It was the same dream again....
The smell was what always took him back there - the distinctive aroma of fear, coming from a mass of huddled bodies, mingling as it did with the smell of sweat. The familiarity of it tore through Jack as if he had never left the Iraqi prison. The memories came rushing back, the rush of confusing scattered images, half-remembered events mingling with the more recent ones, a heady cocktail of emotions. He was drowning in them, with no hope of rescue.
He was there once more, in prison - but this time the prison was on an alien world, the guards Jaffa, his fellow prisoners the members of his team and a dozen different peoples from across the galaxy. But he always remembered it the same, no matter how many times the scenes ran through his mind.
The guards made way for the entrance of Apophis and his queen - the arrogance in the Goa'uld's face was almost palpable as he stared down with a scornful expression at the masses assembled below.
Jack could feel Daniel's body stiffen as the younger man crouched beside him, feeling the tension in his friend's body as he gazed up at the woman who had once been his wife, but who was now a Host. Thoughts of escape mingled with concern for his team-mates, worry that Daniel might do something rash, a hundred plans hastily considered and discarded. And then it happened.
Jack woke with a start - reaching his hand up to his forehead, he was not at all surprised to find it covered with a fine sheen of moisture.
Always the same dream, he thought, how long is this going to go on for?
"Jack?" asked a worried voice from outside the bedroom door, "are you okay in there?"
For a moment, the voice startled him. He had lived alone for so long, since he came back from Abydos the first time and found his wife long gone, that it took a moment for him to identify the voice, and another one to realise why the owner of that voice was there. Had it really only been days since they had returned from Chulak?
He had agreed to take Daniel in, offered him somewhere to stay while he looked for a place of his own. At first it had seemed such a simple thing to do, it had felt so right to offer Daniel sanctuary while he became used to being on Earth once more, but there was still something about the idea of sharing his space with anyone that made Jack uncomfortable. It had been so long since he had lived with Sara, dealing with her reactions to his nightmares - Jack knew Daniel well enough to hear the same concern in his voice, the same unasked questions Sara had struggled with.
"Fine, just fine, Daniel," he lied, "just a dream, that's all..."
Next morning, in the messhall at SGC, Jack found himself the subject of scrutiny. He had become used over the past weeks to the way that Teal'c seemed to watch his every move. Hell, the Jaffa watched everyone, as if he were taking notes for a book on how to fit in to Earth society!
But Daniel? Normally Daniel was semi-comatose at breakfast, not fixing him with an implacable blue-eyed gaze like he was today....
"What?" Jack snapped, his patience with being inspected beginning to wear thin. "Have I grown an extra head or something?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Teal'c's head snap up from his inspection of the amorphous mass that was messhall oatmeal. With an internal smile, Jack realised the Jaffa was now inspecting him for the growth he had mentioned.
Daniel blushed, looking down at the table, as if he had been caught doing something much more embarrassing than staring at the colonel.
"Daniel?" Jack asked, unwilling to let this slip.
"I... well... er... did you sleep okay last night, Jack?" Daniel finally stuttered out, still inspecting the formica tabletop with apparently the same interest he had earlier been directing at Jack.
"What kind of question is that?"
"Just a question about how well you slept, that's all," said Daniel, finally looking up, his face starting to lose its intense colour.
Jack sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"Okay, Daniel... I slept okay," he muttered.
"It's just... well... "
"If you've got something to say, then say it, Daniel," Jack said, knowing that once Daniel had got hold of a subject, he rarely gave up on it until he got the answers he wanted. A fine quality for an archaeologist, Jack supposed, but sometimes one which made him an annoying team-member.
"You've been having nightmares, Jack," said Daniel, quietly, "for the last couple of nights, if not longer..."
Jack almost had to strain to hear Daniel's voice, as he almost whispered the last few words. Jack guessed that Daniel thought that he would be embarrassed if anyone overheard them discussing this, and was not surprised to find that Daniel was right.
Maybe I should have let him bunk at the SGC, like I meant to do, Jack thought, I'm a little too old for a roommate, and this way I get no privacy...
"It happens, Daniel," said Jack, dismissively, "comes with the territory, I guess..." He glared at Daniel, his body language echoing his thoughts, just leave it, Daniel...
