He knew he should remember something from his past, but it was all a blur. There were faces there, but they meant nothing to him; out of their original setting they were meaningless, like the words the people spoke to him in his dreams were a mystery.
He looked up from the piece of wood he was working on, the movement an automatic response to the name they'd given him. He was grateful for the small amount of memories he'd made here, for the place the villagers had given him, even if that place with them seemed grudging at times. It was as though he'd been born the moment they found him, winking into existence then and there, not dropped from the sky as naked as the day he'd been born. Whenever that was.
"Are you done?"
"Almost." He turned the piece of wood to the light as he spoke, examining it for shape and texture with his eyes and fingers simultaneously. It was impossible not to be aware of the level of scrutiny the villagers subjected him to. Maybe they thought he was hiding from a past he didn't want to remember. He'd heard them arguing about him, that no good man would have found himself in that situation and he couldn't disagree with them. "What do you think?"
"You have a talent."
There were few things he knew about himself, but that was one he knew to be true. The calluses on his hands were new, the pain of forming them still one of his most vivid memories. If he'd done this before, and the skill in his hands seemed to argue that he had, then he hadn't made his living from it.
"The elder summons us," his visitor said, impatient now. Arrom placed his work carefully to one side, recognizing the unspoken order for what it was. "Strangers come."
"Strangers?" he asked. He had no memory of anyone outside the village and the possibility of outsiders filled him with a mixture of hope and horror. Would they know who he was? Did he want that to be the case? "Where are they from?"
His question was ignored, as he expected it would be.
Arrom rubbed his hands on his tunic as he stood, brushing off the shavings of wood that clung to the coarse cloth, then ran one of his hands through his hair. It was getting long, almost as shaggy as a beast's hair, and soon he would need it to be cut. Somehow he knew long hair wasn't something he was familiar with.
As he stood, he wondered what color his hair would be - the people he lived with had no way of seeing themselves and he hadn't asked, hadn't wanted to know if he was different from those around him in any way. That would be one more barrier to add to those his lack of memory imposed. All Arrom knew was that his skin was the same color, he'd gauged that he was older than many of the villagers by the way his bones ached at damp weather, but beyond that there was nothing.
By the time he left the tent, the strangers were already there. They were dressed so differently from all he'd seen there, mottled green clothes standing out from the browns and creams of the villagers. Familiar clothes. They held what seemed to be weapons of some sort, compact metal glinting under the afternoon sun, the tenseness of the newcomer's shoulders mute evidence that they were always anticipating trouble. Arrom felt tense too, just looking at them.
Then one of them turned, dark eyes raking the assembled villagers. He looked past Arrom, then stopped, eyes returning to him and widening. The stranger took an inadvertent step forward, his mouth opening and closing as if the words were stuck in his throat - he looked so surprised it was all Arrom could do not to laugh, but he couldn't embarrass the village that way. These were guests and it would be wrong to mock them in any way.
"Sir!" the newcomer said, calling over his shoulder.
One of the others turned at the summons, came over to stand by the one who'd spoken. He was someone of higher rank; his demeanor was enough to make that clear.
"I don't believe it," he said. "Colonel O'Neill? Sir, is that really you?"
The visitors told him an impossible story but he listened to them anyway.
They knew him, it seemed, and he was someone they looked to for leadership. They'd answered any questions Arrom cared to ask, falling over one another at times in their eagerness. They kept telling him how glad everyone would be to see he was still alive. He didn't ask who 'everyone' was, or where his home was - that was something he needed to build up to, once he was sure he wanted to hear the answer. Their enthusiastic response to finding him was a reassurance of sorts, that perhaps he wasn't the victim of some well-deserved punishment but someone who'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They couldn't explain how he'd ended up in the village though, or why his memory was gone. At least most of his memory, other than the tiny glimpses of something that came to his dreams.
"I have no idea, sir," the leader of the visitors had replied, when he'd asked them the first time how he'd got there. "The last news we had was that you were a prisoner of Baal."
His head had spun for a moment at those words, as feelings of intense pain and utter helplessness returned; for a moment he was back in the cell, looking for a way out. Any way out. There was rough stone under his fingertips, a solid wall of it against his back as he huddled in desperate hope that this time would be the last, knowing all the time he was fooling himself.
That hadn't been the end, though. Otherwise he would never have been here, would he? There was something important, though. Something that he needed to remember about what had happened between that moment and now. The more he reached for them, the more the memories slipped between his fingers like mist.
The visitors had left him alone for a little while, after they'd promised to return soon and take him home if he wanted to go. He wasn't sure he did. Except that he needed to know who he was, what he'd forgotten, and the hole inside his mind wasn't going away on its own. He couldn't live with that. Not when he had the choice of something else - before, he'd had no option but to make the best of the situation, but that was before.
So when they'd returned, he'd asked the one who called himself Reynolds. It was as simple as that. Maybe he should have found out how they'd be traveling first.
He was Jack O'Neill. Colonel Jack O'Neill. The name sounded right, familiar, another piece of the puzzle dropping comfortably into place. Colonel Jack O'Neill of the United States Air Force.
And this was his office. His name on the medals, his signature on the pile of mission reports sitting on his desk. His chair. Jack sat back and felt the chair creak beneath him as he leaned, before muscle memory supplied the impetus to bring him upright again and onto his feet in one easy movement.
