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Starry Night

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Starry Night

Daniel lay propped up against the crates in the cargo hold of the Goa’uld ship, a folded blanket cushioning him from the sharp corners. Jack sprawled next to him, lying half across his body. The whole universe stretched out before them through the window in the side of the ship, endless stars in the velvety black of deep space.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Daniel said.

Jack looked up into his face and smiled. “That’s what I love most about you.”

“What?”

Jack gestured to the vast view. “Even after everything we’ve seen and been through. Even in the current situation. You can still find beauty somewhere.”

Daniel ran his fingers through Jack’s silver hair. “And you can’t?”

In answer, Jack reached up to trace a finger down Daniel’s cheek and along his jaw. “You’re all the beauty I see.”

“Wow.” Daniel chuckled. “You must really think we’re going to die, if you’re getting sappy on me.”

“Engines are dead. Radio’s broken. Nobody knows where we are.” Jack dropped his hand back down to his side, reaching beneath his jacket. He shifted position and winced. When he brought his hand back out again, his fingers were sticky with blood. “At least I’ll go first. Sorry to be selfish about it, but it is what it is.”

Daniel tightened his grip on Jack’s shoulders, as if holding him close would stop him slipping away.

“Don’t give up on me, Jack. They’ll find us.”

Jack smiled again, though there were lines of pain evident on his face. “They don’t even know they need to look.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Daniel wasn’t prepared to relinquish hope. “They’ll find us. They always do.”

“Okay, Daniel.” Jack’s voice sounded fainter. “You’re right. They’ll find us.”

He sighed and Daniel felt his weight relax. He took hold of Jack’s hand before it could fall to the floor of the cargo hold. He brought it up to his lips and kissed Jack’s palm.

“Damn right I’m right. You’ll see.” He looked out at the stars again, searching for any sign of rescue in the infinite blackness. “And at least we have an amazing view while we wait.”

#

24 hours earlier in a hospital in Honduras…

Daniel struggled to sit up, but Jack’s firm hand on his chest pushed him back down again.

“Doc says you have to stay put, Daniel,” Jack admonished. “They want to get some more fluids into you and check your bullet wound isn’t infected.”

“But Janet’ll be able to do that much better back at the base,” Daniel complained.

“Sorry, Daniel.” Jack shook his head. “No can do. The doctors here say you can’t travel until tomorrow.”

He helped prop Daniel up on some pillows as a conciliatory gesture, so Daniel could see the ward better. As he achieved a more upright position, Daniel noticed Bill Lee hovering in the periphery with Burke, the CIA agent who had accompanied Jack on the mission to rescue them from the jungle.

“What about the artifact?” Daniel asked.

Bill stepped forward, gingerly patting a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. “Got it right here. I’m heading back to the States in a couple of hours so I’m taking it with me.”

Daniel frowned. “Don’t you need to rest too? You’re just as dehydrated as me.”

Bill rubbed a hand over his balding head, eyes on the floor. “It’s the least I can do, after I told the bad guys…” He trailed off and threw a cautious glance at Burke. “All that stuff. And after you had to draw their fire in the jungle, and you got shot and everything.”

“It’s okay, Bill.” Daniel gave him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “We both did our best in terrible circumstances. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Bill didn’t look convinced. “Well, anyway, someone needs to get this thing somewhere safe.” He hefted the bag, clearly uncomfortable being in such close proximity to the artifact. He gave Daniel a little wave. “I’d better get going. I’ll see you back home.”

Once he was gone, Burke stepped up to Daniel’s bed. “I guess I’d better head off too. But I’ll come back tomorrow to see you off.”

“Thanks again, Burke,” Jack said with a complicated grimace. “Don’t worry, I won’t forget my promise.”

Burke gave a casual salute and another wondering shake of his head at all he’d seen earlier that day, then walked off.

“Alone at last,” Jack said, settling into the chair at Daniel’s bedside.

“What’s with that guy?” Daniel asked, following Burke’s progress out of the hospital ward.

Jack gave the complicated grimace again. “Long story.”

Daniel gestured at their surroundings. “We’ve apparently got all night.”

“The first time we’ve had a proper chance to talk in ages, and that’s what you want to talk about?”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Is there a particular subject you’d prefer?”

