"What do you think it is?" Daniel asked, staring into the bowl of greyish, glutinous substance that had appeared unannounced through the slot in the door. It was lukewarm and the closest comparison he could make was to stale oatmeal. Jack dipped a tentative finger into the mess and sniffed at it, rolling his eyes and screwing up his face at the results.
"Well it smells better than the stuff they gave us on Hadante - but not by much."
"Think it's safe to eat?"
A shrug. "If you're hungry enough, I guess..." He pressed the dish away from him and gestured to Daniel. "Be my guest." Stomach growling, Daniel needed no second invitation.
Not only did it resemble stale oatmeal, it also tasted like it, bland and uninteresting and requiring several mouthfuls of the foul tasting water to wash it down. But at least it was food - after a fashion - and was a small indication that they had not been forgotten. That was his greatest fear, that they would be left here, alone, to rot.
Careful to eat no more than his share, he handed the half-empty bowl to Jack and sat down on the floor, his back against the bed. Despite his obvious revulsion, Jack dug into the dismal breakfast with grim enthusiasm, leaving Daniel alone with his thoughts.
One thing was foremost in his mind - the fact that he had spent a good portion of the night in Jack's arms or, he thought wryly, with Jack his, for during the night they had shifted position again, until it was he who had spooned against Jack, his arm across the broad chest, his face buried in the angle of Jack's shoulder and neck. Somehow he had resisted the temptation to let his hands roam, to seek out the long dreamed of delights that he was certain Jack's body would offer and Jack had made no attempt to encourage or rebut any advances. They had slept - for Daniel a sleep that was deep and dreamless - and had woken refreshed, their aches healed by the warmth they had given each other.
Unfortunately, Daniel had also woken with his customary early morning erection, which was today hard enough to drill concrete, pressed tight against Jack's butt. There had been no way on earth that he could hide it but Jack, to his credit had said nothing, merely seemed to briefly wriggle his ass suggestively against the hard shaft before slipping off the bed and heading over to the box-like object in the corner.
So that's what that is, Daniel had realised, as Jack had removed the stone slab that served as a lid, unzipped his pants and proceeded to relive himself. Every amenity catered for: no wonder nobody had come to take them to the bathroom, even the water pump had been positioned to double as a flush. No toilet paper, which could become a problem, but on the whole it was an ingenious construction, a large bore drainage pipe set into a stone block and leading to - where? When he used the contraption himself he was sure he could hear the sound of rushing water far below. Some kind of sewer system then? he had decided as, without the slightest trace of embarrassment, he had dropped his pants and positioned himself over the hole. Jack had politely kept his eyes averted, giving him at least the illusion of privacy, but a few minutes later, as Daniel rinsed his hands beneath the pump and replaced the lid, the colonel had said candidly "You know, you really do amaze me at times."
"In what way?"
Jack's brows had shot up as his mouth dropped open. "Well that for a start!" he'd said, gesturing to the rudimentary facilities, his own face flaming. Daniel had simply laughed.
"Oh please... Jack, I've spent most of my life on digs in remote places, where we had to haul every drop of drinking water with us, the shower was the nearest waterfall and the latrines were a hole in the ground with a pole to sit on. Believe me, I lost my inhibitions about things like that before I was into my teens."
It was true, although it amused him, as much as it annoyed him, when he realised just how naive the rest of the team believed him to be. He wondered what they would say if they knew about some of his other more unusual skills, like how adept he was at skinning and eviscerating snakes and small mammals for the cooking pot. Their first meal on Abydos was a long way from being the first time he had discovered something, other than poultry, that tasted like chicken. And what would Jack's reaction be if he learned that, during his year on Abydos, Daniel and Sha're had used animal intestines as condoms? Years of living rough had taught him how to take care of himself and it was going to be an interesting experience proving as much to Jack. If nothing else, the privations of their incarceration promised to be - enlightening.
Jack had stared at him, brow arched in the 'Tell me more' position and wondered aloud "So... Are you this blasé about sex, too?"
The blush had hit like an oven door opening, forcing him to cough to clear the embarrassment from his throat. "Ah - no - actually..."
Jack, playing devil's advocate, had persisted. "Why not?"
"Be-cause... sex is... more than just a... natural... bodily... function..." If only the floor had opened up and let him escape. "It has more to do with... emotions."
That had intrigued Jack. "No sex without love, huh?" he'd mused.
It was a golden opportunity to plant a seed in Jack's fertile mind and Daniel had seized it willingly. "I think so, yes."
"And you've... never slept with someone you didn't... care for...?"
With a lift of his chin, but without a moment's hesitation, Daniel had answered levelly "No, I haven't."
Jack had said nothing more, the conversation abruptly ended by the arrival of what could laughingly be termed breakfast, but that was okay, Daniel had all the answers he needed - for now.
"Well, that was - interesting," Jack muttered. Pushing to his feet, he slid the empty bowl back into the hatch. "Can't see the Michelin Guide paying this place a visit anytime soon."
Daniel grinned up at him. "Look on the bright side, lunch can't be any worse."
