A desperate need to be alone drove Jack from the gate room. Unshed tears blurring his vision, he stumbled down the corridor until he came to a junction. His brain numb, he blindly turned to his right. The light seemed dimmer here, fitting his mood. When he finally felt safe - and alone, he stopped and leaned his forehead against the wall. The cool concrete felt good against his flushed face.
Daniel was alive!
Jack still didn't know why or how. One of these days, he'd like to know the details. But for now, all that was unimportant. Though he resisted it, a memory fought through the layers of relief and happiness, flooding him once more with the grief and guilt he'd felt since he'd left Daniel, bloody and dying on Klorel's ship.
"Are you all right, Jack?"
The inquiry wasn't as much of a surprise as it should've been. He could never hide from Daniel, physically or mentally. A crooked smile on his lips, he turned to face his friend, "I'm fine. What made you think I wasn't?"
"Well, for one thing, you left rather abruptly."
"Yeah, you know how I hate crowds."
"I'm sorry if I'm intruding." Putting his hands in his pockets, Daniel looked at his feet, "But, you never gave me a chance to say thank you."
Genuinely surprised, Jack asked, "For what?"
"For not letting what happened in that other reality happen here."
A wave of pity for his alternate self washed over Jack. That O'Neill hadn't even met the Daniel Jackson in his universe. He had never known the joy - and the frustration of being this man's friend. Jack was glad he lived in this reality. The memory of what could've been meshed with the memory of what he thought had been, leaving Jack with the desperate need to know the figure in front of him wasn't a ghost, or a figment of his imagination. For once, he didn't care what Daniel or anyone else would think. With trembling hands, he wrapped his arms around the younger man and pulled him to his chest. The body was warm, reassuring him of its existence. He tried to store the feel and the smell for future reference. Finally, reluctantly, he pushed away. As he did so, he realized they were no longer alone. His initial anger at the intrusion turned to shock when he identified the intruder. Not even bothering to hide his disgust, he asked, "Is there something I can do for you Senator Kinsey?"
"Besides saving the planet again," Daniel sarcastically added.
His eyes darting up and down the corridor, the older man asked, "Could you tell me where the embarkation room is? I seem to have lost my way."
Noticing that Kinsey was dressed in the same jumpsuit worn by those who'd volunteered to go to the Alpha site, Jack said, "Going somewhere, Senator?"
"He can't be going to the Alpha site," Daniel frowned, crossing his arms across his chest. "They're suppose to be sending only the best and the brightest."
The senator's jaw worked, as he fought to control his temper.
"Daniel, how could you think such a thing," Jack mockingly chided. "The good senator wouldn't desert the citizens of his country. Don't you remember? They're his responsibility."
Fire burned in the flashing brown eyes.
"Of course," Daniel hit the side of his head with his hand, "I forgot. He closed Pandora's Box to protect his citizens."
"With God's help."
Daniel turned his gaze on Jack, "You do look a little like a God, I suppose."
"That's enough!" Kinsey exploded. "How dare you be disrespectful to our Lord."
"He," Jack emphasized, "wasn't the one we were insulting."
Pointing a finger at Jack, Kinsey sneered, "You disobeyed a direct order from the President, Colonel. You could still be brought up on charges."
"You'd do that too, wouldn't you?" Daniel disgustedly observed. "The man saves the planet, saves you, and you can't even say thank you. All you can do is threaten him."
Anger flashed across the wrinkled face, "It wasn't a threat. It was an observation."
Underneath the anger, Jack thought he saw fear and shame. He almost found it in his heart to feel sorry for the man. Until, the memory of a bloody shoulder, accompanied by the odor of burning flesh, left him shaking. His sympathy vanished. "Follow the red line. It'll take you to the embarkation room."
"Don't think I won't report your insolence, Colonel."
His fists balled at his side, Jack took a step closer to the older man.
"Don't," Daniel warned, putting a hand on his arm, "you could be court-martialed. As we already know, I can't be."
Before Jack could stop him, Daniel's fist connected with Kinsey's jaw. A satisfying crack echoed down the hallway as the Senator slumped to the floor. Daniel's look of triumph turned to pain as he grabbed his hand.
Never imaging that his friend could throw a knock out punch, Jack shook his head, "I'm impressed."
"What, that I broke my hand?" Daniel groaned.
"Are you sorry?"
"No," gritting his teeth, Daniel smiled, "it was worth it."
"Yes, it was," Jack agreed, his gaze resting on the prone senator. "Now, they're going to have the best, the brightest and the bruised." Taking Daniel's arm, he suggested, "Let's go find Dr. Frasier."
"Do you think we should've told him the war is over and there aren't any more teams going through to the Alpha site?"
Jack shook his head, "Nah, if we're lucky, no one will tell him and they'll send him through."
"I don't suppose we could send a bomb to destroy the gate on the other side?"
"Not until all the teams are back," Jack qualified.