From the corner of his eye, as he concentrated on his breakfast again, Jack could see the expression of resignation that flitted across Daniel's face at these words. With a heavy heart, Jack knew that his friend had never really expected him to open up, to talk about what was bothering him, but he had obviously felt that he had to try. He had worked so hard to try and make Daniel feel at home the past few weeks, encouraging him to feel a part of things, and now he was slapping his friend down when he was understandably concerned.
Daniel just sat there, one hand toying idly with the cutlery, his shoulders slumped. After a moment, he began to talk again, choosing a safer subject this time, but without his customary animation.
It was the same dream again....
This time they were all outside, running for the 'Gate. As the frightened people ran, blasts from Goa'uld death gliders churned the earth around them, dirt and rock flying with each explosion.
Jack was by the 'Gate, watching a small group of people leave through it. One of them turned when he called, as if waiting for him, and Jack approached him, hope growing in his heart again.
Suddenly, the waiting man's eyes began to glow - he raised his hand, palm outstretched towards Jack, ready to lash out at him with the Goa'uld device that had been hidden there....
"NO!" Jack screamed, as, once again, the blast hit him, throwing him twenty feet across the barren earth of Chulak.
"NO!" Jack screamed, waking himself.
As he screamed, the door to his bedroom burst open. The light from the hall silhouetted Daniel in the doorway.
He sounds worried, no, scared, thought Jack, somehow detached from the situation despite the way his heart felt like it was trying to pound its way out of his chest.
Daniel took a hesitant step into the room, his hand fumbling for the lightswitch. The room was suddenly swept with light, and Jack winced as he tried to simultaneously to gather the bedclothes round him and shade his eyes with a free hand.
"Turn it off, Daniel," Jack groaned.
"What the hell was that, Jack?" Daniel demanded, still standing by the lightswitch, "I thought I heard you..."
"Go back to bed," Jack interrupted, trying to gain control of the bedding so he could lie down again. When he had straightened the bedclothes as much as he was able, Jack curled up again, deliberately turning his back on where Daniel was still standing. "...the light Daniel, if you don't mind..."
All the time, Jack had been aware that he was again being watched, but had chosen to ignore it. Daniel hesitated for a long moment and Jack could have sworn he could feel the younger man's eyes intent on his back, silently imploring him to change his mind about this, to turn back and open up. When he did not respond, Daniel sighed slightly, hesitating as if he was deciding whether to speak again, before he suddenly flipped the light off and left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
Jack lay there in the darkness. Outside his bedroom door, he heard Daniel wait for a moment, as if deciding whether or not to turn back and challenge him on his evasion, but then, after a couple of moments, Jack heard him pad away.
Somehow he knew that Daniel was heading for the kitchen, all thought of sleeping long gone - his friend would make coffee, sit at the kitchen table, and write in that damn journal of his.
It's bad enough I woke him in the first place, he thought, then he sits up all night obsessing over what's going on with me. I want to tell him about the dreams, but I can't... How can I? I want him to trust me, and there's no way he'll be able to do that if I let him know what's going on.
Long hours passed before Jack finally fell asleep. He had lain there, motionless, listening to the occasional sounds that Daniel made, the sounds any house makes at night, before he was able to let go of consciousness, relaxing long enough to trust that he would dream no more that night.
Even when he had settled into the kitchen chair, a mug of coffee close at hand, Daniel's pen hesitated over the paper. Somehow, even the act of writing, putting down on paper the words that described his feelings seemed a betrayal of sorts.
Daniel took a sip of coffee, turning over the words in his mind, considering the emotions that were churning inside him when he thought back on the way that Jack had screamed. He was no stranger to nightmares himself - after his parents had died, it had been a long time before he was able to fall asleep and not be worried that terrible scene in the museum would be re-enacted.
After a little more thought, Daniel began to write :
I'm really worried about Jack. Every night now, it seems, he's having nightmares. He tells me it comes with the territory, but the expression on his face, the way he screams.... It frightens me, and I think it frightens him too.
I've found a place I can move into, and I'm sure Jack would appreciate getting his spare room back, but I'm worried about leaving him on his own. I know that sounds stupid - Jack's lived alone for years now. I'm sure if he ever found out I was concerned for him, he'd make some comment about how he didn't need a baby-sitter or something like that, and he'd take a step back to being the man I met when we went to Abydos. I don't have that many friends that I can risk this one.