"Ya think?" Leaning against the bed, Jack crossed his ankles and slid slowly down until he was sitting on the floor, brushing shoulders with Daniel.
Here we go again... Daniel thought, the touch resurrecting thoughts of the night before and sparking delicious tingles to warm his groin once more. Gentle brown eyes settled on his face and he felt himself smile, the first really genuine smile since they had stepped onto the ramp back at the SGC. It felt good - felt even better when Jack answered it with a small, shy smile of his own.
"You okay?" The concern wrapped around him, slipping easily past his defences.
"So far, so good. You?"
"Better than I might be if I was on my own," was the honest answer. "There's - a few too many memories here."
Wordlessly, Daniel tipped his head back against the stone and watched the procession of emotions across his companion's face. He didn't need to be told about those times, Jack had already shared the horror with him. It had been a year or so back, when Daniel was recovering from sarcophagus addiction and Jack had probably thought he would never remember anything of what was said. But remember it he had. Four months in an Iraqi prison, most of them spent blindfolded and bound, beaten repeatedly - not as a punishment but because his captors enjoyed the sense of power it gave them to humiliate him - left to starve. There was more to the story, grim details that had reduced Jack's voice to a tear-sodden whisper as he related them, but Daniel chose not to dwell on them now. Enough to know that their present predicament had revived the fears along with the memories. Jack was keeping it all well hidden, but there were moments - like now - when Daniel could see through the protective shell to what was left locked away inside. He had seen a ghost of it on Hadante, too, and it had caused him to wonder if it was that which had prompted Jack's eagerness to help Linea in exchange for the power source that could facilitate their escape. A prison was a prison was a prison. Call it Iraq or Hadante, Argos or Eudora, they were all basically the same, keeping him from where he wanted to be and through no guilt of his own.
Jack's hand hung loosely over the curve of his knee: impulsively, Daniel reached to grasp it in a gesture of solidarity. "We'll be okay."
"Shouldn't it be me saying that to you?" Jack asked, slanting a look at him and daring to smile.
"Why? Because you're team leader?" he tightened his grip on the long fingers. "You don't have to carry it all, Jack."
A nod of agreement. "I know... You've come a long way, Daniel Jackson." His hand slipped free of Daniel's grasp and instead curved against the younger man's cheek. "I was - impressed by the way you handled yourself out there yesterday."
Heart thundering in his chest, Daniel ducked his head, feeling the colour rise to his cheeks. "I had a good instructor," he murmured, recalling all the times on training exercises when he had been moved by hunger, cold and physical discomfort to call Jack every derogatory name under the sun, with a few Abydosian embellishments for good measure. "I just wish I could have got to the DHD in time..."
"I saw what happened. It's a miracle you weren't blinded."
"I was - for a while. Lost my glasses, too," he grouched, although thus far it had not been a problem.
"I noticed... Not that I'm complaining," he added, lightly circling Daniel's eye with his fingertip, letting it drift on down, over his cheek, until it found and traced the outline of his lips.
The touch stalled the breath in Daniel's throat, the look of wonder in the velvet eyes made his bones melt. He had always been aware that Jack was a 'hugger' - he had demonstrated that often enough - but this was different, so much more intimate than anything that had gone before, and he had no idea how he was expected to react. Was it just that Jack needed comfort, or was there something more profound going on here?
He never got the chance to find out.
The sound of movement from beyond the door, the scrape of a lock being released sent chills through him. A moment later the heavy door was dragged open and two behemoths filled the opening, each close on seven feet tall and built like quarterbacks. Huge, hairy, smelly creatures with weapons in their hands and a look in their eyes that warned they were not above using them.
"Here we go..." Jack muttered, making no attempt to move. Slanting a look up at their captors, he sketched a wave and said brightly "Mornin'. Come to see how we're settling in?" The first hulk lumbered into the room, stopping in front of Jack, who refused to be intimidated. "Gotta tell you, the room's okay, but ya really need to do something about the -"
The sentence ended on a strangled cry as the giant grabbed Jack by the collar and dragged him to his feet, lifting him several inches off the floor. Daniel rolled aside and bounced to his feet, preparing to dive right in and help, heedless of the other Goliath moving into the doorway. Nobody - but nobody was going to treat Jack that way, not while he was there to do something about it and he waded in, fists and boots flying, aiming at any portion of the - well, it looked like a man - that he could reach. Jack, too, was beating on the massive arms, aiming his foot at the nearest area of soft tissue, but to no avail, he was caught fast and, short of the cavalry making a surprise entrance, he wasn't getting out of there anytime soon.
So intent was Daniel on freeing his friend, he almost missed the familiar sound of the zat being primed. His first thought was that they were going to shoot Jack right there and then and he stepped out from behind the tangle of men, intending, perhaps foolhardedly, to put himself between Jack and the blast.
There was no need, the second ape was not aiming at Jack. For the second time in twenty four hours, the zat spat it's charge, folding Daniel to the floor in a vortex of agony.
When the pain at last allowed him to open his eyes... Jack was gone.
Go to Part 6