A Darker Shade of Grey by Toasted Toad
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: First Time, Hurt/Comfort
Rated: Adult
Warnings: Adult Themes, Non-Consensual Sex Acts
Series: None
Summary: Jack's betrayal of the SGC leads to terrible consequences for Daniel

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Story Notes:
As the title implies, this is a darker take on Season 3's Shades of Grey, so does contain spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it. Some liberties are taken even with canon sections (e.g. timelines)

PLEASE NOTE: Do heed the warnings. This story contains graphic scenes of non-con (rape), and torture (no maiming or anything - I don't do that). If this is not your thing, please don't read. Just skip this one and move on to others you may enjoy more.

(Originally posted on Area 52 in 3 parts under the series title "An Act of Betrayal", and now re-edited)
A Darker Shade of Grey


I can't see. This cannot be a good thing.

Either I've suddenly gone blind, or... I start to reach up with my hands to see if I've been blindfolded, only to realize that my arms have been bound tightly behind my back, forearms to wrists. Hmm - professional. Well, that explains the burning in my shoulders, at least.

I also seem to be suffering from a rather distressing lack of clothes. Which would explain the fact that I'm cold as a witch's t... I'm very cold.

I think it's fairly safe to assume I'm a prisoner.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Really bad.

I reach through the fog that constitutes my memory, but can remember nothing at all that explains why I am here - wherever 'here' is. Last I remember, I was at my place, cosily falling asleep in front of the TV, but now I'm tied up, naked, lying on my side on a cold stone floor. Have I been kidnapped? Well yes, I suppose I must've been. I guess I must still be on Earth - there's no way whoever's kidnapped me could have got me through the Gate. My head is pounding like a sonovabitch and I'm feeling kinda sick.

So I think I can also safely assume I'm concussed. That, or drugged. Or both.

I hear footsteps coming towards me, and my pulse picks up speed. I struggle to sit up.

"Hello," I call out. Damn - pathetically quavering voice. I clear my throat and try again. "Is anybody there?" No response. I shiver and try to pretend to myself that it's just from the cold, not the fear gradually creeping over me. Who is holding me? NID? Someone else? Deep breaths, now. Calm down, don't panic. Just imagine you're with the team and about to do some stellar Goa'uld baiting before anything nasty happens.

I'm trying, I really am, but I just feel so damned vulnerable without any clothes on. Pull yourself together, Daniel. You should know better than to allow that to get to you. And where are the others? Captive too? I don't hear anyone.

A door opens. It must be the door to my... cell? room? I'm not quite sure where I am being held. There is nothing - no sound aside from the footsteps, no smells, to give me any clues. With my eyes blindfolded and hands tied, they have taken care of my other senses too. I wonder briefly if that's deliberate. Silly question - of course it is. I can hear about five or six people enter, and I flush as I realize that I am naked in front of them. I try to curl myself into as much of a ball as I am able, but with my hands tied so tightly behind my back I'm not particularly successful.

They yank me up by my upper arms, causing me to gasp in agony at the additional pressure on my shoulders.

"What's going on?" is my next original sally, but nobody answers me. Instead, they shove me forwards until my abdomen hits a beam or plank or something. Table? No, not a table - must be a sawhorse. I struggle because I can't help myself, but there's no real point - there's too many of them, and I only get some extra bruises for my trouble.

They chain my ankles to the floor, legs spread wide, and shove my abdomen down onto the narrow beam. How bizarre - the beam is padded. Are they afraid of hurting me while they're hurting me? And however this plays out, I'm quite sure that pain is on the agenda. The burn in my shoulders is relieved for a moment as they untie my hands, but then a second later, before I am able to get any feeling back in them, my arms are grabbed, pulled down and tied to the front legs of the apparatus. I don't think I've ever felt more uncomfortable - or vulnerable - in my life. I feel like I've been bent in two, my butt sticking in the air, my muscles strained in every direction. Pressure on my abdomen from the beam is making breathing difficult... And humiliation is off the scale.

I'm completely exposed to all these people - my legs must be spread wide enough for them to see my asshole, and my privates must be thoroughly on display as well. I want to die of embarrassment. I know I should be more afraid than embarrassed, but at the moment, the humiliation's winning.

And still, nobody's spoken a word to me. I'm shivering and in pain, and they haven't even started on me yet.

A quiet dread begins to take over again. Why am I all alone? Is rescue coming? Who are my captors and what do they want from me? And what might they do to me to get it? Horrible images scroll across my brain - Jack has told me about some of the things that can happen to prisoners, and I feel sick with fear. I'm completely helpless, and it looks like whatever they have in mind for me, it isn't going to be fun.

***

One of my captors comes closer. I can feel him standing next to me, can hear his breathing, but he doesn't do anything. What's he waiting for? After a minute, I shudder involuntarily, and curse myself for doing so. Why can't I get better control over myself? Must my body make it so damned obvious that I'm scared? It seems he was waiting for that signal, for suddenly, I feel strands of knotted leather being trailed across my ass and back. I freeze as the image comes to mind quite clearly - cat o' nine tails. I'm sure of it.

"What do you want from me?" I ask, pulling uselessly at my bonds. "Come on, somebody say something! Perhaps a poem. A limerick, even?" Yeah, way to go, Jackson. That was witty... not.

No response. Instead, I hear what I dread - the sound of the cat cutting through the air on its way to meet my back. A crack echoes through the room as it makes contact. Actually, it's not as bad as I feared - the sound was worse than the pain. I'm guessing it's because whoever is on the other end of the cat isn't using his full strength. But the blows keep coming, ranging over my back, my ass and the tops of my thighs.

And I begin to realize that what I had thought was perhaps my captor being a little merciful in fact was not. Beating me with a little less force means I don't pass out as soon. But as the blows mount up, hitting me over and over in the same places, it isn't long before I am screaming in agony, praying to fall unconscious.

It takes me a while to realize they have stopped. I'm bleeding, I know that. I'm not sure how badly. I guess I must have passed out for a while. I'm burning up. Sweat pours off me constantly, and yet I'm freezing.

I can't help letting out a soft moan.

"Ah, awake are you, Dr Jackson?" I hear.

I know that voice.

My voice is blurry as I reply, "Makepeace - what the fuck? Let me go. Christ, what did you do that for? Who else is here?"

Makepeace replies, ignoring my last question, "I wanted you to know how serious we are, Dr Jackson. I don't have time to waste on idle threats and meaningless words. If you don't do just exactly what we want, you are going to look back on that warm up act as a fond memory."

"Okay, so you're serious. I get it. You didn't need to beat the crap out of me to emphasise the point - most people wait until after I don't co-operate to get on with the torturing."

I scream as the whip cracks down on my already blistered back - no holds barred this time. I think I'm going to puke with the pain. Note to self: don't piss these guys off.

Makepeace continues, "I think we understand each other now, Dr Jackson. I wanted to dispense with all unnecessary posturing. I knew you would never co-operate just because I asked."

"Asshole."

I must have some kind of death wish. It's like Goa'uld baiting - I can't seem to resist. Twice more the cat cracks down, my ass and thighs bearing the brunt this time.

"Now there's an interesting thought," he muses, his voice becoming deeply unpleasant. "Let's bear that in mind."

No, he can't mean... Once again, I'm acutely aware of the way they've strapped me down.

Like an idiot, I try again to free myself, accomplishing nothing except further pain for myself as my bonds dig deeper into my wrists and ankles.

"Look, if you don't tell me what you want from me, we're all going to be here a really long time."

"Oh, I think you can count on that being the case. But what we want is very simple. We need information on Colonel O'Neill."

An ice-pick starts clawing at my guts. An image springs into my mind - the face of a man I had thought I knew so well, sitting in a chair drinking beer out of a bottle - and it was suddenly the face of a stranger. Those stupid words exchanged by both of us on the 'foundation' of our friendship, the look of indifference in his eyes...

I try to keep my voice steady. "Jack? What could I know that you don't already know?"

"We know he's defected from the SGC..."

"Everyone knows he's retired," I interrupt.

I yell as Makepeace brings the cat down hard yet again. "Shut the fuck up, Jackson. I'm talking." After a moment, he continues "He's not just retired. He's joining a covert ops team that is going to go out and do what has to be done to get the technology that the Earth needs, with or without the co-operation of the local populace."

I gasp. "He wouldn't!"

"Oh, but he would - he has - and I think you know it."

"God." Before I'd had that conversation with Jack at his house, I would never have believed that of him, but now... Then what Makepeace has said catches up with me. "What do you mean, you think I know? How can I possibly have known? And what does all this have to do with me?"

"Well, you're the one that is closest to him, the one who he might confide in."

"That's *whom*. In *whom* he might confide."

Crack! The whip slams down on me again. What is it with me? Have I become terminally stupid?

"Why did you go and see Colonel O'Neill at his house last week? What did you say to him? What did he say to you?"

Shit. I think I see where this is going. Christ. Why couldn't I leave it alone? Why couldn't I stay away from Jack? I *had* to try to get him back, didn't I? And now they think I'm involved in some kind of plot with him. And there is no way I can give them what they want - because there is no plot. I have nothing to tell them. I had no idea myself what Jack was intending to do. I feel a new wash of fear as I realize I'm not going to be able to convince them of that.

I laugh hollowly. "You're kidding me, right?"

Makepeace replies, "I think we've already established that I'm not kidding. Or do you need me to demonstrate again?"

"No, I'm good. But surely you know already. You must have had his house under surveillance if he was joining you."

"Of course. But we need to know what else he said to you, what messages he might have given you, that our eyes and ears did not pick up."

"What? Nothing! That was it!"

"You see, Dr Jackson, I have trouble believing that. You've been friends for, what, three, four years now? And yet you expect me to believe he brushed you off with a few words? Come now, Dr Jackson, I think we all know better than that."

"No, we don't. Because that's exactly what happened." And once again I feel it like a punch to the guts, Jack's casual rejection of me and everything I stand for. "Wherever he stands now, it's not with me... not with us."

"And that's where we have our little problem, Dr Jackson. I just don't believe you."

"Please, I understand you, but I can't help you any more than that. That's all I know. He hasn't said anything else to me. Please, untie me." The muscles in my arms and back are screaming at me from the strain of the position I'm being forced to assume.

He gives a little chuckle. "Not even you can think we're done yet, Daniel."

I stiffen as he uses my first name - suddenly more intimate. Jack's taught me all sorts of interrogation tricks, and I know he's doing it deliberately to put me off balance, but it still feels somehow unpleasant.

And something else suddenly occurs to me: No-one's coming for me. No-one even knows I'm gone. SG-1 are having a little down time before going out in the field with our new, traitorous CO. And Jack is certainly not expecting any visit from me. There will be no rescue - I'm completely alone. Jack left me all alone.

"Maybe there's something else we can do to persuade you to open up to us. We were speaking of assholes before..."

I gasp with horror. "You can't. You wouldn't. I'm telling you the truth, it serves no purpose!"

I feel a hand start to stroke lightly over my ass, a finger gently roaming down my crack and rubbing against my hole before going further down to cup my balls. I try to squirm away, but there is nowhere for me to go, I'm bound too tightly. I start frantically pulling on the ropes which hold my hands. I have no real hope of escape, but I can't help trying.

"Please... please don't. I'll beg if you like." I know I'm begging already, but my mind has dissolved at the thought of someone touching me - I can't bear it. It's not supposed to happen. Hideous, dark memories try to claw their way into my mind, but I refuse to recognize them. Didn't happen. Nothing happened.

Makepeace lets out an ugly laugh. "Oh, I like. But I'll like it even better if you tell me what I need to know."

"There's nothing to tell. Please believe me, there's nothing. God, don't do this."

He still hasn't stopped fondling my balls. He reaches under still further and starts massaging my dick, but I'm not about to get an erection from this. Rape isn't going to turn me on.

"No, please - you don't need to do this."

"Oh, but I *want* to do this, Daniel. We all do."

"All?" For a while there, I had forgotten there were others in the room. Nobody else has said a word the entire time. I twist my head around, trying to see who else is there - as though I could see anything with the blindfold on.

"Tell me what I want to know, Daniel."

"I've told you everything I know! What more do you want me to say?"

"Tell me what Colonel O'Neill has said to you in the corridors of the SGC, what he whispered in your ear when you came round to his house."

"Nothing! He didn't say anything! Please stop touching me. Get your hands off me!" My voice rises in pitch as my desperation increases. This isn't happening. This cannot be happening.

"Very well, then."

And with no more warning than that, he sticks two fingers, lubricated only with spit, up my ass. I scream with pain and horror. No! Stop! I struggle madly to pull away from those fingers that are impaling me, but I can't move by more than about a couple of inches. It's horribly intimate, disgusting.

"Last chance, Dr Jackson."

But I barely hear the words, I am too far gone. I'm screaming and shouting. "Get out of me! Don't touch me!"

I hear a curt command by Makepeace and suddenly I feel a gag shoved in my mouth - a hard rubber ball with leather straps tied off around the back of my head, effectively muffling any sound I make. It keeps my jaw lodged wide open, adding yet more discomfort. But I am beyond caring.

And suddenly I go completely still. There's something large and blunt prodding at the entrance to my body. That's not fingers. That's... Oh, Christ, Makepeace's cock is being driven into me. Oh God, it HURTS! No! It's not supposed to go there - please! You're tearing me.

And Makepeace is inside me. Just like that, I've been forced to take him. Tied down and impaled on his dick, I can feel his balls pressing against me. I am shaking constantly at the ugly sensations. I don't want it, don't want a cock inside me. Get it out! Take it out! Don't want to feel it. Don't like it. Go 'way. Leave me 'lone. I can hear little whimpering sounds, and I realize those pathetic noises are coming from me.

He doesn't give me a chance to get used to the penetration, but starts thrusting violently into me, grunting with pleasure. He grabs onto my hips, reminding me of the beating I have just taken as he presses into the welts I already have.

I am shoved against the beam again and again, the breath being forced out of me with every thrust. I clench my fists and wait for it to be over. Finally, he groans, and I feel his dick pulse as he comes inside me. He pulls out and I can feel a warm trickle flow down my leg. I'm revolted when I realize that it must be his semen, mixed with blood from my torn anus. I've been used. Defiled.

I collapse over the horse, no longer straining at my bonds, exhausted. But then someone else comes up behind me, and I hear the sound of clothing being pushed down. No! They can't do this to me. Not again! I'm going to be sick! I start heaving. Makepeace must have been prepared for this, because the gag is tugged away as I retch. New terror grabs me as I realize I can't catch my breath - I'm suffocating. Breathing was hard enough before in this position, but now, with my chest spasming, it's impossible. Makepeace curses as he realises what's happening, and curtly orders his men to release my arms. Weakly, I lean against the beam on my forearms, filling my lungs with air. They even hand me a glass of water when it's over to spit out the rancid taste of bile.

So I'm not prepared when I'm slammed down over the sawhorse again, my hands grabbed and tied as before, the gag thrust back in my mouth. In addition to the pain and humiliation, the stench of vomit now fills my nostrils, making me want to heave again. The second man shoves his cock inside me, not caring how he tears me on the way in, taking what he wants. It's hideous - my mind can't accept it, it's spinning crazily. I want to be somewhere else - anywhere else. Let this be happening to someone else!

The gang rape goes on and on, one after another. I throw up repeatedly, but each time, they let me go only long enough to regain my breath before the abuse continues. I lose count of how many have taken me. I'm not struggling anymore. I just slump limply over the beam.

A sharp order from Makepeace and the floor beneath me is cleaned. I think that's less for my benefit than for his - he probably doesn't like the stink any more than I do. But by now, it really doesn't make any difference to me.

Slowly, I become aware that there's some discussion going on.

"You *will*," says Makepeace.

'You will' what?

A low voice replies - it sounds like a refusal. There's something familiar about the voice, but I can't place it. They're speaking too quietly, and my brain has shut down anyway. I hear the door open and close, and the voices continue outside. Finally, I can hear the swift bark of what is unmistakeably an order. The door opens and they return.

Yet another man approaches. He moves quietly but steadily. This one moves in front of me, and I stiffen as I realise what he wants. No way. No way in hell. Anything he puts in my mouth ain't coming out again - I don't care how much they beat me. To my surprise though, he doesn't take out the gag. Instead, I can sense him crouching down, and find he's releasing my hands. I don't seem to have the strength to raise myself up anymore, but he helps me, pushing me up by my shoulders until I can lean against beam of the sawhorse on my forearms.

I start to straighten up fully, but a firm hand on my back prevents me. He's moved around behind me again. I groan as I realize he's not finished with me yet. I want this to be over. "Please," I try to force words through the gag. "Enough. Please."

But there's no answer. Instead, I feel a hand cup my balls and start to massage them gently. I'm in too much pain to respond, but he continues patiently, soothingly. His other hand reaches around for my dick, squeezing and stroking. His touch is firm and sure. A finger starts caressing my perineum, but his hands stay away from my torn anus - nothing but pain there. Finally, I start to respond. I don't know why my body should start to wake up now rather than before with Makepeace, but there's something different, familiar, reassuring. Something... A soft moan escapes me - I'm not sure whether it's of pleasure or horror.

"Way to go, O'Neill."

And suddenly, despite all the sweat on my body, I turn ice cold. They're just messing with my head. I know they are. Jack says torturers do that, Jack says... Jack... But I recognize his scent - recognized it before, I just didn't want to admit it to myself. I know his presence, recognize the rasp of his breath. We've spent too many hours in close confines off-world not to know everything about each other. My body already knew it and responded to him. I know the truth of it before he speaks.

"You bastards," he says softly, but does not stop his ministrations. "Let it happen," he whispers to me as he bends over me, "It'll lessen the pain. Let me help you."

Then slowly, he enters me too. The final rape, and the worst.

I'm not even aware I'm sobbing until I hear his words.

"Daniel, I'm so sorry. Please don't cry, baby... please don't. I'm so sorry."

The refrain goes on and on, whispering in my ear where the others can't hear. Why does he bother? What does he want from me? He's just taken everything away from me. Everything.

While I was dreaming of rescue he was there all along - watching them torture me, rape me... and approving, joining in.

My mind reels from this final act of betrayal. I didn't think it was possible for anything to hurt this much. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have thought he enjoyed my company? I knew what he was the first time I met him; cold, hard, ruthless. And hiding behind those warm brown eyes and irreverent sense of humour, I should have known he was still the same man.

And now my best friend is raping me. No, not friend. He was never my friend. I don't have any friends. I'm too dull, too intellectual, too needy. I should have learned that lesson a long time ago, when they... when nothing happened. I firmly close off those memories, as I have always done.

'Worthless, worthless, worthless'. He pounds the message into me with every thrust.

Finally, he finishes. Fills me up with the ultimate violation. I think I come, I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything anymore.

My mind blackens and I fade away.

They get out the cat again but I don't feel it, don't care. After a while, it stops.

***

I wake up back in my house, from where I'd been snatched a hundred years ago. I cringe in terror as I see Makepeace, and instantly hate myself for doing so. Fortunately, his stay is brief.

"Tell anyone, and you will be responsible for the deaths of Carter and Teal'c," he says. "And believe me, they will die slowly."

And that's it. He just walks out. He knows he has nothing to fear from me. Why would he fear me after he shamed me so thoroughly, re-affirmed how inadequate I truly am? I couldn't even identify any of my other attackers. None of them spoke a word... other than Jack.

It's kind of ironic, really. The reason they took me was that they thought I could be useful to them because Jack and I were close, so I could give them more information about him. But the truth is that the whole thing was completely pointless. The only person who gained any information from the whole exercise was me. I found out that I was as useless to them as I am to Jack, because I don't know Jack at all. We aren't close.

***

So life goes on, I guess. Daniel Jackson comes into work, does his translations, talks to his colleagues. Oh, everyone knows he was raped and beaten. The evidence could hardly be hidden when he had to be patched up by Dr Fraiser and her staff. But as far as they are concerned, it was the work of an anonymous gang of thugs. Not surprising, really. Daft academic like Jackson - bound to get himself into trouble.

But I don't know what relationship Daniel Jackson bears to me. When I look in the mirror I see no-one, feel nothing. I don't know who that person in the mirror is, but he isn't me.

***

And now I hear that Jack's leaving, just a few days after he... The news impacts dully against my life of non-existence. He's going through the Stargate without a GDO, so he can never return. He says he's going to be with Laira, but I know that's a lie; he's going to join up with the renegades off-world. But I've been sworn to silence - I can't warn Hammond.

I should feel relieved. He'll never be able to hurt me again. But instead I feel even more depressed. Why do I want to weep at the thought of him never being around me again? Why do I feel as if the washed out watercolours of my life are blurring still further into monochrome? Why do I hurt because he doesn't say goodbye? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

I can't bear to go to the Gateroom to see him off, can't be that close to him - even the thought makes me feel ill - but I still have to see him go, so I watch from the control room. And he knows me so well - he turns and looks directly at me, knowing exactly where I'll be. The look he gives me is deeply serious, almost like he's trying to tell me something, but I don't understand him, don't know what he could possibly have to say to me anymore.