How long is this all going to take, anyway? When I first came back here, I was so sure that Jack would be able to somehow make everything happen quickly, make my search for Sha're a matter of weeks at most. If I get a place of my own here, am I putting down roots again, only to tear them up in the future? I have to believe that I'll find her, that I won't be on Earth forever...
During the mission briefing the next morning, Daniel was uncharacteristically quiet, one hand toying with the ever-present coffee mug.
All he could think about was what had happened the night before - the terror he had heard in Jack's voice as he screamed himself awake, the categorical refusal to discuss it.
I thought that Jack trusted me by now, that if he was going to unburden himself to anyone, that I would be the one. Have I been wrong all along? Has Jack only been tolerating me for what I can do for the SGC, or out of some sense of guilt for me losing Sha're?
As Daniel thought about Jack, it was all he could do to stop himself from looking across the table to where the subject of his thoughts was sitting.
You look like hell, Jack, he thought, and I probably don't look much better.
"What do you think about that, Dr. Jackson?" asked General Hammond, turning to him.
"What? I... er..." Daniel's voice stumbled to a halt, as his brain tried to return from what he had been thinking about and contribute something meaningful to the discussion. After what seemed an eternity, Daniel smiled apologetically, before admitting, "...I'm sorry, General. I wasn't listening, could you repeat the question?"
The general glowered at Daniel.
"You have read the mission briefing, Dr. Jackson?" The general's voice was cutting.
Daniel nodded, embarrassed. He could feel Jack's eyes on him as well, the mixture of concern and amusement at the younger man's dilemma clear in their depths.
This is what I get for not paying attention, Daniel thought.
"I was asking for your opinion on the viability of the mission, Doctor..." Hammond added, as it became apparent that Daniel was unable to help himself out.
"Ah.. er... the mission. Well, General..." Daniel said, shuffling the papers in the folder in front of him as he tried to marshal his thoughts. "...I think we shouldn't miss this opportunity to study what looks like a genuine hunter-gatherer society, possibly unchanged since the Iron Age," Daniel concluded, a little triumphant that he had managed to rescue himself from total humiliation.
Seemingly satisfied with finally getting an answer, the General turned back to the rest of SG1, narrowly missing Daniel exchange a relieved grin with Captain Carter.
"Unless anyone else has anything to add..." Hammond paused, waiting to see if anyone did, "...the mission is a go. Prepare to depart in 1 hour. Dismissed."
Standing in the embarkation room, Jack was once again aware that he was being watched. Although he turned round sharply, all three team members were looking anywhere but at him, Carter fiddling with the strap on the signal device, Teal'c looking at the 'Gate itself and Daniel.... Well, Daniel was looking at the floor, his brow furrowed slightly, as if his mind were chewing over a difficult translation.
I can almost hear the wheels turning, thought Jack, with a grin to himself as he turned back to face the 'Gate again and watch the chevrons lock one by one.
Still, he couldn't rid himself of that feeling of being scrutinised, a feeling that made the skin between his shoulderblades itch slightly. Pushing that uncomfortable thought to the back of his mind, Jack stepped onto the ramp, leading his team to yet another new world.
Jack looked round from where he was standing by the DHD. The 'Gate itself was in a small clearing, not a natural one, judging by the way that the undergrowth elsewhere writhed among the trees that surrounded them. But, natural or not, the clearing was completely surrounded by seemingly impenetrable brush - another case of a 'Gate that looked as though it had not been used for a long time.
"Any sign of a trail out of here, Carter?" Jack asked, turning to her, his voice flat.
A look Jack could not quite categorize flitted across Carter's face and was gone before he could identify it, replaced by the look of quiet intelligence that normally lived there.
"Sorry, sir. Looks like we'll be forced to hack our way out if we want to meet the locals," Carter said.
"What do you mean... if?" interrupted Daniel, who had been hovering nearby and caught the captain's last few words, "...and where has the path to the village gone? It's only been a couple of days since SG4 were here."
"Looks like this stuff grows fast, Daniel," said Jack, choosing to answer the least contentious question first. Daniel was staring at him again, his eyes full of questions that he hadn't got round to putting into words yet, but would soon....
Great, Jack thought, I'm going to get questioned to death...
