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[personal profile] ankh
I've been having a look over old files on the laptop and came across some fic I'd forgotten about. Huh.

Title: Testing Boundaries
Author: Ankh
Rating: PG
Archived: Will be archived at bunnyfic.com.
Info: Gen. Friendship. AU version of Divide and Conquer (season 4). Jack and Daniel centric. Appeared in the zine No One Gets Left Behind at http://www.ancientsgate.com/zines/yuma.html
Summary: What would have happened if Daniel had been left behind the force field on the Goa'uld ship in Divide and Conquer.


Well, if he was going to be knocked out for a while, possibly for weeks, he might as well be comfortable, mused Daniel. He discarded his formal clothes, the suit, shirt and tie Jack had helped him to purchase yesterday tossed aside on the bed like a bundle of rags. Stan Kovacek or one of the other more diplomatic officers of the SGC and Martouf would just have to handle the Tok'ra/Tau'ri alliance without him. He tucked his socks inside his boots and stood, still clad in his shorts, wondering if he should take those off, too. Deciding if he did become a raving psychopath with murder in his heart in the next few minutes, at least he would have the dignity of underwear, he sank onto the bed and eyed the array of medical equipment that Doctor Fraiser had requested. Needles. Big needles. Super…

He was putting on the hospital gown he had the occasion to wear far too often – and when exactly had the universe decided to make him its punching bag? - when the sight of Jack walking past the room had him springing to his feet and running to the doorway.

"Jack? Where are you going?"

Daniel felt Sam's hand on his arm, and he turned to her instinctively. Ice slid through his veins as her face revealed what was happening before words had a chance to leave her lips. "He's decided to undergo testing. He thinks it -" Her voice broke, the rest of her words a bare whisper of sound. "It might help you."

"What!" Daniel lunged past the guards placed there for his 'protection', lashing out as they grabbed him and attempted to haul him back into the room. His fist connected with bone and one of the guards grunted in pain, loosening his grip.

Down the corridor Jack turned, clearly attracted by the noise. As Daniel ran towards him he saw Jack's eyes close briefly but not before he saw the despair on his face. He was three yards away when the second guard caught up with him, one large hand grabbing him by the biceps, a strong arm sweeping round his throat, hauling him back.

Daniel saw fury flash across Jack's face as Jack took a step towards him - then stopped. He stared at Daniel who stilled within his captor's grasp, caught by the look in Jack's eyes. Jack's lips parted as if he was about to speak - instead a soft sigh escaped them. A smile, tremulous, painful to behold, tried to take hold.

"Restrain him, airman. Carefully. Don't fight it, Daniel."

Jack turned away, breaking the spell that held Daniel silent.

"Jack! Dammit, Jack, don't you do this!" He renewed his struggles, a sense of helplessness sweeping over him as a second guard helped to hold him captive.

"Daniel. We have to sedate you as soon as possible," Doctor Fraiser insisted, her voice strong and steady, even while her eyes were bleeding sympathy.

"It's his decision, Daniel," Sam added softly, signalling to the guards to release her friend when he stopped struggling and turned to face her.

"His decision?" he echoed, distracted and distant. "Yes. You're right. What was I thinking?"

"We should start sedating you now. We have no idea what might trigger the programming."

Brow wrinkled in thought, Daniel was silent for a moment before responding in his most reasonable tone. "Yes. Uh. I've been thinking about that. You know what? I think Jack has a great idea. I've changed my mind. His idea is so great I think I'll give it a try."

"Doctor Jackson -"

"Daniel -"

"It's my decision, right?" He looked from Sam to Janet, eyes challenging. "I do have a right to make this decision, yes? Like Jack? So what are we waiting for?" He set off down the corridor, the two confused airmen awaiting instruction from Major Carter.

*

Strapped into the damn Tok'ra device once again, the band across his forehead was a barely registered annoyance, so different from the first time he'd been tested. Of course then he hadn't been waiting to die.

It was of some comfort that his death would have some meaning.

Daniel. God... Anise - Freya - whoever had better make good use of what little this damn machine left of his brain. This was going to be tough on Daniel. The guy had suffered enough and now Jack was going to help pile on the agony. He regretted that, but Daniel would get through it, and if there was some hope it might help his friend it had to be done. At least Jack had saved him from any farewell speeches. That would have been the last straw. Daniel was so strong - but some things you just didn't do to your best friend.

