. And when he..." He trailed off, unable to voice the horrible act. Hugging his knees, he braced himself to go on, tears in his eyes. "He got so much pleasure from hurting me."
What could he say to that? Jack let his actions speak for him, enfolding Daniel in his arms and gently rubbing the young man's back. He felt Daniel's arms sneak out to return the embrace.
"That man yesterday wanted to sell me to someone who would hurt me, didn't he?"
"Most likely, yes." Those who did buy slaves tended to treat them badly, thinking that those men, women and children were less human than they were.
Daniel felt sorry for those who didn't escape that fate. Then he remembered something Jack had called him earlier - 'beautiful'. But he wasn't and never thought he had been. Although... "Apophis used to tell me I was beautiful as he... but I never believed him. How could I have been beautiful?"
Because not only are you good-looking, but you have an innocence that radiates from within, Jack thought, and Apophis was a sick man who thought that blood and bruises would enhance that. But instead of voicing that, he said, "I can't explain that, Danny."
"When I saw those people tied up, I was so scared," the young man admitted, his voice wavering. "I know you would come but what if they hurt me first? I didn't want that to happen."
"I know. It's all right now," Jack soothed, one hand coming up to hold the back of Daniel's head.
"No, it's not. What if we're attacked out here?" Daniel had been thinking about the possibility all afternoon. "What if they hurt or kill you and you can't protect me?"
"Then Teal'c will. But it's not gonna happen." He couldn't promise that though, some instinct kept him from doing so. "So stop worrying about it."
"Stay with me." Daniel tightened his hold on Jack, not wanting to let go. When they were like this, it was easy to believe that nothing bad would happen to him.
"Sleep here tonight."
"I always sleep here, Danny." What was the kid on about?
"Don't let go."
"Ah." Now he got it. "Danny, I can't."
"Please?" Daniel could hear the pleading in his voice but didn't care. He wanted to feel safe.
What harm would it do, Jack asked himself. If it would make Daniel feel better, then he could do that. "Sure."
After a bit of rearranging, both men were eventually able to lie down on the bed. Daniel snuggled against Jack's side. The young man rested his head on the pirate's shoulder, one arm across his chest, and one leg over Jack's to gain as much physical reassurance as he could. He never gave a thought as to how intimate the position was, noticing only how comforting it was. "Thank-you, Jack," he said, closing his eyes and letting the soothing rise and fall of the older man's chest lull him to sleep.
"You're welcome," Jack whispered as he felt Daniel's breathing even out. Unlike the younger man, Jack was fully aware of the intimacy of their embrace. He had never before held a man like so and it surprised him that it didn't feel wrong. Perhaps it was because the situation was anything but sexual, it was just one friend comforting another. But if that was the case, why was he noticing that their bodies fit perfectly together?
"I can't do this," Daniel stated, looking distastefully at the wooden sword he had been given.
"Indeed you can, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c replied. He had been asked by O'Neill to teach the young man how to defend himself.
"I don't want to learn how to kill people," Daniel argued, well aware of the others on deck taking an interest in their conversation.
"You are not. You are learning to defend yourself. It is a necessary skill." Teal'c held his sword in the 'ready' position. "This is how you must hold it."
Daniel realised he wasn't going to get out of doing this so he reluctantly copied the other man.
"When you defend yourself, do not make large movements or you will be vulnerable," Teal'c instructed. He flicked his wooden sword towards Daniel, who managed to clumsily knock it away. He followed it up with a strike that forced Daniel's sword aside, then placed the tip of his sword against the now vulnerable throat. "Do you understand?"
"I think so." Daniel braced himself for the next strike.
From the stern of the ship, Jack looked down on the lesson. He was pleased to see that although Daniel was clumsy with the sword, he was a fast learner and rarely made the same mistake twice. He was also more aware of Daniel's body after having it pressed against him all night. The slim waist, the long legs - he hadn't really noticed them before, except in terms of how vulnerable they made him look. Now, thought, he was viewing them in more knowledgeable - and physical - light...
The voice of his first mate cut off that train of thought. "What?"
Eric Parker glanced down at the mock-fight then back at the captain, deciding not to comment on Daniel. "Last night Stevenson said he thought he saw another ship on the horizon. It's just been spotted again." He held out the telescope.
Jack took it and went to the railing. "Where?" He followed the pointing finger and held the telescope up to his eye. Within seconds, he had found the tiny black ship on the horizon. "You think we're being followed?"
Lowering the telescope, Jack considered the idea. That meant that the other ship would have to have been launched less than two hours after their departure. But who would be following them and why? "Keep an eye on them. If they get any closer, tell me."
Jack went back to the railing to watch Daniel again. If they were being followed, and were consequently attacked, they would soon find out how well Daniel had learnt to fight.
The next two weeks passed without incident. The ship on the horizon didn't gain any ground, which allayed Jack's immediate fears. Daniel continued to recover his memories, and as he gained skill in sword-fighting, became more confident in himself. He spent a lot of time up on deck, learning how to be part of the crew and forming friendships with everyone. The crew no longer laughed at his efforts, instead helping him, and anyone who did laugh was quickly dissuaded from doing it again.
Jack was glad that Daniel was fitting in because it meant that there were plenty of people around to protect him. Daniel had a way about him that soon had the entire crew wrapped around his little finger- it wasn't deliberate but, as Jack observed with some amusement, it was true nonetheless. Even Teal'c was a softie when it came to the young man. There had been only a few lustful looks directed at Daniel but no-one had tried anything yet. Jack only hoped things would remain that way so that he could enjoy the rest of the voyage.
On the Wednesday of the following week, the 'Star-Dweller' pulled into a small alcove on the coast of Africa and weighed anchor. Some of the men - including Jack, Daniel, Teal'c and Loren - went ashore in the long boat to do some exploring and collect some food.
"Wow!" Daniel commented as they drew nearer to the shore. "It's beautiful."
Jack had to agree. The white sand stood out against the greens of the surrounding forest, and there were small splashes of colour from the flora.
"I wonder if we're the first people to see this," Daniel continued to speculate. "It almost seems as if it is untouched by man."
"Not for much longer," Jack stated as he jumped out of the boat into the shallow water and helped his men haul it onto the shore.
Daniel stepped out onto the sand and immediately crouched down to collect a handful of it. He let the sand trickle through his fingers, watching it with pleasure. "In Egypt, the sand is much coarser," he informed Loren, who had knelt down beside him, "and if it gets under your clothes, it itches like anything."
Loren laughed along with Daniel. The younger man had been learning a lot about other cultures as Daniel had remembered, and was most fascinated with Egypt in particular. "That's why you always wore lots of robes, right?"
"Exactly," Daniel shared the joke.
"Come on, kids, you can play later," Jack said as he walked past them towards the trees.
The next ninety minutes were spent collecting fruit as well as water from a nearby stream. Daniel had to touch everything, having been deprived of being surrounded by nature for so long. Every so often, Jack or Loren, depending on who was closest, would have to pull him along so that he didn't fall behind.