"It's gonna be hard going getting through this stuff to the village, Daniel," Jack said, keeping his voice calm, "so we need to tackle it at a reasonable pace."
"Fine," said Daniel, "let's get moving then."
With that he turned away, back to the supplies and began to re-pack his rucksack, seemingly unaware of the stunned expression he had created on his friend's face.
Fine? Jack thought, what do you mean 'fine'? That's it, no arguments, no questions?
"We should leave here and begin our journey to the village."
"You read my mind, Teal'c," Jack replied, missing the slightly puzzled expression this comment evoked, his mind still on the mystery of a non-argumentative, non-questioning Daniel.
Three hours later, they had travelled about five miles from the 'Gate, hacking through the chest-high brush. Even when they could hack a path through the undergrowth, taking turns to go first, it was slow going, the uneven ground an extra hazard. The sun had begun to set, when Jack called a halt to their crawl through the forest.
"That's it for today, let's set up camp here," said Jack, expecting Daniel, at least, to protest that they should go on, should try to make contact with the locals today, that they were, after all, only a couple of miles away.
Nothing. Daniel just nodded, dropped his pack where he stood, and taking off his helmet, scratched his head thoroughly.
Puzzled at this uncharacteristic behaviour on the part of his normally talkative friend, Jack just had to ask him a question.
"You okay, Daniel?"
"Sure, Jack, I'm fine."
Daniel's voice was calm and emotionless, and Jack watched him with a curious expression. This was a side of Daniel he had not seen before, a side so controlled that it worried him a little. It was as though the younger man were shutting down on himself, so focussed on what was going on inside his head that he barely paid attention to anything else.
Some hours later, after a fire had been lit, and ration packs eaten, reluctantly, silence fell over their camp. Teal'c had taken first watch, seated on a convenient rock which gave something of a panorama of the nearby forest. He had the appearance of being asleep or in meditation, but, in reality, was very much alert.
Daniel was perched on a fallen log, firelight reflecting in the lenses of his glasses as he scribbled in a small book, brow furrowed again in concentration.
What could he be writing about? Jack wondered, it's not like there's anything here except trees...
Daniel carried on writing, his pen skittering across the page, faster and faster.
I hope he never wants to read that back, Jack thought, then again, he's the expert on hieroglyphics.
Jack tried to get comfortable, his eyes still intent on Daniel, watching him frown occasionally, biting his lower lip as he appeared to consider what to write next, but still lost in the words he was creating.
The firelight made his eyes hurt, but Daniel knew that he had to write it down - he had to get the words out of his system, as if by committing them to paper he could relieve himself of the concerns he had, the ideas that plagued him.
He could feel Jack's eyes on him, and was suddenly glad of the lack of light - at least this way, Jack couldn't see him blushing as he wrote :
So here we are - another new planet. But instead of being transfixed by the idea of discovering things about the hunter-gatherer society that live here, all I can think about is Jack. I can feel his eyes on me. I think he's concerned about me - that's ironic, isn't it? He's the one that can't sleep at night without nightmares, and he's concerned about me....
I made a conscious decision before we embarked on this mission that I wouldn't make things more difficult for him, that I'd think before I acted for a change. In short, that I'd do all the things that Jack nags me to do every time we step through the 'Gate to a new world. And I think that this is what is worrying him. I wish I knew what else to do. If I ask him, he'll just deny again that there's anything wrong.
"Sir?" said Carter, suddenly breaking the silence.
Startled by the sudden intrusion of a voice, Daniel jumped slightly, looking up for the first time in ages from what he had been writing - Jack had somehow managed not to jump, but his heart had seemed to miss a beat, as he too had been elsewhere.
"We should get some sleep. We've still got a long way to go tomorrow, and it's slow going..." Carter's voice trailed off slightly, unwilling to admit that she was tired.
"Right. Time for bed, Daniel." Jack spoke firmly, expecting Daniel's usual evasions, attempts to be allowed to finish one more paragraph, page, whatever.
To his great surprise, Daniel just nodded, closing the book he had been writing in, and turning to stow it in his jacket pocket, followed by his glasses. Then Daniel went over to where his bedroll was already laid out, and proceeded to lie down, using his jacket for a pillow.