Finally, he turns back to the Stargate and Jack O'Neill leaves Earth... for good.

Jack:

I knew where he'd be. I can feel his eyes on me as I approach the Stargate. I can't help it - I turn to look at him. God, he's so broken. And I did that to him. He'd have survived any of the rest of it, but when he realized I was there... I'll never forget the sound of him weeping as I was forced to rape him. That utterly forlorn sound. I hear it in my sleep, I hear it when I get up in the morning, when I walk around the Base. I know it will follow me off-world. I think that sound will never leave me.

I want to make it never have happened, make it all better for him, but I can't.

I tried so hard to stop them from doing it. I told them that he didn't know anything, that there was nothing to know. But they said that they wanted to be sure, and thought Daniel would be an easier subject than me: Me, big tough colonel, him delicate academic. Shows how little they know about Daniel - he's a tough little sonofabitch.

Then they made me attend Daniel's interrogation in person, and I realized that they were torturing me after all.

I felt every blow that fell on him, every lash of that whip. But I had to let it happen. They had to be made to believe that I had truly left my old life, my old friends, behind. But I hadn't expected the rape. I don't know why not - Makepeace knows as much about the tactics of pain and humiliation as I do - but I hadn't reckoned he would go there.

And then Makepeace ordered me to rape him too, 'to show solidarity'.

I refused. I couldn't break Daniel. I would not do it.

But Makepeace pulled out his gun, pointed it at Daniel, and said, "Join in, or you're out. And so is he."

And so I raped the man I love.

I don't know whether he'll ever be able to forgive me. I don't know if I deserve to be forgiven.

I could say that I had no choice, that he would have killed Daniel there and then if I hadn't complied with his orders. And that's true. But I can't - I won't - allow myself hide behind that to ease my conscience, because that's not the only reason I did it. I'd been given a mission, and I had to follow it through. My country - my world - was at stake. So I made my choice. Sacrificed Daniel. And gave up my own soul in the process.

I swore I'd do whatever it took... and I'll pay the price for that when all this is over.

Jesusfuckin' Christ.

Now, I've got to get on with what our allies demanded. I must get the location of the goods that have been stolen by this bunch of bastards and make sure I get hold of everyone involved. And I have to catch Makepeace in the act, or it's all for nothing; it'll just be my word against his.

It terrifies me to think of the access Makepeace will have to Daniel while I am gone. I can't tell Teal'c to protect Daniel from him; that would be breaking my cover. I was sworn to act alone. Besides, I don't think anything could stop Teal'c from killing him if he knew what he had done to Daniel, and that's not good enough. If we're gonna please the Tollans and the Asgard, we have to be seen to be disciplining our own here. It cannot be personal.

I *have* to succeed, and I have to succeed *fast*. If anything happens to Daniel while I am gone, Makepeace will not live to stand trial. I swear it.

I force my eyes forward, and walk through the event horizon.

Daniel:

It's been a week since Jack left, and I'm scared. I seem to be scared all the time lately. I have changed the locks on my front door and added extra security bolts to the windows, but since I was kidnapped, home is no longer a safe refuge for me. On base, I don't dare leave my office anymore unless Sam or Teal'c are with me. I never realised before just how much Jack protected me. Since he left, some of the sympathetic looks I was getting when word got around about the 'incident' have also become speculative, even predatory. Maybe because I was raped, they figure I must be gay. Because it couldn't possibly happen to a straight man, could it? My ass must clearly have been open for business.

I squash the small voice in my head that reminds me of the way my body responded to Jack. That's different. That's just... different.

They would never have dared to move in before, I know it. Just another reality check for me. I had thought that I was beginning to hold my own, but I was evidently off in dreamland. They only held off out of fear of Jack. Kind of ironic, really - it turned out the one I had to beware of was Jack himself.

Makepeace seems content to keep his hands to himself for the moment, but I am not allowed to resign or request a transfer off SG-1. Somehow, he knew that would be my first thought on returning to Base - or, more likely, Jack had told him what I would do. He cornered me on my way to General Hammond first thing in the morning, my letter already written and clutched in my sweaty little palm. Again, he made things very clear. Any request from me to leave SG-1 would lead to questions, which might implicate him. That was not permitted.

So I am trapped. SG-1's now been put back on active duty - we're to Gate out tomorrow - and our leader is someone I know cannot be trusted, someone who might hurt me again once out of sight of security cameras. I must not let him separate me from Sam and Teal'c, but I don't know how I'm going to prevent him from doing that without telling them the truth, and I'm not allowed to do that.

Besides, if Makepeace gets in trouble because of me, I know they'll take it out on Jack for not giving them the key to controlling me.

And why do I still care? Why on earth should I still have any loyalty to him? God, I'm pathetic... I know why. Despite everything he's done, the way he's betrayed me and the SGC, there is still some tiny part of me that is desperately hoping there's some explanation, that my life in the SGC has not been one big farce, that there's some way he can be redeemed. How desperate can I get?

'I love my friend, he's a good man'. What kind of thinking is that? Wishful thinking, that's what it's called.

But I don't want to let go. He's saved me from death so many times. His eyes shone as he called me 'Spacemonkey', he held me in his arms as I screamed my way through sarcophagus withdrawal, he's mother-henned me around the Galaxy, we've sat together watching TV, laughing, bitching, eating, drinking. How could he be this man, this... stranger?

I must be losing my mind.

***

We step through the 'Gate for the first time under the care and guidance of Traitor Makepeace. Hammond clearly is easing us in gently, as it's a routine investigation of what seems like an uninhabited planet. We all put on sunglasses as the bright light hits our eyes. Nothing is immediately in view other than sand and rocks. There are only the faintest traces of what might once have been a stone circle around the gate area, but there are no writings of any kind, and nothing to investigate. 'No trees, that should please Jack', I think, automatically. But Jack's not here. Whether there are trees or not doesn't matter. There'll be no whining and bitching anymore. No joking, either.

As I feared, Makepeace instantly sends Sam and Teal'c in one direction to look for any possible mineral deposits, and pairs me off with himself heading in the opposite direction. I begin to object, but don't get further than, "But..." before he cuts me off.

"Daniel, you're with me," he orders.

"That's Dr Jackson," I respond. It's not very much, but the least I can do is demand some respect from him. Calling me 'Daniel' is the privilege of my friends.

"Very well then, Dr Jackson," he smirks, "this way, if you please."

He gestures towards a rocky area and I sigh as I follow him in there. As we work our way along, he switches into operational mode. No matter how seemingly quiet the planet is, we know how appearances can be deceptive, and he is on high alert. After all, his skin is at stake every bit as much as mine. Relaxing at his professionalism, I begin to settle into the rhythm of the job, looking around for possible evidence of cultural remnants.

Everything proceeds smoothly for about half an hour, the ground steadily becoming less rocky and more covered with greenery, albeit still somewhat stunted, until we stumble into an area of stone monoliths spaced out in roughly concentric circles. Excitement springs up in me at such an obvious sign of civilisation, whether past or present, and I am about to move forward to investigate when he suddenly whirls around to face me. "On your knees, Dr Jackson."

My heart starts a syncopated percussion beat in my chest. "You've got to be kidding me."

"I seem to remember us having this conversation before. Or have you forgotten?"

Of course I haven't forgotten. That time I spent as his prisoner is carved in my memory, in my nightmares. I already know that he's entirely serious, but I have no intention of acquiescing. We are off-world where anything can, and usually does, happen. Now is not the time for intimidating me or extracting forced sexual favours. It's just staggeringly inappropriate timing. Besides, this time I'm not tied up and outnumbered - he might be able to overpower me, but not without a fight.

"Look, we're on a mission. It may be a boring one, but it's still a mission. We don't know what could be out here. You'd be putting us all in danger."

"I've checked the place out. There's nothing here. Now drop." He brings his weapon to bear on me.

"No."

On Earth, I might be bearing an increasing resemblance to a frightened mouse, but if he thinks that's going to be reflected in the performance of my job off-world, he's got another think coming.

My throat goes dry as I hear the click of the safety being released.

"I said, drop."

I lift my head, and once again deny him. "And I said no." I might be scared of being forced, but I won't be bullied. That's quite a different matter. "You raped me once. You aren't getting another go at me."

"Jackson, if you are not on your knees by the time I count to three, I will order the death of Colonel O'Neill as soon as we return to Earth."

Momentarily, I'm confused. Why does he think that that threat would influence me in any way after what Jack did to me? And how can he possibly know he's right, that I could really be that needy? Putting this aside for the moment, I respond, "No you won't. You might kill him if I put your little operation in danger, but for refusing to have sex with you? I don't think so."

It's the truth. I know it, and so does he. They wouldn't go through all this trouble to get Jack's services only to have him executed because of one man's sexual frustrations. Makepeace's face turns red with anger as he clicks the safety back on. He stalks towards me and shoves me back against one of the stone pillars.

"You will do as I say, do you understand me?"

I look him straight in the eyes as I bring my knee up as hard as I can to his groin. But I am not the only one trained in the school of dirty tricks. Makepeace has obviously been warned that Jack has taught me a thing or two because he is expecting it. He twists so that the impact of my blow is diffused on his thigh and uses the same movement to throw me to the ground. I roll with the throw and come back to my feet, and see what I think is the first glimmer of respect in his eyes. But it doesn't last for long - he lunges forward, then at the last minute, drops sideways, scissoring his legs, sweeping my feet out from under me. This time, I fall awkwardly, my right foot caught by some underbrush. Like a flash, he is on me, twisting my right arm behind my back and up with incredible force. I open my mouth to scream in pain, but instantly his other hand is clapped over my nose and mouth, muffling any sound and restricting my breath.

"Stop struggling, Dr Jackson, or I will break your arm."

I have no choice. I go limp. He removes his hand from my face, and I suck in great lungfuls of air.

"Now," he says, "promise you'll co-operate and I'll let you go."

I shake my head. "No. You get nothing for free."

He curses, but then goes still. Suddenly, fear finds its way into my adrenaline-crazed brain again. I don't know the lengths to which this man will go to get his kicks.

"Very well, as you won't co-operate, I'll have to get my fun my own way."

Without hesitation, he yanks my arm up and I scream as he dislocates my shoulder. Sweat breaks out on my forehead and I'm helpless and dizzy with pain as he hauls me over his lap, undoes my fatigues and yanks them down, baring my ass. I can feel his erection pressing up against me, but have no attention to spare for it as his hand comes crashing down on my butt. He beats me savagely until tears are flowing freely down my face, and then pushes me away and gets on his knees. Hastily unbuttoning his own fatigues, he pushes them down just far enough to take himself in his hand and yanks once, twice, three times before spurting come all over my exposed ass.

Makepeace cleans me up quickly then radios Sam and Teal'c, enlisting their aid to get me safely back to the Stargate. He weaves a tale of some bad fall causing my injuries, and solicitously shepherds me along, aiding Teal'c in attending to my ankle and resetting my shoulder. His hypocrisy sickens me more than my injuries, but I have no choice other than to go along with his story.

Thank God my injury will prevent me going off-world with him again - at least for a time.

Jack:

Gotcha!!

I see Makepeace pick up the stolen artefact that I planted, providing me with the evidence that incriminates him, and know my mission is finally over. After a few trips leading teams in raids to steal artefacts, I am now sure that I know the identity of every renegade, as well as the full extent of their operations. I at last arranged to do a drop-off myself, and see Makepeace fall straight into the trap.

SG-1 appears in good health, so at least they have stayed in one piece under Makepeace's leadership. Rumour had reached me of Daniel having dislocated his shoulder about 5 weeks ago, but he looks to have recovered now. I wonder darkly if Makepeace had any part in his 'accident'.

I feel light-headed at the thought that I will finally be able to clear my name. I have had to do many terrible things in my career, deal out death any number of times, I've been tortured, even died, but I have never before been branded a traitor. I never thought it would be so hard to live with. Losing everyone's respect, deliberately letting my name be blackened, has been in many ways harder to deal with than any other injury. The looks on everyone's faces when I left Earth that last time...

I have little time to gloat, though. I send the signal to the Asgard and move to shut down the operation. I give the renegade operatives their choice: Return to Earth for justice, or be dealt with by the Asgard. In fact, I'm pretty confident that the Asgard would simply beam them down to the SGC to be arrested there, but there's no need for them to know that.

All I want to do is return to SG-1... and Daniel. I know that Carter and Teal'c will be OK. They will snipe, but in the end, they know the meaning of duty. But Daniel - I can't even bear to think about it. What I did to him... what I was forced to do to him...

Daniel:

The sirens blare - unscheduled off-world activation.

I run to the Gateroom to see what's going on. There's the usual crush of armed men with their weapons trained on the Gate. I don't hear the IDC being authenticated, but there must be one because the iris is retracted.

Time slows down and the world goes hazy as I see Jack appearing through the wormhole.

That's not possible. He wasn't given a GDO - he shouldn't have been able to return. My heart starts pumping madly. I can't breathe properly, I need more air. I want to run, but I can't move - my limbs suddenly belong to somebody else.

Hammond is standing there, but not giving the order to arrest him.

I notice that Jack's arm has not left the event horizon - he is keeping the wormhole open for some reason. Then, suddenly, a number of other people arrive through the Gate, most rather dirty and unkempt. They don't exactly look happy to be here, and without exception, are giving Jack filthy looks. Hammond barks an order and they are all arrested, their arms secured behind their backs. Jack finally releases the wormhole - evidently everyone has arrived - yet still no move is made against him.

I gasp as suddenly Jack grabs a set of plastic ties and secures Makepeace's arms behind his back.

What the fuck? What the hell is going on?

Hammond is announcing something to the room, but I can barely hear. Reality has receded, and my head is pounding. I can see the Tollan High Chancellor standing there, looking smug. There is something about an undercover mission to which only Jack and the General were privy, and it was all a ploy, a trap. Jack was acting under orders, was never a traitor. Nothing else registers.

He raped and tortured me as part of a mission.

I'm going to throw up. I turn and run for the men's room, barely making it in time.

Jack:

Back at home finally, I look around my living room. I can still hear the echoes of that confrontation with Daniel, when I was forced to sip my beer while coolly telling him that we weren't friends, had never been friends.

That look on his face before he ran from the Gateroom. I don't want to remember it. Can't bear to think of it.

He'll never talk to me again. I'll never see the warmth of his friendship in his eyes, never be able to tell him how much I love him.

Not that I ever could have anyway, but I could dream about it. Dream about touching him, holding him in my arms, feeling his soft lips on mine.

What am I going to do?

I know; drink beer. Lots of beer. Excellent idea! Brilliant, Jack. Brilliant! If I stay drunk enough, I won't be able to do any of that thinking thing. Thinking, bad. Beer, good.

And maybe some Tequila too.

Ah! Whisky! Excellent.

...Whazzappened to all the beer? Did somebody drink it? I look hazily round the scattered empties. Ah yes - must've been me.

Still not drunk 'nuff. 'm still conscious. Don't wanna be. Mebbe I shoul' go out and gessomore beer. And whisky. Yesss, tha' sounds good.

Where's car keys, then? Probly shouldn't drive, should I? Nevermind, thessa small store on' corner, sells alcohol'n'stuff.

What now? Coat, yes. Then door. When did it become so difficult to open anyway? Oh, s'locked. Good. I can deal with that.

Finally, I manage to yank the door open.

And there, shivering in my doorway, pale as a ghost, is Daniel. Or is that two Daniels? Not sure. I squint carefully. One and a half, p'raps?

I stare at him for endless seconds, frozen in time. He's so beautiful, my Daniel... however many of him there are... is... whatever.

I don't even see his fist swinging towards me until it connects with my face.

Daniel:

He didn't even try to talk to me before leaving the base. A couple of words exchanged with the team, a debriefing without us, a stupid joke about drawing straws, but then he left, went straight home.

I don't know how to cope. This mission of his - how could he do it?

It's not enough. The explanation - it's not enough. What he did was beyond cold, beyond brutal. He may not have betrayed the SGC, but he *did* betray me. I was just... a casualty of war. And I don't know how to live with that; the fact that I was an 'acceptable loss' to my best friend.

So I find myself standing outside his door, but with no real idea of what to say to him, or what I want from him.

I start to shiver and realize I must have been standing here for at least half an hour, unsure what to do. While I've been hovering here in indecision it has begun pouring with rain and I am bearing an increasing resemblance to... well... something very wet. And still I can't get up the courage to knock on his door.

Suddenly, the door swings open, and Jack is standing there in front of me, wearing just jeans and a t-shirt, looking like he is still struggling with his coat. Actually, 'standing' is probably a rather generous term. He's weaving from side to side, and clearly having some difficulty focussing. He's drunk. Completely fucking shit-faced.

And suddenly my mind goes white with rage and grief. I don't want to talk to him - I want to HURT him. My fist is in mid-swing before I even think about it. I hit him with every ounce of power that's in me.

And he goes down like a stone.

***

I sit in front of the fireplace, sipping my coffee as I watch Jack snore, and wait for him to come round. It looks like my fist did little more than assist his journey to sleepyland; I don't know where he thought he was going when he opened the door, but he certainly wasn't going to get there. He hadn't even remembered to put on shoes. I probably saved him a night sleeping in the trash.

My mind is a blank. That flash of fury ended the moment my fist impacted with his face, leaving me drained. I dragged him into the living room, then went and made coffee, and now I'm just sitting here, waiting. I don't know why I'm here. What am I hoping for? That he'll open his eyes, tell me it was all some misunderstanding? That he wasn't there after all, he never did this thing to me, none of it ever happened? That he didn't then leave me to the tender mercies of Makepeace for a month and a half while he got on with whatever he was doing?

'You know what you're looking for', says a mocking voice in my head. 'You want something to excuse the fact that you still care for him, that doesn't make you the most pitiful being on earth for wanting so much from the man who hurt you so badly'. I refuse to listen. I'm not here for that. I'm not here for validation. I don't need to justify myself. 'Liar, liar, pants on fire'.

Does he still feel it the same way I do? That moment when he... Does he remember how he felt when he was inside me? When all I could do was lie there and take him? Be stripped of my manhood like the pathetic person I am. How can I bear it?

My eyes rove over the features I know so well, and I can't accept that it's over between us. I don't want it to be. But how can it not be? God, I'm a complete mess.

Finally, his eyelids begin to flutter and he snorts, coughing up some phlegm. He blinks blearily. An agonized expression passes across his face, and he scrambles to his feet and runs from the room.

I have no doubt he'll be praying to the porcelain gods for quite some time, so I go into the kitchen and make some more coffee, then return to my comfortable seat in front of the fire. My mind still feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool, creating layers of protection between me and the real world. Maybe the coffee will dissolve it.

Eventually, he emerges from the bathroom looking more than slightly rough and sporting the beginnings of a quite incredible shiner. My handiwork, that. I think I'm quite proud of it, actually.

Even in the state he's in, he's still a handsome man, so tall and lean and fit, silvering hair setting off his tanned face.

And I don't know why I just thought that. Why am I thinking about his looks all of a sudden? What does that have to do with anything? 'Liar, liar, pants on fire', the refrain comes back, taunting me.

He turns and finally focuses those bloodshot brown eyes on me. He doesn't say anything, just stands there and looks at me, expressionless.

And suddenly, I'm afraid. Terrified. This man deals in death and violence on a daily basis. He's killed in cold blood before during his Special Ops days. He's participated in rape and torture - I know that first-hand. He's quite prepared to tie me up and beat me senseless. And he's going to do it. I know he is. What am I doing? Sitting here drinking his coffee as though I'm a guest in his house? I must be nuts!

I leap to my feet, and start to run for the door.

"Daniel!" he calls after me. I don't slow down. Can't let him catch me. But he's incredibly fast on his feet. His hung-over state doesn't seem to slow down his lightning reactions and he beats me to the door, blocking my escape.

"Daniel, don't leave," he says.

"No, please," I say, backing away from him. "Don't. You don't have to. Don't touch me."

He's going to rape me. He's going to do it again. He's going to hold me down and shove his cock up me, forcing me to take him. I can see it in his eyes. I can see his lust, his fury. He'll want revenge for me punching him. I shouldn't have come. I'm wheezing, but there's isn't enough air in here to pull into my lungs. I need to get out. He's going to hurt me. I can't take it again. Please don't make me.

"Stop it. Let me go. I'm sorry - didn't mean to. I'm sorry."

He starts stalking towards me, hands bunched into fists. He raises his hand and I feel the blows falling on me, raining down on me, punching and kicking viciously. I fall to the ground and curl up, trying to shield my body from the worst of the blows, but he's everywhere. It hurts! Stop! Leave me alone! The pain mounts up and finally blackness descends.