It had taken a while for him to persuade the others to leave him alone - he could understand that they didn't want him out of their sight, but he was starting to feel like they were watching him all the time. Which they were. He didn't blame them, he could see just why they did what they did but that didn't mean he was going to get comfortable with being a bug on a pin any time soon.
He knew his memories were there, just out of reach, but it didn't take much figuring out that everyone else was struggling not to supply him with information. The doctor - Dr. Fraiser, Jack reminded himself - had given clear instructions though, that he wasn't to be told anything he didn't need to know in order to keep himself safe within the base. She'd also told him in no uncertain terms he wasn't to leave there, but that held no appeal for him anyway. If there were memories to be triggered, this was the place it would happen. Somehow he knew there was nobody waiting for him outside the SGC.
The others hadn't liked the idea of letting him remember things at his own speed but Jack was sure Dr. Fraiser's orders got followed the majority of the time.
Some faces seemed more familiar than others, Dr. Fraiser's among them. Even as she'd been poking and prodding him, Jack had known that he trusted her implicitly, even if her eyes hadn't been full of compassion for his situation. Hammond had been the same, someone he'd known he knew and trusted the moment he set eyes on the man who'd been waiting for him at the bottom of the ramp as Jack came through.
Fraiser's opinion had been that familiar places would help him get his memory back quicker than any prompting or reminding would and for that piece of sensible advice Jack was grateful. The woman who'd introduced herself to him as Major Carter hadn't taken that decision well; he recognized that expression even though he couldn't have said how he knew she wasn't happy. Carter seemed on the verge of blurting something out every time he saw her and it had been a relief to shut himself into his office alone, away from that.
There'd been someone else there to greet him that Jack knew he knew - Teal'c hadn't said what he thought but Jack could tell that he'd have plenty of stories to share if Jack ever wanted to hear them. Somehow that seemed like less of an imposition and Jack filed that possibility away for consideration. If the whole memories being triggered by familiar places thing didn't work out he'd need someone like Teal'c to rely on.
Jack wasn't certain how he felt about being part of the Air Force, having someone to tell him what to do, even if that someone was Hammond, and others he could order around. That seemed such a strange concept after the village - there only the head man could give orders, and those would only be obeyed if the rest of the people could see the sense of them. Once the head man gave too many orders they disliked, he'd been told, the village got itself a new head man. But he must have been used to it once, must have been good at giving orders, so maybe he shouldn't be so worried about fitting in.
There'd been a faint twinge of memory when he'd walked down the ramp, trying not to show the fear he was feeling, not wanting to show any kind of weakness in front of people who seemed to think a lot of him. Because of who he was, who he used to be, before he was Arrom. At least, Jack reminded himself, he hadn't been made to explain the meaning behind his name and for that he was grateful - Daniel would never...
Jack stopped, his hand stilling as it was reaching out to trace the frame of a set of medals on the office wall, and then he made himself finish the thought. Daniel would never have let him get away with that.
He didn't know what that meant, but he knew it as surely as he now knew who he was. Then that certainty disappeared, as swiftly as it had come. Jack focused again on the framed medals and wondered which of them related to the memory he'd recalled on the planet.
And who 'Daniel' was.
He paused outside the guest quarters, still wondering if he was doing the right thing. But if he didn't ask, Jack knew he wouldn't get any sleep till he knew. The gaps in his memory were like a hole in his tooth - he couldn't help worrying at it, even if he tried not to. And this gap was an important one, Jack knew that without really knowing why or how he knew.
Jack knocked, and then opened the door. The room was bathed in candlelight, making the gray interior warm and inviting. In the middle of it all Teal'c sat, cross-legged and looking like he'd grown up from the floor.
"Can I come in?"
"Please enter, O'Neill," Teal'c replied, starting to get up.
"Relax, Teal'c," Jack said, gesturing at him to sit down again. "This is a social call." He knew his knees wouldn't tolerate copying the position Teal'c was in, so he snagged a chair, turning it round so he could sit with his arms across the back. He was aware of Teal'c watching him as he did so, but it wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, just a familiar one. "I need to ask you something."
"I will endeavor to answer any question you may have," Teal'c began. "But you are aware that Dr. Fraiser..."
"I know, I know." Jack sighed, lowering his head to rest it on his crossed arms so he could make eye contact with Teal'c easier. "No telling. Allow the memories to return in their own time. I know."
He couldn't wait, though. There were things he had to know, things Jack instinctively knew only Teal'c could tell him - anyone else would be too scared of Doc Fraiser.
"How may I assist you?" Teal'c asked. He still looked incredibly relaxed, despite the position he was sitting in. Jack found himself envying that kind of flexibility - he wasn't sure he'd ever been that flexible.
"I'm remembering things, really," Jack began, sudden nervousness overtaking him. What if it wasn't that important after all? He could have misjudged things - he had no yardstick for the significance of any of his memories. Somehow he doubted that, but he had to know. "But I need to ask you something. Who's 'Daniel'?"
Jack was staying in the guest quarters, another precaution of Dr. Fraiser's - not quite the comforts of home but it would do. He was glad to shut the door behind him, the conversation he'd had with Teal'c still running through his head, as he forced himself to focus on eating the meal that had been left for him while he was out visiting. He'd been told everyone who worked there usually ate in the same place but the newness of it all was overwhelming and he'd been banned from the commissary for the time being. Doctor's orders.