Getting back to the beach ahead of the others, Daniel sat down on the sand and looked across the clear blue sea. The place was just so perfect. He took off his shoes and dug his bare feet into the sand, feeling it trickle between his toes. If only they could stay on the beach for a while longer, maybe a couple of days, then he would be really happy. The real world didn't seem to exist in this little corner of paradise. Flopping backwards, he looked up at the sky, a smile on his face. Maybe he could stay here forever.
A shadow fell across him as Jack sat down next to him. "Whatcha thinking about?" the pirate asked.
"What it would be like to stay here," Daniel stated. He turned his head to look at Jack. "I know it's not possible but... just imagine if it was."
An image of him and Daniel stranded alone on the beach popped into Jack's mind, and he found himself liking the idea. Just the two of them, alone. He shook the thought from his head, disturbed by the fact he wanted it to be true. "It's a nice fantasy but you'd be bored within a week." He had seen how Daniel craved knowledge, and to remain here would deny him that.
"How could anyone get bored with this?" Daniel disagreed. He sat up, shoulder to shoulder with Jack, and looked around for Loren. His friend was further down the beach, looking for shells. Picking up a handful of sand and staring at it, Daniel continued, "It feels safe here."
"I thought you were over that," Jack said, thinking back on the past couple of weeks.
"It comes and goes." Going whenever Jack was around and coming back when he left, but Daniel wouldn't admit to that. To avoid any questions on the subject, he quickly put the handful of sand down the back of Jack's shirt and then took off like a rabbit.
"Why, you little-" Jack didn't bother to get rid of the sand before taking off after Daniel. When he caught up to the younger man, he tackled Daniel to the ground and then straddled his stomach. Grabbing a handful of sand, he threatened, "You're going to pay for that."
Daniel was too busy laughing to protest much, although he did manage to get out a "Jack, don't!" before the sand was deposited down the front of his shirt.
Jack sat back and untucked his own shirt, getting rid of the itchy sand. In doing so, he was caught unawares by Daniel, who suddenly threw some sand at him. He grinned down at the young man, fighting the urge to start laughing. "All right, you asked for it." With that, he started tickling him.
Daniel had never laughed so much in his life as Jack found all his ticklish spots. Begging for mercy and wriggling around in the sand, Daniel laughed until his ribs hurt. When the attack suddenly ceased, Daniel found himself grinning stupidly up at Jack and gasping for breath. He had never felt so happy in his life.
The jolt of desire he felt at that moment shocked Jack. Daniel looked so - radiant, he supposed was the word for it - and it took his breath away. He quickly moved off Daniel, trying to work out what had just happened.
"Jack?" Daniel was immediately concerned by the shocked look on the pirate's face.
"It's nothing." He stood up, brushing the sand off his clothes. Upon hearing voices, he said, "The others are coming. We'd better head back."
Daniel stared bewilderedly after Jack, puzzled as to the change in attitude. He ran through the events in his mind but couldn't see anything that he had done wrong. Yet there was obviously something, otherwise Jack wouldn't have reacted that way. If only he knew what it was.
Getting up and shaking the sand out of his clothes, Daniel then headed back to the others, his good mood fading.
Back on the ship, Jack immediately noticed that the other ship was rapidly closing in on their position. "Report!" he barked at Parker.
"They're definitely following us," Eric reported the obvious. "There's no flag to indicate what she is, but in the next ten minutes, she'll block off our escape route."
"Let's get moving then. Pull up the anchor and set us on a course out of here." He should have known things were too good to last.
"Aye, captain." Eric turned and started giving out orders.
"Loren, Daniel, get below now!" If there was going to be fighting, he wanted them out of the way.
"No!" Daniel protested.
"Dammit, Daniel, don't argue with me! Just get below!"
Loren pulled on Daniel's arm and led him down the stairs into the cargo hold. Once there, he let go and retrieved the two swords that were hidden under a blanket in the corner. "In case we need them," he explained as he handed one to Daniel.
"What's going on?" Daniel started to get worried.
"There's a ship heading towards us. The Captain is just being prepared in case they want to board us." Loren didn't mind being sent below, knowing that the captain was trusting him to keep Daniel safe.
"Why would they do that?"
"That's their job. Our job."
"Oh." Daniel hefted the sword in his hand. It was lighter yet heavier than the wooden one. "We'll be safe here?" He resented being sent down here while at the same time being relieved that he didn't have to fight.
Loren nodded. "Most likely."
"Great," Daniel muttered, wishing Jack was there with him.
Above on the main deck, Jack realised that they weren't going to outrun the other ship. He readied the men to fight, knowing that they couldn't attack first until the motive for being followed became clear.
There was a tense silence as everyone waited. Finally, the second ship came alongside the 'Star-Dweller' and without warning, her crew opened fire. Jack's men returned fire immediately, and so the battle began.
On the 'Emperor', Robert waited impatiently for the moment when he could board the other ship. He had waited for over two weeks for this opportunity, and finally O'Neill had been stupid enough to stop for a while. Now he would be able to get his revenge.
Grappling hooks were thrown over the railings of the 'Star-Dweller', holding the two ships together, and then Robert's men started climbing over the side. They were all big, muscled men hired for their strength, and they were good swordsmen too. They had been told that their objective was to capture as many men as possible and failing that, to kill them.
Jack soon found himself in the thick of things. His attackers were good but he was motivated so he was able to dispatch the first few easily. Then he caught sight of a familiar face - the slaver. And the man was headed below decks. Worried now for the two young men he had sent below, Jack started to work his way over to the door.
It only took less than a minute for Robert to find Daniel. He noted with surprise that there was another boy in the room, and that they were both armed. "Now, what would you two be doing down here?"
Defiantly, Loren held his sword out ready to fight.
"Loren, no!" Daniel reached for the younger man but was too late as Loren stepped forward to protect his friend.
"The boy thinks he can fight, does he?" Robert mocked the young man, and easily parried the wild swing. "Wanna try again?"
"Loren, stop it!" Daniel pleaded, recognising the intruder. He couldn't let Loren get killed to protect him. His plea fell on deaf ears as Loren continued to swing at his opponent.
Robert toyed with the boy for a little while, then got sick of the game. His sword whipped out and slashed the boy across the chest.
Loren fell to his knees, gasping in pain. The metal had sliced through his skin and he could feel the blood seeping from the wound.
"No!" Daniel went over to Loren and knelt next to him, dropping his sword at the same time. "Loren?"
"It hurts, Daniel," the younger man said in surprise. He hadn't realised it would hurt so much.
"You're going to be all right," Daniel told him, looking around for something to stop the bleeding.
Robert placed the tip of his sword under Daniel's chin. "You, however, won't be. Stand up."
With steady fingers, Daniel grasped Loren's sword then stood up. Anger at his friend's pain helped keep the fear away.
"So you want to fight too," Robert commented as he noticed the sword. He moved back and spread his arms wide. "You'll have to kill me or I'll kill you."
'Surprise is the essence of attack,' Teal'c's voice sounded in Daniel's mind. So he waited instead of rushing in, trying to decide how the man could be defeated.
Robert smiled. This boy had a better idea of how to fight - either that, or he was just too scared to move. Either way, it made things interesting. Bringing his arms down slowly, he then struck, surprised when his blow was parried neatly. "Not bad... for a slave."