Jack looked down at where his fingers were twisting together in his lap. Daniel reached out and gently took one of Jack’s hands, separating them and stilling the nervous motion. He pulled Jack’s fingers towards him and rested their entwined hands on the bed between them. Jack looked up, eyebrows shooting skyward. It was the first time Daniel had instigated such intimate contact in a long while.

Daniel held Jack’s gaze, daring him to comment. Instead, Jack answered Daniel’s question.

“Why were you so surprised to see me when I turned up in the jungle earlier?”

Now it was Daniel’s turn to look away. “I was massively dehydrated. I’d been tortured for a couple of days. And I literally thought I was about to die in that moment. Doesn’t that excuse a little surprise?”

Jack tugged on Daniel’s fingers, prompting him to look back and meet Jack’s eye again.

“But you didn’t question how I got there, you asked why I came.” Jack ran his fingers over the back of Daniel’s hand, hesitant. “I came for you. I’ll always come for you.”

Daniel felt his mouth twist and saw the hurt in Jack’s eyes at the reaction. He pulled his hand free from Jack’s touch, folding his arms over his stomach. It had been about six months since he’d de-ascended, or whatever you might want to call it. And they hadn’t really had a chance to talk. No, that wasn’t true. There had been plenty of opportunities, if they’d wanted to make the time, but both of them had been actively avoiding it. Apparently, Jack had decided now was the time to clear the air. But there was a hell of a lot of fog and pollution to clear, and Daniel wasn’t sure he had the energy. He had to acknowledge Jack’s willingness to talk, though, and the fact that it was Jack who was instigating this discussion showed Daniel just how much hurt and confusion he himself was still bottling up. Perhaps he ought to at least try.

He uncrossed his arms, reached to take Jack’s hand again, and opened his mouth to attempt a response.

At that exact moment, a bright light snapped on from above them, and a set of transportation rings descended around the bed with their familiar whooshing sound. As they encompassed the whole area around both Jack and Daniel, Jack let out an exasperated sigh.

“Oh, for crying out loud...”

#

 

When Burke returned to the hospital the next morning, he found no trace of either Jack or his friend, Daniel. He was sure he’d told them he’d be back to see them off, so it was odd they would have just left. Burke sought out the doctor who had examined Daniel and the other scientist guy the day before.

“Did Daniel Jackson check out of the hospital?” he asked.

The man looked harried, continuing to flip through the stack of files he was reviewing, and not even glancing up at Burke to reply.

“He’s gone, so I assume so.”

“You don’t know? Isn’t there a record made when patients check out?”

The doctor gave him a very brief, annoyed look. “Normally, yes. But if they decide to leave in the middle of the night without informing any of the staff, there is little we can do.”

“They just left?”

“They were here last night. They are gone now. So yes, they left.”

Burke wasn’t prepared to leave it at that, not after all he’d seen the day before. “Did anyone see them leave?”

The doctor laid down the files with an exasperated slap and focused his gaze on Burke. “Not any of my staff, no. But, if the man in the bed opposite to Daniel Jackson is to be believed, they were teleported away by aliens.” He shrugged. “Now, I have work to do.”

Burke left him to it, heading back to the bed where he’d left Jack and Daniel the day before. Looking across the ward, he saw a scrawny, old man lying in the bed opposite. The guy looked to be about knocking on death’s door. Not particularly encouraging. Nevertheless, Burke crossed to stand next to the bed and spoke softly in Spanish.

“Hey, man. You awake?”

The patient opened faded eyes and struggled to focus on him.

Burke pressed on. “Did you see what happened to my friends last night?” He gestured at Daniel’s empty bed.

The man grew more animated, pushing himself up a little in his bed.

“Yes, yes! Giant metal rings appeared in the air, whooshed down over them and then disappeared. When the light faded, they were gone!”

Burke considered this apparently insane statement. This guy wasn’t the most reliable of witnesses, to be sure. But why on earth would he make up something like that? It was weirdly specific. And hadn’t Burke himself seen a corpse come back to life just the day before? Jack was clearly involved in some pretty crazy shit. And Burke was sure, even with Jack’s laissez-faire attitude to authority, that he wouldn’t have taken Daniel out of the hospital in the middle of the night without good reason. Perhaps, Burke thought, he ought to at least try and get in touch with Jack’s superior officer and let him know what the other patient had said. Assuming he could even find out who that was and get a message to them.