For now, he was glad of it, since it gave him a chance to consider everything that Teal'c had said. Along with a lot of things that hadn't been said, the careful choice of words making him wonder just what the other man knew or thought he knew about Jack's relationship with the elusive Daniel.
He had a name now, at least, to attach to the half-memories: Dr. Daniel Jackson.
Jack had found he recognized it immediately. It was a name he knew as well as he knew his own, once he'd heard it spoken out loud, the photograph Teal'c had shown him making more fragments of his memory fall into place. It was, Teal'c had said, not a recent picture, but there the four of them were - himself, Teal'c, Carter and Daniel. All dressed in civvies on the occasion of Carter's birthday.
They looked comfortable together, all of them, as if they'd known one another for a lifetime. Somehow he knew there was nothing like risking life and death with someone to build a bond and whatever it was he had with all of them was a clear example of that. But Jack knew it was more than that, some link with everything he'd forgotten and a lot of what he hadn't allowed himself to admit before then.
Daniel wasn't his subordinate, like Carter. The more he'd looked at the photograph, the more Jack had known there was something special between them. That they hadn't always been friendly towards one another, the faint memories of strong words between them surfacing within his mind like some sea creature breaching the ocean surface, but that still hadn't harmed the bond they shared. If anything, Jack was sure there was no one else he'd be that frank with.
And somehow, impossible as it might seem, he knew Daniel had been there with him, in the cell.
He wished he'd asked Teal'c for the photograph, but something had held him back. Jack had looked at it for as long as he dared, wanting to burn every detail into his memory so he wouldn't forget again. He wondered now why he hadn't realized immediately that Daniel was missing, that he ought to be there too. That he'd seemed so much at home wherever Jack remembered him, the memories tumbling over one another as he tried to make sense of it all and wondered where the hell Daniel was now.
It was a combination of memories and guesswork, in the end. Jack had figured out pretty much everything, patching together what he remembered with the bits and pieces of information he was able to get from the others. It would have to be enough. It had been sufficient to satisfy Dr. Fraiser, which had been the first hurdle to getting back to work, and that was good enough for Jack O'Neill.
He wasn't allowed off-world for the time being, still, a restriction that had frustrated Carter as much as it had Jack. He'd found out that, after the abortive rescue mission that was meant to get him out of Baal's clutches, Carter had been assigned a permanent consultative role at the SGC. And as much as she loved tinkering with the computers, Jack knew that she missed the chance to get out there and kick some Goa'uld ass. He missed it too, even if his memories of doing just that were a lot hazier than he'd let anyone know.
The memories he did have, some of them were ones he tried to push to the back of his mind when they got too graphic, had to be of then. Of his time as a prisoner of Baal. He could remember someone's face, a malevolent smile on the face of a dark-haired man who had to be him. Jack remembered pain too, unbearable pain that pushed him to the brink of sanity and almost beyond. And oblivion, darkness reaching for him and then the return to life, always the same tired routine.
He remembered Daniel being there too, though he knew that was impossible, and he remembered telling Daniel just that.
No, I’m here... I’m really here.
Daniel had been there, and somehow they'd left Baal's fortress together. Somehow, when things had seemed their most hopeless, Daniel had changed that.
It had taken starting to remember the stranger things they'd experienced over the past few years that made it possible for Jack to believe it. Once you'd seen a city float, the concept of ascension was pretty straight forward.
He was lucky too - so far he didn't remember how it was Daniel came to ascend in the first place. From the pinched look that Carter got when he asked her obliquely about it, Jack was glad he didn't remember and hoped that would continue to be the case. Whatever it was, it had been bad.
At first, he'd wondered if it was dumb to miss someone you barely remembered. That was before Jack realized what his new-found status as an Air Force colonel really meant. There were few people he could just chew the fat with, which made those few even more special than they might otherwise be. And Daniel was someone who wouldn't sugar-coat his opinion for Jack's sake - in a world of people who had to jump if Jack said so, that was a valuable commodity. And if that had been the extent of it, that would have been important enough.
Jack made himself think of something else, not liking the possible implications of that train of thought. Daniel had been there with him when he needed someone the most. He remembered yelling at him, the twist of pain in Daniel's face as he explained how he couldn't interfere. How he wasn't allowed to interfere. The truth, as always, no matter how unpalatable.
I won’t let him destroy you.
He didn't remember anything after that. Not yet. And there had to be something more, otherwise how had Jack ended up out of there and buck naked in the middle of a field?
This was their forest, their planet.
There were strangers here again, ones who had no right.
They'd watched the strangers, careful not to be seen. It wasn't difficult, when they made so much noise, trampling through the forest like a herd of animals. They could slip behind trees, remain unseen, watching and listening as they waited for their chance to move.
First they'd just watched, hoping the strangers would leave of their own accord. Leave the forest to them once more, as the others had left in time.
That had been a terrible time, with much suffering. Many had not seen the moon rise again, giving their lives to drive the other strangers away. Many more had been taken from this world, taken away. They were remembered and mourned, whether alive or dead. As would those who died driving these strangers away.
This was their forest, their planet.
"Sir?" Jack looked up from the paperwork he was reviewing. Carter was standing in the open doorway of his office. "There's something you have to see."