Daniel refused to be goaded. Acting rashly would get him killed. He warily circled the slaver, biding his time. He couldn't count on Jack or Teal'c coming to save him but the longer he could stretch this out, the more likely it was that someone would come. He parried the thrust then moved to the side to avoid the next one.
As Robert attacked, he slowly moved Daniel back towards the wall, limiting the strength behind the latter's swings. A few deft moves later and the boy's sword was knocked from his hands. Robert placed the length of his sword against Daniel's throat but kept back out of range of his hands and knees. "Did you really think you would win?"
Daniel didn't answer, and stared defiantly at his attacker instead. He could feel the cold steel, wet with Loren's blood, press against his windpipe. Fear started to rise in him again; this was not supposed to happen!
"Now, you and me are gonna go somewhere more comfortable," Robert said, getting a good handful of the boy's hair, and pulled him towards the stairs.
Loren watched helplessly from the floor as Daniel was taken away from him. He couldn't let Daniel get hurt! So ignoring the pain, he started to crawl towards the stairs.
Jack was getting frustrated. He couldn't get through to the door - it was like there was a conspiracy to stop him from doing so. At that thought, he doubled his efforts; Daniel would definitely need his help.
Opening the door to the cabin he had found earlier, Robert flung Daniel into the room. The young man went sprawling onto the floor, only to be dragged up again and thrown onto the bed.
Daniel tried to scramble off the bed but wasn't fast enough. He found himself pinned to the mattress, the slaver straddling his stomach. "Get off me!"
Putting the sword out of the boy's reach, Robert caught the flailing arms and held them tightly. "Not before we've got better acquainted."
Blue eyes opened wide as the meaning sank in. "No, please no!" He had barely recovered from the last time. Daniel tried struggling again but he wasn't strong enough to shift the slaver. "Please, no!"
Robert ignored him and tried to figure out whether he needed to tie the boy to the bed. Deciding to do so, he released one arm and moved back a little to gain access to the belt. Letting go of the other arm, Robert drew his knife and placed it against the top of the vulnerable throat.
Loren pulled himself up the last step and found himself looking at a pair of shoes. Craning his neck upwards, he saw that it was the captain.
Jack knelt down, worried about the blood he could see. "What happened?"
"He... took Daniel," Loren managed to get out. "Tried to... stop him." Blackness wavered around the edges of his vision, and then he passed out.
After making sure that Loren was still alive, Jack tried to work out where the slaver would take Daniel. And when he heard the cries of protest, he realised that he didn't have to go very far at all.
Daniel put both his hands on the man's arm, trying to push him away. "Please don't do this!" he pleaded, tears coming to his eyes. He felt his belt being pulled away and his panic increased. "Please!"
"You heard him."
"Jack!" Daniel's heart leapt with joy to see the pirate standing there. He started to calm down because he knew Jack would protect him.
Keeping the knife steady, Robert turned to look at the would-be rescuer. "One step closer, O'Neill, and he dies."
Jack didn't doubt that for a second. "What do you want?" He forced himself to stay still - he was not going to get Daniel killed.
"Revenge. You cost me a lot of money."
"It would have been easier to get us back at port," Jack commented. A movement caught his eye and he saw Daniel's hand slowly reach up under the pillow. Knowing he needed to keep the slaver's attention on him, he continued, "I mean, you wouldn't had to have wasted all those men just to kill me and get Daniel into bed. Come on, you have to admit that was a bad plan."
"How exactly? I seem to have you both where I want you." Robert put a little more weight on the knife.
Daniel felt the knife dig further into his skin, drawing blood. Remaining calm, he searched under the pillow for Ra - he had placed the statue there earlier in the day. His fingers closed around it just as he heard Jack's reply.
"Well, as soon as you move that knife, you're a dead man. Because if I don't kill you, my men out there will." Keep him distracted, Jack told himself.
"Then the boy will die with me."
"I don't think so." A loud 'thunk' preceded the sound of the slaver's body hitting the floor.
"Daniel?" What had the kid used?
Grinning slightly, Daniel held up the statue. "I guess it really can protect me from bad things."
Jack chuckled in spite of himself. "I guess it can." He went over to the unconscious man, checking that he was out for the count. That done, he went over to check on Daniel - the thin lines of blood on the young man's throat worried him. "Good thinking."
Daniel smiled at the praise, and then his expression changed to one of horror. "Loren!" He got up and rushed out the door, and found the younger man lying at the top of the stairs. Kneeling down next to him, Daniel tried to get a response. "Loren? Are you all right? Loren?"
After tying the intruder up with his own belt, Jack went out to find Daniel. Putting a hand on the kid's shoulder, he said, "Let's get him to Doc." And Daniel could get his injury checked out at the same time.
A while later, Daniel hovered anxiously at Loren's bedside. A clean bandage had been put over the wound, and Doc had assured him that Loren was going to be fine. Still, just to be sure, Daniel was waiting around until his friend woke up.
Loren's eyelids fluttered as he regained consciousness, then they flew open as he remembered the situation. "Daniel!" He tried to sit up but the pain in his chest stopped him.
"It's all right, I'm here," Daniel said, crouching down next to the bunk.
"Daniel?" Loren was confused. "How...?"
"Jack," he replied, then turned the conversation back to the man in front of him. "Thank-you for trying to protect me." Daniel had worked out that Loren had been trying to get to him before he had passed out.
"It didn't work," Loren said dejectedly. He had let the man take Daniel.
"Yes, it did. You bought me some time, and because of that, Jack was able to intervene before things went too far." Daniel reached out and squeezed Loren's hand. "That was the best thing you could have done for me."
"Really?" He thought he had failed. Loren then saw the cut on Daniel's throat. "You're hurt."
"I'm fine, and you're going to be just fine too."
"You did a brave thing, Loren," Jack said, coming up behind Daniel. He had come so close to losing both of them. "I'm proud of you."
The praise from the captain was so unexpected that Loren blushed. "Thank-you, sir."
"You're welcome. Now, we'll leave you to get some rest."
"I-I want to stay for a while, Jack. Please?" Daniel wanted to give back some of the comfort that Loren had provided him with in the early days on board the ship.
"All right. But let him rest," Jack ordered. He ruffled Daniel's hair, then left the room. He headed up onto the deck to watch the 'Emperor' sail away.
"The surviving crew are returning home," Teal'c reported, coming up silently behind the captain. "Their leader has been taken care of."
Jack really didn't want to know how, just so long as the man wouldn't bother them any more. He already had a lie ready to tell both Daniel and Loren. "Good. Let's set sail again, shall we?"
After their nightly chess game, during which Jack told Daniel that the slaver had been taken to the beach and abandoned, the young man started fidgeting. Recognising it as a sign of something being on his mind, Jack asked, "What is it, Daniel?"
"He wanted to kill you, didn't he?" Daniel had been reliving parts of the attack all afternoon, and that had stood out.
"I'd say so," Jack replied, packing the game up.
"And he wanted to... you know... me, didn't he?"
Jack nodded briefly as the image of the big man pinning Daniel to the bed and holding a knife to his throat caused his gut to twist in pain.