Daniel would be fine. He’d be cut up about it all but at least he'd be alive to curse him. Well, he would be if Anise could –

Daniel would be fine. He had to believe that. It was the only thing that made what he was about to put himself through bearable. This was damn scary stuff but at least he was making a fully informed decision here. He knew what the outcome would be.

Maybe they should have posted more than five guards?

If Jack O'Neill thought he was having a bad day before, the sight of Daniel walking into the testing room sent the counter zooming up to a big, fat, bell-ringing 10 on the shit-o-meter scale.

"Daniel! What are you doing here?"

For a man who was barefooted, had his glasses slipping down his nose and wearing a hospital gown that was hanging loose, Daniel still managed to look pretty damn threatening - which was weird because normally the guy looked like a pushover. Kinda. When he wasn't pissed about something. Which he clearly was now. The face looked calm and the hands were hanging loose at his sides. It was all in the eyes. For a brief moment, Jack wondered if the Goa’uld programming had kicked in and Jack was the target.

"Oh, I thought I should watch. See how it's done. It might give me some pointers for when I go through it."

At first the words failed to register - it was unthinkable that something so terrible could be said in so casual a manner and Jack was still dealing with the ‘I should watch’ part, so the rest took a moment to impact.

When realization dawned, the rush of rage almost equalled the flood of fear that swept over him. "What the hell are you talking about," Jack growled, knowing full well what the other man was doing. Hell, he'd probably have done it himself. When had Daniel learned to manipulate so skilfully?

"They keep telling me it's my decision. You think it's a great idea so - here I am. Test subject number two. Unless you'd rather I go first? I don't have a preference here. At least if I go crazy during the procedure I won't be such a danger in the future. Pity they don't have two devices - we could go together. " His voice positively dripping with sarcasm, Daniel added, "After all, it wouldn't be the first time we'd gone on a suicide mission."

"Daniel, don't do this..."

"No, Jack!" Daniel stepped closer, and now his face was losing its surface calm and his hands were clenched like he wanted to hit something. "Why should you be the only one making noble sacrifices around here? If you insist on doing this then I'll be right behind you, frying my brain right along with you. So. Shall we?" He gestured towards Anise who was watching them, a thoughtful look on her face.

As Jack continued to stare at Daniel, trying to figure out something he could say that might change things around, Anise asked, "Colonel O'Neill. Do you wish to continue with the testing?"

Daniel had won. The sneaky son of a bitch had won. Jack gave Daniel an exasperated look, hoping his relief wasn't too obvious. His hands clenched into fists to stop them shaking. Self-sacrifice was hell on the nerves. He'd wanted to do this one final thing for Daniel, but as he watched the other man's stubborn expression crumble beneath an onslaught of relief, seeing the tension ease out of him, replaced by a shaken awareness of what had almost happened, Jack found it remarkably easy to give up the idea of having his brain fried for his friend. The knowledge it would have torn Daniel apart sure was helping.

Drawing on every reserve and ounce of steel he had, Jack allowed himself to be released from the device and helped to his feet without visibly shaking like a leaf. He avoided Daniel’s gaze, knowing the other man would be staring at him as if Jack might suddenly change his mind. He wanted to reassure him that the moment had passed, that self-sacrifice was easy when the result outweighed the cost, but he couldn’t find the words. He just had to hope that Daniel got it.

*

They were to share the same room. As Doctor Fraiser pointed out, it would make things easier for her as far as monitoring them was concerned and certainly it would help security. The airmen stood at the doorway, faces impassive, as Daniel and Jack lay back, eyes locked on each other. Doctor Fraiser moved to Daniel first and he shook his head. "No. Jack first."

"You don't trust me?" Jack asked, aiming for flippancy but his voice came out husky and way too affectionate for his own peace of mind.

"Not this time."

Unexpectedly, Jack laughed, a deep throaty sound. "I trained you up good, Danny."

"Yeah, yeah. Just call me your apprentice," Daniel said, smirking when he saw Jack's smug smile.

Jack was still smiling as the drugs began to take effect.

As Jack slipped away, Daniel's eyes darted to the doorway, his smile fading as a speculative light crept into his eyes. There was nothing actually wrong with Jack’s idea, per se…

"Not this time," Doctor Fraiser muttered, taking action.