Jack dropped his pen, keen for any excuse to get out of there. It didn't seem to matter what he tried, Dr. Fraiser had told him that until he could prove his memories had returned completely, she had no intention of signing off on his return to active duty. He suspected, though he couldn't prove it, that Carter was telling tales out of school, but in the end it didn't matter. Jack knew he still had significant holes in what he could recall, gaps in memory that could potentially get himself and his team killed, so he couldn't justify making an issue of it.
And frankly, what he did recall unsettled him more and more.
Warm hands moving across his body, brush of warm breath against the nape of his neck…
Jack made himself concentrate, even as the memories he was trying hard not to remember threatened to sweep him away.
He was starting to wonder why he'd forgotten Daniel in the first place, when the other man had been such a significant part of his life over the past few years. Jack didn't kid himself - he wasn't the easiest person in the world to get along with, but Daniel had seemed to overlook all of that, or at least to be able to see past it to something Jack wasn't totally sure he could put a label on.
The problem was that the memories he had of Daniel didn't seem to fit with the kind of friendship that Teal'c and Carter had described when Jack had asked them. They were vague and elusive, he had to admit that, but some of the memories were of moments of intimacy beyond any understanding of friendship Jack O'Neill had ever had.
He was starting to piece everything together, determined that he wouldn't tell anyone what had happened till he figured it all out for himself - all he knew was that Daniel had been there with him, that somehow they'd left Baal's fortress together and then there was a blank till he ended up on Vis Urban. By his reckoning, that was a period of three or four months before he'd become Arrom, then another few until SG-3 had found him - where had he been? And, more importantly, where was Daniel while all this was going on?
"What is it, major?" Jack asked, his long stride allowing him to catch up with Carter just before the turn for the elevators.
"Video footage sent back by Colonel Edwards from P3X-403."
"You've dragged me from my exciting paperwork for video footage from a mining expedition?" The expression on Carter's face told him there was more to it than that. Much more. "What's really going on?"
The elevator doors opened and the two of them stepped into the car.
"Colonel Edwards set up video surveillance after there was a disturbance at the mining camp," Carter began.
"What kind of disturbance?"
"Equipment taken, basic sabotage."
"On an uninhabited planet?" Jack asked.
"Apparently, the survey was wrong." Carter led the way out of the elevator car when the doors opened on the right level, still talking. "The planet is not uninhabited, even though the Goa'uld clearly abandoned it some time ago."
"Still not seeing why this is more important than my paperwork, major."
"Let me show you what the video camera picked up, sir." She led the way into her office, going straight to her laptop and turning it so the screen faced the stool Jack had perched himself on, from what had to be force of habit. "At first I didn't think anything of it, but then I saw this..."
"Those look like Unas." Once seen, never forgotten, even by a guy with a bad case of amnesia. Jack watched the two or three Unas shuffle across the small screen. "What's so interesting... Whoa!" Out of the corner of his eye, Jack could see Carter's grin. If that wasn't a look of triumph, he'd never seen one. "You've got to be kidding me."
"I capped that scene," she said, turning the laptop back in her direction and minimizing the video footage. "There."
Jack stared at the image in silence.
All along Jack knew he'd been expecting the Stargate to open one day and for Daniel to stroll through, dressed like he'd been the last time Jack remembered seeing him now, cream sweater offsetting bright blue eyes. He'd tell some wild story of survival and rescue made utterly plausible by him being there to tell it in the first place.
Instead, Jack had to deal with the concept of Daniel as an Unas, living with them for who knows how long. Perhaps all the time Jack himself had been wondering who he was on Vis Urban, Daniel had been running around in skins with a bunch of escaped slave laborers. He'd been almost unrecognizable, except who else could it be? Who else would be able to find himself a place with the Unas and look like part of the gang?
Jack had been insistent on leading the rescue mission, right up to the point where Hammond had told him it wasn't happening. There was no indication, after all, that Daniel needed rescuing from the situation he found himself in - instead, SG-3 had been sent out, their best sharpshooter armed with tranquilizer darts, with orders to capture Daniel and bring him back.
Hammond had kicked him out of the briefing room in the end, telling him to get some lunch while he waited for SG-3 to return. The siren sounded while he was in the line, making him leave his tray and run back through the seemingly-endless corridors to the elevator that would take him down to the embarkation room.
A couple of the members of SG-3 had emerged from the Stargate already by the time Jack got there - he met Colonel Baldwin just inside the doorway.
"I can't say he's as good as new, sir," he said, "but we brought him back." Baldwin turned as he spoke, gesturing back towards the ramp with his thumb. One of the team members had emerged from the event horizon, an unconscious body weighing him down, long arms hanging down his back. "Sergeant Kaminsky is a damn fine sniper."
Jack nodded, and then hurried over to meet Kaminsky at the bottom of the ramp. The Marine stopped, half-turning so Jack could see Daniel's face. His eyes were closed, his hair even shaggier than Jack's had been, and he looked like he'd been rolling around in the mud at some point. There were suspicious-looking smears on his cheeks and jaw line too, something that looked very much like dried blood. Jack tried not to wince at that and decided it wasn't a line of thought he wanted to follow.
"What the hell is he wearing?" he asked, eyeing the odd mixture of clothing. If the image Carter had captured was bad, the reality was even worse. The top half looked like some kind of rough tunic, made of untreated animal skins with a belt over the top of it, with the bottom half covered by a pair of regulation camouflage green pants. His feet were bare, scratched and dirty.