"Was it to hurt me or to hurt you?"
The insightful question surprised Jack. "Both, probably," he answered. "He knew from when I rescued you before that I cared about you, and that hurting you would hurt me."
Daniel's breath caught in his throat. "You care about me?" He was startled by the admission.
"Yeah, I do. You're my friend, remember?" Jack tried to keep things light, even though he knew that he cared for Daniel more than he had for any other friend... and that scared him.
"I care for you too, Jack," Daniel had no trouble in admitting. He smiled at the older man, unreasonably happy at the knowledge of Jack's feelings. "You're the best friend I've ever had."
"You're only saying that 'cause I've saved you three times," Jack teased, quietly pleased at Daniel's words.
"Well, there is that," Daniel shared the joke, then grew serious. "Will you stay with me tonight?"
"Are you sure?" Two things stopped him from saying 'yes' straight away: the fact that Daniel had nearly been raped again; and the knowledge that his feelings for the young man might be more than just friendship.
"I want to feel safe," the young man replied candidly. From the time he was rescued, Jack had always represented a safe haven.
"All right then." Jack lay down on the bed and automatically put his arm around Daniel when the young man lay down next to him. He swallowed hard when Daniel snuggled in, his breath ghosting across Jack's chest. The desire that he had felt earlier in the day came back, causing his heart to beat faster.
"Jack?" Daniel could feel the quick heart-beat under his fingertips and was curious as to the cause.
"Just remembering." The pirate forced himself to breathe slowly in and out so that his heart-rate would slow as well. He didn't want to scare Daniel with these strange feelings.
Daniel accepted that and settled down again, feeling contentment flow through him. He hoped that he wouldn't have any bad dreams - he was sick of them. But he knew that Jack would be there to comfort him afterwards if he did.
Jack lay awake for a long time, his mind running over the day's events. Foremost in his mind were his new, unnatural feelings for Daniel, and how he could never let the young man know of them...
The next five weeks flew by. Daniel and Jack had one nightmare apiece on that shared night, and several more in the ensuing nights, although they spent no more together.
Daniel spent his waking hours working on his sword skills, pulling his weight with sailing duties, and reading all the books on board. He was remembering more and more about his past, which made him increasingly reluctant to go back to England.
Jack didn't pick up on the reluctance straight away, so focused was he on not feeling anything inappropriate for his best friend. There were the occasional flickers of desire, which he quickly suppressed, and he made sure that he didn't touch Daniel as often as usual. If the young man noticed this, he didn't say anything.
They had plenty of lively discussions, the depth of Daniel's knowledge continuing to surprise Jack on a daily basis. Daniel was also beginning to remember the dozen or so languages that he could speak, and would tease Jack by slipping into them during their discussions. So except for the small bouts of self-loathing over his feelings, Jack was having the time of his life.
For his part, so was Daniel. He couldn't believe how much fun he was having, and how well-read Jack actually was. He noticed that occasionally the pirate became uncomfortable or distant around him but since he couldn't work out the reason, he didn't worry about it. His bond with the older man grew every day, and at the end of the five weeks, Daniel knew he didn't want to leave.
"Come on, Daniel, get a move on," Jack said after the ship had docked at Penzance. He had noticed that the young man hadn't come up on deck for the docking so he had gone below to fetch him.
"I'm not going." Daniel crossed his arms and stared defiantly at Jack, daring him to move him.
Jack sighed, running a hand impatiently through his hair. He had thought that Daniel had been getting nervous about going back but now he was beginning to change his mind. "Why?"
"I want to stay here with you."
"As flattering as that is, Daniel..."
"There had to be a reason I left in the first place, Jack." Daniel had been thinking a lot about it recently. "Everything I remember about that place is... stifling - the house, the society. I don't want to go back to that."
"It's only for a little while, and you did promise Miss Carter that you would be there."
"But you won't be there, will you?" Daniel hadn't missed the singular terms.
"No." Jack would no more fit into Daniel's world than the young man did in his.
"Then I'm not going." He wanted to stay with Jack and explore the world.
"What if I come with you to your grandfather's house? Will you go then?" Jack knew he would never be allowed to stay but it might convince Daniel to go.
"And take me home when I want to leave?"
'Home.' Daniel thought of the 'Star-Dweller' as home. The idea pleased Jack but saddened him at the same time because he knew that Daniel couldn't live there permanently. So he couldn't promise that. "Let's go then."
Several hours later, they arrived at the Ballard mansion in Camborne. Jack was extremely impressed by the estate, and marvelled that Daniel could have been raised in such a place and still turn out so well; the young linguist definitely wasn't your average rich kid.
As they drew up to the front of the mansion, memories of Daniel's childhood came to the fore. Memories of strict rules, of discipline, of not being comforted when he cried; the bad memories dominated the good ones. "Jack, let's just go home again," he said as the carriage stopped.
"We've come this far," Jack replied. "Might as well go in."
"Promise you'll stay with me." Daniel didn't want to go in there alone.
"I'll stay with you." Until he was thrown out.
They got out of the carriage, Jack announcing to the doorman that Sir Nicholas's grandson had arrived.
With a decidedly snobbish air, the doorman went to see if 'the master' was available, then came back to show the two men in.
Jack felt so out of place in his attire, reinforcing his belief that he shouldn't be there. Although he came from a moderately wealthy background, it had been nothing on this scale. He felt Daniel inch closer towards him as they walked along, until the young man was practically inside Jack's skin, and the pirate began to question the wisdom of bringing him back. Maybe he hadn't looked hard enough for a way for them to stick together... or maybe he had just wanted Daniel out of the way so he could go back to feeling normal things again.
They were ushered into a study that seemed as large as the 'Star-Dweller's main deck. Daniel's eyes opened wide as he surveyed all the books - how could he not have remembered this room? Although his fingers itched to touch the books, he remained where he was, pressed up close to Jack. The older man's presence helped ease his fears.
The stern, accented voice drew Daniel's attention to the middle of the room. An old man sat in a large chair, cold eyes assessing the figure that stood before him. "Grandfather."
Sir Nicholas's eyes narrowed as he took in his grandson's appearance and his companion. Just what had Daniel been up to these past ten years? Addressing the stranger, he asked, "And you are?"
"Captain Jack O'Neill, sir." One look at the old man and he could see why Daniel had been reluctant to come back.
"And why are you here?"
"Grandfather!" Daniel protested at what he thought was a ill-mannered question.
"It's all right, Danny," Jack said quietly to the young man. Speaking louder, he replied, "I saved his life, sir, and Daniel asked me to protect him for the rest of his journey." Well, that was one interpretation of what had happened, Jack justified his words to himself.
"I see." Distaste dripped from both words. His heir had befriended a commoner - that was not acceptable. "Daniel, come here."
Daniel looked at Jack, who shrugged, and then left the pirate's safety to go over to his grandfather.
Sir Nicholas assessed his grandson's appearance more critically. The long hair, which wasn't even tied back, was a golden brown colour - bleached by too many hours in the sun, no doubt. His skin was lightly tanned, and he seemed lighter in build, almost as if he had been starved. And there were scratches on his hands, which indicated that Daniel had been doing manual labour. "What have you been up to?"