As the sedative made its way through his system, Daniel's last words were a whispered, "Just let me think about..."

*

Satisfied her patients were settled and all was well, Doctor Janet Fraiser signalled to Sam and both women went off to have a little chat with a certain buxom Tok'ra. Something was bothering her, and judging from the frown on Sam’s face, something was bothering the major.

*

In the first few seconds of consciousness Daniel’s first thought was that he’d been injured again. When his eyes finally adjusted to compensate for the low light level and slight myopia, he saw Jack and felt a surge of fear for his friend’s health, before the events of...whenever came flooding back. Movement to the right caught his eye and he saw it was Dr Fraiser checking through what he assumed was his medical report. It was so familiar and oddly reassuring a scene that he felt a rush of affection for the doctor, bringing a smile to his face.

"Hey there. How are you feeling?"

It was only when he tried to answer that he realized his throat was parched. Janet knew right away and fetched him water. As Daniel sipped slowly, he noticed Jack was staring across at him.

"Hey."

He pulled away from the cup, thanked Janet with a smile, then asked Jack. "You OK?"

"I woke up about ten minutes ago. Doc says Carter and Teal’c are going to let us know what’s been happening. It’s been two days by the way. Not how I was planning to spend my weekend. The short version is the doc here and Carter started asking questions." He smiled up at Janet with gratitude.

When Daniel looked up in enquiry, Fraiser gave a wry smile. "It occurred to us only after we sedated you that if you were both programmed, then our attempts should have registered as a threat, and the programming should have kicked in the moment it was clear what we were doing. When it didn’t, we started looking around for other candidates who were going to be at the ceremony. General Hammond insisted everyone was tested - including Anise and Martouf. When Martouf was tested he was revealed to be a za’tarc."

Daniel frowned. "Is he all right?"

Janet smiled. "He’s fine. He’s being kept sedated by the Tok’ra and they’re trying to find a way to help him."

Jack pulled a face, his opinion of the Tok’ra plain. "The Asgard and the Nox have offered to help," he told Daniel brightly.

Daniel’s gaze remained on Jack as he asked Janet, "What about Jack...and me?"

"When Martouf was examined we found an anomaly on his brain. You’ve both been scanned and nothing is showing up. You’ll both need to be tested again."

"I think I know why we failed." Jack's voice was soft but determined. He looked away from Daniel and up into Janet’s concerned face.

Daniel gave Jack a searching look, noticing his friend’s discomfort. “You do?”

"Yeah. I've been thinking. There was something that happened back on the ship. Something I held back because I didn't think it needed reporting. Tell Anise to set up the device."

***

He was going to lose him. He was going to lose Daniel on this fucking ship in some pointless stupid way and, dammit, he couldn’t let that happen.

"Jack! Please, go!"

“I am not leaving you behind!” Jack snapped out, frantically looking for something to smash or wires to trip to switch off the force-field separating him from his friend.

"Jack, the ship’s going to blow any second. We'll both die!"

"You’re getting out with me this time..."

"Dammit, Jack, don’t you dare make me watch you die!" Daniel cried out desperately.

Jack paused, caught by Daniel’s words. Son of a bitch was trying emotional blackmail. "Do not pull that crap on me, Daniel!"

His expression agonised, Daniel whispered, "Don’t make me watch that. Please. Go."

Jack stepped closer to the force-field, caught by the look in Daniel’s eyes. "I can’t. Not..."

The words lay unspoken between them.

Not again.

Not like the last time.

Once before, Jack had bowed to Daniel’s wish, had agreed to leave him to die alone while he completed the mission that would save Earth from an attack by Apophis. On Shy’la’s planet he couldn’t bring himself to leave him, even though he thought him crushed to death. He couldn’t do it now.

Jack saw the look on Daniel’s face and saw that realization dawn.

*

"I was angry and frustrated," Daniel confessed. "Jack wouldn’t leave me and I knew why. The dumb thing is he couldn't have left anyway because the force-fields had already cut off his escape, and I kind of blamed myself for that. If he hadn't come back for me he would have been okay. Is that enough?"

Anise looked up from the za'tarc detector and nodded. "The device has indicated you are telling the truth."