"We took some BDUs with us, sir," Kaminsky said. "Pants, anyway."
"Good thinking, Sergeant." The last thing Daniel needed was to be brought back to the SGC in an outfit that left nothing to the imagination. He let Kaminsky lead the way, since he had no intention of letting Daniel out of his sight till he reached the infirmary. "Welcome home, Daniel," Jack said quietly, to his unconscious friend.
This room was familiar, though the last occupant he remembered had been another member of his team.
Daniel was asleep, or at least his eyes were still closed, the skin of his face and arms significantly darker than the last time Jack had seen him. He had to remind himself that the restraints were there for Daniel's safety, even though Jack knew Daniel would hate them. He was finding he knew a lot of things about Daniel now, and those he didn't know he'd figured out along the way. He ought to be waking up any time soon and there was no telling what that would be like for him. If all he remembered was living with the Unas, things could get nasty...
Jack pulled up a chair alongside the bed and sat down. This felt familiar too, a little too familiar for Jack to feel completely happy about it.
Daniel's hand lay over the bedcovers by where he sat and Jack looked at it for a moment. Years of archaeological digs and general wear and tear had meant Daniel's hands were hardly soft to begin with but now they clearly showed what kind of life he'd been leading. The nails were ragged, dirt under them, scratches and grazes extending upwards to his arms. Daniel's wrists had been bandaged, an extra precaution despite the padding on the cuffs of the restraints.
Jack tried to imagine what it had been like for Daniel. Had he found himself in the middle of the Unas, unaware of anything about who he was or where he came from? Daniel was lucky he hadn't ended up as the main course, let alone been taken into the tribe. Except that luck probably had little to do with it - Daniel stood as good a chance surviving there as anywhere, considering he was one of the few people who knew how to communicate with the Unas in the first place.
There was a kind of irony to it, really, when he'd worked so hard to understand them the first time he'd met Chaka. If their positions had been reversed, Jack had a feeling he'd have ended up as a particularly stringy starter.
Looking up from his contemplation of Daniel's hand, Jack found himself the subject of scrutiny. Daniel was awake, watching him with an expression that could only be described as wariness on his face. Jack didn't move, conscious of the fact that he couldn't be sure how much, if anything, Daniel remembered. Considering his most recent trip through the Stargate had taken place with him slung over the shoulder of one of the members of SG-3, he had no way of knowing what Daniel's reaction would be on waking.
"Daniel?" No response. Daniel didn't even blink, just kept staring at him. "Do you know where you are?"
I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe you could do it.
Jack couldn't look away. The face was familiar, more than familiar, but the expression wasn't. In the time they'd known one another, he'd thought he'd seen every emotion Daniel could experience written large in those eyes, but apparently he'd been mistaken.
"Let me get you some water." He got up slowly, still keeping eye contact with Daniel, who turned his head slightly on the pillow so he could follow Jack's progress to the small table that stood by the head of the bed. "Here." Jack kept his movements smooth, slow and steady, not liking the way Daniel's eyes widened a little as he approached. "Don't worry, Daniel. Everything's going to be fine."
And that, Jack told himself as he watched Daniel suck cautiously at the straw, was a promise he intended to keep.
In hindsight, Jack wished he'd paid more attention the last time they'd met the Unas. He remembered Daniel talking about social hierarchies and that kind of thing but he'd tuned him out after a couple of minutes, knowing he could talk for hours once he got going. He'd never anticipated having to put Daniel's theories into practice, but then Jack had also never anticipated being dropped on an alien planet naked after losing his memories.
At least they were out of the observation room, even if they'd only moved to one of the guest quarters. Most of the furniture had been removed, what wasn't already fixed to the wall, and Daniel had dragged the mattress to the furthest corner from the door, where he couldn't be observed without someone actually entering the room. It had taken all Jack's powers of persuasion to get Dr. Fraiser to let Daniel out of the restraints, even though it was clear he was making little progress under close observation. At least in the guest quarters he could have some privacy, time to remember what he'd forgotten.
A hand grasping at his sleeve to get his attention, a voice he ought to remember…
Jack shook his head, trying to make the memories disappear like they'd always done before. He was certain that was Daniel he remembered, half-remembered, as if they'd been together at some point after he shouldn’t have been around any more. It was almost enough to make him wish he could talk to Carter about it, get a rational scientific explanation even if it was likely to drown him in words of more syllables than he cared to think about.
"Can I come in?" Jack asked, knocking on the door frame as he entered.
Daniel's head snapped up at the sound, but Jack was pleased to see the tension leave his body a little when he realized who it was. That had to be a good sign - either he was remembering Jack from before, or he was starting to gain Daniel's trust, which was bound to help in the long run.
"Just me," Jack said, closing the door behind him as quietly as he could. "I brought you something." He took the candy bar out of his jacket pocket, thinking back to the first time he'd seen the man who was currently crouched on a bare mattress with chocolate. That time round it had been Daniel offering a candy bar to the man who would eventually become his father in law. "I know it's not the kind you like but the machine was all out."
He was able to cross the room and get almost within arm's reach of Daniel, the candy bar held out to attract the other man's attention, though Jack knew he was completely aware of everything that was going on. Daniel had been operating on pure instinct during his time with the Unas, however long that was, so he couldn't help himself.