"What I told you I would do - exploring the world," Daniel replied. "You should see what's out there, grandfather. It's amazing..."
Daniel fell silent at the disinterested tone. Now he remembered why he hadn't liked his grandfather.
"Captain O'Neill, thank-you for bringing my grandson home." It was a clear dismissal.
Jack understood this and gave a short bow to the old man. Making a scene would only get him thrown out faster so it was better to co-operate. A butler came up beside him to escort him out. "Bye, Danny." He turned to leave.
"No!" Panic began to rise in Daniel; Jack had promised he wouldn't leave him! "Jack!" He headed towards the door, only to have it shut in his face. The last thing he saw was Jack looking sadly at him. "No!" Daniel pulled on the door but it wouldn't open.
"Daniel, stop this behaviour at once!" Sir Nicholas commanded.
The young man tugged on the door a few more times, tears coming to his eyes. Jack wasn't allowed to leave him! "Jack!"
Outside the door, Jack could hear the distressed shouts and wanted desperately to go back in there, but the two men now guarding the door deterred him from trying. He had known that he wouldn't be allowed to stay but he hadn't anticipated being thrown out so quickly. His heart breaking, he turned and slowly walked away.
Back inside the room, Daniel turned and slid down the door until he was sitting on the floor. Tears streamed down his face. Jack was gone, shut out of his life; the sudden loss scared him. "No," he whispered to himself.
Sir Nicholas was appalled. "Daniel Jackson, stop this disgraceful behaviour right now!"
The young man ignored him, staring blankly at the floor.
"He has obviously been a bad influence on you," Sir Nicholas observed. Given the behaviour, he now believed that Daniel had been seduced by the commoner - a disgusting thought.
"A bad influence?" Daniel said in disbelief, lifting his eyes to look incredulously at the old man. "He saved my life! I was kidnapped, and was raped and beaten every day for a month! When Jack found me, I was close to death! He helped me get better and then protected me from others who wished to harm me! How can that be a bad influence?" His words were designed to shock and he was pleased to see that they worked. How dare his grandfather say that Jack was bad!
The old man digested this information with mixed feelings - shock, anger, and disgust. "I knew letting you go off 'exploring' was a bad decision. You should have stayed here."
"And what, get married to a girl you picked out for me and live out my life being bored to death by staying here?" He had to be out in the world learning; that was the way he was. "There are so many different cultures out there, so many things to learn! I've visited so many countries and learnt about how other people live! And all that was worth the price!" Daniel was riled now, gesturing angrily with his hands. If Apophis hadn't taken him, he never would have met Jack, and Daniel now believed that was fate.
"You're obviously not in your right mind," Sir Nicholas pronounced. His grandson had obviously been influenced by his experiences. "You need some rest and something to eat."
Daniel was incredulous. "No, I need to go home."
"You are home."
"No, I'm not. This is a place where I lived - it was never my home." A sad but true fact.
"And I suppose you believe your home is with O'Neill now?" Brainwashed, that's what Daniel was.
"At least he cares about me!" Daniel shot back. "You never did! I was always the 'heir', never a person!" He tucked his knees up to his chest, trying to keep the hurt away.
So that was how O'Neill had seduced him, the old man mused, thinking of how he could use that information. "If he cares so much for you, why did he leave?"
Daniel was silent for a few seconds. "I don't know," he finally said quietly. Why had Jack left? Had Jack brought him here just to get rid of him? What had he done wrong that Jack didn't want him anymore?
"I do," Sir Nicholas stated. "He was using you. He's had his fun and now wants rid of you."
"No!" Daniel denied, shaking his head. That wasn't true. "He wouldn't do that." He then realised what his grandfather was implying, and his eyes widened. "You think Jack seduced me, don't you?"
The old man made no reply to that.
"You're kidding me! Jack is my friend, nothing else! He would never do what you're implying!" Of that, Daniel was certain. "We're just friends," he repeated.
"I'm afraid I can't let you have any more contact with him." He had people who could make O'Neill disappear.
"And just how are you going to stop me?" Daniel was sorry he asked when he saw his grandfather was avoiding looking at him. "Please tell me you're not going to kill him!" That was a bit drastic, wasn't it?
"Will you attempt to contact him?"
Daniel heard the unspoken threat: if he tried to leave, Jack would die. He couldn't let that happen. Swallowing the bile in his throat, he bitterly replied, "No."
"Then there is no need to worry, is there?" The old man smiled benevolently now that he had won that round. "Now, I'm sure you are tired after your long journey. Why don't you go up to your room and rest? I'll have Cook bring something up for you in a while."
Like he would be able to rest now! Reluctantly, Daniel got to his feet and allowed himself to be escorted from the room, his heart as heavy as his feet. How could he leave without condemning Jack to death?
Sir Nicholas watched his only heir leave the room. He noted the sad eyes and defeated posture but put any regrets over his actions aside. It had been necessary to break the influence O'Neill clearly held over Daniel. A few days in his room to think things over was now clearly what the young man needed. Satisfied, Sir Nicholas rang the bell for the butler.
Once in his room, Daniel stood staring out the window at the darkening sky. He should never have let Jack talk him into coming... Jack. He had lost Jack. His heart ached with the pain of his loss, and a couple of involuntary tears trickled down his cheeks. He didn't want to live without Jack. He...
He loved Jack.
Surprised at this thought, Daniel slumped against the window frame. He loved Jack? He knew he felt more for Jack than he did for either Sam or Loren but he had never equated that with love before. Jack made him feel happy, and safe, and Daniel had trusted him virtually straight away. And now he realised that Jack also made him feel good, like he had when he'd had that crush on Sarah ten years ago, only this was more intense.
He didn't just love Jack - he was in love with Jack.
The idea didn't fill him with disgust; rather, he was relieved. It certainly explained his behaviour around Jack. But the idea also fascinated him. He was in love with a man. He had never expected such a thing to happen but it had. That was why Apophis had taken him, so that Jack could rescue him and they could be with each other. It was obviously fated. Except...
Except he didn't know if Jack felt the same way. Probably not, given that the pirate had been married, not to mention that he had abandoned Daniel here. But they could still be friends. Daniel thought he would be able to suppress his feelings so that he didn't make Jack uncomfortable.
He sighed and stared into the distance. If only Jack would come back...
In the nearby bushes, under the cover of darkness, Jack stared up at the pensive figure at the window. After leaving the house earlier, and being driven away in the carriage, Jack had stealthily made his way back, waiting until it was dark before going closer in order to find Daniel's room. He'd had second thoughts about abandoning the young man to Sir Nicholas, and wanted to make sure that Daniel was all right. Given the current expression, he guessed that Daniel wasn't.
He had the feeling that any attempt to overtly comfort Daniel would be dangerous to the young man's freedom, so he would have to do it covertly. Waiting until the light had been turned off for a long time, he quietly moved up to the house and flattened himself against the wall. He waited to see if he had been seen or heard but there was only silence. He looked up at the second storey window - it looked a long way up, not to mention a long way to fall if he missed his footing. Slowly, carefully, he started to climb.