***

"Daniel?" I hear a soft voice. Again, "Daniel?"

"Hmmm?" I mumble.

The low voice repeats, "Daniel, are you okay?"

"Whaa?"

I open my eyes to see concerned brown ones looking back at me.

"Are you okay? You passed out."

Awareness floods through me and I jerk up. I'm lying on the sofa. I feel something wet trickle down my forehead. Blood! Jack's perched on the cushion by my side, holding a cloth to my forehead, still blocking my escape! I leap to my feet, pushing him to the floor in the process, and stand there, panting heavily, a little dizzy from the quick change in position. What does he want? Does he want to beat me up again? I'm ready to defend myself this time, he won't get me again.

He doesn't move, doesn't try to get up from the floor.

"Daniel?"

I don't appear to hurt. The adrenaline must be overriding my pain centres. I risk a quick look down to check for damage, but nothing is immediately obvious. I don't seem to have any broken bones. In fact, I seem to have taken remarkably little punishment from that beating. I can't see any blood. Did he clean it up while I was unconscious?

I realise I'm not wearing my sweater anymore. I'm standing there in just my pants. No, not *my* pants, they're a pair of *his* sweats. Did I wake up while he was trying to rape me? Has he already raped me while I was unconscious? My heartbeat speeds up again.

"Don't you touch me, you sick bastard. Where are my clothes? Give them back!"

"Daniel, stop." He starts to get up.

"I said DON'T TOUCH ME!!"

"Daniel, calm down. Not touching you here. You're going to faint again." He sits down on the sofa.

Faint? What does he mean? He beat me unconscious, he beat me... he...

That head wound must be confusing me. I need to get it treated. Maybe it needs stitches - it's certainly bleeding heavily enough. I see a piece of cloth lying on the floor - it was the one Jack was using to staunch the flow of blood. It fell to the floor when I got up. I bend down swiftly and pick it up to apply to my head, but... there's no blood on the cloth, none at all - just water. It was warm water I had felt trickling down my face.

"Daniel, please. You need to relax. Your clothes are in the dryer, you were soaked through. You're running a fever, you must lie down again."

"I'm not lying down anywhere near you! Do you think I'm some kind of idiot? You beat me to a pulp!"

"What are you talking about? I haven't laid a finger on you! It was *you* who knocked *me* out. Nice swing, by the way. When I finally managed to get my head out of the toilet, I came out to see you calmly sitting here drinking coffee. Then the next minute you suddenly sprang up and made for the front door. I tried to go after you, but I guess I must have scared you or something because you started hyperventilating, then you kind of crumpled to the floor. I'm sorry. I should have just let you go. We could have talked another time. I was just so glad you had come." He groans and lowers his face into his hands, massaging his temples as though trying to get rid of a headache. "God, I've fucked up so badly."

"But I felt it. I felt you hit me. You were coming towards me and then..." my voice trails off.

"Daniel, look at yourself. Do you see any injuries anywhere? I haven't hurt you." He pauses, then sighs and adds in a whisper, "Not today, anyway." After a moment, he continues, "I think you had some sort of panic attack. You're still not well. Please, come and lie down. I'll stay away from the sofa if that makes you more comfortable."

I'm beginning to feel rather foolish. I wind my arms around myself and shift restlessly from foot to foot. I can't decide which direction to go in - whether to head for the couch or the door - and I seem to be caught in the middle, unable to move either way.

Jack gets up slowly and backs away to the armchair on the far side of the coffee table. "I won't come any closer than this," he promises, "not unless you say it's all right."

Hesitantly, I unwind a little. I did after all come here to talk to him, even though I have no idea what I want to say, and I won't be able to do that if I leave.

Jack:

Daniel refuses to lie down, but he does at least sit, or rather perch, on the sofa... at the end nearest the door, I note. He looks anything but relaxed; his hands pluck fretfully on a loose thread on the sweatpants, and he carefully examines the design of the carpet.

The silence stretches out. I don't dare to speak - I don't know what might send him running again. I can't believe he came. I don't even know why he's here. All I know is that I desperately want him to stay.

Finally, he looks up at me. "You called me 'baby'," he blurts. "While you were... were raping me, you called me 'baby'."

Of all the things I thought he might say, all the scenarios I had tried out in my mind, that wasn't even close to being on the list. I stiffen - don't know how to react. I hadn't even realized he'd heard those words of endearment slipping out beyond my control as I desperately tried to reassure him - as though anything I had said could have made any difference.

I feel like I've been struck dumb. Every response I run through my head sounds increasingly stupid. All I know is that I can't answer his question. If I tell him now how much I love him... well, I don't know what would happen, but it couldn't be good. 'Hey Daniel, sorry I raped you, but I love you and want to have sex with you, how's about it, then?' is NOT what he needs to hear right now.

He looks so young, so miserable. Finally, he begins to get up, obviously thinking I'm not intending to speak to him.

"No," I manage, "Please stay. I just... there's so much to say, I don't even know where to start. I hurt you so badly. They knew how important you were... are... to me, that's why they picked you. That's why you suffered. I'm so very sorry."

"Why?" he asks wretchedly. "You just stood there while they tortured and raped me, and then..." he chokes on the words, barely managing them in the smallest of whispers, "you did it too." He winds his arms around himself and starts rocking backwards and forwards. He turns his face away, but not before I see tears beginning to form. "And all the time, you were calling me 'baby'. How could you do it?"

I want to go to him, want to put my arms around him and comfort him. But I am held by my promise to keep my distance from him. And in any event, I don't think he'll be seeking comfort from me at any time in the near future. Instead, I have to settle for words, and I'm hardly the wordsmith.

"I had to," I say quietly.

"You didn't *have* to. You *chose* to."

I decide brutal honesty is the only way to go here. "Yes, I chose to."

His head jerks up at this.

"I chose to do what had to be done. Daniel, we need our allies - the Tok'ra, the Asgard, the Nox. Our country, our world, needs them. I would have done whatever it took. That's the kind of man I am," I say bitterly, "I'll hurt anyone for the right cause." I refuse to add that I also did it to save his life. I don't deserve to make any excuses. I don't deserve to try to redeem myself in his eyes.

"So that makes it all okay? Because it was for a good cause?"

"Jesus, Daniel. No, of course it doesn't make it okay. It's not a 'get out of jail free' card. It means that I'll do what I need to, but it doesn't mean that I don't have to live with the consequences. I have to live with what I did to you. I have to live with the memory of seeing you, so scared, so alone, of hearing you cry as I touched you - and of knowing that it was all my fault. No, Daniel, it is *so* not okay."

I can't bear seeing the look on his face, so I turn away from him, look into the fire. "That's the kind of man I am, Daniel," I repeat. "That's the difference between you and me. You couldn't have done that, not to a friend, no matter what was at stake. But I can. I did. I'm not... I'm not the world's greatest human being, Daniel." I take a shaky breath. "What I did to you was... I want so much to say something that will make what I did okay, that can make things right between us. But how can I do that? I've had to do some terrible things in my career, but not to a friend, never to a friend. Never to somebody that I..."

"I just... I never realized how far you'd go, how much you'd sacrifice to make sure of a mission's success. And this time, you sacrificed me. It's difficult to live with, that's all." Daniel pauses, then, "Never to somebody that you what?"

I sigh. I might have known he wouldn't miss that. Typical! You can be in the middle of the most intense conversation of your life, but still he'll pick up on every slip. Damn! You've got to watch every word around him. I've got to recover, and fast.

"Nothing. Just... nothing." Way to go, O'Neill. That'll put him off the scent... not.

"No, you were going to say something."

I start panicking. He can't know! It's not time! Desperately, I try to move the conversation on. "Daniel, now is not the time for getting sidetracked."

"It's always the time. You were going to..."

"Ah, ah! Stop it! God, you're infuriating! I'm trying to get all deep and meaningful here, and you're trying to divert the conversation!"

"I'm not diverting anything!"

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are."

"Not... Wait a minute, Jack. I'm not going to fall into that one again," he snipes. "I will not talk playground with you. You *owe* me."

"You're right, I do. But there are some things I still can't tell you, things you're not ready to hear." I see him open his mouth, ready to object, but cut him off. "Daniel, please trust me. I know I'm not exactly high up on your list of people to trust right now, but I'm still asking it of you."

Silence descends on the room and once again, the carpet is an object of intense scrutiny. Finally, he looks up at me and says, gently, "Okay, Jack. I can do that."

***

How can he possibly have said what he just said? I can hardly believe it. Who has that much generosity of spirit? Once again, I'm reminded of why I love him. He's extraordinary.

My sappy thoughts are interrupted by him speaking again.

"They all think I'm gay," he says, piteously.

I'm thrown by one of Daniel's non-sequitur specials, but scramble to recover. "Who thinks you're gay?"

"Everyone - or at least, enough of them."

"Why would anyone.... because you were RAPED????" Anger boils through me. Those shitheads at the base. Not two brain cells to rub together between them

Daniel makes a tiny movement of his head that I guess is a nod, since he continues, "Because only gay men take it up the ass."

"Idiots. They just don't want to believe it could happen to them."

"Maybe, but it's... it's all different now."

"Different how?"

"Just... different."

"Daniel...." I growl at him

"What - you're the only one who can get away without answering a question?"

I shrug mildly. "Yes. Now out with it."

"They act differently towards me. Some of them just see me as... well... inadequate, I guess. Others want to... well... you know."

I can feel myself break into a cold sweat. "Daniel, has anybody touched you? Has anybody threatened you?"

"No!" he exclaims. "No, nothing like that."

But he can't fool me - he's not a good enough liar. I explode in fury. "WHO? Tell me who. They'll be out of there so fast they'll still be skidding as they hit the bottom of the mountain."

"Jack, aren't you kind of forgetting who raped me in the first place?"

I grind to a halt mid-diatribe, heart thudding. "Christ, Daniel!" I yell, "I did that because I had to, not because I couldn't wait to get my mitts on you!"

He flinches, almost like he's expecting a blow, and I realise that although he might have calmed down, he's still afraid of me.

"I'm sorry, Daniel. This is beyond fucked-up. Please don't be afraid of me."

"I'm not afraid of you," he lies.

"No, of course not. That was obvious from the way you shied away just now as though I was going to hit you."

"I did NOT shy away from you."

"Did too."

"Did not." He holds up a finger, preventing me from continuing the routine. "Enough, Jack." He sighs. "I just hate people thinking I'm gay."

I want to be closer to him, to try to connect with him. "Listen - do you think it would be all right if I come sit by you? You're safe, I promise."

He nods, although not all that convincingly, but I take it as enough of an invitation. I move to the sofa and sit beside him, taking one of his hands in both of mine and squeezing gently to reassure him.

"Look, you won't get any more trouble about it. I'm on it." As he opens his mouth to speak, I cut him off. "I know you want to stand on your own two feet, yadda yadda, but the fact is, this is the military. You're a civilian. There's nothing wrong with a CO coming down on these knuckleheads."

He gives a little shrug and a nod, and I realise that's not all there is to it. "It's not just other people's opinions that are bothering you though, is it? Do *you* have some problem with gay men?" I wait with some trepidation. Daniel is the last person in the world I would have thought could be homophobic. Could he really think that what I am is disgusting?

"What? NO! I mean no, but... well...."

"Come on, Daniel, spill."

"Well, we tend to see gay people as weaker - and a bit flakier. It doesn't matter what the truth is. And I don't like being thought of like that."

Oh. This could be... not good. "So you see gay men as weak, somehow? Less masculine?"

"Well, no. I don't know. Maybe... a bit. I mean, isn't that what it's all about? The reversal of roles? Being done to instead of doing?"

"You're kidding me, right? Where did you come up with this shit? You're an anthropologist, for gossakes!"

"Yes, and if you look back at ancient societies, gay men often had to find a special role in the community to avoid being branded as weaker, as outsiders - they might become healers, or shamans. And even in the height of the Greek civilisation, when homosexuality was common - or at least, out in the open - it was usually a platonic expression of..."

"Ah, ah. Daniel - I said where did you come up with this shit?"

"But it's true, isn't it? My foster families all used to say I was gay because I was such a dweeb and a pretty-boy."

Oh God. Yes, tell it to a kid often enough and he'll believe it. People believe what they are afraid is true.

I have to tell him. It'll probably finish off whatever remains of our friendship, but I owe it to him to do whatever I can to allow him to feel better about himself.

So I take a deep breath, and begin. "Daniel - would you say I'm weak? Effeminate? Not able to pull my weight in the field?"

"No, of course not. But what's that got to do with a bunch of bananas?"

"It's got everything to do with it. Although I'm not quite sure where the bananas come in." I notice that I still have his hand in mine, and stroke it gently with a thumb as I say quietly, matter-of-factly, "I'm gay, Daniel. That hardly makes me a delicate flower, does it? So if that doesn't apply to me, it certainly doesn't apply to you." And before I know it, the rest of it escapes me too. "Jeez - I love you, and I can't stand seeing you go through this."

There is an achingly long pause. Daniel withdraws his hand from mine, and then the words come slowly out of his mouth, words that I feel hitting me with the force of nightmare. "So the reason you raped me was because... it was your chance to have me?"

I can hear it. It's so loud I think *he* must be able to hear it, as something inside me splinters. I seem to have forgotten how to draw air into my lungs. I've finally shared the biggest secret in my life, and all my worst fears have become reality.

Somehow I manage to stand up, and force out the words. "Daniel, you have to understand - I had to let it happen. Why do you think they wanted me there? They wanted to see if I would crack, tell them something to stop your pain. But I'm the sort of person who can let their best friend suffer - I'm a really great guy like that." I pause, then risk, "If it helps, there was a second reason; Makepeace was going to shoot you if I didn't join in. He was going to put a bullet in your guts and leave you tied up there to bleed to death. It's not a pretty way to die, Daniel, it's not quick - I've seen it. I couldn't allow that, not if I could prevent it. So I did what I had to do."

"And why the hell should that help?" he snarls at me.

"Because I did it for you, too..." I say, desperately. His eyes widen in disbelief and I trail off, realising how absolutely ridiculous that sounds. "I'm sorry. A pathetic attempt to redeem myself. I know I don't deserve it."

I turn and stumble to my room, locking the door behind me.

I vaguely hear knocking on the door, but I'm completely unable to respond. I guess I'm in shock. I'm standing with my back to the door, hot and cold and shivering, and the world looks strange, its edges won't fit together. Finally, I make it to the bed and it all goes dark.

***

Eventually, my mind surfaces again. I don't know whether it's day or night - the curtains in my bedroom are thick - but I can't be bothered to go to the window to find out. I am in the most incredibly uncomfortable position; I appear to have just sat down on the bed and then slumped back and fallen asleep as I was, my neck and shoulder twisted at an awkward angle. But still I don't move. I can't think of a single reason to get up. I feel hollow, like somebody scooped out my insides with a spoon last night. There are no tears. My thoughts are black. I don't know who I hate more; myself or Daniel.

I struggle to my feet, and realize I am still wearing my jeans and tee. It never crossed my mind to undress before I went to bed.

Well, it doesn't matter. I can do whatever I want now. Nobody can claim I haven't done my duty. And I've lost everything. Charlie, Daniel - and now the last vestiges of my self-respect.

I unlock the door and walk into the living room.... and see Daniel sitting there, my gun in his lap. I freeze in shock. Is he going to shoot me? Or does he think I was gonna turn my gun on myself? Ridiculous. Of course I wasn't. Okay, so maybe I was thinking about it, but I wasn't actually going to go through with it... probably.

His eyes are red-rimmed and puffy; he's clearly been crying for some time.

"Looking for this?" he says.

Daniel:

Jack finally emerges from the bedroom, and comes to a halt on seeing me. Clearly, he hadn't been expecting me still to be here. He has that look on his face that I had feared. Dead-eyed - the way he was when I first met him. I was braced for it, expected it, but it's still a terrifying thing to see in a friend.

His eyes flick to the gun in my lap, and by the expression on his face, I know I guessed right. Or did I? I'm not sure how to read him right now. Is he afraid I'm going to shoot him? Afraid I won't?

"Looking for this?" I ask.

He doesn't acknowledge me, just walks towards me, picks up the gun and starts loading it with the bullets I had taken out earlier.

Okay, this is unexpected.

"Jack, stop."

He shakes his head, saying nothing, just continuing to insert the bullets in the gun.

"Jack..."

"I think you need to leave now," he grates.

"We need to talk."

"No, we're done talking. You said everything you needed to say last night."

"No, I didn't. *We* didn't. Not even close."

He finishes loading the gun and clicks the barrel shut.

"Get out," he growls.

"No. No way." He won't do it while I'm here, I'm sure of that... I think. He won't do it in front of me. "Give me the gun, Jack."

He doesn't move, just stands there in front of me, icy cold, unreachable. I have to do something.

Wait a minute, he's playing me. He has no intention of doing anything, he just wants to get me out of his house. Well, he's not going to get off that easy. We need to talk, and he's not going to scare me off with dramatic gestures.

"Okay, keep the gun if it makes you happy, but we're gonna talk anyway, like it or not."

He gives a frustrated sigh. "Daniel..."

"Shut up, Jack." The look of surprise that crosses his face is almost comical. "Look, I didn't mean what I said last night. I know you didn't want to rape me."

"No, you don't. You're still not sure. I called you 'baby' while I raped you, and when I told you I was gay, you put those two facts together and that's what you thought. You think I'm a shit of a human being - and perhaps you're right. Words like that don't just come out of nowhere."

"Yes, they do! You shocked the hell out of me, and I wasn't exactly in a good place to start with. It was all too much. So I reacted badly - give me a break. You're not the only one who's not perfect, Jack."

He snorts at that, and I see the first glimmer of life in his eyes.

"Feel free to rush in and contradict me at any time," I say, mock-hopefully.

Do I see the glaciers beginning to move in again? Perhaps Jack is closer to the edge than I had thought. I decide to take some precautions against him doing anything foolish. So I get up, take a quick step towards him, and put my arms around him, resting my head on his shoulder. I feel him stiffen.

"I need you, Jack. I need you to be here for me. But I need some time - you've got to give me some time."

I feel his frame relax a bit, but he doesn't return my hug.

"Jack, you can't just do what you did to me and then check out. So maybe I jumped to some conclusions last night, but I've been through hell - you've put me through hell - and I need my best friend to help me back from there. Tell me you'll do it."

Finally, the gun drops to the floor and I feel his arms come up around me, stroking my hair, gently rubbing soothing circles on my back. He doesn't say anything, but I feel his cheek move as he nods his head. Gathering me still closer, he kisses the top of my head.

"I'd do anything for you, Daniel," he whispers.

I don't know how long we stand there, just holding each other. Long enough for his warmth to seep into me, for me to measure my heartbeat by his, to be reassured by his quiet strength, hear his soft breath gusting in my ear, breathe in his scent, so familiar it's like coming home. Long enough to nuzzle my face into his neck, then rub my cheek against his, feeling unfamiliar stubble instead of soft skin. Strange, nice. Long enough to turn my head just enough to find his lips with my own, gently pressing against them, parting them, tasting them... hearing the startled hitch in his breath as he gasps and pulls back from me.

We stare at each other, eyes wide with shock. Then his face shuts down, and he says, "I should take a shower. I must stink."

He turns and strides out of the room, and I'm left there, standing in the middle of the living room, with only my muddled thoughts to keep me company.

***

I grab the opportunity to have a quick dunk under the shower myself in the guest bathroom, then retrieve my clothes from his dryer and put them on.

When Jack finally comes back from the shower, wearing a fresh pair of jeans and a soft green sweater, I've had time to collect myself and I'm ready for him.

"I'm going to request a transfer off SG-1".

He nods bleakly, but doesn't say anything.

"I don't mean permanently," I hurry on. "Unless that's what you want?"

A brief shake of the head is all I get.

"Maybe I could go with SG-11 for a while, just hang out with the geeks?"

Still nothing.

"Jack, it's just... I want to be able to say that working together would be no problem, but I think you know that's not true - or at least not yet. The logical, rational side of me isn't afraid of you, knows that you didn't want to hurt me." I pause - I know this isn't going to be easy on him, but it's got to be said. I continue, my voice somewhat unsteady, "But there's another part of me that's still strapped down on that thing, being beaten and gang raped endlessly, having to take it time and time again, and that part is terrified of you." He remains silent. "Jack? Say something."

"What time is it? I wonder what's on TV."

"Jack!"

"What do you want me to say? You don't trust me. I understand, but it still hurts like a motherfucker."

I nod. "I'm sorry, Jack. It's just going to take time for things to be right again between us. Both of us have been acting like we've had our brains scrambled."

Jack sighs. "God, if I'd known that mission was going to lead to this, I never would have agreed to do it."

I smile sadly. "Yes, you would. You know your duty. This was just one of the risks you took."

He doesn't argue. He knows it's true. He did what had to be done, and we now have to deal with the fall-out.