"Here," he said, stopping just short of where Daniel could reach it. "How about you try and say something in English this time?"
Daniel scowled at him, a stubborn set to his jaw, and didn't move.
"Come on," Jack continued. "You're always boasting about how many languages you speak, so why's this so difficult? You're just out of practice."
He tried to remember what Daniel had said about eye contact, keeping his gaze fixed on Daniel. The last thing Jack intended to do was make any kind of move that would let this almost-primeval version of Daniel think he was in charge. Somehow he knew that wouldn't help - it didn't give him any incentive to communicate if he thought he could get what he wanted that way.
Daniel still didn't move, showed no sign of any intention to do so, and Jack wondered if the candy bar wasn't enough incentive. He was starting to run out of ideas, though, and the memory of Daniel in a padded room was starting to loom large. He'd be damned if he'd let that happen, not if he had anything to say about it. Still, if they couldn't break through to Daniel, get him to re-enter the world again, there wasn't much chance of keeping him out of there.
"Let's try something else," Jack said. He still held the candy bar, unmoving, watching Daniel watch his hand. It was a little unnerving how infrequently the other man seemed to blink, that impassive blue gaze. "How about Arabic?"
Jack knew that his Arabic was appalling, most of it comprised of slang and insults he'd picked up from the Iraqis who'd held him prisoner, but he knew the basics. Compared to Daniel, he was a beginner, but he could make himself understood most of the time and that had always been enough for him. He tried his best not to mangle the words too much, wondering even as he spoke whether anything he could say would get through to Daniel.
"No?" Jack moved his hand, making as if he would return the candy bar to his pocket, his eyes never leaving Daniel's.
"Ka," Daniel said, and then looked away as if the words had escaped him involuntarily.
"Daniel?" Jack crouched down, closer than he'd dared to approach Daniel since he was out of restraints. In his haste, he dropped the candy bar, reaching out to Daniel and touching his face. "Come on, you can do it."
Daniel allowed his face to be turned back, for once tolerating Jack's touch and that in itself was a step forward - their eyes met again. Daniel's skin was warm beneath his fingers, the growth of beard rough against Jack's fingertips, his eyes startlingly blue so close up. He remembered this. He should never have had reason to be this close to another man, but where Daniel was concerned Jack remembered it as if it was a regular occurrence. His body also remembered it too, it seemed. He was starting to get hard, just from touching Daniel's face, and that told Jack much more than he'd ever needed to know about what it was he'd forgotten.
"Do you know who I am?" Jack asked.
He shifted position slightly, hoping this would hide the evidence of his arousal. He could only explain it one way - it had been so long since he'd been close to anyone that this intimacy was encouraging his libido to make something out of nothing. He couldn't be attracted to Daniel, could he? Was that what it was about their relationship that he'd been trying so hard not to remember?
You’re a better man than this…
Daniel moved quicker than he'd anticipated was ever possible, up from the crouched position he was in and taking Jack unawares. His head impacted the concrete floor, making him suppress the instinctive curse that would have the airman on guard responding quicker than anything else might - he didn't need to see the two of them like this, that was for certain. The other thing that was obvious was that he wasn't the only one who was aroused.
"Whoa there," he said, pushing at Daniel even as his body began to respond to the closeness. "Daniel, there are so many reasons why this isn't a good idea."
Daniel lowered his head to sniff at Jack's neck. At least that was what Jack hoped he was doing - the last thing he needed was to try and explain away anything else. This was too much like his dreams, the ones he almost wanted to forget when he woke and found himself alone and blessed with a morning erection he could hammer nails with.
More pieces falling into place, the picture they formed starting to become clear.
"Daniel." A firm shove got him a little breathing space, Daniel's expression telling him he wasn’t the only one who was confused about what was going on. Jack always could read him like a book, even though he'd kept that ability to himself most of the time. "I know you're in there."
"I…" Daniel shook his head, like a dog shaking itself dry, like he was hoping the movement would make the words drop out of his mouth. Too much hair, much too tempting; Jack found himself balling his fists to resist the urge to grab hold of Daniel's hair and use it to pull him closer, not push him away like he ought to. "What…"
Jack would have bet anything that Daniel's first words would be a question and it looked like he was going to win that bet.
"What's going on?" Jack prompted. Daniel's expression was frustrated now. "I don’t know about you, but my money's on Oma."
"Oma?" Daniel echoed, then paused for a moment. "I don’t…"
"You don’t think she'd pull a dirty trick like this?"
"Maybe," Daniel said, looking around as if he was only just realizing this conversation was going on with him draped all over Jack like a blanket. He pushed himself backwards, sitting back on the mattress. "I… don’t remember."
He'd waited till it was sure it wasn't just a fluke, or that he'd been imagining it, but by the time he'd peeled Daniel off Jack knew it was nothing of the kind. By the time the guard had escorted them to the infirmary, Daniel was talking a mile a minute about life with the Unas. And decidedly not talking about anything else that had gone on between them in the guest quarters.
It was a little like throwing a switch, Jack decided, as he stood and watched Dr. Fraiser fuss over Daniel. Once he'd started to speak English again, for whatever reason, the words hadn't stopped. Still, there was nothing new about that.