There were several times on the way up when he cursed the builders, his hands and feet slipping on the smooth stone, but he persevered. After five interminably long minutes, his hand found Daniel's window sill. Checking with his fingers that the sill was wide enough, he then carefully reached around to retrieve the statue from where it was tucked into the back of his trousers. Then he placed the statue on the sill, making sure it wasn't going to fall down, and then cautiously made his descent.
A few feet from the ground, he jumped the rest of the way. Without waiting to see if anyone had heard him, he scrambled for the bushes. He waited anxiously there for a few minutes, sighing with relief when no-one from the house appeared.
Retreating into the nearby trees that would still give him a good view of Daniel's window, he settled in to sleep for the rest of the night.
Daniel awoke late the next morning, groggy from a restless night and little sleep. His eyes opened abruptly when he remembered where he was - in his own bed in his grandfather's house. Without Jack.
Rolling over, he stared at the white ceilings which reflected what he was feeling - nothing. He felt numb inside. Life without Jack, especially in this house, held no interest for him. He wanted to stay in bed forever and not get up to face the dreary life ahead of him.
Turning over again, he looked at the sunshine streaming in through the window. How could the sun be shining? Didn't it know that it was a terrible day? Why wasn't it bleak to match his mood? Why didn't....
His thoughts trailed off as his brain registered that there was something on the window sill. Squinting, Daniel could make out that it looked thin and tall but because it was in silhouette, he couldn't distinguish any other features. So he got out of bed to have a closer look.
When he was a couple of feet away, he recognised it and quickly opened one side of the window to retrieve it. It was Ra! And there was only one way that the statue could have ended up there and that was if Jack had put it there. Daniel hadn't seen the older man bring the statue along but given that it was here now, he must have. Jack would have waited until it was dark, found his room, and then climbed all the way up. Daniel's heart swelled with happiness. Jack had done all that for him! Jack was still his friend. And more importantly, Jack hadn't left him.
Grinning with pleasure, Daniel looked out the window to see if he could see Jack anywhere. But if he was there, the pirate was well hidden. That didn't detract from his happiness though. Jack was nearby. Everything was going to be all right.
After one last look out the window, Daniel pulled it closed then went back to bed.
Even from his place in the trees, Jack had seen the grin. He was pleased that he had brought the statue along now. And now Daniel would know that he hadn't deserted him, which would hopefully sustain him for the few days he would be there. Feeling happier than before, Jack went in search of some food.
When there was a knock on the door some time later, Daniel quickly hid Ra under the sheets. He knew that any indication that Jack was still around would be very bad for both of them.
Sir Nicholas walked into the bedroom, followed by a butler carrying a tray of food. "I see you're finally awake."
There was nothing Daniel could say to that so he didn't.
"Here is your breakfast. You will find something to wear in the wardrobe."
"Thank-you, grandfather." Surely the old man hadn't come all that way just to tell him that?
"You will remain in this room until you can behave like a civilised person again."
"What? You can't do that!" Daniel sat bolt upright in the bed. He was going to be a prisoner now?
"It is my duty to help you, Daniel," Sir Nicholas stated. "You can remain here and be cured or I will send you to an asylum. This is infinitely better, I assure you."
Once again he had no choice. Daniel mutinously crossed his arms and lay back against the pillows.
"Your childish behaviour does you no credit, Daniel. Every action simply proves that your 'adventures' have had a bad influence on you." With that parting shot, Sir Nicholas and the butler left.
Daniel retrieved Ra and held the statue tightly in his hand. He needed to come up with a plan to leave the house without putting Jack's life in danger.
That evening, Daniel was still no closer to finding a plan than he had been ten hours earlier. But during his enforced solitude, he had written a short letter to Jack - whom he was hoping would come back - outlining the situation. He carefully wrapped the bottle of ink and a feather inside the piece of parchment and placed the parcel on the window sill, hoping that Jack would come to retrieve it. Then he went off to bed to wait.
The next morning, Daniel was awake early, anxious to see if Jack had been. Rushing to the window, he found that the parcel was gone and in its place was a small book that Daniel recognised as being from the library downstairs - it had Sir Nicholas's name in it. The young man smiled as he realised that Jack had somehow broken into the library, and without being seen had taken one of the books so that Daniel wouldn't get bored. Jack really did care about him.
The day passed in a similar fashion to the previous one, except this time, Daniel was able to keep his mind occupied. Before he went to bed, he put some food on the window sill for Jack, just in case he was hungry. Then he went straight off to sleep, dreaming of when Jack would come to rescue him.
Jack's reply was short and to the point: 'Sorry, Danny, nothing comes to mind yet. But we'll figure it out. Just hang in there.'
Daniel re-read the note a couple of times and then hid it in his bedside drawer. He had every confidence that Jack would figure out something. In the meantime, he should show some signs of 'getting better' so that he could move freely around the house.
When he came downstairs later, Sir Nicholas looked at Daniel in approval. The long hair had been cut to a more fashionable length and was tied back, and he was wearing appropriate clothes instead of the common garb. The old man felt pleased that his tactics had worked.
Sam also looked on approvingly, this Daniel being more like the one she remembered. "Daniel!" She went over and embraced him happily.
Daniel returned the hug. "Sam! When did you arrive?"
"This morning." She hadn't even changed out of her travelling clothes. She drew back, looking deep into his eyes and saw the sadness lingering there. "How are you?"
"I'm fine." Daniel moved away and sat down in a nearby chair. "You?"
"The same." Sam's instincts were telling her that Daniel was anything but fine. She needed to talk to him alone and find out what was wrong. "Do you feel like a walk? I need to stretch my legs after all that travelling."
"Go," Sir Nicholas said when Daniel looked questioningly at him.
Sam led Daniel outside, and when they were far enough away from the mansion, asked, "What's wrong?"
Daniel deliberated about how much to tell her. "Grandfather won't let me leave. If I try, he said he'd have Jack killed."
"What?" She couldn't believe that. "Would he really do that?"
"I don't know but I don't want to find out." Daniel wrapped his arms around his chest. Even thinking about it caused him pain.
Sam didn't question why Daniel would want to leave - she knew why he had left in the first place. Now she understood the sadness in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Daniel."
"If only I knew what my grandfather wanted from me!" Daniel exclaimed in frustration.
That was easily answered. "He wants you to get married and produce an heir," she stated. "He told me this morning."
"And he thinks that locking me up and threatening Jack is going to help?" What would the old man say if he knew that Daniel didn't want to get married because he was in love with another man?
"It's his way."
"Well, it's not going to work." Daniel stopped walking and turned towards Sam. "Can you help me leave here?"
"Where would you go?"
"I don't know. Anywhere but here."
Daniel hesitated before replying, "If he'll have me, yes."
Sam was torn. She wanted to help Daniel but didn't want him to go back to the pirate. "Let me think about it." She couldn't promise anything yet.
That night, Daniel wrote to Jack, saying that Sam might be able to help them, and again he left the writing implements on the sill. The next morning, they had been replaced by a single red rose. Daniel picked it up and inhaled the sweet scent. He wondered whether Jack had meant it as a declaration of love or just a token of friendship.