Now I know there's something wrong with him, Jack thought, as he lay down next to Daniel, a few minutes later.
Daniel lay curled up on one side, eyes closed, and seemed to already be asleep. From nearby, Jack could hear Carter speaking quietly to Teal'c, reminding him to wake her in four hours, so she could take over on watch.
What the hell's going on in that brain of yours, Daniel? was Jack's last conscious thought before he fell asleep.
Jack was woken by a hand clamping firmly over his mouth - still lost in the nightmare he had been experiencing again, Jack was aware that he had been screaming, but his sleep-fuddled brain could not work out where he was, or who else could be there.
I'm on Chulak, he thought, ...the blast, no, I'm not hit... what the hell?
As he relaxed, waking, Jack was aware that the hand across his face had been removed. In the firelight, Jack could make out two faces hovering over him, one male and one female, but both worried.
"Daniel Jackson," said Teal'c's voice, from somewhere nearby, "is Colonel O'Neill well? I heard..."
"He's fine, Teal'c," Carter said, glancing hastily for reassurance down at Jack, before continuing, "I'll take over from you on watch now."
Grabbing her jacket from where it was laying by her bedroll, Carter headed for the rock Teal'c had vacated, glancing at Daniel before she went. Whatever had been exchanged in that look between Carter and Daniel, Carter seemed more than happy to be anywhere but there. Jack understood how she felt - if he had the opportunity, he would walk away from this too. Sadly, that was not an option.
"Are you fine, Jack?" asked Daniel, quietly.
Jack lay on his bedroll, embarrassment colouring his face. It was the same nightmare again, and this time everyone in the team knew about it. Daniel had known, had heard him scream like that before, but he knew that Daniel understood; he had been having his fair share of nightmares since Chulak. But now Teal'c and Carter knew too, and that made Jack squirm.
Teal'c was a warrior, and his respect had come to mean a great deal to Jack, even in the few short weeks that they had known each other. How could he expect that respect to continue? Teal'c was raised in a way of life that despised weakness above all things, so how could he respect a leader who was plagued by nightmares like this?
As for Carter.... well, it didn't take a PhD to figure out what she was thinking, the way she high-tailed it out of there.
A psycho for a C.O., thought Jack, bet she's wishing she stayed at the Pentagon...
"Jack?" Daniel's voice again, still quiet, but more insistent now. "It happened again, didn't it."
"I don't want to talk about it, Daniel," Jack said, rolling over onto his side, away from Daniel and his uncomfortable questions.
"We're not going anywhere, Jack. No one can make you talk, but we'll be here when you decide you can..."
The next morning, it was as if nothing had happened. Daniel was still quieter than usual, but apart from that, everyone behaved much as they always had, as if, at some time in the night, everyone had agreed to ignore a USAF colonel screaming his lungs out in the middle of a forest.
The rest of the mission held no major revelations or surprises. SG1 had made contact with the locals, Daniel had studied what he came to study. Carter had poked around taking samples of whatever she could lay her hands on, Teal'c had kept a close eye on everything and everyone. As for Jack, he was left with an uncharacteristic feeling of uncertainty.
How much longer can this go on? Jack wondered, as he threw off the remnants of another nightmare. He ignored the feeling of Daniel's eyes upon his back, knowing his friend was studying him, as he had been aware of the same feeling for days.
They were on their way back to the 'Gate now, mission accomplished.
How long before Daniel really starts giving me the third degree? I'm not sure how he's held off this long, Jack thought. And if he asks me, what am I going to say? I''m not sure I'd know where to start to explain it all, or whether I'd have enough answers to satisfy him.
Beside him, he could hear the slight movements of the other team members, amplified in the unnatural stillness of the forest. Carter was on watch, and Jack could even hear the shuffling of her feet, as she tried to keep them from going numb. Teal'c was meditating nearby, and had not reacted to Jack's nightmares this time, having seemingly incorporated them into his list of 'sounds not to be alarmed by'. Daniel was still quiet, Jack could hear his breathing, slightly congested from the air which was probably full of tree pollen, and he was definitely not asleep.
Sighing, Jack lay back, willing his mind to think of other things, not to dwell on the events of his nightmare. The next he knew, it was morning.
"You ready to go home, Daniel?" Jack asked, as he strolled into Daniel's office.