He went to find a phone and discover whether or not he still had any favours left to call in with the military.

#

When the light faded and the rings disappeared, Jack and Daniel both sprawled on the floor of what was obviously a cell. Daniel cried out in pain as his injured leg hit the floor and Jack scrambled to check on him.

“So much for a restful night,” Daniel said through gritted teeth.

Jack squeezed his shoulder, then helped him shift across to lean against the cell wall. Then Jack got to his feet and crossed to the wall of bars that separated them from a corridor, with another cell on the opposite side. Jack pressed himself up against the bars to look both ways down the corridor.

“Hey!” he yelled. “What’s the big idea? Scooping us up and then dumping us here without even a by-your-leave is just plain rude!”

His words echoed down the corridor for a few seconds, and then the sound of heavy footfalls started to draw nearer. Daniel raised his eyebrows.

“I think you might have got our hosts’ attention…” he said.

Jack rubbed his hands, which didn’t reassure Daniel at all. “Always better to have something to work with.” He grinned. “Any interaction is better than no interaction.”

Based on past experience of Jack interacting with the Goa’uld, Daniel wasn’t sure that was true.

A burly, dark-skinned Jaffa strode into view. He had a swirling claw mark symbol branded onto his forehead. Daniel squinted to try and make it out better, thinking about where he might have seen it before.

The Jaffa scowled at Jack, utterly unimpressed by his genial expression.

“Be silent, human! Lord Olokun will deign to speak to you when he is ready, not when you desire it.”

With that, he turned on his heel and stomped away again.

Jack turned to look at Daniel. “See? That’s more intel than we had before. Do we know this particular snakehead?”

Daniel grimaced. “Yeah. He was at that Goa’uld summit a couple of years ago. The one where they voted to let Anubis back into the System Lord club.”

“Marvellous.” Jack rocked back and forth on his heels a couple of times. “Wonder what he wants with us.”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Daniel nodded to where the Jaffa had disappeared from view. “When he’s good and ready.”

Jack crossed the cell again and slid down the wall to sit next to Daniel. “How’s your leg?”

“Wonderful. You could tell me that long story about you and Burke to take my mind off it…”

Jack rolled his eyes. “You’re not going to let that go, are you?”

Daniel spread his hands to encompass their surroundings. “What else have we got to do with our time?”

“Well…” Jack cleared his throat. “We could go back to that other subject we were just about to get into, at long last…”

“Here? Right now?”

Jack gestured at the cell. “What else have we got to do with our time?”

Daniel sighed and closed his eyes. If he was going to do this, it was going to be easier without having to look at Jack while he was doing it. Or at a Goa’uld prison cell for that matter. “I was pissed, okay? I was pissed that you let me go so easily. I was pissed that you just let me walk away and didn’t fight for me to stay.”

“You were dying, Daniel.” Jack’s voice was quiet. And very calm. “And you told me you wanted to go.”

Daniel pressed the heels of his hands into his closed eyes. “But you could have said you didn’t want me to!”

“Of course I didn’t want you to go! But I thought I was making it easier for you. I didn’t want to stand in the way of what you wanted.”

Daniel thought he could hear just the hint of sorrow in Jack’s tone, but he might have been imagining it.

“It made me think you didn’t care. It made me think nothing we’d shared really mattered to you at all.” He tried to keep the emotion out of his own voice, but he’d been bottling it up so long, it was hard to keep it in check.

Jack was obviously struggling too, since there was a distinct undertone of anger to his next words. “So, when you came back, you pretended not to even recognise me? That was low, Daniel. I’m usually the petty one. I expect better from you.”

So, he’d figured out it had been all an act. Daniel supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised. Jack might act clueless, but he was very observant when he wanted to be. And he knew Jack was right. It hadn’t been fair of him.

He opened his mouth to apologise but, once again, he was interrupted. The sounds of multiple Jaffa boots echoed down the corridor, and their friend from earlier reappeared, with two colleagues in tow. He punched the combination into the lock next to the cell door and the bars slid aside.