"But you need to take care, Daniel. If I'm not there, it's your responsibility to keep yourself safe. Don't think I'm going to come running after you if you stub a toe or get transported to a strange place or die or anything like that."

I smile at him. "Don't worry, Jack. I'll be going through a wormhole to a galaxy filled with Goa'uld who want to kill us, planets infected with plague, seeded with dangerous indigenous flora and fauna, not to mention alien devices that we don't understand and that I always want to touch. What could happen?"

He smiles worriedly. "Danielllllll," he whines.

"Yes, Jack. I'll be careful. I'd better go now - I need to catch some sleep."

He grabs my head, looking into my eyes and saying harshly, urgently, "Tell me this isn't over, that I haven't ruined everything. Tell me you're still my friend."

I smile at him gently. "Of course I'm your friend, Jack."

Jack:

The sirens blare. Unscheduled off-world activation. It's SG-11, I know it is. It's their third outing with Daniel - two months in their care - they're bound to have misplaced him by now. I don't even wait for confirmation of the IDC before barrelling down to the Gateroom.

SG-11 come hurtling down the ramp accompanied by a barrage of staff blasts. The last one comes tumbling face first. Obviously, he dove through at the last minute, as he yells, "Close the Iris!"

"Where's Daniel?" I yell. "Where the fuck is he? Why isn't he with you? What have you done with my archaeologist?"

"Sorry, sir," says one of the bedraggled men, "He was taken."

"Aw, crap."

***

I'm pushed hard enough into the throne room that I stumble.

"Here we go again," I mutter.

"Silence!" roars the Jaffa who is evidently the First Prime of our resident Goa'uld, judging by the gold art deco thing on his forehead.

It took me longer than expected to get captured by these Jaffa - they were unusually inept, so it was difficult to do it convincingly. But I got here in the end, and that's all that matters. Now all I have to do is keep his attention focussed on me for long enough.

The Tok'ra managed to find the Goa'uld who had taken Daniel. Unfortunately, this one has an uncomfortably large fortress. There didn't seem to be any way to penetrate it short of a full-scale armed attack, so I figured the easiest way to get to Daniel was to get myself taken straight to the Snake. They can never resist a good gloat - wherever that Goa'uld is, Daniel won't be far away. I ruthlessly squash any thoughts that he might have killed him. That's just not acceptable, so it can't have happened. I won't let it have happened.

Finally, the Goa'uld comes into view, and my eyes are instantly drawn to the figure by his side. Daniel! He's been dressed in a long sleeveless tunic, elaborately designed in green with gold sworls. Under other circumstances, very fetching, but it's quite outweighed by the rest of the outfit; he's also wearing a gold collar and leash, the other end of which is being held by the Goa'uld, and is kneeling on all fours, looking thoroughly miserable.

He also looks as though he might be in some pain, but it's not immediately obvious what might be causing this. Have they hurt him? What wounds are there underneath that tunic? My heart starts to beat a little faster, and I try to catch his eyes for some reassurance, but he determinedly avoids my gaze. I want to rush over to him and cradle him in my arms, but that's going to have to wait.

"Colonel O'Neill," rumbles a voice. "We meet at last."

I survey this new Goa'uld. It's not one I recognize - tall, long black hair, pale skin, striking blue eyes... built. He's wearing sleeveless black floor-length robes, a circlet of black with silver markings on his head and matching armbands around his bulging biceps and *way* too much make-up. Nevertheless, he has all the regular Goa'uld hallmarks: Glowy eyes - check. Basso profundo voice - check. Dubious fashion sense - check.

"Wellll", I drawl. "Who might you be?"

The Goa'uld opens its mouth to speak, but I interrupt. "No wait, let me guess. That voice, those robes, that clichéd dialogue, you're... Darth Vader! No? How about... the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz? No? Wait, I'll get it in a minute..."

"Insolence! I am Horus, God of the Day."

"Horse? Good straightforward name, that. Come on, Daniel, care to canter back to the Gate?"

"Sorry, Jack, can't."

"Why not? That leash you're wearing - way to accessorise, by the way - doesn't seem to be attached to anything that can't be easily moved. Come on - you and me, take on a room full of bad guys. It'll be fun, just like old times!"

"I'm afraid Daniel Jackson is correct, Colonel O'Neill. He cannot leave."

"Ooookay, would someone please care to explain what's going on here?"

The Goa'uld gives an ugly smirk, reaches over and pulls up the tunic Daniel is wearing, exposing his bare ass. I gasp in horror. Daniel has been fitted with some kind of device. It consists of two long strips of some black alloy that are moulded along the back of his thighs just under his ass, locking over his balls like a miniature version of the stocks and pulling them back between his legs. Daniel literally cannot stand without becoming a eunuch - any attempt to straighten his legs would cause his thighs to push back against the device, pulling his balls along with it. Simple, elegant... and cruel.

It's clearly not comfortable even in the kneeling position - it looks to be holding his balls very tightly. Daniel is showing distinct signs of increasing pain, not to mention his mortification about yet again being exposed in public.

Typical Goa'uld - pain and humiliation, all in one lovely package.

"I found that Dr Jackson was reluctant to kneel before me," Horse gloats, "So I decided to give him a little... encouragement. The device is called a 'humbler'. Apt, would you not say? Of course, it also serves to prevent escape attempts - better than any prison cell. Not to mention that it shows off Dr Jackson's... assets so very nicely."

"Bastard."

"Now, kneel before your God."

"Sorry, I'd like to, but I've just had these pants pressed, and..."

As expected, a Jaffa staff weapon is whacked on the back of my knees, sending me crashing to the ground. It's the usual routine, but I have to go through it; it's a matter of principle - I will not kneel willingly. It also provides cover for what I need to do. I manage to fall close enough to Daniel that I can put a hand on him. His calf is closest, and I grab it and squeeze briefly, tightly.

"Ow!" Daniel squeaks, a little peeved.

"There, that is more suitable. Colonel Jack O'Neill on his knees before me - and so easy to achieve. All it required was Daniel Jackson. Once I acquired him, all I needed to do was sit back and wait for you to come running."

I'm beginning to be a little puzzled. "You mean you wanted me specifically? Why?" Perhaps keeping him pre-occupied with me isn't going to be as difficult as I figured.

"Let us say that you interfered with some carefully laid plans. Now, I shall obtain my goal a different way, while enjoying watching you suffer in the process, and acquiring the lovely Doctor Jackson as my pet."

I squash my repugnance at the reference to Daniel, and manage, "Why don't you tell me what you want, then, so we can get on with me not giving it to you?"

I half expect the usual Goa'uld ritual of extensive threats, predictions of great pain, maybe a jab or two with the pain stick or the Goa'uld hand thingy, but snakehead immediately responds, "Very well. But let us move to a more suitable location. Exchanging pleasantries here will achieve nothing, and I wish to dispense with time wasting and posturing."

Daniel's head snaps up and he locks gazes with me. "Jack...?" he half warns, half queries.

I can see by the expression on his face that the same ugly suspicion is forming in his mind as it is in mine. It must be coincidence, the use of that expression and the unusual focus on actually getting things done rather than indulging in ego. Not even *he* could stoop so low, carry out so great a betrayal... be so goddamned stupid.

"Bring him," Horse instructs.

I am dragged to my feet by the mandatory oversized Jaffa, who start manhandling me out of the room. The Goa'uld yanks on Daniel's chain, indicating he is to follow. Daniel barely has time to adjust his clothing to make himself decent before the Goa'uld pulls at the chain again, barking, "Come."

Painfully, Daniel begins to crawl after us. I'm burning with anger, and vow to kill the snake for this humiliation. Soon, though, Horse becomes impatient with the slow pace enforced by the device Daniel is trapped in.

"Jaffa, Kree," comes the imperious order.

Daniel is hoisted up by a couple of huge Jaffa, who carry him between them with his arms over their shoulders and his legs curled up beneath him.

It doesn't take long before we arrive at a room which clearly has as its main function the giving of pain; hoops are set into walls, floor and ceiling, through which chains can be threaded, and everywhere, there is apparatus for having a person restrained in different ways. I knew that there was a probability approaching certainty that I would be tortured during this mission, but one always hopes that sort of prediction will be wrong. I'm sure Daniel would have something appropriate and elegant to say in Latin or something, but the best I can manage is a muttered "Shit". Well, I've done my bit - it's up to Carter and Teal'c now.

Daniel:

'He came for me'. That's all that had been scrolling through my mind when he first entered the throne room. I had wanted to cry with relief, knowing I wasn't alone anymore. After ten days, I had begun to lose hope that SG-1 would appear and rescue me in a blaze of gunfire. But then Horus had started gloating about his success in setting a trap for Jack. 'All it required was Daniel Jackson. Once I acquired him, all I needed to do was sit back and wait for you to come running'. Anger and humiliation had swiftly followed. Did Jack have to be so damned predictable, doing his macho man act, rushing to save me like I'm some bloody damsel in distress? And then getting himself caught because he hadn't planned properly and had come without organizing proper backup. Did Jack come without Hammond's permission? Is that why there's no team with him? He's so damned impulsive, I wouldn't put it past him.

And now I want to weep with shame at those thoughts, thinking only about myself and how he'd failed me. He came for me, didn't leave me behind... and I can't bear to think of what he will suffer now because of me.

***

"Strip him!" Horus orders. Then, after a moment, "Strip them both - Dr Jackson is, after all, highly ornamental."

Jack doesn't protest. He's not so easily embarrassed by nudity as I am. Well, if he can be dignified about it, so can I. I make no fuss as they remove my tunic, trying to ignore the humiliating posture, and the increasing pain in my balls. It's been slow torture having this device on in the last few days. They have been fastening it tighter ever day, enjoying watching me suffer. As if they hadn't been having enough fun with me anyway... At least it distracts me from the chilly air which immediately hits my body.

Horus barks another order, and I am placed on a raised dais at one side of the room - presumably normally used by spectators. I discover that the floor of the dais is likewise set up with restraints. My leash is fixed to one of them, yanking my head down so that it is only a couple of inches from the surface. My arms are then grabbed, pulled behind me and tied together at the wrists. The position is absolutely agonizing. Already, I want to beg for mercy - at least for the 'humbler' to be removed. I lower my forehead to the floor to help with my balance and relieve a little of the pressure on my back and thighs, twisting my head so that I can see Jack.

"Is that really necessary?" says Jack, mildly.

"No, of course not, but it gives me pleasure," counters Horus. "You can, of course, persuade me to release him by saying you will co-operate."

"Forget it. You can keep him anyway. I'm sick of chasing the little prick all over the universe, saving him from trouble. I've had enough of being shot at and tortured just to rescue his precious, prima donna hide."

"Jack!" I exclaim. "Jack?" He doesn't mean it, I know he doesn't... does he? But Jack refuses to look at me. I guess I can't blame him - he's going to be tortured because of me. But why did he come without backup? Why aren't Sam and Teal'c here? Maybe they were tied up in more important things than saving Daniel's ass because he has got himself into trouble.... again. Then I remember - I'm not a member of SG-1 anymore. I'm not their responsibility. Jack probably came chasing out of habit.

The Jaffa go about their business efficiently, needing no further instruction from the Goa'uld as they render Jack immobile, his long, lean form spread-eagled in an upright position using chains attached to the floor and ceiling for just such a purpose, then blindfold him.

"And now," says Horus, holding up the GDO he took from me, "You will give me the code that unlocks your Iris on Earth."

***

I'm horror-struck. Ghastly memories accompany that demand. The last time a Goa'uld wanted to know the codes, we were being threatened with implantation... by Hathor. And it was Jack who suffered the consequences then too. Horus clearly also knows about the Iris. He knows about it, and he knows what we use to de-activate it. And Jack will die before revealing the codes... as will I.

Jack shows no reaction, but just smiles. "Sure I will."

Without waiting for any further response, Horus picks up a zat and fires it at Jack. A moment later, before Jack has even finished jerking from the results of the charge, Horus raises the zat again.

"Nooooo!!" I scream, and attempt to lunge at him, succeeding only in falling on my side.

Horus fires. And I have to watch my greatest nightmare; Jack dying, right in front of my eyes. And I can do nothing about it. His body jerks, then hangs lifeless from his chains.

God.

It was all so quick. How could it have ended so fast, just like that?

Reality fractures. The pieces seem to tilt and I feel myself falling over the edge.

I can't breathe. In fact, I realise that I literally can't breathe. My fall has pulled the leash tight and my collar is choking me. Without my hands, and with the contraption around my balls and thighs, I am unable to right myself. I can't get air into my lungs. My desperate wheezes become fainter and fainter, but everyone in the room is paying attention to Jack. The world starts going grey at the edges.

"Daniel? Daniel, you okay?"

The Goa'uld's attention snaps to me, and he snaps, "Jaffa!"

I am hauled upright and the leash is released. I suck in sweet lungfuls of air, coughing with the stress put on my lungs. Tears are running down my cheeks, and I can do nothing to stop them. He's alive! How did that happen? He was shot twice. I saw it. I'm sure of it. I want to go over to him, hold him, reassure myself that I can feel the life running through him, that his body is still warm and full of strength.

Horus has no further attention to spare for me, though. He looks at Jack and smiles in satisfaction. "Ah good, it works. I have learned many things from your Colonel Makepeace," he says.

So we were right. Makepeace has been involved with this Goa'uld somehow. Despite what I already know of Makepeace, I am still shocked to the depths of my being. A betrayal of Earth of this magnitude - it's just beyond the scope of my imagination. Before I can squash it, the memory floods over me and suddenly I am back over that sawhorse, Makepeace ramming into me, helpless to avoid his disgusting invasion of my body. I can almost feel his dick up my ass, so vivid is the image. But I manage to shove the memory aside. What is happening is too important. I need to be here in the present.

"Jack..." I begin.

Immediately, Horus yells "Silence him!"

A gag is shoved into my mouth over my muffled protests. I want to ask him about his involvement with Makepeace, need to know everything. But I guess we'll know soon anyway; Horus is a Goa'uld, and no matter what he may think he has learned from Makepeace, a Goa'uld still cannot resist exposition.

Horus continues, "As I was saying, I have learned much from your Makepeace."

"Well, I hope he hasn't been trying to teach you hockey because let me tell you, the guy can't skate for shit."

Jack lets out a whoosh of air, his body stiffening, as Horus sends another zat blast at him.

"Among the interesting things he taught me was the effect of what you call 'electricity' on your bodies, and how it can be used to extract information from those reluctant to co-operate. A blast from a zat'nik'tel - what you call a 'zat' - seems to have a very similar effect to that of a large 'electric shock'. However, a normal zat kills on a second shot, so it cannot be used for interrogation purposes; a dead man cannot impart any information."

Horus examines the zat and adjusts something on it, then proceeds to shoot Jack again.

Jack's entire body jerks, and sweat breaks out over his body as he tries to master the pain, but he remains conscious.

"Ah, better. Yes, that is the right setting. You see, I found out how to modify a zat so as to remove the kill effect of the second and third shots. This leaves me free to administer as many shocks to your body as I choose, Colonel. And I choose a lot."

And with that, he shoots Jack again - in the chest this time. I can see all of Jack's muscles flex and bunch as he tries to endure while he is shocked again and again by Horus' zat all over his body - no part is spared - arms, legs, back, chest. And I am powerless to help him.

Horus pauses for a moment; a moment which is filled with Jack's rasping breath.

"You see, Colonel, I had a very nice arrangement with Colonel Makepeace. He was to bring me information gathered by your SGC on the peoples you contacted, and in return, I could give him information on the artefacts he was acquiring - what they did and how to use them. He seemed most interested in those things that might be of monetary value. 'Patents' was a word he kept using."

After a while, Horus gives up hoping that this will provoke some kind of reaction from Jack, and he continues, "Unfortunately, you interrupted our plans. I will therefore take what I want directly from your SGC... before destroying it."

But Jack doesn't seem to be listening. He seems to have blocked out the rest of the room and to be focussing on his breathing

Horus is becoming a little upset about being completely ignored in this manner, and continues musingly, "I was also able to make another modification of the zat."

He examines it closely and makes a further adjustment.

Jack jumps as Horus zaps his right nipple. The beam is much tighter, more narrowly focussed this time, and Horus continues to administer shock after shock, all aimed at exactly the same sensitive nub. It doesn't take long before Jack is crying out in agony, twisting madly to try to move his nipple away from the beam, but Horus is relentless, following his every move. Finally, after an eternity, he stops. Jack hangs limp in his chains, exhausted.

"The codes, Colonel," Horus demands.

Jack merely shakes his head.

Horus immediately moves the zat over to his left nipple, and starts again. I try not to let myself be frightened by Jack's screams. Another of the things he has taught me is that under torture, there is absolutely no point in trying to be stoic. All that macho bullshit about remaining silent is just that; bullshit. There's nothing to be gained, no-one to impress. If your torturer thinks he is not getting to you, it only serves as an incentive for him to try harder. "So," he told me, "if you need to, go ahead and scream your bloody head off. Who knows, maybe you'll even deafen the bastards and get a little of your own back that way."

Finally, Horus stops again. "Colonel O'Neill, you *will* speak to me. Or perhaps I should ask your pretty little friend? He looks distressed at your condition. Perhaps I should not have had him gagged?"

I panic at the very thought. God, no. Please, no. Don't put me in that position. I'm not strong enough. I couldn't do what he did - I couldn't let him suffer. But I can't reveal those codes. Don't make me choose the Earth over him, I couldn't bear it. Don't make me responsible for his pain.

Jack interrupts my babbling thoughts. "I wouldn't bother with him. He probably thinks I deserve this - and do you know what? He's probably right. Wouldn't want to count on him to save me here. So what do you want to talk about? You know, you really need a TV here. No wonder you guys spend all your time trying to conquer the universe. You must be so bored!"

Horus aims another shot at each of Jack's over-sensitized nipples, provoking a yowl of pain. "I do not wish to hear about this 'TV' you speak of. I wish to know how to penetrate your defences."

"Well, see, that's where you've got your priorities all wrong. You really need to loosen up. There's some great stuff on. Okay, so you might not like my favourites - you might find Homer Simpson's intelligence a little intimidating - but there are other shows I know of. I'm much more culturally diverse than people think, you know."

For the first time, the Goa'uld, clearly irritated, abandons use of the zat and signals a Jaffa, who punches Jack twice, head and gut.

Jack spits out blood from where his lip split due to the Jaffa's attentions and wheezes, "Well, that wasn't nice. I was being serious. For example, there are shows that could give you tips for re-decorating this room. It is a little dank, don't you think? Or you could get fashion tips. Or even a makeover. You should go a little lighter on the eyeshadow, you know."

More blows follow from the Jaffa. Jack is swiftly becoming a mass of bruises, cuts sprouting on his brow, cheekbone, lip, ribs... everywhere. I realize that the Jaffa is wearing something equivalent to brass knuckles - that accounts for all the blood appearing this quickly. Jack is clearly finding it increasingly difficult to speak, but is determined to carry on, speaking whenever he can manage. "Or you might like... some of the... sci-fi shows. I've been getting into... during all that... free time I... had... like Buffy the... Vampire Slayer... Great stuff," he gasps.

He pauses, trying to gain some strength, then relentlessly, he continues, his words punctuated by the Jaffa's blows, "Teenage fashion-victim by... day... slayer of... evil monsters... by night... you'd... enjoy it."

I'm laughing and crying at the same time. I don't know whether I want to scream at him to stop or cheer him on.

Finally, Horus grabs the zat again, and fires a couple of shots at Jack, not caring that he catches the Jaffa as well. "Colonel O'Neill, I begin to find you and your lack of co-operation tiresome."

"Really? And here... I thought we... were bonding."

Horus snarls, and barks another order which makes me gasp with horror. Jack's feet are released, but immediately, the manacles are attached to ropes that are fed through pulleys in the ceiling. His feet are hoisted up in the air so that he is suspended from the ceiling by his wrists and ankles, bent almost double, ass exposed. The position alone must be agony on Jack's back.

"Well, isn't this nice," Horus purrs. "Is there anything you have to say to me before we continue?"

Through his bloodied and swollen lips, Jack manages, "While you're there, do you think you could give my ass a quick scratch? I'm getting kinda itchy."

Horus screeches with rage, places the zat at the base of Jack's balls, and fires.

A terrible sound is torn from Jack's lips, his head thrown back and his whole body thrashing. Vengefully, Horus fires a second shot. I am trying to scream through the gag - "You'll kill him!" but nobody can hear me.

Suddenly, white light engulfs us, and the room disappears, to be replaced with a light, airy hall with polished, hard floor.

***

As through a vague fog, I hear people speaking urgently, see them moving towards us, but I have no attention to spare for them. Jack has crumpled to the floor and is not moving. He is covered with blood. I crawl over to him awkwardly, ignoring my own discomfort.