Glancing around, Jack noticed a few new items had been added to the clutter that was his friend's domain, even, he thought, since the last mission.
Funny how quickly he's settled in, he thought, considering it's only weeks since he told me that no-one knew what to do with him...
Lost in his thoughts for a long moment, Jack didn't notice that Daniel hadn't answered him. Nor did he notice the strange expression that ran across Daniel's expressive face, or the sigh of resignation that escaped him. Daniel turned his attention back to the notes he was working on, finally replying to Jack without looking at him again.
"Sure," Jack said, knowing that fifteen was more likely.
another look around, Jack spotted a stool shoved against the wall nearby, and hooked it towards him. Removing the pile of papers that currently occupied it, and placing them carefully on the top of a nearby cabinet, Jack settled down to wait.
The following day saw Jack alone. Daniel had returned to the base, to tidy up the last few details on the mission report for the planet they had visited. Having seen the way Daniel was eyeing him over breakfast, Jack was more than happy to be left alone, saying he needed to tidy up and run some errands anyway.
It was when Jack was returning from the grocery store that it happened. Coming back into the house, heavily laden with bags full of groceries, Jack had jostled the table in the living room. Something fell to the floor.
After he had put the foodstuffs away, Jack returned to find that the object in question was Daniel's journal, which he had forgotten to put away. Because a pen had been used for a while as a bookmark, the back of the journal was heavily creased, and the book had fallen open when it landed.
The first thing Jack saw was his name. Pushing aside all thoughts of how wrong it was to be reading Daniel's private thoughts like this, Jack found himself sitting down with the journal and a bottle of beer. He had to know what was going on with his friend, though he was certain that he knew. Daniel was concerned about him, wanting to ask about the nightmares but not knowing how to begin, wanting to push for answers but not sure that he had the right.
He'll never know you read it anyway, said a small voice in the back of Jack's mind, and you can discover what's wrong with him. How bad can that be?
Jack stopped reading, reaching for his neglected bottle of beer, which still stood where he had placed it an hour ago - taking a swig, Jack grimaced at the warmth of the liquid but swallowed anyway.
...what the hell was I thinking? Jack thought, a wave of guilt sweeping over him. Reading Daniel's private journal.
But you saw your name, a little voice in the back of Jack's mind said, and you just had to know what he'd written about you.
And now I know. He's worried about me. Afraid that I'll kick him out if he keeps pushing me to talk about the nightmares I've been having.
Guess he knows you better than you thought, said the voice.
Now what? Jack wondered.
Well, I reckon Daniel's right, said the voice, he needs to leave, or you'll never get any peace.
Peace? thought Jack, with a snort. I've had no peace since we got back from Chulak, and I have no intention of losing one of my best friends. He's right to be worried about me, hell, I've been worried about me.
Well, you can't tell him what's really wrong, said the voice, can you?
Maybe not, Jack thought, but even the edited highlights have got to be better than if I keep on saying nothing...
"We need to talk," Jack said, when Daniel walked in a couple of hours later.
Uh oh, Daniel thought.
Automatically, he glanced towards Jack, taking in with a glance the determined expression on his friend's face. Daniel's eyes flicked over the table that stood near the doorway. The table where he could have sworn that he had left his journal earlier. It was gone. Daniel's face coloured abruptly, and anger began to take the place of the concern he had been feeling.
"You read my journal," Daniel stated, slamming the door behind him and taking a step towards where Jack was sat. The guilty expression that flitted across Jack's face was enough of an answer for the irate archaeologist.
"Jack! How could you? You had no right!"
Jack put down the bottle of beer that he had been nursing while he waited for his friend to return.
"You're right to be angry, Daniel," he said quietly. "I shouldn't have done it, I know that. But I've been so worried about you, you've not been yourself..." Jack's voice trailed off uncertainly.
"I've not been myself! Jack, I'm not the one who's screaming in his sleep every night," Daniel pointed out, "...and you were worried about me..."
"I wanted to tell you, Daniel," Jack said quietly, "but you know I'm not good at talking about this kind of stuff."
"So tell me. Tell me why you're having nightmares every night," Daniel said, dropping onto a nearby chair.
There was a long silence.
"Fine!" Daniel blurted out. "I've found somewhere else to live, Jack. You can have your spare room back, be alone again..." Getting up from the chair, Daniel headed for the door.