"Jack?" He was over by Daniel's bedside in a couple of strides as soon as the other man spoke, ignoring Dr. Fraiser's frown as he gave equal concentration to whatever it was Daniel wanted and keeping out of her way. It was a fine balance but he'd had lots of experience in doing just that. "How did I get back here?"
"What do you remember?" Jack asked.
He'd always been annoyed when people answered a question with a question, but there was no avoiding it. It was impossible to tell what Daniel remembered without checking it out first, which gave him a chance to get things sorted out in his mind.
"Not much," Daniel admitted, frowning. "I remember living with the Unas but I have no memory of how I got there. They told me they found me and that I was a gift from the moon."
Jack decided he didn't want to get into the whole comparing stories about being naked thing - he was still trying to forget his own experience and hoping nobody else at the SGC would discover it either.
"And before that?" he prompted, hoping that would be sufficient to change the subject. Sure enough, Daniel's frown deepened and Jack knew he'd succeeded.
"Kelowna. That ascension business." He grimaced, as if the memory was a bad taste he wanted to spit out. Jack knew how he felt - even the thought of what Daniel had gone through before he'd ascended made him want to retch. "Something to do with Teal'c." Daniel looked round as he spoke, as if thinking he could make Teal'c appear by talking about him.
"He's fine," Jack said, recognizing that look as a need for reassurance. "He'll be along later, now you'll know who he is." Daniel nodded. "After that?"
"It's mostly a blur. I remember you being there, though. With me, before the showdown with Anubis."
That was impossible. Jack couldn't even bring himself to speak the words, it was such a dumb idea. There was only one way he could have been with Daniel, only one explanation now for how he'd got out of Baal's fortress, and that was the last thing Jack could ever have believed possible.
Daniel had tolerated the round of visitors, the steady stream of colleagues and friends coming to say how glad they were he was back to normal, but after the first enthusiasm wore off Jack could see he was starting to flag. He'd lurked in the background, feeling oddly unwilling to let Daniel out of his sight once more, particularly now.
What he wanted more than anything was something he wasn't ever likely to get - a clear explanation of exactly what had happened between Daniel turning up when he'd been a prisoner of Baal and the two of them getting dropped off on planets half a galaxy away from each other with matching cases of amnesia. Jack hoped Oma wouldn't be too disappointed when she didn't get a Christmas card from him this year because all the goodwill he'd felt towards her for giving Daniel a way out when he needed one had been wiped by this latest discovery.
"Visiting hours are over," Dr. Fraiser finally said, as she stalked into the infirmary. "That means you too, Colonel."
"I'm fine, Janet," Daniel said, though he could probably tell Fraiser wasn't paying him any attention. "I really don't need to be taking up one of your beds."
She turned to look at him, allowing the visitors to go of their own free will for now, and Daniel smiled at her. Jack watched the interaction with interest, knowing how much work it took to change Fraiser's mind once she'd made it up about something, but Daniel seemed determined to give it his best shot. And whatever it was she was looking for, she seemed to see it in Daniel's deceptively guileless expression.
"Stay on the base," she said, after a moment. "You can use the guest quarters but don't go too far." Fraiser turned on him then. "I expect you to make sure he gets there, colonel."
"Yes, ma'am." Jack snapped a salute, and then grinned at Dr. Fraiser as her toe began to tap on the concrete floor. "Let's get out of here."
"Thanks, Janet," was all Daniel said, swinging his feet off the bed and following Jack to the door.
The trip to the elevators was a silent one. Jack kept trying to think how he could start the conversation but every time his brain returned to the subject of Daniel wrapped around him like he never intended to let go. His body responded to that concept, like Daniel's body had been responding, and Jack had no intention of having that conversation anywhere outside of the guest quarters.
It could, of course, all be easily explained away by Daniel's Unas experience; he'd been part of the strict hierarchy by which that race lived, with dominance and submission an everyday factor to be considered. At least Jack was sure that was what Daniel had said the last time they came across the Unas, though he wasn't sure it was all that comforting a concept. Like it or not, Daniel had been aroused, he'd been aroused, and they both knew it.
Quiet laughter closer than he'd expected to hear it, warm hands on his skin…
It had been Daniel, of course, stupid to think it could have been anyone else. He wouldn’t talk about it, Daniel wouldn’t talk about it, not till it was safe for both of them. At least he hoped that was all it was.
Not that Jack didn’t appreciate Daniel's tact, as long as it didn’t go too far. Something had happened between them, he was sure of that, and the last thing he needed was Daniel thinking himself into not talking about it. Not that this was a conversation Jack particularly looked forward to, except that it stood a chance of filling in some of the last holes in his Swiss cheese memory, and that had to be a good enough reason all on its own.
Back in the guest quarters, finally, and Daniel was already pacing the length of the room. Not good, not good at all.
"I guess we should talk," he said, on the fifth or sixth trip across.
"I guess." Way to inspire confidence, O'Neill. "So talk."
"I don’t remember… were we like that before?" Daniel's hands made a gesture, one Jack didn’t need to know ASL to interpret. "It felt… well, it didn't feel wrong."
Jack couldn’t argue with that, not with the way his body had responded to what Daniel had been doing. He ought to feel guilty, some part of him knew that, but of all the emotions what they'd been doing had brought to the surface, guilt wasn’t one of them.
"I thought I was just dreaming stuff," Jack said, though the idea of this kind of conversation appealed to him as much as having teeth pulled. "Trying to fill in the blanks."