My voice muffled by the gag, I nevertheless try to shout, "Help! He needs help!" Someone gently removes the gag from my mouth so I can make myself heard. "Please, someone! Jack, please wake up. Jack!" I struggle as hands try to pull me away from him. "No! Let me go! I have to go to him!" I am crying, helpless to stop. But the hands, though gentle, are relentless, and I cannot evade them. I look around fuzzily, and things begin to pull into focus. It's Teal'c who has me, encasing me in his massive arms, and it's impossible to escape.

"DanielJackson," he rumbles, "allow us to help you. Please desist from your struggles. You are safe. All will be well."

I slump into his arms finally, allowing him to pull me back. There is a flash of light and a brief burning at my hips. I realise all my bonds are gone. I am instantly hit by incredible pain as circulation returns and I curl up, nursing my balls, tears, this time of pain, seeping out of my eyes. God, I'm a wreck.

Teal'c continues to make soothing noises in my ear as he cradles me, but I have eyes only for Jack. Jack, who is alive. Jack, who came after me, who didn't leave me alone, who suffered for me... He's alive, I know it. He has to be. I can't even contemplate a world without him. Suddenly, he's enveloped in a white light, and disappears.

"Jack!" I scream.

***

"THAT was IT? That was your PLAN?" I gesticulate wildly, nearly dislodging the IV feeding its concoction into me. My voice is a little raspy from the effects of the collar, but I don't let that deter me.

I can't believe what I'm hearing. There had been no plan other than to be rescued by the Asgard. No complex break-in, break-out scheme that had gone awry. No, the entire mission statement had been, 'Be rescued'.

Jack shifts uncomfortably. "Well, there was more to it than... It wasn't as simple as... well, pretty much, yeah. And jeez, Daniel, reduce the volume a bit, wouldja? Recovering invalid, here."

I snort with disdain. "*Recovered* invalid, you mean. Unlike me, you got a bang up Asgard healing job." I rather resent the fact that after our timely rescue by the Asgard, they treated Jack but not me. Common sense tells me that it was because they didn't realise I'd been injured - I was not all covered in blood and unconscious like Jack was - but still, I don't feel inclined to be logical about it. I HURT.

But I can't let my thoughts get derailed. I need to understand what happened. "I thought you had come to rescue me," I say, sounding a little pathetic even to my own ears.

"I had."

"No you hadn't. You'd come to be rescued."

Jack beams smugly. "Well, it all worked out well then, didn't it? I came, they came, we all left, we're all here now, everybody's happy."

"What if they hadn't come?"

"They did."

"But what if they hadn't?"

"But they did."

"But you couldn't know that..."

"No... well... yes. You don't understand..."

But I seem to be unravelling all at once. All the fear that I couldn't allow myself to acknowledge whilst a prisoner of Horus is flooding through me now that I'm free to feel it. I had become so terrified of being left behind, terrified that no-one was coming for me. I know that I'm talking faster and faster, my voice rising through the registers, but I don't seem to be able to do anything about it.

"Damned right I don't understand! You didn't come. Nobody came. And then you arrived, and I was so glad to see you, but you didn't help me... couldn't help me. And then when you needed help, there was nothing I could do. All I could do was watch you suffer, and I was afraid you were going to die, and..."

"Ssshhh. Quiet, love."

I'm thrown slightly by the soft endearment, but I can't stop to think about it.

"Quiet? How can I stay QUIET? You're insane! You risked everything for nothing! The Asgard could have just beamed me up in the first place. You didn't have to put yourself in Horus' hands before they did it."

"Ah, but I did, Daniel. I did have to."

"But that makes no sense! Was it a reflex, like Horus said? Hapless archaeologist gets caught, Jack comes running? I mean, it's not as if you DID anything."

"I DID do something - in Snakehead's throne room."

"No you didn't."

"Yes I did."

"Didn't."

"Did."

Despite myself, I relax in the face of this familiar ritual. It seems to bring things closer to reality. "So what was it you did, oh great and mighty rescuer?" I bitch at him.

"Are you going to listen to me this time without interrupting?"

"Maybe."

Jack sighs and shakes his head, but I can see he's holding back a smile. "Well, when you were kidnapped, we sent out word to anyone who might be able to help. The Tok'ra came through, but couldn't rescue you themselves. Hey, when can they ever? They told us they had managed to locate you, but they couldn't provide us with enough information about that fortress for us to sneak in and out. So we couldn't break you out of there without a full-scale military attack - not possible. So we turned to the Asgard. For once, they had a vessel spare, so they agreed use their teleporter thingy. Trouble was, they couldn't latch on to you; while there were lots of warm bodies down there, the Asgard couldn't tell which one was yours. Horsey boy has developed some kind of shielding device. We're still looking into whether it's something he put specifically into you, maybe in something you ate or drank, or whether it's over the whole complex. Anyway, what they needed was to introduce some kind of bio-marker so they could lock onto you. All we needed to do was to get someone close enough to you to inject it into your system."

"But when did you..." I think back for a moment. "Oh! When that Jaffa knocked you down and you grabbed my calf!"

"He shoots, he scores! And the crowd goes wild!"

"But why didn't they take us immediately?"

"Yeah, that was the hitch. We knew it was gonna take time to spread through your system, but not exactly how much time. It didn't help that the only place I could get to was your calf - took longer from there. But I knew it couldn't be too long."

"So then, you knew..."

"Knew what?"

"That there would be time to... that the Goa'uld would almost certainly..."

"Certainly what?"

"Torture you," I say, quietly.

"Oh, that. Yeah, I knew that was pretty likely. But hey, what's a little bit of torture between friends? And like I say, I knew it wouldn't be for too long, and the Asgard could fix me up afterwards."

"JACK, stop it! Stop making light of it! He almost killed you!" I've suddenly got the shivering horrors at knowing what Jack did; he deliberately let himself be captured and tortured. For me.

"Daniel, don't fuss. It all turned out well."

"WELL!! You call that WELL?!"

I'm reeling with the knowledge of what Jack was prepared to do. Not accidentally ending up in the hands of a Goa'uld, but deliberately putting himself there, eyes wide-open as to the consequences. His words to me, spoken in bitterness, echo back to me in my mind - 'That's the kind of man I am... I'll hurt anyone for the right cause'. And it occurs to me that 'anyone' includes himself. He can be as merciless to himself as to anyone else, do in cold blood what others could do only in the heat of the moment. 'I did what I had to do', he said to me. And he'll always do that. He is a man of such extremes, admirable and frightening by turns - so dedicated to his friends, so loyal to his country and his world, so unflinching... so ruthless.

And when he looks at me from those liquid brown eyes, sparkling now with merriment at my protests, I want to fling my arms around his neck and tell him I'm his.

Which is nonsense. I mean, I know I love him, but not like that. I mean, I don't want that... do I? Impossible. I'm not gay, for starters. Can't be. I don't want everything that's happened to be justified. Don't want them to be right.

At that moment, the click of heels on the infirmary floor announces the arrival of Dr Fraiser.

"Ah, back with us are you, Daniel?" she says. "I thought I recognized those dulcet screeches."

"Screeches!" I squeak, then clear my throat and say, in a more balanced voice, "Back with...?"

"Yes, you gave us quite a scare there."

"Scare? Me? Why... How?"

"You collapsed just after the Asgard returned you all to the SGC." At my evidently clueless expression, she continues, "Don't you remember?"

"Ummm... What do you mean, 'collapsed'?"

"What one usually means by 'collapsed'," Janet replies, looking faintly amused. "Fell to the ground, unconscious. Why do you think you're lying in the infirmary with an IV in your arm? You've been out for the last..." she checks her watch, "twenty five hours."

For the first time, it really registers that it's me in the bed, not Jack. For some reason, I had assumed it was the other way around, and that I had just dozed off for a bit. After all, Jack is the one who was tortured. I know I'm in pain, but...

"Oh," is all I can come up with.

"Did that Goa'uld do anything to you before I managed to get to you?" Jack interrupts anxiously.

"What? No. Well, just the usual couple of prods with the pain sticks and a few small bouts with the ribbon device. He was just waiting for you, really - as he never tired of telling me."

"Good," Janet interjects, looking at me with a raised eyebrow that Jack cannot see. "Just the bruising, exhaustion and incipient malnutrition, then. Horus had you for over a week and he didn't go easy on you. Those restraints haven't done you any favours either, I'm afraid."

"What?" Panicked, I reach between my legs and sigh with relief as I check that all is, in fact... well... there. Then I flush as I realise I've just unsubtly groped myself in front of Jack and Janet.

Janet smiles. "Don't fret. You're all in one piece, but you're going to be in a lot of pain for a while. And why are you so undernourished? Did he starve you?"

"Oh... um... well, I guess that's partly my fault, really."

"How was it your fault?"

"Well, I wasn't the easiest houseguest for him." I giggle a little, "He might have got me kneeling on the floor, but I'm not exactly housebroken. He had to keep me gagged most of the time to shut me up, and those times when he did release my mouth to eat, it was pretty much a bread and water diet."

I'm warmed by Jack's look of pride. "Attaboy, Daniel."

Janet nods at Jack to give us some privacy, and he retreats a short distance, allowing her to pull the privacy screen closed about us.

"Okay, so apart from that starvation diet, the restraints he kept you in were too tight around your genitals so you're severely bruised around there. Don't worry, nothing has been damaged, but it will be very tender for a while. You've strained muscles in your arms, and your wrists have been bleeding from struggling against those ropes. Fortunately, you seem to have suffered very little damage from the penetration - you're swollen there, but not torn."

I open my mouth to deny any such thing took place, but the look in Janet's eye quells my futile attempt. "Very well, we don't need to discuss it if you don't want to."

I shake my head. No, I don't want to. More memories that I can do without. Although at least this time, it hadn't been so personal. They were just playing with the prisoner. And none of them actually touched me. They just used... things.

"And 'a couple of prods with the pain sticks', Daniel? Judging by the evidence on your body, that's an unusual definition of 'a couple'. As for the other marks..."

I shake my head. "Doesn't matter. They'll heal."

Janet gives me a serious look. "Not all of them. Not completely. You know that, don't you?" She waits for my nod, then continues, "You know, if you want to report anything, or just talk about it..."

I shake my head again, refusing to meet her eyes.

She sighs. "No, I suspected not. Don't know why you bother trying to hide them from the Colonel, though. He will find out sooner or later, you know."

I shrug. "Well, I'd rather it was later."

"Your choice," Janet says, and continues, "Your neck and throat are also badly bruised - I understand from Colonel O'Neill that you were nearly asphyxiated at one point by that collar."

I nod and put my hand to my throat where Horus had me collared like a dog.

"Well, no permanent damage there either, although I'm surprised you're not having more difficulty talking. But then again, it *is* you - there's not very much can keep you quiet. You just need a bit of time and some rest. Now that you're up, we'll soon be able to take that IV out. I'll keep you in for observation overnight, and then you can...."

"No!" I interrupt. Moderating my voice, I go on more softly, "No, I'd like to go home. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm fine."

"Daniel, you're not fine. You're injured and you've been unconscious for a long time."

"I'm not injured, I'm... bruised. And I'm awake now. I want to go home."

"Daniel, I can tell you're in pain now, and it's only going to increase. You're going to need strong medication for a little while, and that should only be administered under supervision."

"Well, can't Jack do it? Jaaaaack?" I whine.

"What is it?" asks Jack as he approaches the bed again.

"Can you take me home?"

"Of course, Daniel, if Doc Fraiser says it's okay."

"Colonel," Janet intercedes, "Daniel needs bed rest, strong painkillers and some anti-inflammatories. It's better that he get those here where we can watch over him."

"Jaaaack..."

"Quit your wailing, Daniel," he says, grinning annoyingly at me. "Don't worry, Doc. I can take care of him at home, make sure he takes his medicine and tuck him up in bed."

"Well, if you don't mind..."

"Great," I say, sitting up and swinging my legs over the side of the bed to get up.

Or at least, that was the general idea. The actual outcome is an acute attack of dizziness combined with nausea as I sit up, accompanied by a not very graceful slide to the floor when my legs prove too unsteady to support me.

"Slowly, Daniel!" Janet exclaims, as she and Jack help me back up onto the bed. "You should know better by now! You don't go from unconscious to standing in a matter of minutes."

"Hnnngh," I groan, concentrating on not throwing up.

"You stay put while I get together the medication you're going to need," Janet orders. "It'll be at least a couple of hours before you're ready to get out of that bed."

"And I'll pick up some clothes from your locker. Tunic and collar may have been de rigueur at the House of Horus, but I think you're going to want something that makes a little less of a fashion statement here, am I right?" With that, Jack turns and strolls off.

Jack:

I'm worried about Daniel; by the time we arrive at his apartment, his face is grey with pain. It's obvious that the medication he was receiving through the IV is wearing off. He's finding it difficult to walk - that contraption the snake had him in has clearly taken its toll, as has staying on his knees on a hard floor for ten days. Horus had better hope he never sees me again, because if he does, I'll be the last thing he ever sees.

"Honey, we're home!" I sing as we walk into the apartment. "Okay, Daniel, quick shower, then bed."

"Okay."

Daniel heads towards the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes in his wake as he strips en route. I understand completely - the infirmary has that effect on people. You never feel really clean. Hearing the shower turn on, I go to the kitchen to get some water to wash down Daniel's pills. As I head back towards Daniel's bedroom, I hear a thump coming from the bathroom.

"Daniel?"

No response.

"Daniel, you alright in there? Daniel, answer me!"

Continued silence. I don't like this.

I bang on the door to the bathroom. "Daniel, you have three Mississippi's to answer before I come on in."

Finally, a faint response. "I'm fine, Jack. My legs just gave out on me a little, that's all."

"How did they give out on you 'a little'? They either give out on you or they don't. Which is it?"

"Um..."

"Well?"

"Um... well, I kinda can't get up," he says in a small voice.

"Okay, don't worry. I'm comin' to getcha."

Fortunately, he hasn't locked the door. I walk in to see him lying in a crumpled heap in the corner of the shower, looking thoroughly miserable. "All right. Let's get you up and into bed." I turn off the water then hoist him up using the arm Daniel throws around my shoulder. Grabbing a towel on the way, I guide him to bed. He sits on the side of the bed passively as I towel him off, pull out a pair of pyjama bottoms from his chest of drawers and help him into them.

I try not to show it, but I'm shocked at the sight of him. I hadn't seen him properly at the Goa'uld's fortress; at first he was clothed except for his exposed ass, and then I was blindfolded. His story of being left alone until I arrived has clearly been more than slightly fictitious.

His genitals are swollen and his skin is bruised and darkened around that area. He claimed he was not interfered with sexually, but I am beginning to have some dark suspicions. His neck likewise bears the marks of his near strangulation and his wrists are bloody from the effects of the ropes. His strained muscles are also stiffening up. But his injuries do not end there - he looks like he's been used as a human punching bag. His torso is covered, front and back, with bruises and welts which are clearly from beatings with some kind of rod as well as fists. I can see by the spectacular range of colours that these are at various stages of recovery - they have happened over a period of time. Makepeace was expert enough with the cat o' nine tails to leave almost no scarring, but now there are... other marks. Something starts nagging at me. Just how old are some of those?

"Daniel," I breathe.

"Don't," he says, hanging his head in shame. "Like I said, it was my fault. I wouldn't keep my mouth shut."

I give him a quick indulgent grin. "Daniel, only you could possibly interpret being abused by a Goa'uld as being your fault! I see it as our bound and solemn duty to piss these guys off at every opportunity! Not to mention demonstrating whenever we can that they're not all-powerful. After all, if they can't manage to do something as simple as shutting you up... mind you, that's not something I've ever been able to do either!"

For the first time, I see a small smile cross Daniel's face. "I should hope not."

I ruffle his hair affectionately. I'm pleased that he doesn't flinch at my touch, but I can't really make too much of it. Right now, he probably wouldn't flinch if an elephant stepped on his toes - he's in too much pain already.

I see the small look of relief on his face. Does he think I haven't noticed?

"But, Daniel," I say softly, "you know as well as I do that not all of those injuries were caused by Horus. Were they your 'fault' too?" At once, he tenses, but he does me the courtesy of not attempting to deny it. He knows it would be useless, anyway; emotional minefields might not be my area of specialty, but I'm a professional soldier - I'm entirely familiar with bruises and burns and their rates of healing. "We don't have to talk about it now, but I want you to know that I know. Okay then, let's give you some of this Diamorphine and these anti-inflammatories Doc Fraiser prescribed for you. That should get rid of the pain and knock you right out so you get some beauty sleep."

"I'm fine - don't need any painkiller."

"Sure you don't. Now swallow the nice pills."

"But..."

"Pills. Swallow."

With no more than that token resistance, Daniel takes the medication. Soon, I can see his features smooth out as the lines of pain fade away.

He eventually sighs and lies back against the pillow, his eyelids fluttering closed. I put the blanket over him and retreat to the living room to watch TV.

***

I drift into a light doze - sitting vigil at Daniel's bedside for the last day or so has taken it out of me. I startle at the sound of someone bumping around in the kitchen. I look at my watch - less than an hour has passed. "What the....?"

I walk into the kitchen to see Daniel, dressed only in his PJ bottoms, busy making coffee. "Daniel, what on earth are you doing up? You're supposed to be in bed."

"Hungry," he says, accompanied by a big yawn. "Do you want something to eat? I'm sure" - yawn - "I have some cookies." He starts rummaging around in his cupboards. "Or maybe" - yawn - "there's some chocolates left from the ones Sam bought me for my birthday."

"Typical," I sigh to The Powers That Be. "He takes a dose of painkiller that would knock out Teal'c and suddenly he decides he's got an attack of the munchies."

"Jack, you can stop worrying about me. I'm fine now," he says, dopily. "The pills have taken care of the pain. All I need is some coffee and I can start work on my translations. I'm really behind."

"Daniel, if you so much as touch that coffee, or those translations, so help me I'm taking you straight back to the infirmary, where Janet can do terrible things to you with cold stethoscopes."

As Daniel stands there, rubbing one eye with his fist and pouting, a pitiful expression on his face, he looks about 12 years old. The impulse to take care of him is so strong I can feel my arms itching to hold him.

"Come on," I say, holding out my hand, "Back to bed."

Reluctantly, he takes my hand. But instead of following me to the bedroom, I feel a gentle tugging as he wants to make a diversion via the living room. "Let me just pick up a" - yawn - "book to read."

"No books."

"But...."

I tug a little more firmly on his arm and lead the still softly protesting man back to his bedroom.

Daniel sits down on the bed. I'm about to pull back the bedclothes so he can get back in when he starts taking off his pyjama bottoms.

"What are you doing?"

"Hot," he says, and lies back on top of the bedcovers, naked.

He is a bit flushed. I sit down on the side of the bed and put my hand on his forehead to check for fever. As I'm bent over him, he rolls over onto his side and locks gazes with me. Suddenly, he grabs my hand.

"Sorry," I say, thinking I must have frightened him again. I start to pull back but, to my confusion, he isn't letting go. Keeping a firm grip on my hand, he pushes it down to touch his side, then moves it down to the curve of his ass. My breath hitches and I freeze. He nods at me and breathes, "Go on."

Still, I hesitate.

Again, he nods. "You can. Go on."

Disbelieving, my hand trembling, I start stroking his ass cheek gently... ever so gently. It's so smooth, so firm and curved. My breath starts coming more heavily. I'm in some sort of hazy dreamworld. He's letting me. He wants me to. His other hand comes up to the back of my neck and draws my face towards his. Ever so slowly, he reaches up so that his mouth meets mine. We kiss - the barest touch of lips on lips.

"You came for me. Saved me," he says quietly, reaching up to kiss me again. "If you still want me, you can have me."

A prickle of ice runs through me and I stiffen. "Is that what this is about? You're not seriously offering yourself to me to thank me?"

"You don't want me? Is it because I'm all ugly now from the beatings? It'll heal up, Jack - it's only temporary."

"No, it's got nothing to do with that, it's..."

"Then you don't love me anymore? It's because I got into trouble again, isn't it? Made you come rescue me, get yourself hurt for me. I know I'm more trouble than I'm worth." A tear makes its way down his cheek.

"Daniel, love," I whisper, bending down to kiss the tear away then moving back to his soft mouth.

"Do you want to tie me up then, Jack?" he murmurs, dreamily, against my lips.

"Whaaa?" I don't think I've ever sat up so fast. Reality washes back through me.

"You can if you like," he whispers, his body undulating on the bed, "I know you like to see me tied up. Everyone likes to see me tied up. They always have."

I'm horrified. I can see all the marks of his abuse standing out clearly on his skin as he asks to be used some more. I feel sick as I realize how much I still wanted to...how close I came... Never mind that it was he who made the move - he is clearly confused, delirious. It's unthinkable to take advantage of him like this.

I stand up and move a few paces from the bed. I scrub my fingers through my hair, trying to collect myself. Finally, I think I have myself sufficiently under control.

