Just as he had done the day before, Daniel marked the progress of the hours by the movement of the sun across the room. At first he pounded on the door, yelling Jack's name as loud as his lungs would permit, but Jack did not return and nobody came to tell him where they had taken the colonel. Eventually, his throat raw with the effort, he resigned himself to waiting.
The sun filled the room once more, the heat increased, and still Jack did not return. Just as yesterday, Daniel stripped off his jacket and top and sheltered in the corner when the heat became unbearable, but it was different without Jack there beside him.
He tried to work the problem through, to school his thoughts towards getting out of there, finding Jack and the others and making their way back to Earth, yet each time he asked himself what the colonel would do, he found himself thinking back to last night, the feel of Jack's arms around him for the first - and possibly the last - time. Was Fate really so cruel as to offer with one hand and take back with the other? In those last few moments together they had been so close that he had truly believed Jack - straight, no-nonsense, military Jack O'Neill - was about to kiss him.
And now he was alone, wondering where Jack might be and even if he was still alive.
Only half aware, he moved aimlessly around the cell, treading the same route over and over like a caged lion: door to bed... bed to water pump... pump back to the door. He sat down with his head in his hands and unshed tears of frustration stinging his eyes; he lay down, curled on his side and tried to imagine Jack snuggled there behind him; he paced again, until the sweat oiled his skin and streaked his BDU's with moisture trails.
Darkness found him drifting in and out of a fitful sleep, hunched in the corner. Every possibility had been explored, catalogued, dismissed. Jack was right - there was no way to escape without outside help.
When he heard the distant tapping of metal on stone, his first assumption was that he was dreaming. Nobody was going to come for him, he would die here and no-one would ever know...
But then the tapping became a grinding of rock on rock and the pale amber glow of the far wall was suddenly breached by a sliver of black, which expanded slowly to accommodate the figure of a man - a normal size man who looked wonderfully familiar. When he heard the hesitant "Danny?", he could have shouted with relief.
"Jack?" He threw himself to his feet and stumbled across the room, catching the hand held out to him and using it to pull Jack into an embrace that threatened to knock them both off their feet. "Oh God - I thought you weren't coming back."
"Me?" Chiding laughter in a voice that was hushed and not as steady as it might have been. It sounded battlefield raw, as though he had been doing a lot of yelling, and Daniel wondered again what had been done to him. "Hey, would I leave you behind?"
In the thin light, Daniel reached to touch the older man's face. "Are you hurt? Where did they take you? What about the guards...?"
"Whoa there, Danny-boy! One question at a time..." he chuckled, nuzzling the side of Daniel's neck. "Damn, you feel good," he breathed, and Daniel's heart exploded with joy - a joy that was compounded as Jack eased him back, only to move in again in the same motion, capturing his mouth in a searing kiss. Caught off his guard, Daniel gasped, his parted lips offering and inviting, making no protest as Jack's tongue pushed its way into his mouth.
He responded in kind, wrapping his arms around Jack's neck, surrendering to the stimulation of lips and mouth and tongue and hands. Mind whirling, heart pounding, he clung to the man he had wanted for so long, unable quite to comprehend what was happening beyond the fact that Jack was here and Jack was kissing him. For one frozen moment in time, nothing else mattered, nothing existed except Jack. A hard bulk prodded his hip and even though he knew this was neither the time nor the place for such things, he skewed his body around to press his own against it, needing to convey to Jack that he wanted this just as much, at the same time fighting the urge to tear their clothes apart and offer himself to this astonishing man.
All at once Jack seemed to realise just how lousy his timing was, for at that moment he broke the kiss with a playful nip at Daniel's bottom lip and reached to capture his hand once more.
"C'mon. We're getting out of here."
So, miracles could happen. "You - found a way out?"
"The way - and the means," the older man grinned, searching behind his back and producing a zat gun. "They really didn't ought to leave these things lying around," he said gleefully and even in the half light, Daniel could see the feral gleam in the chocolate eyes. If he didn't know better, he might think Jack was actually enjoying this.
"You with me?" the colonel asked, and Daniel's answer was an incredulous "What, you think I want to stay here? Let's go -" and he half pushed, half dragged Jack into the corridor, demanding "Which way?"
"Down here... There's a door leads to a lower level, we can get out through there..."
Unlike the cell, the walls and floor here were uneven and every step brought with it the danger of a twisted foot - or worse - forcing them to reduce their pace to no more than a fast jog, but at least here there was light. At the far end of the long passageway they located the door, stepped through it and found themselves at the head of a winding flight of stairs that led in both directions, up and down. Jack tugged on his hand and they headed down.
There was something familiar about the place, Daniel realised, bringing to mind a summer he had once spent touring the ancient castles of Europe. The cell had indicated a level of technology approaching their own, but out here in the passageway it was maybe... eleventh century? The dichotomy of architecture was intriguing. If they ever did get out of here it would be interesting to bring a team back and study it properly...