At least Daniel had stopped pacing, even if he was standing over the mattress his former-self had pulled to the corner and looking at it as if he'd never seen a mattress before.
"Help me straighten this out?" he asked, without turning.
Jack was there almost before the question was finished and together they pulled the mattress back over to the bed. Once back in place, Daniel turned and sat on the edge of the bed, his back to where Jack was still standing.
What I’m offering you is your only way out…
"You did it, didn’t you?" As he'd hoped, the question made Daniel turn.
"You got me out of there," Jack said. He was right, he knew he was right about this. About all of it and what it meant. He could see the picture now. "You’d been working on me from the moment you arrived, wanting me to ascend…"
"I told you, Jack," Daniel said, his tone heavy with forced patience. "I don’t remember."
"Tell it to someone who doesn’t know you."
There was silence for a moment and for the first time Jack was unsure. He'd been so certain he'd put the pieces together, formed a pattern he'd never really expected to see, but had he read it wrong?
"That was then," Daniel said, finally. "It's different now. I'm different."
He'd turned back, head down as he studied his hands where they lay in his lap. Jack wondered what Daniel saw there, in the damage he'd inflicted on himself while living wild with the Unas, watched him as he picked at a half-healing scar.
"It didn’t feel all that different when you were all over me," Jack said. He thought back to the mission reports he'd read, putting together how Daniel's ascension had to have fitted with what had been going on. Was that what this was all about? "We did good, Daniel. You did good."
"And now we're back. Both of us. With matching cases of amnesia."
"Give it time," Jack said, moving round to stand directly in front of Daniel. "Trust me on this. If it wasn’t for you, Teal'c would be dead. Abydos would have been destroyed - you gave the others time to do something about that."
"What was the point of it all if it ends like this?"
"Maybe this is the point," Jack said. "You and me, back together again. Kicking Goa'uld ass." Daniel looked up at that and he made himself grin, keeping eye contact until Daniel was forced to crack a small smile of his own. "You know you love it."
Daniel shook his head.
"Well then think of the perks," Jack continued, dropping onto the bed beside him. "Hot and cold running bad guys, all the MREs you can eat…"
"Something was missing," Daniel said, looking round at him. "Someone."
"So that wasn’t a fluke earlier?" God please let him say it wasn’t. "The…" It looked like it was Jack's turn for hand signals.
"No fluke," Daniel said. Jack watched him carefully as he shifted his weight slightly on the bed. "Definitely not a fluke."
"Well, that's good to know," Jack said, or at least that was his intention. If Daniel hadn't been all over him by then, intent on stealing the words from his mouth, while one hand slipped down to free Jack from his BDUs.
He should have known it was a bad idea, but Carter had insisted on giving him the footage. Daniel hadn't seen it, she was sure he'd be intrigued by it, but that didn’t mean Jack had to automatically agree. Though maybe she was right - they couldn’t pretend Daniel hadn't been running around half-naked on a planet for months on end, there was no way that was going to fly.
"Something from Carter," Jack said, sending the disc skimming across the surface of the table to land in Daniel's lap. There, it was done, no going back now.
"P3X-403." Daniel looked up from reading the label out loud, his face disbelieving. "How many copies of this do you think are circulating in the SGC?"
"That should," Jack said, emphasizing his determination, "be the only one." Daniel didn’t look convinced. "Teal'c made his point of view known in the commissary."
Daniel smiled at that and Jack could tell he was imagining that scene. Jack hadn't been there either but he'd heard it was pretty impressive - news traveled fast round the base and he was certain anyone with plans to pass on a copy of Daniel Jackson's Wild Kingdom would think at least twice before doing so.
Daniel was booting up the disc by this point, his face growing more disbelieving second by second as he watched the footage.
"Well, I look right at home." Daniel paused the video. "Ever heard the story of Gilgamesh?"
"I'm waiting for the movie."
"I guess if I ever wondered what Enkiddu looked like…" Daniel's voice trailed off as he pressed the play button again, watching the rest of the footage intently.
Jack circled the table, watching Daniel's reaction as he did so, until he was standing right behind the other man, Daniel's back warm against his chest. It was worth losing sight of Daniel's face to experience this kind of closeness; it almost reminded him of being ascended when they'd been closer still, closer than it was ever possible to be as a human being.
"Tell me they didn’t bring me back to the SGC dressed that way," was all Daniel said after the footage was over. He leaned back into Jack's embrace as he spoke, even if the stool creaked a little as he shifted his weight.
"Don't worry," Jack said, considering the possibilities from where he stood. There were lots of options open and he wondered where to start. How could he have forgotten this, even if this wasn’t quite what they'd had before when they were both a little more glowy? Okay, a lot more glowy. "Your assets were covered, Daniel, SG-3 made sure of that."
"That's very reassuring."
"Not my idea," Jack said, deciding to start his assault on what little was left of Daniel's virtue by licking his neck. "Reynolds thought of it all on his own."
"I really should thank him for that," Daniel said. Jack could feel the stifled laughter in response to his own derisive snort at that idea. "Jealous?"
"Of a jarhead?" Jack asked, as he took a firm grip on Daniel's sweater and pulled him round on the stool so they were face to face. The expression in Daniel's eyes was promise enough. "Not in this lifetime."