"Daniel," I begin, turning around.

He's out cold. The medication has finally done its job - too late.

***

I want to leave his apartment, but I can't. Someone needs to be here to supervise him under the drugs. Maybe I could call Carter or Teal'c to sit in for me instead? But what could I possibly give as the reason? Only an emergency could call me away from Daniel, and they know it.

I don't want to believe what just happened, what he just said. Actually, I'm not even sure what did just happen. He never really answered my question about the reason behind his offer. Or did he answer me by not answering? Just the idea that he might think I want his body in payment for his rescue is appalling. Even more appalling is that he might think so little of himself that he imagines his body is all he can offer in thanks.

God, he's so messed up. And it's all my fault. The spectre of the rape is still haunting us, still making its presence known. As soon as the drugs took away the more rational part of his brain, leaving the emotional part exposed, there it was, clear as day; he still thinks I enjoyed it, still thinks I want to do it again.

And yet, even amidst all this, there is something even more worrying, something that is sending creeping chills through my body. Those words he used - 'they always have', he said. People have always liked to see him tied up. I may not have a fancy doctorate in linguistics, but somehow, it feels like 'always' must go much further back than Makepeace's little gang bang. Maybe I'm imagining things. Maybe this whole thing has got me hyper-sensitive so I'm seeing things that aren't there.

I want to dive into the whisky again, but I can't. I'm effectively on duty. All I can do is pace about the small living room and wait for Daniel to come round.

What am I going to do then? What am I going to say? Is he even going to remember what happened? Or if he does, is he going to pretend that he doesn't?

God. How are we ever going to get through this?

Daniel:

Shit, damn and buggery. What did I do last night? What the hell was I thinking... or was I thinking at all?

I groan and put a hand over my eyes. Evidently not. Those pills had me so high I was floating on Cloud Stupid. I don't want to remember what I said, what I did. What must he think of me?

But did he understand what I said? God, I really hope not. I can't bear for him to know that. Hopefully he'll attribute it to the medication, but I can't help fretting about it.

Finally, my full bladder forces me out of bed. It instantly becomes clear that the painkillers have all but worn off; peeing is not an enjoyable experience, and the pain in my groin is still forcing me to hobble. I don't want to go into the living room, but I have to have some more medication. I eye the bed - maybe just lying down will do the trick? Another shooting pain gives me my answer; no, it won't.

Maybe Jack has gone? I think, hopefully. But I know better. He wouldn't leave me like this, no matter how uncomfortable he might feel.

Okay, I can do this. Keep it together. Be cool, calm and collected....

Run in, grab the meds, scoot back to the bedroom and hide. Yes, that sounds like a good plan. Although given the stabbing pain in my groin, the running part of that might be a bit of a problem. Never mind. Improvise.

***

As I walk hesitantly into the living room, Jack turns to face me. Crap! I can see it in his eyes; he heard it, I'm sure of it. Maybe I can still bluff my way through it. I was, after all, off my head.

"Daniel," he begins, "We need to talk."

"About what?" I say lightly, unconvincingly.

"Daniel," he says softly. "Don't play this game. You know what."

"Jack, please - not now. I just came out for some meds. I'm not feeling too good."

"I think we should talk first. The pills will make you woozy again."

"Yes, that's the general idea." Wups. Did I say that out loud? By the look on Jack's face - yes, I did. Crap. Time for some furious back-pedalling. "No, I mean... I mean that it still hurts too much. I need help to go back to sleep."

Still, Jack hesitates.

"You're not going to hold my medication to ransom, are you?"

Yes! That worked! Shocked at the very suggestion that that's what he might be doing (well he was, wasn't he?), Jack swiftly digs out the medication from his pocket and hands me a pill. I stand there, hand outstretched, waiting for the rest of the dose... which, apparently, is not to be forthcoming.

"Just the one?" I ask dismally. "I thought you weren't going to withhold my meds?"

"Nothing to do with me. Doctor's orders. That stuff's very strong. This is your last dose - after this, you get nothing stronger than co-proxamol."

"Oh." I can see I'll swiftly run out of excuses not to talk to Jack. Maybe it's better to do it now under the cushion of the morphine? But on the other hand, my tongue is much more likely to run away with me, and I need to be careful of what I say. Hell, I'm never gonna manage this talk sober.

I down the pill with a swallow of water and lower myself carefully onto the sofa, trying to avoid putting pressure on tender areas, especially my groin, any more than necessary. Time for a pre-emptive strike.

"Look, I'm sorry about last night, Jack, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I was a little loopy because of the drugs, didn't really know what I was doing, what I was saying...."

I trail off as Jack just stands there, looking at me gravely. After a long moment, he sits down on a chair opposite me. I feel a brief flash of disappointment that he hasn't sat next to me on the sofa, then chastise myself for being ridiculous. He's right. I might be okay at the moment, but we both know full well I could panic at any time.

I consider my next step. With luck, I can divert him just enough...

Jack:

He's totally transparent. Sitting there on the sofa, scheming, working out what he can say and what he can leave out. He ought to know it's absolutely useless. What he did last night... what he said... True, as he says, he was all doped up, but that doesn't mean that his words and actions were random.

He came on to me, fer Gossakes! He's straight, but he came on to me! What the hell is that all about? What the hell prompted that offer to let me tie him up? And what was it that he was implying when he made that offer?

All very good questions, Jack. Wanna ask Daniel and not yourself? 'cos I'm telling you, I sure as hell don't know the answers.

"Why did you want to... why did you want me to make love to you last night?" Funny that in this conversation, *that* seems like the easy question to begin with. I can see him visibly sag with relief.

"I didn't." As I raise my eyebrows at that he adds, glibly, "Not really. I was just hyped up on the meds, feeling horny. You were the closest person. Sorry about that."

It's rehearsed. That answer, it's rehearsed. I can see that shining from his open, honest, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth face.

"No, Daniel, it's not as simple as that, is it? You thought I wanted your body as some kind of, what, payment? What must you think of me? Christ, Daniel."

"But I didn't... I wasn't... I'm sorry, Jack. Truly. I got all confused. I didn't think you wanted a reward. I just wanted... to be wanted, I guess."

"You *are* wanted, Daniel. You are loved. But the only way I want you is if you want me back. You should know that by now." I pause and steel myself for what I'm going to say next. "And when I hesitated to take you up on your offer, you said you would let me tie you up." God, this is so difficult, but it has to be said. "There's still a part of you that thinks I enjoyed raping you, isn't there? That's why you made that offer."

"No! No, I don't think that, not really. I don't know... did you? I mean, you had no trouble... 'performing'."

I feel sick. He believes it. He still believes it. I had so hoped he would deny it, that the uncertainty was at least limited to his subconscious, but I can see it's crept back in. If he could only know how it haunts my nightmares. I see a terrified man, alone, robbed of all dignity, blindfolded and strapped down, exposed to the greedy eyes of everyone in the room, unable to defend himself as he is beaten and used. And I wake up in a cold sweat when I realize that the man I see is Daniel. My beautiful, innocent Daniel.

I get up jerkily and start pacing around the room. He freezes in his seat, eyes wide

Damn, we're back to here. How did that happen? *When* did that happen? We were doing so well.

"But maybe *I* did," he says, quietly.

"Maybe you did what?" I ask, completely thrown by this apparent non-sequitur.

"Enjoy it. Maybe I did enjoy it."

Shit, this keeps getting worse and worse.

"Daniel, what on *earth* makes you think you might have enjoyed it?"

"Well, I got... you know... with you."

Oh, so that's what's been bothering him. Stupid of me. Of course, most heterosexual men don't know about it. "Daniel, that was just your autonomic system. I triggered your body so it reacted. If you stimulate a guy in a certain way - if you know how - you can almost always cause him to get erect. I was just doing what I could do make it less painful for you. Penetration hurts less if your body is ready for it. Although by that stage, I don't know how much difference it made."

"Really?" He looks at me, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "It doesn't mean that I'm gay?"

"No, Daniel. It doesn't. It has absolutely no relationship whatever to being gay."

He is beginning to look a little reassured, but he's not done yet. "But it didn't happen with Makepeace. Nor with any of the others."

"Well, I imagine that Makepeace, clumsy prick that he is, probably just mauled you. Anyway, he wasn't really interested in trying to arouse your body - he was in it to increase your pain and humiliation, not lessen it. But also your body was probably more relaxed with me. I was familiar, normal."

"But I didn't know it was you then."

"Yes, you did."

He opens his mouth to deny it, but it's the truth. He knew it then and knows it now. His body recognized me long before his head did.

At last, I see him relax. Relief is evidently flooding through him. As his fraught mental state dissipates, I can see the medication finally beginning to take hold. His eyes start to become hazy, and I can see a lassitude beginning to creep through his body. He clearly thinks we're done and that he's got away with it.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

I sit back down and softly, trying not to startle him, I begin. "What did you mean when you said everyone likes to see you tied up?"

And there it is, that flicker in his eyes before he starts to speak. If I hadn't been looking for it, I might have missed it, but I was and I didn't.

"What do you mean, 'what did I mean'? There's been Makepeace and his buds, Horus and his Jaffa. How many do you want?"

"But that's not what you meant. Or at least, not all of it. You also said 'always'."

There it is again, that flicker. "Yes, all those guys always liked it. All of them. But no-one else. I mean, I don't know of any other occasions when I've been tied up and raped recently."

"Recently?"

"Ever," he corrects himself quickly.

So there is something. I wish now that I had never noticed that flicker in his eyes, never noticed the full meaning of what he said last night. I study my fingernails, wondering how far to take this. I am beginning to have some qualms about pushing him when he's clearly high on the medication again.

I lift my head and see him pale, wide-eyed, terrified. Is he terrified of me or of what I might unearth?

"Daniel," I begin, thinking that perhaps it's time to end this, but that's as far as I get.

Earnestly, he says, "It's not my fault. It wasn't my fault."

"What wasn't your fault?" I ask gently.

"That he thought I was gay. I mean, they were always saying it." In a sing song voice, he continues, "'Pretty boy, geek, queer... faggot'."

"Who kept saying it? Makepeace and his boys?"

He nods furiously. "Yes. Them."

"But you're not talking about them, are you?"

"Yes, I..."

I ignore his attempted deflections. "Further back, then. Your foster families? "

"Yes," he answers quickly.

"Just them?"

He shifts uncomfortably. "Yes... No."

I nod encouragingly for him to continue, but encouragement is no longer necessary. Suddenly, as though a dam has finally burst within him, the words are beginning to pour out.

"He was my friend, you know... Andrew. My only friend, actually. I'd skipped a couple of grades so he was actually two years older than me, but he still hung out with me. He never minded that I was puny - said my brains made up for it. He never cared what anyone else thought - he never had to. He was this big jock hero, so no-one ever messed with him. And I worshipped the ground he walked on.

"But in the end, I guess he got tired of me. Or maybe of hearing stuff like 'Is he your boyfriend?'. He turned on me with no warning. We were in the locker room after baseball practice... at which, as usual, I sucked. When a bunch of boys started snickering, I didn't even turn around - it was so familiar I'd learned to ignore it. But suddenly, I heard this voice. 'Oy, Prissy Jackson, shouldn't you be in the women's locker room? You certainly throw like a girl!'. It was Andrew. I ran to the toilets and was sick, and he laughed along with everyone else. I thought I would never stop throwing up.

"He came to see me when we graduated. He said he had been so ashamed of what he had done before. He hadn't thought it would turn out as bad as it did. He had hoped I would understand, that we could still share jokes without speaking, just using eye contact, but I would never look at him. He said he had tried to visit me, but my foster parents wouldn't let him in. I guess I wanted to believe him. Stupid, huh?" he laughs, bitterly. "How desperate was I?

"It was his birthday and he wanted me to come out with him and a friend to celebrate. His friend's parents were away and they'd got hold of some beer - dared me to have some.

"I never had more than a few sips, I swear it. I didn't get drunk. I just started getting woozy - kinda like I am now."

His laughter is nervous, high-pitched. He is trembling now, breathing hard, his eyes glazed. Jesus, they drugged him. The bastards drugged him. I know what's coming - and I don't want to hear it. Not the first betrayal... Mine wasn't the first betrayal. How could one person have had to deal with so much?

"I felt them start to take down my pants as I was passing out, but I didn't know anything after that."

He's speaking almost in a whisper now - I have to lean forward to hear him. "When I woke up, I was lying on my side on Andrew's friend's bed. Andrew was spooned up behind me, his friend in front. My arms were stretched out above my head. My... my wrists had been bound together and tied to the headboard. We were... we were all naked."

Still, his eyes are dry as he continues with his horror story. "I was all wet... back there. They must have just finished. It hurt, but they hadn't damaged me or anything. Not even bruised, because I hadn't fought back."

He lifts his head up, a miserably failed attempt at a self-assured look on his face. "It wasn't my fault," he says. "It wasn't. I know I didn't fight them, but I didn't know you could get that drunk on less than half a bottle of beer. I really didn't. And it's not my fault they thought I was gay, either. Just because everybody said it didn't make it true. I'd never so much as looked at a boy that way. Never really looked at anyone that way."

Oh my God. Holy Mary, Mother of God. He thinks it was his fault. I'm so appalled at the thought of him blaming himself for this that for a moment I can't manage to get a word out. I just sit there like an idiot, frozen in place.

"Daniel... how can you possibly imagine you're to blame for what those bastards did to you?"

"But I DON'T...!" he squeaks. "I just SAID...!"

"Daniel, you weren't just *telling* me about that incident, you were making a confession! Think I don't recognize a confession when I hear one?" My hands work themselves into fists at my sides as I imagine horrible fates for those two boys... preferably brought about by me. "Daniel, you weren't *drunk*. Nobody can pass out on a couple of sips of beer, not even a teenager. Certainly not long enough to be stripped, tied up and r..." I correct what I was going to say as he tenses up, "...assaulted. You were DRUGGED. Isn't that obvious to you? Maybe you were naive enough as a kid, but surely as an adult you must recognize it?"

"But I can't possibly have been. It was my fault. I must have wanted it. I let them get me alone, give me beer, start undressing me..." he trails off. He does not even notice he's just admitted his belief of his guilt. "And I never really made any effort to convince anyone I wasn't gay, so they didn't know."

"Daniel, are you suggesting it would have been alright if you *were* gay?" I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. He's rambling like a confused teenager... like the confused teenager he was, I realize. I'm betting this is the first time he's spoken of it to anyone. Just to confirm it, I ask him, "You've never told anyone about this before, have you?" At the shake of his head, I ask him, "Why not? Did Andrew threaten you?"

"No," he says miserably, "Not in the way you mean. He just said that if I ever said anything, everyone would know what a little tart I was - letting two guys have me in one night. And besides, who would I tell?"

He's quiet for a while, and I think he must be drifting off again, but then he begins again suddenly, "But at least I wasn't raped," he says, defiantly.

"Huh?" is all I can manage, flabbergasted.

"When I woke up, they didn't try to touch me or anything, they just untied me. Andrew slapped me on the ass and said... and said I was a... was a sweet little fuck, but then they let me go. They didn't do anything else to me. I got up, got dressed and left. And that was it. You see," he tries to explain, desperately, "it's all about lack of consent. But it all happened while I was asleep... well, unconscious. I didn't feel any of it, so I didn't say no or anything. So technically it's not really like rape, is it? If I wasn't even aware of it, I mean?" He looks at me with such pleading blue eyes, so hopeful. "Like it didn't really happen?"

I don't know what to say. He so clearly wants to believe it. And he so clearly knows that's not true. Years of denial are coming unravelled in the course of this one confession.

"I'm so sorry, Daniel, I'm so sorry." I don't know how to comfort him, what I can possibly do to help. But for the present, nothing is needed from me. Exhausted from our conversation, and assisted by the drugs, he falls asleep on the couch, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

***

Some things are beginning to become horribly clear to me. There has been a dreadful kind of logic in his muddled brain. Normally, he is so clear-thinking, but in this case his judgment has been clouded by the paranoia from his youth. I had not understood before the reasons he was so upset at everyone at the base thinking he was gay. He had fobbed me off with stories of a lessening of respect. And while that might have been true as far as it went, it was a long way from being the whole truth. Because of his sexual reaction to me when I forced myself on him, he had been secretly afraid that everyone was right, that he must be gay. And if it were true, then he deserved what had happened to him. He deserved to be sexually assaulted.

And I know full well now that the abuse did not end with Makepeace's little party.

He told me that no-one touched him after that. That was a lie - as fictional as his stories about what Horus did to him. I realize now how smoothly he used my guilt to divert me any time I started pressing him on the matter, reminding me of my culpability in the whole affair.

I am convinced that the dislocated arm I heard about was caused by Makepeace, and God only knows what else he did that I didn't hear about. If Makepeace weren't already on death row, he wouldn't survive long anyway. I would make sure of that. And I am sickened to realize that it must have continued even after my return from the sting operation; some of those marks are cigarette burns, and there were none when he encountered me, drunk as a skunk, at my house. Or were there? I know I still wasn't entirely sober when I changed him out of his wet clothes, so I might have missed some bruising, but could I possibly have failed to notice burns? I don't think so.

I was with the renegades for a little over a month, then there were two months between my return and his third outing with SG-11 when he was captured. What the hell did he go through while Makepeace was team leader? And what happened between my return and his capture by the Snake that I didn't see?

Hindsight is always 20/20. Now, I realize my blunder. When Daniel was on SG-1, his time on Earth always coincided with mine. No-one would mess with him with me and Teal'c about - not unless they were suicidal. But SG-1 is almost constantly off-world. SG-11 might have longer missions, but they also have longer down time while they pore over all the boring stuff they've found. Evidently, it has been open season on him when I was away. Why didn't he come to me? Why didn't he tell me what was going on? I fear the answers to those questions almost as much as I fear finding out the full extent of what was done to him.

Eventually, he will have to tell me everything. I am going to get the name of every single person involved out of Daniel, and then I'm going to deal with them - personally.

***

Less than an hour later, my phone rings. Not surprisingly, it's the SGC. I have never been so glad to receive an emergency recall to base. I need some action, something to take my mind off my increasingly dark thoughts.

Daniel isn't well enough to return to the Mountain but, of course, he insists.

"I may not be able to Gate out or anything, but I might be useful. What will you do if you have an artefact that needs figuring out, or you need some translations? Besides, if you won't give me a lift I'll just call a cab," he says, pouting for all he's worth.

I sigh. Well, I guess I have to take him with me anyway. The meds haven't had a chance to wear off yet so it's not safe to leave him alone.

Daniel falls asleep as soon as we get into my truck, and I have to fight to put his seatbelt on around his un-cooperative limbs. Boy, is Fraiser going to be mad with me when I get there, but what can I do? 'You could call one of the nurses down from the mountain to take care of him', pipes up a helpful little voice. 'Shut up', says a rather less helpful one. I look at the gently snoring man sitting next to me. No, after what just happened, he mustn't wake up to think I've run away from him. I know him and the way he jumps to conclusions. He'll assume I've judged him. That can't be allowed. I'll just have to accept my telling-off from the doc.

Having thus satisfactorily rationalised to myself doing what I want to do, I settle down for the drive to the SGC.

By the time we arrive at the Mountain, Daniel is beginning to wake up. However, he's still very sleepy.

"Come on, big guy," I say, struggling again with his seatbelt when he makes no effort to unbuckle himself, "let's get you inside."

***

The elevator doors open to a powerful voice coming from a very small person. "COLONEL O'NEILL!!"

I leave Daniel supported by the back wall of the elevator as I step forward, my hands held up placatingly. "Now, Janet..."

"WHAT IS DANIEL DOING HERE?"

Daniel just smiles dopily at her. "Hi, Janet. Can I have some blue jello, please?" and he slides to the floor. Shit. She's gonna kill me.

Daniel:

Unngh - my head! Something was said about blue jello... no, I mean more painkillers, I'm sure of it. Don't really want to open my eyes, though. Eye-opening leads to awkward confessions where I spill too many secrets to Jack... Jack!

My eyes fly open as my brain attempts to reboot. I'm not at my apartment anymore, I'm in the infirmary. Jack didn't want to stay with me any more after what I told him... after he found out what I let Andrew and his friend do to me, so he brought me here.

Wait... no. No, that's not right. He was called back to Base for some rescue mission, wasn't he? Yes - then I kicked up a fuss about being left behind, making a nuisance of myself, so he brought me with him. Jeez, how long have I slept? I check my watch - it's early evening already. Time to get up, I guess. No need to take up an infirmary bed. Nothing wrong with me apart from a few aches and pains. My vision's slightly fuzzy, but that's only because I'm not wearing my glasses. Ah, there they are! Someone's remembered to put them on the bedside table for me. Thoughtful.

I sit up, ignoring the various protests in parts of my body. Pain has gone down a lot. I'm evidently over the worst of it. My head also feels a lot clearer now. Must be off the meds.