At the bottom of the staircase they turned left, along another passage, this one darker and more difficult to negotiate. The air here was damp and smelled of decay, thick with the odour of crumbling stone and rotting vegetation. And eerie, no sound but their ragged breathing and the rasp of their booted feet on the hard floor. Though he didn't quite know why, Daniel had the impression that they were moving underground now and working their way parallel to the outer wall, but it was difficult to know for certain because the torches here were smaller and more sparsely placed.
Their surroundings, however, were of little consequence. Far more important was the fact that there were no doors along the passage. No doors meant no cells. He had assumed they would Release Teal'c and Sam along the way but the absence of any cells here meant that their companions - were they still alive - were being held elsewhere. Nor had Jack made any mention of them. Did that mean he had found them somewhere, dead? There could be no other reason surely...
"Nearly there." There was arrogance in Jack's voice as he made the announcement. Around another bend in the tunnel and far ahead a single door became visible, set firmly into the rock.
Daniel slammed to a halt, lunged forward to snag Jack's arm and pull him back. "Wait!" he demanded. Jack blinked at him.
"Danny, we're almost out..."
"Yeah - so where are the others?"
"Others?" Odd question. Even odder reaction. Something really was not quite right here.
"Sam and Teal'c. You do remember them?"
Jack stared at him, eyes narrowed in a face grown suddenly cold and devoid of emotion. He braced against the hold Daniel had on him and for a moment it was as if he had no idea of what Daniel was talking about. Then abruptly, his whole demeanour changed. His body slumped against the wall and his eyes grew solemn.
"I'm sorry..." he murmured. "I looked for them, but..."
You gave up? Daniel couldn't believe it, he had always thought he knew Jack better than that. "Then we have to go back."
"There's no time. If they find out we're missing..."
"I don't care!" Daniel's voice bounced back from the rock face, echoing off down the passage. "I'm not leaving here without them."
"And I'm not leaving here without you!" Jack thundered back. Hitching a deep breath, he stretched a hand to touch Daniel's shoulder. "Look, we'll get out of here and back through the Stargate. Hammond can send a team to look for them. Makepeace will -"
A chill slid down Daniel's spine. "Makepeace?"
"Yeah. SG3? Our wonderful Marines?"
The chill coalesced into a nauseous ball in the pit of Daniel's stomach. From something being 'not quite right' he had progressed to something being very, very wrong. Jack knew that Colonel Makepeace was no longer with the SGC, that he was even now awaiting courts martial for his association with the equally disgraced Maybourne. So what the hell was going on?
"I'm going back," he said bluntly, shifting his weight ready to run.
"I'm going to find my friends." He turned, began to walk.
"You can't, we have to get out of here..!" Jack's voice thundered from the walls, reverberating around him.
"You get out then. Save yourself, Jack, if that's what you have to do. I'll bring them home on my own..." He carried on walking, listening for some sign that Jack was following. He didn't, and Daniel walked on alone. Damn Jack. He would do whatever he had to do to find his friends.
Nothing could have prepared him for the next sound he heard, a voice that chilled the blood in his veins and threatened to stop his heart. A single word: "No!" But it wasn't the word, it was the voice and Daniel didn't need to turn to know what he would see.
No Jack! Oh God, please... No no no no no!
God wasn't listening - but Jack was... Or what was left of Jack.
"Kree!" The shout rolled towards him, past him, summoned two dark bulks from the shadows. They plodded towards him, secured his arms and half carried, half dragged him along the passage, throwing him painfully to the ground at Jack's feet. He knelt there, his face downcast, not wanting the proof his eyes would give him, telling himself that if he didn't see it, maybe it wouldn't be true...
A commanding hand beneath his chin forced him to his feet and held him there as hot breath fanned his face, and still he could not look into the eyes.
Cruel laughter vibrated through him. "Now I remember why I always wanted you so much. You always did drive me crazy, Daniel. I'm going to enjoy having you as my mate."
The heat increased as Daniel was drawn forward and the harsh lips fastened on his own in a parody of the kiss they had shared earlier, forcing his mouth open, filling it with the thick, demanding muscle, enough to make him gag. Then he realised the terrible truth - this was the same Jack that had kissed him in the cell, the one he had responded to, the one he had been willing to give himself to. Choking, retching, he fought free and fell to his knees, emptying his stomach into the filth of the passageway.
Above him, Jack laughed, reached down first to pet his hair, then wind his fingers in it an force Daniel's head painfully back. "Easy, Danny-boy, easy..." he hissed. "You know you want it too. The way you kissed me back there? - told me everything I needed to know."
"No," Daniel promised, wiping an unsteady hand across his mouth. ""Never. I'll kill myself first."
"Oh, I don't think so. Not when you find out how many people are depending on you to keep them safe. Sam for instance, or Teal'c. Y'know, we've never really considered how - vulnerable a Jaffa is without the symboit."
Fear and revulsion spiked through him and he reached with both hands to break Jack's hold on him. "You bastard! What have you done to him?" he screamed.
Jack smiled at him and beckoned the guards forward. "Nothing - yet. Let's just say we've been - exploring our options." To the guards he said coldly "Take him to the cells and put him with one of the others till he calms down. We'll see how - co-operative he's feeling in the morning."
Go to Part 7