The young man looked up, startled by his grandfather's booming voice. He had been reading quietly in the sitting room, waiting for Sam to come downstairs. "What is it, grandfather?"
"Where did these come from?" Sir Nicholas held the statue, note and rose in one hand. He was absolutely livid.
"You went through my room?" Daniel was incredulous. How dare his privacy be invaded like that!
"It seems I had reason to. O'Neill gave these to you, didn't he?" the old man accused.
Daniel kept his mouth shut, just staring defiantly at his grandfather.
"You have still been seeing him," Sir Nicholas said in disgust. "Haven't you?" When there was still no reply, the old man called his butler over and ordered a search of the grounds.
Daniel struggled to keep his expression defiant while his stomach clenched in fear. What would happen to Jack if they found him? The pirate had taken a big risk in staying, especially after Daniel had told him about the death threat. Would his grandfather be so concerned over their friendship that he would actually kill Jack?
"He has corrupted you, Daniel." Sir Nicholas looked at the rose with disgust - men were not supposed to be together, it was unnatural. And he was certain that it wouldn't have been Daniel's idea. "You should not protect him."
"He has done nothing wrong," Daniel felt compelled to defend Jack. He stood up angrily and snatched his things from the old man's hand. "You had no right to do this!"
"I had every right," Sir Nicholas started to defend himself before the door opened and Sam entered.
She took in the situation at a glance. "Did I interrupt something?" She looked at the items in Daniel's hand and recognised the statue. There was also a... rose? What was going on?
"O'Neill has been hiding on the estate," Sir Nicholas informed her.
Sam looked again at the rose, then at Daniel's angry face. Why hadn't Daniel told her? Stupid question, she berated herself; he didn't trust you not to turn them in. And the rose? She knew of their friendship but the flower indicated something more.
"When he is found, he will be dealt with," the old man announced. "As you will be, Daniel." He left the room.
All the fight went out of Daniel as the door closed, and he slumped into the nearby chair. "This can't be happening," he muttered to himself, absently rolling the rose's stem between his fingers.
"Daniel." Sam went and knelt down in front of him. He looked so sad. "What's going on?"
"Jack promised he wouldn't leave me, that's why he left these for me." He held up the items. "Grandfather found them this morning. Sam, I think he's going to kill Jack." Fear rose in him again as he spoke those words.
"He'll be fine, Daniel," Sam tried to reassure him. "O'Neill knows how to take care of himself." Frankly she was surprised that the pirate had stuck around - maybe he cared more for Daniel than she thought.
Daniel nodded; of course Jack could take care of himself. He would just go deeper into hiding. He would be fine. But Daniel wasn't so sure about himself. "Grandfather thinks I'm insane for not wanting to stay here."
"I don't." Sam knew from what Daniel had told her previously that he needed to be out doing things. She reached out and smoothed a stray lock of hair back from his face. "But I think you are a little crazy for becoming friends with O'Neill," she teased.
"I love him, Sam," Daniel admitted softly, not looking at her. "I know it's immoral, and against nature and reason, but I love him. Please tell me I'm not crazy." He lifted scared and pleading eyes to hers.
Sam didn't know what to say. She was shocked by the confession. Sitting back on her heels, she tried to wrap her mind around it. Daniel loved O'Neill; it just wasn't right. But if she told Daniel that, it would turn him against her. So putting aside her own feelings, she concentrated on his. Holding his hands in hers, she replied, "You're not crazy. When did you know?"
"When I thought he had gone." Daniel was relieved by Sam's words.
"And does he... love... you too?"
"I don't know." He stared at the rose. He wasn't sure what it meant. "I hope so but I don't know. He was married." Tears came back into his eyes. "It was his idea to come here. He told me that I had to keep my promise to you, and that he would take me back to the ship when I had seen you. But he didn't know this would happen."
Sam drew him into an embrace, being careful not to crush the rose. "It'll be all right, Daniel." She would make sure of it. "I'll talk to Sir Nicholas."
"Thank-you, Sam." He held on tight. "Thank-you."
When the search failed to turn up O'Neill, Sir Nicholas was furious. He stormed into the sitting room where both Daniel and Samantha were waiting, and went straight up to his grandson. "Where is he?"
"I don't know."
"Where is he?" the old man demanded again.
"I don't know!" Daniel yelled back. "I really don't know!" But he wished he did.
"Sir Nicholas, could I have a word?" Sam intervened. When the old man nodded, she led him to the other side of the room. "I've met O'Neill," she stated, "and he only ever had Daniel's best interests at heart. As much as I hate to admit it, he was the one who helped Daniel to recover. There was never any impropriety in his actions, and believe me, I was looking."
"What about the rose?"
"I don't know." Only O'Neill knew that. "Daniel relies on him, probably too much. But the way to get rid of him is to make Daniel see that he doesn't need him anymore." It was the only plan she could come up with on short notice.
Sir Nicholas considered the idea. It might just work. "How?"
"Let me handle it."
"Very well. You have three days." With that, he stormed out.
"Whatever you said, thank-you," Daniel said from across the room. He had got himself under control again.
"Don't thank me yet," Sam said, thinking about whether her idea would actually work.
Just before sunset, Sam went for a walk. Just outside Daniel's bedroom window, near the bushes, she dropped a note where she hoped O'Neill would find it before attempting to climb the wall. Then she casually continued on her way.
Jack saw the drop and when it was dark enough, went across and picked the note up. Squinting in the darkness, he managed to get the general idea - Sir Nicholas knew, and there were men waiting for him if he tried to see Daniel tonight. However, they wouldn't be watching the back of the house where Carter would be waiting for him. Jack considered the possibility of a trap and decided it wouldn't be worth the risk. He would lay low for a day or two; Daniel would understand.
Sam waited for a long time, feeling rather stupid being out in the cold weather. Finally, she decided that O'Neill hadn't trusted her enough to come. She couldn't blame him but Daniel would be disappointed. Shivering, she went back inside, leaving the second note she had been given on the ground, just in case O'Neill was out there watching.
Ten minutes after she had gone, Jack retrieved the note. He would have to wait till morning to read it but he hoped that it didn't contain more bad news.
"Why didn't he come?" Daniel asked Sam as they walked through the estate's small forest.
"He probably didn't trust me," Sam replied. "Under the circumstances, I don't blame him. But he did take the note." She had checked earlier that morning.
"Do you think he'll agree to the idea?" They had decided that Daniel should make a mock-escape, then Sam would volunteer to accompany him to the nearest asylum for 'sorting out', and somewhere along the line, Jack would 'kidnap' him.
"Why don't you ask me?"
Jack's familiar but quiet voice startled them both. Daniel spun around to see the pirate leaning against a nearby tree. "Jack!" Daniel didn't even think about his reaction; he just went and embraced the other man. He hadn't realised how much he had relied on Jack's touches until he had been deprived of them. Burying his face into the pirate's neck, he breathed in the unique scent that was Jack, and all the pain of the past few days faded away.