I look around, half expecting to see Janet making her way over towards me, but she's with another patient.

"Ouch! Gerroff!"

No mistaking that voice. "Jack," I call as I get up - carefully - from the bed.

"Dammit, Doc, how many stitches you putting in there? Hey, Daniel, think you can do anything to get the nice Doctor lady away from me? Why don't you trip over something - distract her attention?"

I can't resist a smile. Jack's allergy to being in an infirmary is well known. He hates not being in control. But what is he doing back so soon? "I thought you were going on a rescue mission? What happened? Did you fall off the ramp or something? Break a nail?"

"Stupid rookie panicked and called for help before help was needed. Our 'rescue' mission nearly stopped their escape; they couldn't dial out while we were dialling in... or should that be the other way around? Anyway, diving to avoid a staff blast will sometimes result in injuries of various sorts - which I fully intend to inflict on that rookie when I get a hold of him!"

I look at him fondly as Janet patches up a nasty wound on his forehead. It's so easy to love this side of him - light-hearted, whingeing, irreverent. It's so easy to love the confident, capable leader, the Jack who will fight for you... the Jack who will die for you.

But alongside the professional soldier is the professional killer, lurking there behind all his quips and derring-do. If I'm to be a true friend (barely whispering inside me, the word 'lover'), I cannot close my eyes to the parts I don't like. Or at least, I must accept the parts of him I cannot change. This shade of darkness is in him, and will remain in him.

Can I do that? Can I accept him? All of him?

Yes.

Suddenly, it's so easy. The answer's yes.

And just like that, I am at peace with him...

... even if not with myself. For there is one thing I did not tell Jack - one thing I have still managed to keep from him...

"Daniel, a little help here?" Jack's voice interrupts my musings.

"Sorry, Jack, can't help you."

"You mean you won't."

"That's right, I won't. I don't want to give Janet any reason to give me a shot in the ass."

Janet just grins at Jack's griping. "It's alright, you don't need Daniel to rescue you. We're all done here."

"Great," Jack says, leaping nimbly off the infirmary bed, grimacing slightly at the pain in his forehead that he doesn't want to admit to.

"Not so fast, Colonel. Don't pretend you don't know how this goes. You might still have a subdural haematoma or subarachnoid haemorrhage. Don't you dare try to drive home."

"Wasn't thinking of it, Doc. Is Daniel fit to drive yet, or would he still be DUI?"

"He's fine, although it might not be too comfortable, he's still..."

"Sweet," Jack says, not waiting for Fraiser to finish. "Daniel, will you drive me home?"

I get no further than opening my mouth to reply when Janet interrupts again. "Daniel, you know what to look for, right?"

I nod my head and parrot from the many lectures we've received, "Loss of consciousness, vomiting, blurred vision, severe headache, stiff neck, abnormal behaviour... though I'm not sure what constitutes 'abnormal behaviour' in Jack's case."

"Okay then," Jack says, giving me a pissy look, "If we're all done lecturing, let's go. And you can skip the obvious jokes about me trusting you with my truck."

"You're no fun," I grump. "Okay, let's go."

We grab our jackets and head to the surface. As we enter the lift, Jack starts an irritating whistling.

"Jack, what on earth is that tune supposed to be?"

"It's the Great Escape, of course. That British wartime movie about... an escape which is... great."

"Is it possible that your whistling is worse than your singing or do you just not know the tune?"

Jack shoots me a dirty look, but does not resume his whistling. Instead, he starts humming under his breath what is vaguely recognizable as Darth Vader's Imperial March.

Evil dictator, am I? I see his smirk at my resigned sigh. He thinks he's won this round. Oh boy, does he have a lot to learn.

As we exit the elevator, I sing softly, but audibly

"Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream"

And now it's my turn to smirk at his discomfiture as we walk past the sniggering security guards.

***

By the time we arrive at Jack's house, all I can think about is lying down. The suspension in Jack's truck is none too great and that, combined with working the pedals, has done nothing for my various bruises - in particular my groin. I try to conceal my discomfort but judging by Jack's grim expression, I might as well be screaming in pain.

I let Jack brush off my feeble indication of getting a cab back to my apartment. I don't really want to go anywhere.

"Come on, Daniel, why don't you relax on the sofa?"

"But aren't I supposed to be taking care of you?"

"Who said anything about taking care of me? So I got shot in the head, so what? It's not where I keep my brains anyway. Come on, lie down. I've still got a couple of co-prox tablets for you. That should make you feel better."

Jack fixes us up a dinner of pasta and ready-made carbonara sauce; while he *can* cook, he rarely wants to. A couple of hours later, I'm drifting off again under the influence of the co-prox. Am I going to do nothing but sleep for the rest of my life? I mean, I know that sleep is the body's quickest route to healing but there is a limit!

Jack notices me nodding off and says, "Okay, Daniel, time for bed. Another night's sleep should see you all better."

I make only a token protest as I let Jack guide me into the spare room. There he sets about turning down the bed. From the drawer, he pulls out a pair of pyjama bottoms. "These are pretty comfortable. Need any help changing?"

"Jack, don't fuss," I snap. "I'm quite capable of getting into bed without you acting like a mother hen!"

"Okay, okay," he says, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "Just don't you be asking for any eggs in the morning. Here, I'll leave the pills on the bedside table for you."

And with that, he disappears, leaving me to lie down and relax.

***

The smell of coffee infiltrates my consciousness as I begin to wake up.

"Daniel... Daniel," says Jack from the doorway, holding a steaming mug of nectar in his hand, "Time to wake up. Brought you coffee."

"Well, come in. Why are you standing at the door? I can't exactly reach it from here."

Jack looks a little awkward and I realize why; he didn't want to scare me - thought waking up to find him standing over me might cause me to panic again.

"It's okay, Jack," I say before he has to make up an excuse. "You needn't worry. I'm fine."

Jack gives a slightly dubious sniff and, despite his stitches, a raised eyebrow worthy of Teal'c, but now that I'm fully awake, he doesn't hesitate anymore, instead walking in and placing the mug in my eager hands. I hold the cup for a few moments, just inhaling that wonderful aroma - but I can't resist for long. Jack has learned coffee, and it's calling to my taste buds.

Downing the coffee in short order, I haul myself out of bed. I take a brief physical inventory. Much better. The pain hasn't gone, but it's much reduced. Certainly enough so that I don't need to be lying down anymore. Sofa and a good book will do me fine. I follow Jack out to the living room, snagging a book along the way, and sit next to him as he turns on the TV.

I barely move from there for the rest of the day. It is Jack who does all the hard work of making coffee, fixing up some sandwiches, picking up the phone to order the pizza and then answering the door when the delivery arrives. As the day finishes and we sit in the glow of the fire, leftover pizza on the table, I feel warm... safe. I never thought I could feel this way in his presence again, but I do. It's not like it was - I've changed, as has he, but I feel I've recovered something precious to me that I thought I'd lost; our friendship.

Except that's not where it ends.

I made a pass at him when I was drugged to the gills. I told him all I wanted was the nearest warm body. I lied. Oh, he guessed part of it - that in my confusion somehow I thought I should offer myself in return for what he'd done for me... as though he'd done it as a special favour instead of just because of who he is.

But the rest... the rest he didn't guess. It's the one thing I managed to keep from him.

I want more. And I don't want to want more. If I do, then doesn't that make me gay? And I don't want to be. I'm not. I know there's nothing wrong with it, it's just not something I want to be. I shouldn't deserve everything that's happened to me. It's not fair that I should. I mean, of course I don't. Like Jack said, even if I'm gay that wouldn't mean I deserve to be assaulted and... stuff. Does it? No, of course not. Stupid of me. I've been an idiot.

But I just can't stop thinking about those strong hands that stroked over my ass, that hard body, those beautiful eyes, that irreverent voice that snaps in public but softens when we're alone. Those lips that were so soft on me during our brief kiss. Can't stop wanting to stroke my fingers through that wonderful silvering hair. I want him to think I'm special, want to matter to him.

I start to move along the couch to be closer to him. I want to lean on his shoulder. 'Prissy Jackson'. I'm not! I'm not, I'm not! 'Faggot!' No! I start moving back uncomfortably. I want to get further away from him. I'm too close. People will think that I'm... that we're...

"Daniel, you okay?" Jack asks. "You in pain again?"

"No," I answer shortly.

He switches the TV off and puts his hand on my shoulder. "Daniel, look at me. You hurting?"

"Get off me!" I yell. "Get your hands off me! You're always groping me, it's sick!"

Jack is up and off the sofa in a flash, a horrified expression on his face. Without a word, he turns and makes for the kitchen.

Dammit!

***

Cautiously, I make my way into the kitchen. I encounter Jack there, pretending he is making coffee. I can see his hands are shaking, and his face looks ashen.

"Daniel, I'm sorry if I was... groping you," he mumbles. "I really didn't mean to, didn't realize I was."

"No, Jack, you weren't. I just... I just got jumpy. I can't explain why." And still, I cannot bring myself to tell him the truth, even though the truth is probably all that will stop the feeling of self-loathing I can see in his eyes right now.

But he's not listening to me. "I've called you a cab." He gestures to the handset in the corner of the room.

A cab? "But I don't want a cab. I want to stay here."

"I think it's better that you go home right now, Daniel. You shouldn't be where you're not comfortable. It kills me to see you like this, and to know I'm responsible. Please, just go home."

What can I do? I can't tell him. If I tell him, that will make it true. I can't do that - not even for him. So I wait miserably for the cab to arrive. Neither of us speak; we can't think of anything to say - or at least, nothing that can be said.

Jack:

I wake up drowsily to find a warm body insinuating itself into the bed next to me, a pair of soft lips seeking mine for a gentle, dry kiss.

"Daniel! What the..." I startle fully awake, my heart pounding furiously, only to see a pair of blue eyes looking at me anxiously. He must have let himself back into the house using the spare key he keeps. He isn't naked, but he's wearing only PJ bottoms.

"Let me stay. Please, Jack," he murmurs, moulding himself to my side and planting gentle kisses on my shoulder.

"Daniel, I think you're still a little confused..."

"No, not confused. Not this time. Please don't send me away again."

I have no idea what's going on, but I can't find it in me to refuse him - especially as he's exactly where I want him to be. "Okay," I whisper, "you can stay."

He doesn't say anything in reply, just snuggles in. Cautiously, I turn on my side towards him and put my arm around him, stroking his back lightly. He sighs contentedly, tucking his head in under my chin, and within moments, he is asleep.

I wish I could say the same for myself. My arms are full of the man I love, sleeping there, allowing me to hold him, trusting me to take care of him. What I can't figure out is why. A couple of hours ago, he was accusing me of groping him, calling me sick. I'm sure all the drugs have worn off now. Unless he took something else? No, I don't think he would do that. Is it some sort of gesture, to show he's not afraid of me anymore? That sounds quite likely. He should know by now that grand gestures aren't necessary with me. But for now, I gather him in more closely towards me. He gives a sleepy murmur and I relax my hold, afraid I've frightened him. But no, he's still asleep. He snuggles further in, hooking one leg over mine, and is still again.

Eventually, I drift off to sleep.

***

The smell of frying bacon slowly pulls me out of my dreams. Mmmmm. Must be wake-up time. I smile, resolving to lie in a little with my precious night-time acquisition. I reach out to pull him closer to me... at the same time as I realize that if he's cooking breakfast out there, he can't be in bed with me.

A quick check confirms it. The place he slept is cold. And now I don't know what to do. Have we.... are we... lovers? No - we didn't touch that way at all last night - or barely, anyway. Just a brief touch on the lips and then we held each other close. So why was he in my bed? And should I say anything about it now or just leave it as a pleasant memory? I guess, as with last night, I should really be led by him.

I walk into the kitchen only to find him, fully dressed, involved in a full cook-out. I see eggs, bacon, sausages, waffles, pancakes with maple syrup - the works. He turns around and gives me a shining smile.

"Hey, Jack. Morning!"

And that's it. No attempt at a kiss, or even a hug. Nothing that suggests that last night ever happened.

I shouldn't be disappointed, I know I shouldn't. I knew it would be this way. And yet I can't help it. I so much wanted... I don't know what I wanted. Anything. Something that would let me move over towards him and wrap my arms around him again, pull him close to me. But it's clear that that's not permitted. I have to accept that.

"Soooo," I greet him, "Anything for breakfast?"

"Sure," he says, "there's some bread over there. You can have dry toast and water. This is for meeeee!!"

"Daniel, you sure you're not high?"

"High? Why should I be high?

"Well, you're acting a little...."

"A little what? I'm making breakfast. Is it so wrong to be the one making breakfast for once?"

"Well.... no, it's just you're not usually up this early."

"Well, this time I am. I slept well last night." He flushes a little at that.

Yeah. And the fact that he didn't want to be there when I woke up had nothing to do with it. Well, he clearly doesn't want to talk about it, so I'll let it go... for now.

"Okay. Well then, you may be doing the cooking, but you can be sure that I'll be doing at least half the eating. My food, after all."

Daniel pauses, as though considering it. "All right then," he says, as though making a great concession.

***

The fry-up is delicious, and we both tuck in with gusto.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I ask.

"Um.... Go to work?" he replies with a slightly surprised look. "Don't we usually?"

"Daniel, it's Saturday. We aren't usually required to go to the Base on Saturdays. Besides, we've got a few days' downtime, remember?"

"Oh," he says.

"Yes, 'Oh'," I reply with a small smile. And there it is again; that little flush high on his cheekbones and slight duck of his head. He looks so cute when he does that. If I weren't such a nice person, I would make it my mission in life to see that on his face. Hey - who said anything about me being a nice person?

"Right, let's get these dishes washed up," I say briskly, "Lots to get through today, we're a long way behind."

"There is? We are?"

"Absolutely. Lord only knows how much TV I've missed while I was off rescuing you. You made me miss the big Game."

"Oh," he says, a little crestfallen. "I'm sorry..."

"Daniel, you're such an easy target. Lighten up - you think I'd have gone haring off rescuing you if there'd been a big game on?" Oh, there's that flush again. But this time it's accompanied with a small smile - victory!! "It's going to be hard work to catch up, but someone's got to do it. And I'm sure you've got a book you're in the middle of - or about to be in the middle of. Just a statistical likelihood's all I'm saying."

So the dishes get done and we bury ourselves in our various pursuits for the rest of the day. Despite my claims of there being a lot of TV to watch, I simply cannot spend another day on the sofa, so I chivvy a protesting Daniel (yes, there was a book he was in the middle of) into the truck and we go to town. I don't really have a lot in the way of errands to run, so we go to the park where Daniel seats himself under a tree and watches me play Frisbee with the dogs that are running around there. While his bruising is going down a lot, he's not really limber enough to join in yet.

When I've exhausted all the dogs (yeah yeah, okay, I might be a little tired myself), I treat Daniel to some ice cream - no expense spared; on a cone and everything. Finally, groceries and home. We pick up a couple of videos along the way, but too much attention focussed on Daniel's slim body and elegant fingers and too little attention focussed on the movies means we end up with Jurassic Park I and II. Daniel doesn't seem to mind - he spends the whole time howling with laughter. Go figure.

Clearing up the debris of our Chinese takeaway which had materialised sometime during the Jurassic marathon, I see Daniel yawning. At 21:30 hours? Is he sick or something? I'm about to place my hand on his forehead to check for fever, but at the last minute I jerk back. Don't want to spook him again. But either he hasn't noticed or he's more relaxed today, as there's no reaction from him.

"You tired or something, Daniel?" I ask him.

"What makes you think" - yawn - "I'm tired?"

"Well, the yawning was kind of a clue."

"Not yawning," - yawn - "My brain's just fallen asleep. Think I'll do some work."

There's no point in objecting. To Daniel, work *is* relaxation. He always makes sure he leaves something at my house to play with when he comes round. You just have to keep a firm eye on him to make sure he doesn't get carried away and work all the hours God sends.

"Okay, Daniel - two hours. No more." I can see the objection coming before he opens his mouth, so I say, "Fine, three. But that's it. I'll make up the spare bedroom for you. And you'd better believe I'm gonna hear it if you don't get to that room by twelve thirty."

As it turns out, I do hear it. 12.30 sharp, a dip in the mattress announces his arrival in my bed.

"Daniel, this isn't the spare bed."

He nods, but doesn't say anything, just squirms in close to me, laying his head on my right shoulder as I lie on my back and wrapping his right arm over my chest. I don't know what to do. Two nights in a row he's done this - no warning, no explanation. Should I be doing something about it? But a moment later, all power of thought is robbed from me as his right arm curls up and he starts stroking my neck with the backs of his fingers. Oh God. I go from nought to hard in about ten seconds. But I daren't touch him. Somehow I can sense that a move from me will drive him away. So despite his tentative touches, I remain still, only my breathing becoming raspier as he torments me, his fingers next drifting down to my left nipple where again his feather touches nearly drive me mad.

At last, I have to speak. "Daniel, stop. Please, stop."

He freezes. Like a flash, he's out of bed and I hear him enter the spare room, closing the door behind him. I don't follow. I can't. I don't understand what's going on, but I know one thing - if I don't come in the next thirty seconds I'm going to do myself a permanent injury. I put my hand swiftly down to my dick. A couple of strokes is enough - I spasm helplessly through my solitary orgasm.

We have got to talk.

***

He's ready for me the next morning. Again, the smells of a full cooked breakfast announce the beginning of a new day. But this time, his actions have a more frenetic quality to them. He turns to face me when I enter the kitchen. I wince - he looks like crap. Evidently, he hasn't had much sleep. In a falsely bright voice, he starts racing off on a stream of chatter. "Whydon'twegototheparkagaintoday? It'ssuchlovelyweather. I'mfeelingsomuchbetternowperhapsIcouldtossaFrisbeewithyouormaybe... we... could...." He trails off as it becomes clear I'm not going to join in his charade.

I take pity on him. "It's okay. We don't have to talk about it now if you don't want to. I can wait until you're ready."

He gives a tight little nod and turns back to supervise his cooking, but not before I catch tears of relief forming in his eyes.

I move towards him, making sure he can see me in his peripheral vision. Slowly, I wind my arms around him and pull his back against my chest. He stiffens for a moment, but then relaxes against me. I rest my head on his shoulder for a moment and he makes a little contented "Mmmm" sound. I force myself to pull away - enough self-indulgence. Until I understand what's happening, I can't afford it.

"Besides," I add, "if you keep cooking like this for us, we won't be able to go anywhere. We won't even be able to get up off the couch."

Sunday drifts along on its usual course. Daniel insisted one time that I do the Sunday crossword and since then, it has become an addiction of mine once a week. Daniel usually lets me puzzle over it for about an hour before taking it from me and filling out the rest in a more or less seamless fashion.

Housework is followed by tending to the garden is followed by chess is followed by a dinner of pizza and lazing on the sofa watching sports on TV, Daniel lost in a book next to me. The only difference today is that my arm is around his shoulder as he leans against me. Don't ask me how it happened. It just... did. He seems to be getting into the habit of cozying up against me, insinuating himself into my hold.

If it were anyone else, I would say it was a slow-build flirtation and I would be enjoying myself tremendously - unlike some guys, I love flirting. Although I have to say that my dick would probably be up the guy's ass by now; slow burn or no slow burn, there is a limit. But this is Daniel, and I'm not sure he even knows how to flirt. I mean, he does it all the time, but unintentionally. He has no idea he's doing it, which makes it even sexier.

Besides, I know the issues he still has with me. I can't imagine that, after I abused him like I did, he could want any kind of relationship with me, let alone a sexual one. And yet if he doesn't... what the hell is he doing?

Day becomes night, and I prepare to go to bed, switching off the TV and stretching massively, dislodging a rather woozy Daniel.

To my amazement, as I head off to the bedroom, Daniel pads after me, clearly intending to call it a night as well.

"Daniel," I start, somewhat puzzled, "It's 11.00. Since when do you go to sleep at 11.00?"

Daniel just shrugs his shoulders. "I was up early this morning. I can go to bed early for once. It's not the end of the world... is it?"

"No, I imagine it's not - at least, that's not one of the signs of Armageddon my Gran used to tell me about." I hesitate a moment, then, "If I send you to sleep in the spare bedroom, what are the chances of you staying there all night?"

Daniel just looks down at the floor, studying his toes and looking uncomfortable. That adorable flush on his cheekbones and another tiny shrug of his shoulders is all the answer I get.

"Come on, then." I try to stop the slight raspiness in my voice, "But this time, there is one condition."

Daniel doesn't look up, but I can tell he's paying attention.

"If you're to come with me, I expect you to *stay* with me. We don't have to do anything, but when I wake up in the morning, I want to find you beside me, not cold sheets. If you're not comfortable enough to wake up with me, then you shouldn't sleep with me. I don't understand what's going on with you, Daniel, I don't know if this is just a comfort thing or what, but this ain't easy on me."