"We never lied in the first place," Jack grumbled, but it was clear he was relieved at the result.

Anise inclined her head. "I understand. With this new information there is no doubt you are not a za’tarc. Thank you for permitting me to conduct this examination. Both yourself and Colonel O’Neill have been most helpful."

For a moment, Anise watched as O'Neill began unfastening the restraints still holding Daniel in place, before turning to Doctor Fraiser. "While both Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson are clear, it occurs to me that your people are at risk to future such attempts. I would like to propose the Tok’ra assist the Tau’ri by gifting you with a device like this one to ensure your people are not za’tarc’s when returning to your world. I could have it here within one or two of your weeks."

"That would be much appreciated. Thank you." For the first time the look Janet gave Anise was warm.

"You are most welcome." There was a subtle shifting of expression then the voice changed to that of Freya. "We feel somewhat responsible for the distress caused to both Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson. We are the ones who persuaded your people to test the armbands. We regret the problems this caused and we wish to make amends. We will discuss the matter with the Tok'ra High Council and ensure the SGC has a za'tarc detection device at its disposal."

Freya bowed her head then began the process of preparing the za'tarc detector for its return to the Tok'ra base.

"Does this mean we’re free to go?" Jack asked hopefully.

"It does indeed, colonel." General Hammond spoke from the viewing gallery and he smiled when both Jack and Daniel looked up at him. "I believe you both have two days leave, gentlemen."

Jack contemplated spending the two days discussing with Daniel what had happened. He imagined the heartfelt conversation, the analysing of feelings. There would probably be manly hugs and cathartic crying.

Oh, not a chance in hell.

What they needed was male bonding and alcohol. "Daniel? You fancy the idea of fishing?" Jack asked, practically bouncing on his toes as he waited impatiently for Daniel to finish his polite niceties with Anise and follow him out of the room.

"Um…no?" Daniel responded, his face twisting with horror.

Jack grabbed him by the shoulder and led him towards the door. "Aw, c'mon! You'd love it. Nothing more relaxing than sitting around with your rod in one hand and a beer in the other while you hook out a crappie."

Daniel blinked. "I think that's a piece of information that really shouldn't leave this room," he muttered, slipped out of Jack's grasp, and made for the nearest source of coffee.

Jack pouted. "What about hockey?" he yelled down the corridor, ignoring the curious glances of several airmen. The elevator doors closed on Daniel before he could give a response.

*

“So.”

“So,” Jack echoed, sloshing his beer around in the bottle before taking a long swallow.

“Is it going to be a problem?”

“What?”

“You know. Not leaving me and saving yourself. Surely General Hammond can’t be happy about that.”

“Daniel. We never leave our people behind. While there’s a possibility of bringing them home we will.”

“The ship was going to blow up. You should have left me and made sure Sam was okay.”

"Do we have to talk about this?" Jack asked, denying to himself there had been even the suggestion of a whine in his voice.

"Yes."

“Carter was with Teal’c. You were my priority. Oh and if we ever get into that situation again do not try the big blue eyes and emotional blackmail routine.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do. ‘Don’t make me watch you die’? ‘I’m going to get my brain fried too’? That was low, Daniel.”

“It was effective.”

“Sneaky,” Jack retorted.

“That was sincere, Jack. I’ve lost too many people. I didn’t want to see my best friend blow up alongside me because of some misplaced guilt that you had to leave me before.”

“Not misplaced. And not going to happen so long as I can prevent it.”

“Because you never leave a man behind,” Daniel said with a sigh.

“And because I can’t lose you again,” Jack confessed, his voice soft.

Daniel shot the other man a startled look. He blinked a couple of times while trying to collect himself before blurting out, “You know that goes both ways, right?”

Jack met his friend’s intense gaze, his smile full of affection, before he gave himself a little shake. “I’m going to get us a couple more beers,” Jack announced, getting to his feet. “We’re going to drink beer and watch something that doesn’t require thinking and we’re going to stop with the feelings talk.”

“You’re not going to make me watch sports are you?” Daniel asked on a groan, playing along with Jack’s desire to get the evening back to less emotional levels.

“I promised you hockey. If you’re a good boy I may even explain the rules. At length. There may be diagrams,” Jack said with a grin then went off to fetch more beers.

December 2011

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