Jack turned slightly bewildered eyes on Sam. He hadn't expected Daniel to greet him so enthusiastically - indeed, there seemed to be no indication that Daniel was intending to let go. "Hey, Danny," he said softly, gently holding the young man to him. The inappropriate feelings for the linguist decided to surface and Jack had to fight not to push Daniel away.
"You didn't leave me," Daniel said, drawing back so that he could see the older man's face. "Thank-you for the presents."
"My pleasure." Jack was blown away by the love he saw in Daniel's eyes. Could the young man see that in his?
Sam cleared her throat, gaining the guilty attention of both men. She watched Daniel slowly draw away, embarrassment flooding his face. He would be cursing himself, she knew, for showing so much emotion. The best thing for her to do for him would be to get the focus away from him and not give the other man time to think. "O'Neill."
"Miss Carter." Jack felt the loss of Daniel immediately.
"I take it you read the note."
"Yes." He looked at Daniel then back at Carter. "I'm not sure it's a good idea. It puts Daniel at risk of getting hurt. And what if Sir Nicholas just decides to lock him up in the house somewhere?"
"It's worth the risk, Jack." Daniel got his embarrassment under control. "Really."
"And you don't mind being labelled as a head-case for the rest of your life?" Things like that stuck with a person for ages.
"I can live with it." He hopefully wouldn't be around to hear it. "I don't care what my grandfather's acquaintances think about me. If I did, I wouldn't have left ten years ago." All he cared about now was being with Jack.
Jack shook his head. "It's not worth the risk."
The young man's face became stricken. He moved away from Jack and stood next to Sam, uncertain.
"Daniel?" Sam didn't know what was going on inside his head.
"What if he doesn't want me?" Daniel muttered to her, shooting an anxious glance towards Jack.
Daniel shook his head. He couldn't ask Jack that question.
"Wait here." Sam walked over to O'Neill, not quite believing she was about to ask this. "Daniel is a little worried that you might not want to take him with you."
"I'm not sure." She glanced over her shoulder and saw Daniel watching her carefully. "Do you?"
"Yes, I..." he broke off. Except it was a bad idea to have Daniel anywhere near him. But considering he was still here instead of back on the ship, his head needed to be examined anyway. "I do."
"Daniel loves you," Sam told him abruptly. "If you don't love him back, then don't lead him on." It felt weird to be voicing those words to a man.
"He only thinks he does," Jack said reflexively. "I mean, I rescued him, that's probably it. He's probably confusing love with gratitude..."
"Give him some credit for knowing what he's feeling." Even if Sam didn't like the idea, she still believed him.
Jack looked at Daniel. One look at those worried blue eyes and he knew it was true. He also knew now that he loved Daniel as more than just a friend. And this time, instead of feeling wrong, it felt right. "Danny, come here."
Warily, Daniel walked back over to Jack, hugging himself. He wasn't sure what the pirate was going to say to him. To his surprise, Daniel felt his chin being lifted up, and he looked into warm brown eyes. "Jack?"
"I love you too, Daniel Jackson," Jack said before leaning in and pressing his lips against the young man's.
Daniel's eyes opened wide in surprise before he gave in to the new sensations that were flooding through him. He had been kissed by women before but none of them had made him feel this good. As Jack's lips withdrew from his, he kept his eyes closed for a few seconds longer to savour the experience. Upon opening them, he stared into Jack's eyes and saw the truth there. A shy smile graced his lips. "You love me."
"Yes, I do," Jack confirmed. All his moral objections had flown out the window during the kiss. So what if Daniel was a man? Daniel was the bravest, most intelligent and inwardly beautiful person that Jack had ever known. And if Daniel loved him back, it must be all right.
Sam, who had quickly turned away when she realised what was going to happen, interrupted without looking at them. "What do we do about the plan?"
"I still don't like it," Jack stated, contentedly wrapping his arms around Daniel's waist.
"All right then, how about this one?"
Sam got off her horse and handed the reins over to O'Neill. She and Daniel had ridden to the far end of the estate under the pretence of needing some exercise. O'Neill had been waiting for them. "Take care of Daniel. Because if anything happens to him, I will kill you myself."
Jack took the threat seriously - he would have said the same thing. "I promise."
Daniel slid off his horse and hugged Sam tightly. He was lucky to have her as a friend. "Thanks, Sam."
"You're welcome." Tears stung her eyes and she wiped them away. "Just be careful. And don't forget to write."
"I will, and I won't," he replied. Daniel kissed her cheek, then remounted his horse. "Bye, Sam."
"Bye." She watched them gallop away until she could no longer see them. Absently, she wished that she could find someone to love too, then she would be as happy as Daniel was. Turning around, she started the long walk back to the house.
"You what?" Sir Nicholas roared. He had entrusted Daniel to Samantha's care and she had betrayed him.
"I thought that the best way to cure Daniel was to let him go back with O'Neill and see that it wasn't really the kind of life he wanted." A tiny, guilty part of her still wanted that.
"And what if he doesn't come back?" the old man demanded.
"Then he wasn't crazy," Sam countered.
A knock on the door interrupted them. The butler entered and announced, "My lord, Captain Joseph Faxon has arrived."
Sir Nicholas immediately put the matter of his ungrateful grandson aside. "Show him in."
Joseph Faxon entered the room, and straight away locked eyes with Sam. She took in the handsome features, the dark hair, and the kind eyes, and felt something stir deep inside her. And when he smiled at her, she knew she had found her someone.
'Dear Sam, congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Of course I'll be there - we're already on our way back. I'm so glad that you have found someone like Joseph; he sounds like the perfect man for you.
'Yes, Jack and I are still together. As you know, we didn't sail with the 'Star-Dweller' when we left you. Jack is still indulging me in visiting other countries, which has been a wonderful experience. He pretends not to enjoy the cultural side of things but I know better. Occasionally he goes off fishing, making sure that Teal'c keeps an eye on me if he does. That can be annoying at times but I know he only does it because he loves me.
'Tell Grandfather I am sorry that I disappointed him but this was the way things were meant to be. If he can't accept that I love Jack, then I feel sorry for him.
'We expect to arrive back in England in three weeks so I will see you then. Love, Daniel.'
Jack slid his arms around Daniel's shoulders as he read the letter. The young man leaned back into the embrace, enjoying the feel of Jack's arms around him. Although the physical side of their relationship was still developing - Daniel still had the mental scars from his experiences - he loved being touched by the older man, and especially loved just being held by him. "Do you want to add anything?"
"No, what you've written is fine. Now, come to bed." Jack nuzzled the side of his partner's neck. He had taken to the physical side of their relationship like a duck to water.
Daniel allowed himself to be led over to the bed and lay down next to Jack. "Do you regret giving up everything for me?" he asked as the older man held him close.
"Not for a second," Jack replied truthfully, cupping Daniel's face and drawing him in for a kiss. As long as Daniel was happy, then he was happy too.
Daniel sent a silent prayer of thanks to the goddesses of Fate for allowing him to be with Jack, then lost himself in the kiss.
|Category:||Jack/Daniel, Daniel/Other Male|
|Genres:||Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, First Time, Hurt/Comfort|
|Warnings:||Non-Consensual Sex Acts|
|Summary:||Some things are just meant to be, no matter where or in what time people are.|