"I'm on Chulak..."
Daniel whipped round as Jack spoke, his voice so quiet that it was barely above a whisper. Frozen to the spot, not even daring to speak, Daniel nodded tightly, encouraging his friend to go on.
"... in the dungeon again. You're there, and Carter too. You..." Jack swallowed nervously before continuing. "... you offer yourself to them, as a Host, and I can't understand how you could do that, knowing what they are..."
Daniel opened his mouth to speak then, but seemed to think better of interrupting, and closed it again.
"... but you do it anyway. Then, suddenly, we're outside, running for the 'Gate again. The death gliders that attacked us are overhead, and there's dirt and rocks flying everywhere... I can hear screaming, smell the blood, but all I can think about is one thing, getting back to the 'Gate..."
"Why are you dreaming about Chulak, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly, moving back to the chair he had been occupying. Jack carried on talking, as if he had not heard his friend speak.
"... then I'm back there, at the 'Gate. I'm there as some of the Hosts are leaving. One of them turns to me, waits for me to come closer.... and for a moment, I think everything's going to be okay."
"Then it all goes wrong, Daniel," Jack said simply. "I see his eyes glow, he lifts his hand, and the ribbon device in his palm blasts me, throwing me onto the ground."
"It sounds as though you're reliving what happened on Chulak. That's understandable," Daniel said.
"You don't get it, Daniel," said Jack, "this time it wasn't Skaara, it was you."
Daniel's face paled suddenly, as he took in what his friend was saying. For once, he was lost for words.
Looking at the pallor which had hit Daniel's face when he spoke those words, Jack was suddenly afraid. Something within him rebelled, screaming that he had done the wrong thing, made himself vulnerable....
How could I have thought that this was the right thing to do? Sara always said that I never told her what I was feeling, and that was wrong, but now I trust someone enough to try again, to say what's wrong with me, it still isn't right...
Still Daniel said nothing.
Jack's heart sank, as he saw their friendship slowly foundering, all because of his stupid need to tell someone the truth about what was happening to him.
When will I learn to keep my mouth shut? he wondered, despairing. I should know better by now... How can I expect him to trust me to protect him, to know what to do, if I'm slowly going crazy like this?
"Daniel...?" Jack's voice was a strangled croak. He needed to say something, anything, but feared that he might do even more damage.
"...me...?" Daniel almost squeaked, finally.
"I thought I'd done something, said something to upset you," Jack said hastily, when Daniel did not speak any further. "Hell, Daniel, you've been so quiet lately, I haven't known what to think."
"I was trying to help...," Daniel said, "...I know how much I annoy you at times..." Daniel paused, sighing. "...'so many questions, Daniel...', ... 'don't you ever stop talking, Danny?...'."
The mimicry was savage in its accuracy, Jack's words coming back to him with a venom that he had never meant when he had spoken them. He had never once considered how they could be interpreted. Suddenly ashamed, Jack hung his head, staring at his sock-covered feet as if looking for inspiration there.
"...So, I did what you wanted, Jack, what you'd kept asking me to do..." Daniel continued, "I stopped talking, stopped asking all those stupid questions, and still that's not enough for you..."
"I..." Jack stumbled over the words. "I'm sorry, Daniel. I didn't know you felt that way."
"You never made any secret of what you thought about me when we first met, Jack, but I thought we'd gotten through that." Daniel spoke calmly despite the hurt that was evident in his voice.
"Hell, Daniel... Do you think I'd have offered you my spare room if I thought you were a geek?" Jack asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere that had developed between the two men in the past few minutes.
"I don't know what to think any more, Jack," Daniel said.
"You're my friend," Jack said simply, "even though it might not feel like it, with the way I treat you at times."
"I should start packing," said Daniel suddenly.
"What?" Jack snapped, looking up for the first time since this uncomfortable discussion had started, "I bare my soul, tell you everything you want to know and that's not enough for you? What do you want, blood?"
"You don't understand, Jack," Daniel replied, calmly. "I was going to move out anyway. Maybe it needs to be sooner rather than later. After all, if we're still going to be working together, we need to still be talking to each other."
Getting up from where he had been sitting all this time, Daniel walked over to where Jack had left his journal. Picking it up, he turned to leave the room.