“Lord Olokun will see you now.”

As the other two Jaffa stepped into the cell and lifted Jack and Daniel to their feet, Jack exclaimed again, “Oh, for crying out loud...!”

#

After being given the run around by multiple military aides and low level busy bodies, Burke finally got through to someone called General Hammond.

“With whom am I speaking?” The southern accent chipped some of the formality off the stilted words.

“It’s Special Agent Burke, sir. I’m the local guide who was assigned to help Jack O’Neill locate Daniel Jackson yesterday.”

“Oh!” The General’s tone grew considerably warmer. “Well, I owe you a debt of gratitude, son. I hear you did an excellent job helping out my people.”

“I’m collecting debts of gratitude all over the place this week,” Burke muttered. “Doesn’t seem to be doing me much actual good so far…”

The General cleared his throat. “How is Dr Jackson doing?”

“Well, that’s just it, sir. I think he and Jack might have gotten themselves in some more trouble.”

Burke explained everything that had happened. When he finished, there was a long pause on the other end, then the General cleared his throat again.

“I see. Well, thank you for passing that information along. We’ll take it from here.”

“So, there is something to it? Is it connected to that weird box your scientist took away yesterday? And to the guy who came back from the dead?” Burke wasn’t prepared to just walk away at this stage. Things were too weird.

There was another long pause and Burke was worried the General might just shut him down and cut off the call.

But the general said, “Maybe you’d better come to our facility while we look into the situation more fully. Is there someone I can call to authorise you coming to Colorado for a few days? I’m sure you’d like to be on hand when we have news about Colonel O’Neill and Dr Jackson.”

“That I would, sir. Thank you.” Burke gave the name and current location of his superior at the CIA, then told the General where he could be reached.

It was getting on for nearly lunchtime, if you squinted a bit and imagined the clock hands a bit further round. Burke decided he needed a drink while he waited.

Less than an hour later, his boss, Agent Harrison, called, very confused.

“Care to tell me why the US Air Force has requested I transfer you temporarily stateside, Burke?”

Burke grinned into his glass as he finished his second beer. “If they didn’t tell you, I don’t think I should.”

Harrison made an exasperated noise. “Trouble just seems to follow you around, doesn’t it, Burke? Well, far be it from me to say no to an Air Force General. If they want you, they can have you.”

“I’m glad to hear you value my contribution here so highly,” Burke said.

“Don’t push it.” Harrison sounded stressed. “Just report back when you know what the situation is and you’ve been briefed on what you can say.”

“Will do, boss!”

Burke was still grinning as he settled his tab and set off for the airport. This whole thing was still crazy, but at least it was interesting.

#

Pain shot through Daniel’s leg as he was thrown to the floor in front of an ostentatious throne. Sprawled on the ground and unable to easily right himself, he suffered the indignity of craning his neck to look up at their captor. Olokun looked exactly as Daniel remembered from the summit, imposing in beaded garments and headdress.

Jack landed next to Daniel on the floor and immediately scrambled to his feet, reaching down to help Daniel up.

“Kneel before your Lord Olokun!” one of the Jaffa bellowed, jabbing the backs of Jack’s legs and sending him back to the floor.

“I hate it when they do that,” Jack muttered.

This, of course, elicited a yell of, “Silence!” from the Jaffa.

Daniel gave Jack a hard look, trying to convey that they should just get through this the best they could and then regroup and formulate a plan later. It never worked out well when Jack antagonised their captors and reacted to situations on the fly.

Olokun spoke, his Goa’uld-enhanced voice reverberating round the large, empty throne room. That was probably what it was designed for.

“Tau’ri scum, you have come into contact with an important artifact, which was activated on Earth not long ago. You will tell me where it is.”

Daniel realised he must be talking about the box he and Bill had found in the jungle. At least it was now on its way to the SGC, where it would be safe.

Jack was talking back, as only Jack could.

“Actually, we will not tell you where it is.”

Daniel hung his head, dreading what kind of reaction this would prompt from their captors. And then he was arching his back and yelling in agony as a pain stick was jabbed between his shoulder blades. Perfect. This was the second time in only a few days that he had been tortured for information about that blasted artifact. A blasted artifact he didn’t actually know anything about!