Daniel:

I know I'm confusing the hell out of him, but I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. Now that the shivering horrors have gone I can't seem to keep away from him. I feel pathetic - it's all I can do not to follow him around like some puppy. I can't sleep without being enveloped in his arms. Everything about him is so familiar; his light (okay, heavy) snore, his musky scent - and yet unfamiliar; the feel of his chest hair as I trail my hand across it, the way he shivers as I touch his nipple, the hitch in his breath. And I know he's hard.

And I'm terrified of him.

It's all his fault. If it hadn't been for him I would never have been like this, would never have been climbing into his bed with him, desperate to be in his arms, to have his body against me, sighing happily as he brings me close and whispers sweet nothings into my hair.

I shouldn't want this. It's not right. They abused me like this and it was hideous. And now suddenly it's all I can think about? I want to kiss him. I want to kiss him so badly it's like a physical ache. I want to touch every part of him, and I want him to touch me. I want to feel his hands on me, caressing me... I want to feel him in me. And it's not right. It's not. It's disgusting.

Well, of course it's not, there's nothing wrong with any act done in love.

But it was revolting before, feeling those men force themselves up me, filling me with their vile come, the stink of their lust on me.

And it doesn't make any sense. Am I some kind of pervert? Do I need to be abused? Or am I one of those sad cases who turn to their abusers for comfort? I am. I'm a pervert. I'm sick, I'm sick!

And all of a sudden I'm trying to wriggle out of his grasp. I need air - he's suffocating me!

"What the...? Daniel, what the hell is going on?"

"Lemme go!" My heart is pounding wildly and I'm sweating. But for once, he won't let me have my way.

"No. Not until you tell me what the fuck is going on with you. One minute you want to be with me, the next you're scared as hell of me. Daniel, you have to know I will never touch you in any way you don't like. Never gonna hurt you. You don't need to try to make grand gestures showing me you're not afraid of me, that you trust me. Don't try to force yourself to do things like this. You're not helping yourself... and you're not helping me."

He waits for my response, but I'm practically hyperventilating, rigid with terror.

"All right," he says softly. "Don't be scared, love. Please. I'll move to the spare room. Just relax."

"I didn't enjoy it!" I almost wail.

"Huh?"

"The rape - I didn't like it. I'm not sick. You promised me! You promised!" I look at him, begging for some reassurance.

And at last, I see the light dawn in his eyes.

"This isn't about me at all, is it? It's not me you're afraid of," he says softly. "God, I'm an idiot. You know how dumb I can be - you would've thought I'd have caught on earlier. Come on, let's go downstairs, get you something to drink. This isn't something to discuss in bed."

He gets up and goes to the bathroom to snag a robe, throwing the spare one to me. He goes downstairs and I trail after him somewhat reluctantly. He motions me to sit on the sofa while he pours us each a glass of whisky and starts a fire going.

Once we're both sitting down, he turns to me and says, without any preamble, "Okay, Daniel, spill."

And I can't think of a single thing to say. How can I explain my ridiculous behaviour? My mind is such a jumble of thoughts. He's all I want but I don't understand how I can possibly want him. I mean, what does that make me? I can see the confusion written across his face, but don't know how I can explain myself when even I don't understand. I want to creep into his arms, find refuge there.

But no sooner do I begin to move than Jack says, "Oh no, you don't," and stretches out an arm to keep me away. "Daniel, you know how I feel about you. There is nothing I want more than to hold you - okay, that's not exactly true, I'm not a saint - but nothing's gonna happen until you know what you want."

I reach for my whisky and swallow it down, trying not to choke at the after-effects of the alcohol slamming into my system.

"Can I have a drink, please?" I wheeze, holding out my empty glass.

"Whoa! Steady on, Daniel! What happened to that first one? I don't want you passing out on me." He squints at me suspiciously. "Or is that what you're aiming for? Getting out of this conversation by drinking yourself unconscious? Well, it's not gonna work. You can have one more, but then I'm cutting you off."

He gets up, heading for the whisky bottle. As soon as his back is turned, I grab his still full glass and down that too. He passes me my refill before noticing that his own is gone, but before he can do anything about it, I've downed that as well.

I sigh as a warm lassitude creeps over me.

"Dammit, Daniel! I said you're not getting out of this. No falling asleep. I'll throw a bucket of water over your head if I need to."

But I'm not bothered by his blustering now. I can fall asleep if I want to. My pejorative... I mean, prerogative. Boy, I'm a lightweight, aren't I? Three drinks and I'm already well away. Well, here goes nothing.

"I think there's something wrong with me," I begin. "Maybe it's an alien virus?" I perk up. "It could be an alien virus, couldn't it?"

"Daniel, you've not been off-world since Horus, and you've been thoroughly checked out for that."

"Oh," I say, my momentary hope quashed. Of course it's not an alien virus. Just me. No excuses for being fucked up.

"Daniel, there's obviously something you haven't told me, something you're hiding. I want to help, but I don't know what it is that's bugging you."

There is an endless pause while I try to gather up the courage to tell him.

"I think... I think I love you," I whisper.

His face lights up with a huge shit-eating grin. "Of course you do, sweet-cheeks," he says. "I'm loveable."

"Sweet-cheeks!" I choke

"Honey bear? Sugar puff?"

"Sugar...?"

"Muffin?"

"Jaaaaack!"

"Okay." He becomes serious again, taking one of my hands in his. "Daniel, you've been through a lot recently - we both have. There's nothing I'd like more than to believe you love me, but I think you're just reacting to all the stress. I love you and I'm here for you - I'll always be here for you - but you don't love me. You can't possibly."

"I know. I can't possibly. But I do."

He looks down at my hand which he is stroking absently, sending little shivers through me. With a troubled expression, he raises his eyes again and looks into mine.

"Daniel," he begins softly, "I raped you." He tightens his grip on my hand as I try to withdraw it. "There's no way either of us can forget it. The fact that you're able to be friends with me again is incredible. But there's no way you could love me after that. Not even you could be that forgiving. I accepted that at the time, accepted that I was losing even my hopeless fantasy of having you. I gave up my dreams that day. Please don't torture me now. Please don't make me live through that again."

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to hurt you. Of course I can never forget what you did to me, although I have forgiven you." At Jack's raised eyebrow, I amend, "Okay - not exactly forgiven, but I've accepted it - am reconciled to it. But still it's scaring me. I mean, if I love you anyway, what does that make me? Am I addicted to being hurt?"

"Daniel, if there's one thing I do know, it's that you're strong. You've been through such a lot and you're still standing - or right now, you're sitting, but you get the gist. You've always made your own way, come out fighting. Whatever might have happened to you, you're still the guy who argues with me every step of the way to get what he wants or to do what is right. You suffered what no man should have to suffer because of Makepeace and me, but that still didn't stop you from pissing the hell out of Horus." He takes a deep breath. "Those cigarette burns tell me a story of their own too."

This time I do yank my hand away from him. I don't want to remember. More pain. More hurt. Is there anything he doesn't notice? Anything he doesn't know about?

"I know how it goes," he continues. "Drag him into a storage closet. If he doesn't co-operate, he gets the business end of the cigarette. You fought for your corner. You didn't co-operate."

Oh I fought, alright. I fought - but I didn't always win. The choice wasn't always offered me - certainly never by Makepeace - and there were always enough of them to hold me down. I was used, but never breached - there was nothing that would leave proof once they'd wiped the come... or piss... off me. Those memories are dark and I don't want to go there.

"So no, although you might have been a magnet for pain I don't think you're addicted to it. You're who you are despite it."

I start feeling a little better as the warmth of his regard filters through me - or is that the whisky? But I'm not done yet.

"And I'm straight, I know I am - so how can I want you?"

"I'm sorry, love, I can't tell you. I just don't know. Assuming your sudden desire for me isn't just the result of a questionable char sui pork, have you started looking at any other guys? I mean, has anyone else caught your eye?"

"What? No!"

"Sure? Not beginning to wonder just a little? Think about touching?"

"No! Just you."

"Well," he says musingly, "perhaps that doesn't make you gay, then."

"It doesn't?" I ask hopefully.

"I don't know. If you're in love with one man, does that mean you're attracted to men in general? And do you need to be attracted to men in general to be gay? Or does an affair with one make you gay by definition? Maybe, maybe not. Now you might call that denial, I don't know - you say tomayto, I say tomahto. And who cares? It's only a label - it's who you sleep with, not who you are."

I nod my head. It's enough. It just gives me enough. Perhaps it is denial, but I latch onto it. When I'm ready... when I'm ready, perhaps I can admit to more. But for now, I cling to it.

To my horror, I find I've been weeping. I guess the stress of the evening has finally got to me. Too many highs and lows. Oh boy, could I come across as any more needy? But he doesn't seem to mind.

"Come here," he says and finally, he allows me to crawl into his arms and bury my head in the refuge of his chest as he rocks me back and forth soothingly.

Jack:

After a while, he mumbles something into my chest.

"Hmmm?" I ask, vaguely. I had thought he was asleep.

He lifts his head from my chest and looks up at me, his eyes made bluer by the tears he has just shed.

"Make love to me."

I freeze. What does he think he's doing? Does he want to screw both of us up entirely?

"No way, Daniel. No way on this earth."

"But you said you loved me."

"I do - and that's exactly why I'm not gonna make love to you. You've barely been able to be in bed with me for more than a few minutes without spooking - at least, not when I'm awake. And now you want to have sex? You're crazy. Insane. Nutso."

He lowers his head back into my chest for a few minutes and I think he's done. I should have known better - he was just marshalling his arguments in order to try again. That man has an infuriatingly one-track mind when it comes to getting what he wants.

"I want to know what it feels like when I want it instead of... instead of having it forced on me," he says.

"And you want to use me as the human guinea pig for that?" I ask quietly. "Daniel, think about what you're saying."

"No, I didn't mean it like that. I don't want to experiment. I want to experience."

God, this is difficult - his eyes are so blue, so entreating. I allow myself to caress his cheekbone, but no more than that. I have to refuse him. "No, Daniel. I can't deal with you running from me again. And you will run - I guarantee it. Or at least, you'll want to."

He nods his head resignedly. But still, he's not done. "Will you kiss me, then?"

I let out a deep sigh. He never changes. He just can't leave it alone, even when I'm trying to do what's best for him - what's best for both of us.

He sees the rejection coming and leaps in, "Why not? We've kissed before. Besides, no other guy ever kissed me. It can't bring back any bad memories."

How many times can I say no to someone who's pleading for what I want most in the world? A small nod brings out a brilliant smile from him. My hand, still on his cheek, travels down to his jaw, lifting his face up towards me. I drop my head to plant a soft kiss on those lips. God, so sweet. He reaches up for a second kiss, wrapping a hand around the back of my neck to pull me around towards him as he leans against the back of the sofa. His lips part, inviting me in, but still I hold back, cautious. His tongue flickers out against my lips - tentative, tasting. It retreats and I feel his hand tugging on the back of my neck, pulling me towards him. I lean in for a deeper kiss, my tongue finding its way into his mouth. He moans softly and I am lost. My right hand clamps to the back of his head, my other hand round his waist as I pull him as close to me as I can, plundering his mouth with my tongue, then pulling his back into my own mouth, our tongues dancing circles around each other.

It is only when I pull back, gasping for air, that I realise I have pushed him down so he is lying on his back, his head, still cushioned by my hand, resting on the arm of the sofa. I can still describe my position as sitting rather than lying - but barely.

I take in the picture of him lying there wantonly, eyelids heavy with lust, his face flushed and lips swollen with kisses, his robe half open. I need to pull back but I'm not going to make it - my hands are already reaching for him, starting to open that robe, feel the soft skin underneath. I want to run my hands down his smooth back, squeeze and stroke that perfect ass. I have to get up - but he won't let me get away from him - one hand still has a death-grip on the back of my neck, the other is going for my robe.

Manipulative little bastard. 'One kiss', my ass. He knew perfectly well that once I had started I'd never be able to stop. Who am I kidding? I knew it too.

"One rule," I whisper. "You feel uncomfortable, you say 'stop', and I'll stop. Any time - you must tell me. Promise."

"I promise."

And I give in to the inevitable. In a moment, both our robes are gone and my eyes rove over his naked body. While there's still some bruising, it is much faded. I will need to take care, but that's not a problem - anything rough would be unthinkable this first time anyway. "You gonna be okay, Daniel?" I ask for reassurance.

"Yes - doesn't hurt."

Well, I guess that's better than 'I'm fine'. I consider a minute - I like making out on the sofa as well as the next guy, but for a first time I want a little more room. "Just a minute," I say, and get up off a rather puzzled Daniel, heading for the bedroom.

"Jack?" he calls after me, "Jack, where are you going? Don't want to go to the bedroom. Want to stay here."

Demanding little bugger, isn't he? I think to myself.

A moment later, I am back in the living room with a bunch of pillows and blankets - and a couple of other items - to make the evening more comfortable. Pushing the coffee table out of the way, I make a nest out of the blankets and hold my hand out to him to join me on the floor.

Happily, he takes it and in moments I'm seeking out his soft lips again. We both gasp as our bodies finally come together. The feeling of his hard cock against mine is incredible. I can't help grinding down against him, wanting to feel more - and he matches my movements, wrapping a leg around my thigh to bring me closer, squirming up against me.

Suddenly, he gasps, "Stop!"

Immediately, I roll away from him, and lie on my side facing him. I see him eyeing me warily, but the expression doesn't last long as relief floods his features.

"Sorry," he says, blushing, "I needed to be sure you meant it when you said you would stop. I know I can trust you, but..."

"That's okay," I reassure him. "This is different, I know that. So what now? Have you had enough?"

"No!" he yelps, and wriggles in towards me, hooking a leg over my thigh and planting one of my hands on his backside, holding it there until he is sure I'm not going to move it. Before long I don't think I could remove it without surgical assistance; my hand seems to have developed a life of its own, kneading, caressing and stroking that wonderfully formed ass. I pull his leg further up my thigh so that I can access him better. Our mouths are still locked together - he won't release me to kiss him anywhere else.

I reach down and massage his balls very gently. A massive shudder and a groan is the response, accompanied by renewed grinding of his hips.

God, so responsive. I want to plunder him here and now, but have to contain myself. I stroke his perineum gently, leading to more moaning. I let my fingers drift between his cheeks, skating over his entrance. I pull back and look at his face carefully, but see nothing except wanton pleasure. So I let my fingers drift back down again and finger his anus - not breaching him, but tantalising him as I circle and touch. He judders as I play with him, trying to draw me closer.

"Jack... Jack, please," he murmurs.

His pleas go directly to my cock. I want to be sheathed in him - I'm so hard, I don't know how I'm going to live without it. No, it's too soon. I need to show him more of what this can be like, more of how it can be when not filled with pain and abuse.

Finally, I release his ass and pry his hand away from the back of my neck. His whimper is almost enough to get me to change my mind, but I don't want this to be over so soon.

I roll him over so I'm finally lying on top of him, producing a happy 'Mmmm' sound from him. I kiss his eyelids shut, and press a light kiss to his lips, but refuse to get caught there as his arms come up again immediately to pull me into a deeper kiss. "No, Daniel, not yet."

I move down to his neck, licking and kissing at his skin there. Suddenly I want to bite, am dying to bite, but I have to hold myself back - nothing too wild this time. Instead, I latch my lips on and suck as hard as I can. Need to mark him. Need to claim him. Another whimper escapes him, but he doesn't try to push me away - rather, his hands find their usual place at the back of my neck as he holds me to him. Reluctantly, I move away and kiss my way down to his left nipple. He jumps as I lick it lightly, ever so lightly. I play with it, toy with it. He starts squirming as my tongue flicks over his nipple, never applying enough pressure to satisfy. Finally, as that wonderful whimpering sound begins emerging from his throat again, I circle my tongue harder around the raised nub of his nipple and suck hard. A cry escapes him, and I feel his erect cock jerk underneath my body. After administering the same treatment to his other nipple, I continue kissing and licking my way down his torso, dipping my tongue briefly into his belly button, producing another jerk of his responsive cock.

I go down still further and smile to myself at the cry of dismay as I bypass his straining dick, moving to the that sensitive area where thigh meets torso, running my tongue along lightly, teasingly. I grab his legs behind the knees and push them up towards his chest.

"Daniel," I say in something of a hoarse rasp.

"What?" he pants.

"Can you hold your legs there?"

"What? Oh - yes."

And he takes over my grasp, pulling his legs up, exposing himself to me. I need to pause for a minute, hold myself in check. My cock strains towards that entrance. Not yet... not yet. I lean forward, and flicker my tongue against his hole. He cries out and his legs escape his grip. I can see by the reaction of his dick that that cry contained nothing of distress in it. His dick is straining upwards, leaking fluid and twitching. I hope he's gonna last.

I wait until he's managed to grab a hold of his legs again, but don't say anything. No words are needed right now. When he is still, I reach out with my tongue again. He quivers, but this time manages to hold on. I settle in then, twirling my tongue around his hole, flickering across it, tantalising, teasing, until his cries begin to sound desperate. I harden my tongue and push it in him. Slowly, I start fucking him with it, revelling in his musky taste, the smell of his arousal, and the sound of his desperate moans as they become louder and louder.

Finally, I stop. Another day, I can get him off this way, but for tonight, I have to have him. I have to. He's driving me out of my mind. I scrabble to put on a condom, and then get out the lube which I brought with me. I check the expression on his face. There is a little apprehension, but nothing to indicate he wants me to stop. I stroke his hole with one lubed up finger, then press it in. I move slowly, not forcing it. He admits me relatively easily. A few strokes in and out and I move to insert a second finger. His breath hitches at the pressure.

"Daniel?"

"I'm fine. Don't stop."

So I continue, slowly inserting both fingers. A small adjustment and...

"Ahhhh!"

I grin. "What was that again, Danny?" and I stroke his prostate again.

"Aaaaahhhhh!!"

"Yes, I thought that was what you said." I continue stroking him as I work his hole, stretching him as much as I can. Soon, he's pushing himself down against my fingers, trying to fuck himself on me, his head whipping from side to side in ecstasy. It's the sexiest fucking sight I've ever seen in my life.

I can't wait any longer. I lube up my cock and grab his legs, hooking his knees over my shoulders.

"Daniel?" I ask for his permission one last time.

"Yes. Please, yes."

I put my dick at his entrance and start pushing in. Slowly, ever so slowly, I rock into him, to the accompaniment of that amazing whimpering sound he makes. When I'm fully sheathed inside him, my balls pressed against him, I pause, looking down at this man I love. I want to make this right for him, but I'm shaking with holding back my orgasm. I don't know how long I can last. Fortunately, judging by the expression on his face, I don't think I'm going to have to last too long. I begin fucking him with long, firm strokes, making sure the head of my dick catches his prostate each time. I almost lose it as he instantly arches against me, crying out and straining to meet my every thrust. I struggle to retain my rhythm until he gasps, "More! Please, more!"

I start to fuck him harder, faster. I can see his desperation increase, his cries and moans increasing in volume and pitch in time with my thrusts. Finally, it's too much for me. I grab on to him and start pounding into him wildly, slamming my hips against his, trying to penetrate him deeper, grinding myself against him. Suddenly, with no warning, his ass clenches around me and his dick spurts out ream after ream of come, splattering his face and the blankets. Helpless to do anything else at such a glorious sight, I find myself following him into orgasm, emptying myself up his backside.

I collapse over him, heaving for breath, raining kisses down everywhere on his face I can reach. "Daniel, love. My Daniel," I whisper to him again and again. Rolling to one side, I manage to drag some blankets over us before sleep takes me.

***

I wake to blue eyes looking at me steadily but a little warily.

"Daniel?" I smile and reach out to him.

He flinches back.

Oh God.

I wait for him to speak.

"I'm not... I'm not sure I'm okay with what we did."

I roll onto my back, putting a hand over my eyes. I don't want to hear this.

"But I think I will be."

I don't say anything - I don't know what to say.

"Jack, please look at me."

What can I do? I turn to face him again.

"Things have happened to me that are not easy for me to deal with. I also have issues with the whole being gay thing. I need you to understand this, Jack. I need you to understand that this isn't going to go away overnight, that it's going to take time. I can't promise that I will never freak when you touch me, I can't promise that I will never run from you again... but I promise I will always come back. Will you take me on those terms? Will you love me?"

"Danny, nothing could stop me from loving you. I'll wait. Whenever you run, I'll wait for you to come back... until you don't run anymore."

The worried look on his face relaxes and he smiles at me. Just a small smile, but it's enough.

"Thank you," he says, and snuggles himself into my arms, where he promptly falls asleep.

Finis
27
Chapter End Notes:
With thanks to the endless patience and insight of my alpha/betas Saladscream and Jillie, who performed above and beyond the call. This version has been revised and re-edited from the original
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