"If...?" Jack echoed Daniel's words. "Daniel, I don't know if I can do things differently, but I want to. You're too important to this project, I don't want to risk you not being a part of things, just because I can't keep my stupid mouth shut..." Jack's voice trailed off uncertainly, as he waited nervously for a response from his friend.
"What about your nightmares, Jack?" Daniel asked suddenly. "They would seem to indicate that you feel differently to what you're saying, that you think that..." For once Daniel was groping blindly for the words. "...that you believe that I wanted to become one of those... things..."
"You're the one that offered himself, Daniel, not me. How could you? You, of all people? You know what they really are, what they are capable of, and yet you wanted to become one of them!" Jack's voice grew steadily more agitated as he was speaking.
"You don't understand, Jack. At the time, I couldn't see what else I could do. At least that way, as much as I loathed what I would have to do, what I would become, I thought I stood a chance..."
"A chance of what, Daniel?" Jack interrupted fiercely. "Of becoming the puppet of a creature whose actions you'd despise with every breath you took? How could that possibly be right?"
"You didn't let me finish, Jack," Daniel said quietly. Jack inclined his head slightly in response to this, indicating for Daniel to continue. "At the time, I was so blinded by the emotions I was feeling that I couldn't think straight. All I could think of was Sha're... about how guilty I felt about opening the 'Gate again... and how I was responsible for her being abducted in the first place."
"It wasn't your fault, Daniel."
"I know that now," Daniel said, sighing, "but that's not how it felt at the time. Now I know we have to find Sha're and Skaara and somehow set all of this right. But I need your help Jack, you promised we'd keep looking."
"And we will, Daniel, we will," Jack said, looking up. His eyes locked for a moment with Daniel's, an unspoken pledge passing between them as easily as the words had been spoken.
"What about the nightmares, Jack?" Daniel pushed, concern creeping into his voice again.
"I was telling the truth," Jack replied, "when I said they go with the territory. All I can guess is that I was having that dream because I needed to know what you were thinking when you offered yourself, but didn't know how to ask that question. Like I said, I'm not too good at talking about this kind of stuff." "You keep telling me I'm part of a team," Daniel said suddenly, his face solemn. "That I can't act like no-one else relies on me, that we have responsibilities to each other. So why doesn't that go the same for you, Jack?"
"It's different when you're in command, Daniel," Jack replied. "Everyone relies on you, trusts you to look out for them. And to do that they have to somehow believe that you're more than human, that the things that hurt them have no effect on you."
"That's fine, Jack," Daniel said, "but I'm a civilian, and so, technically is Teal'c. That means that this bravado isn't necessary with us."
"I saw Carter's face," Jack said, suddenly angry. "That night, when we were on the planet. You can't tell me that she doesn't despise what she saw, my weakness. Hell, she's a scientist, she's probably already figured out exactly what's going on with me."
"Sam is a scientist," Daniel conceded, "and she is military, but she has as much invested in SG1 as any of us. She doesn't despise you. I don't think it's in her nature to feel that way about anyone. She trusts you, we all do."
Jack knew those words should have been enough for him. He could see by the look on Daniel's expressive face that his friend meant them, that he believed them to be the truth for the others in the team as well. So why wasn't it enough?
Some fragment of the nightmares still tugged at him, some feeling of guilt, of responsibility for the situation that they had found themselves in. If he had not led the team through to Abydos in the first place, not disobeyed his order to destroy the 'Gate, would any of this have happened?
It was a struggle, but in the end Jack found it in himself to ask the question he needed to. It was not enough for him to know that his team trusted him now, he had to know whether that trust could continue. Would it be strong enough to cope with all that Jack somehow knew they would have to face together?
"Despite knowing what I'm going through?" he asked, feeling the burden of responsibility settle on his shoulders once more.
"Because of it." Daniel's voice was firm, the words measured and thoughtful, and Jack knew they came from the heart. "Because you're human, Jack. Like us. Not superhuman, not invulnerable."
"And that's enough?"
"It has to be..." Daniel replied, his words calm with the certainty that he felt, the unspoken belief in Jack and his abilities clear in his eyes for the colonel to see.
Jack nodded, recognising that trust for what it was, a covenant between him and the rest of his team, one that he would hold himself to with the last breath in his body