The pain lasted an eternity of a few seconds and then it was gone. Daniel slumped forwards, breathing heavily and trying to regain what little composure he still had. He glanced upwards to see Jack grinding his teeth, but mercifully not saying anything.

Olokun spoke again. “Now that you know what methods I am prepared to employ to gain information from you, I will give you the opportunity to consider your position before asking you again.”

He waved one imperious hand and two Jaffa stepped forwards to haul Jack and Daniel to their feet again. One of them jabbed Daniel in the back with a staff weapon, prompting him to start walking back towards the way they’d come in. Jack followed just behind, with the Jaffa bringing up the rear. But only one Jaffa. The others stayed behind in the throne room with their lord.

Jack stumbled in the doorway and knocked into Daniel, nearly sending him crashing to the floor again. As they regained their balance, Jack whispered in Daniel’s ear, “Be ready.”

Daniel cast a startled glance over his shoulder but there was no opportunity for further conversation as their escort yelled at them to keep going.

Be ready for what? What on earth was Jack going to do?

Daniel didn’t have long to wonder. As soon as they’d gone round two corners of the corridor back to the cells, he heard a scuffle behind him and spun to see Jack grappling with the Jaffa for possession of the staff weapon. After a brief struggle, Jack gained the upper hand, ripped the staff weapon from the Jaffa’s grasp and whacked him upside the head with it.

“Run!” he called to Daniel.

And then they were fleeing down unfamiliar hallways, with the sound of shouting and staff weapon fire pursuing them. Their escort must have summoned some of his friends very quickly. Daniel’s leg burned and his breath came in ragged gasps but he kept going, even though he had no idea where he was meant to be heading.

They careened round another corner and into what miraculously turned out to be a tel'tak hangar. Daniel headed for the nearest ship and staggered on board, Jack hard on his heels. He spun to punch a sequence into the door panel and it swished shut, closing them off from their pursuit.

There was no time to relax, though. They made their way to the control station and worked together to get the ship operational, Daniel calling out instructions that Jack followed without comment. Daniel scoured his memory of previous flights and his knowledge of goa’uld ship systems to get the tel'tak moving and open the bay doors ahead of them. Within a few moments, they were out in space and he was punching a random destination into the hyperdrive controls. They could always figure out where they were once they were in less danger. As the ship geared itself up for the shift into hyperdrive, an impact from outside rocked it, sending both Jack and Daniel sprawling.

The stars in the viewscreen blurred and Daniel felt the impossible acceleration into hyperdrive. They’d managed to get away! But his elation at their escape was short-lived. The ship shook in a way that suggested considerable damage. After only a few seconds in hyperdrive, the engines shut off and the view on the screen stabilised to a normal starscape. All the lights on the control panels flickered and went out.

Daniel looked over at Jack. “Well, that’s not good.”

Jack was leaning heavily against one of the control pillars, his hand against his side. When he moved his hand away to display his fingers, they were covered in blood. He grimaced. “Neither is this.”

#

Hours later, Daniel had searched the whole ship for anything that might be of use and found nothing except a few blankets to shield them a bit from the growing cold. They’d ended up in the cargo hold, looking at the stars and talking about beauty.

“Don’t give up on me, Jack. They’ll find us.”

Jack smiled again, though there were lines of pain evident on his face. “They don’t even know they need to look.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Daniel wasn’t prepared to relinquish hope. “They’ll find us. They always do.”

“Okay, Daniel.” Jack’s voice sounded fainter. “You’re right. They’ll find us.”

He sighed and Daniel felt his weight relax. He took hold of Jack’s hand before it could fall to the floor of the cargo hold. He brought it up to his lips and kissed Jack’s palm.

“Damn right I’m right. You’ll see.” He looked out at the stars again, searching for any sign of rescue in the infinite blackness. “And at least we have an amazing view while we wait.”

Daniel must have fallen asleep because the next thing he knew, there was a hand shaking his shoulder and he was looking up into Sam’s worried eyes. That was what told him he must be dreaming.

“Daniel?” Her voice sounded so real. “Daniel? Are you okay?”

Her hand squeezed his arm and he started to wonder if it was possible she was really there.

“Let me take O’Neill to the other ship.” Teal’c’s deep tones came from above and then his big frame descended into view. He gently took hold of Jack’s unconscious form and carried him away out of sight.

“Daniel, can you stand?” Sam offered her hand and heaved him to his feet.

“What?” Daniel was still very confused. “How did you find us?”

Sam supported him as they made their way to where another tel'tak was docked alongside their stolen one.

“We got intel from a CIA agent in Honduras that you’d been captured. Then, my dad heard some chatter on Anubis’ base about a couple of humans escaping from Olokun and disappearing into hyperspace on a damaged tel'tak. We managed to extrapolate where you might be and here we are.” She chuckled. “That’s the short version.”

“Okay.” Daniel was prepared to accept pretty much any explanation at this point.

As long as it meant they could go home.

#

This time, it was Jack who lay in the infirmary bed, with Daniel seated by his side. Janet had been very unhappy with the state of Daniel’s leg after all the abuse it had suffered, but had said he could sit in a chair for a while, as long as he went back to bed himself before too long.

Jack was due to wake up any minute and Daniel wanted to be there when he did. They still had an important conversation to finish.

As he watched, Jack’s eyelids fluttered open.

“Hey,” Daniel said.

“Hey,” Jack replied with a dreamy smile.

“They found us. I told you they would.”

“Yeah, yeah. I get it. You’re always right.”

“Wait, what was that?” Daniel looked around for someone to take note, but they were alone. “Say that again. I want to make sure I heard you correctly.”

Jack huffed out a laugh. “The first time we’ve had a proper chance to talk in ages, and that’s what you want to talk about?”

Daniel remembered their conversation in the hospital in Honduras with a soft smile. “Is there a particular subject you’d prefer?”

Before Jack could respond, a voice called out from the other end of the infirmary. “Hey, man! I heard you were accepting visitors.”

Jack closed his eyes and muttered, “Oh, for crying out loud…” Then he pasted a smile on his face and turned to watch the newcomer approaching. “Hey, Burke. Who let you in here?”

Burke grinned. “This is the first room I’ve seen other than the conference room,” he said, then gestured to where a soldier was standing at parade rest by the door to the infirmary. “They’re keeping me pretty well under wraps, so I have no idea what crazy shit is really going on here.” His eyes were wide and shining. “But after what went down in the jungle and what I heard about your departure from the hospital in Honduras, you can bet I’m dying to find out.”

Daniel reached across Jack’s bed to offer Burke his hand. “I hear we have you to thank for alerting our team to our capture.”

Burke shrugged but took Daniel’s hand and shook it. “No sweat. I’m glad you’re both okay.”

Jack regarded Burke solemnly. “So now I owe you three times over.”

Burke shrugged again. “Hey, I’m not keeping count.”

“But I am,” Jack said. “Given what you’ve already seen, and given what you’ve done for us over the last few days, I think a recommendation from me would go a long way towards getting you a job here. If you’re up for jumping right into the middle of the crazy shit, that is…”

Burke’s face lit up. “Am I ever!”

“No guarantees,” Jack said, making a calming gesture with one hand. “But I promise I’ll see what I can do.”

“That’s all I can ask.” Burke raised his hands in surrender. “Thanks, man.” He gave a casual salute. “I’m going to find out if I’m allowed in the commissary. You guys rest up and I’ll see you later.”

Once he was gone, Daniel said, “You still haven’t told me what’s with you and that guy. It must be a good story, if you’re going to vouch for him joining the SGC.”

“Oh, it is,” Jack said, then reached out and took Daniel’s hand, running his fingers over Daniel’s knuckles. “But there’s still something I’d rather talk about, now we have the opportunity.”

Daniel took a deep breath and spoke in a rush. “I’m sorry, okay? There, I said it. I’m sorry I expected you to be telepathic. I’m sorry I pretended I didn’t remember you. I’m sorry I shut you out. I’m sorry I’ve wasted so much time.”

He glanced around, half expecting some new catastrophe to interrupt them, but nothing happened. When he looked back, Jack was smiling.

“I forgive you,” Jack said. “And I’m sorry too.”
“Okay,” Daniel said. “Now tell me about Burke…”

THE END